“Who is this annoying old man?”

“Who is this annoying old man?”

September 19, 2023

Memories about Norilsk and Taimyr were written not only by tourists who came here for educational purposes, but also by professionals who studied the territory for scientific purposes.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Doctor of geological and mineralogical sciences Lev Mahlaev was a veteran of field geology: he had more than 30 expedition seasons in Taimyr, the Polar and Subpolar Urals. About his work, including in our region, he wrote an autobiographical book, Half a Century in Geology. Here is an excerpt from it.

“…This was the first time I presented my materials to the commission myself. My bosses used to do this. I knew well that the commission of the Research Institute of Arctic Geology works very meticulously and is very strict in its assessments. It is not surprising that I was worried, and my message turned out to be quite chaotic: the main thing – the idea of ​​the granite series – did not emerge in any way. It was drowning in unimportant trifles.

The questions flow began. There were many of them, but the one who annoyed me most of all was the chairman of the commission – a gray-haired, stooped elderly man who seemed to me, from the perspective of my young age, like a very old man, almost a diplodocus. Everything irritated me: “It’s amazing how stupid he is! Why doesn’t he understand anything and doesn’t want to understand!” And he tormented and tormented me with questions in which some kind of system gradually began to emerge. I finally realized that he was most interested not in trifles, but in precisely the main thing that I had failed to convey. How exactly are granites from different structural zones of Taimyr similar to each other and how do they nevertheless differ and why?

Gradually I pulled myself out and explained everything. The defense lasted for more than two hours. The commission, having examined my materials, not only rated them excellent, but also considered them scientifically significant. Therefore, it was proposed to separate their processing from the general program of the expedition into a separate topic with the defense of an independent scientific report Genetic and Structural-Tectonic Relationships of Granitoids of the Hariton Laptev Coast.

At the end of the procedure, my curator Yulian Evgeniyevich, who had not uttered a word before, only watching, not without interest, how they were tormenting me and how I was desperately scratching myself out, came up and said:

– Congratulations. You have been probed and accepted. If you defend your report just as well, you will have every chance of becoming a great specialist. Our scientific elite has embraced you. Good luck, Lev!

– Who is this corrosive old man who almost ate me?

– You do not know him? Wow! He is the great Urvantsev, the best expert on Taimyr, the discoverer of Norilsk ores.

Of course, I knew Nikolay Urvantsev. True, he perceived him as something as distant as Piri, Amundsen, Sedov. I didn’t even think that this man was still alive and had absolutely no idea that we were working at the same institute!

About a week later I met him on the stairs. I respectfully greeted him, and he stopped me:

– Young man! You may have forgotten, but I recently asked you a lot of questions. I would like you to write your answers, preferably in the order in which I asked you. There is no need for questions, I remember them. I only need your answers. Try to fit it into about 10–12 typewritten pages.

The task was not easy. Nikolay Nikolayevich gave me a two-week period. Ten days later I brought him a dozen pages. He quickly looked through them:

– Well, that is alright. Will you allow me to use this writing of yours at my discretion?

– Certainly.

– Thank you. Just one more request: please put your autograph at the end. You know, I’m used to order.

After some time, Urvantsev called me to his office and asked me to make a couple of pictures for that text: a section and a plan illustrating the relationship between granites and gneisses. I made these drawings, gave them to Nikolay Nikolayevich and forgot to think about this story. And a year later, another collection of works with my article On the Nature of Porphyritic Gneiss Granites of Taimyr was published. This was my first article, and everything would have been fine, except for one thing: I didn’t write it! The collection’s editor was Urvantsev.

I took the collection and went to the editor. Nikolay Nikolayevich understood everything, opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out a yellowed stack of sheets:

– Whose signature is this? Yours? You can sit down and read. I didn’t add anything, didn’t subtract anything. All that has been changed is normal editorial edits. So, young man, this is your article.

– Nikolay Nikolayevich! But these are the answers to your questions! If there were no questions, where would the answers come from?!

– Agree. But the answers are still yours. I realized that you brought the most interesting material. With my questions, I wanted to find out whether you yourself understand what your observations indicate. Well, I also wanted to systematize your thoughts, help you organize them. I succeeded, which I’m glad about. Congratulations on a good start!

– Okey, but why not two names: mine and yours?

– What does this mean to me, Leva? I don’t need other people’s fame. It’s all yours – both the material and the thoughts. I just helped you express them correctly. And enough of that. All the best!

That’s how my first publication appeared”.

In the History Spot’s previous publication, we told what impressions Norilsk made on foreign journalists in the mid-1970s.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

September 19, 2023

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