Back in the USSR

Linus Pauling lecturing after receiving the Lomonosov Gold Medal, Moscow, September 25, 1978.

[Part 3 of 3]

In 1967 Linus Pauling was invited back to the USSR by the Soviet Academy of Science (Akademia Nauk USSR) to join their general special meeting session in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. He was not able to attend but, around the same time, he was also asked by the Academy to participate in the publication of Functional Biochemistry of Cell Structures, for which Pauling submitted a piece titled “Orthomolecular Methods in Medicine.” The paper discussed Pauling’s growing interest in the molecular basis of health and disease. In it, he delved into the benefits of orthomolecular study, providing both examples and rationale in support of an orthomolecular approach to medicine. The piece was published in 1970 and the volume edited by Pauling’s old friend A. I. Oparin.

That same year, Pauling was honored for his peace activism with the International Lenin Peace Prize for 1968-1669, the Soviet Union’s most prestigious award for humanitarian efforts. Pauling was the fifth American to receive the prize since its inception in 1949, following the likes of W. E. B. DuBois and Rockwell Kent. Pauling was presented with the award by Soviet physicist Dmitry V. Skobeltsyn in a public ceremony held at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. In his acceptance address, Pauling emphasized the need to achieve global peace through international law and expressed growing confidence in the world’s ability to facilitate international relations without reliance on nuclear weapons.

In 1975 Linus and Ava Helen made a return visit to the Soviet Union to participate in a celebration marking the 250th anniversary of the Akademia Nauk. Linus Pauling was one of twenty-seven Americans invited to participate in the event, which had been delayed for more than one year from its original start date due, according to the Associated Press, “to head off embarrassing discussions on intellectual freedom and Jewish emigration.”

Outline annotated by Pauling concerning his appearance on “The 9th Studio” Soviet television program, October 21, 1975.

While in Moscow, Pauling was asked to appear on a Soviet television program, “The 9th Studio,” alongside Bulgarian scientist Angel Balevski, Soviet physicist Nikolay Basov and Soviet philospher Dzermen Gvishiani. The round table was asked to discuss modern science, the prohibition of nuclear weapons and proliferation, and the struggle for peace. The program was broadcast to a potential audience of 80 million people throughout the Eastern bloc.

Though the bulk of Pauling’s relations with the USSR focused on the pursuit of world peace and disarmament, many of his Soviet colleagues were also interested in his work with vitamin C. His popularity in this field provoked an invitation to return to Moscow in 1978 to give talks on ascorbic acid and chemistry. While there, he spoke to the Shemyakin Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry on his growing interest in using vitamin C in the treatment of cancer. He also presented to the USSR Academy of Sciences on vitamin C, and attended the International Symposium of Frontiers in Bioorganic Chemistry and Molecular Biology.

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling picnicking on the shores of Lake Baikal, southern Siberia, 1978.

During this visit, Pauling was also awarded the Lomonosov Gold Medal, the highest award conferred by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Officially, the prize was given for his outstanding achievements in chemistry and biochemistry though, as stated in a letter from Soviet poet Mikhail Vershinin, the award was also in recognition of Pauling’s work as a “knight of peace and progress.” To commemorate the occasion, Pauling gave a lecture on the nature of the bonds formed by transition metals in inorganic compounds.

Pauling visited Moscow again in 1982 for ten days in order to attend the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the USSR. This time, he was the only American invited to attend this celebration. The trip came near the end of a long run of international travel scheduled, in part, to keep his mind off of the death of Ava Helen, who had passed on year earlier. Pauling’s diary from this trip is wistful in parts; of his arrival in Moscow he noted only the landing time and a “Russian girl with a Barbie doll.”

In between this visit and his next trip in 1984, Pauling continued to think about the political and cultural norms developing in Moscow, writing a support notice for the book Give Peace a Chance: Soviet Peace Proposals and U.S. Responses and attending a conference, “What About the Russians?” that took place in Corvallis, Oregon. He also nominated two of his colleagues, Dorothy Hodgkin and Joseph Rotblat, for the International 1983 Lenin Peace Prize.

Pauling in lecture to the Chemistry faculty of Moscow State University, June 18, 1984.

Pauling returned to the Soviet Union for the final time in June 1984, during which time he toured the national biological research center and attended the opening session of another “Frontiers in Bioorganic Chemistry and Molecular Biology” conference. In this symposium he and others discussed research agreements proposed by the Union of International Research’s Committee of Human Relations for Peace and by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

On this trip Pauling also attempted to arrange a meeting with Andrei Sakharov, the dissident Soviet nuclear physicist and humans right activist. At the time, Sakharov was effectively under house arrest and confined to his apartment in the city of Gorky. Pauling proposed that he meet with Sakharov in Gorky, but the request was denied. In his diary Pauling noted having been told by a Soviet official that “he was sure I could understand that a person with secret information might have to have his travel restricted.” So ended Pauling’s personal contacts with the U.S.S.R., a nation whose enchantments and flaws revealed themselves to Pauling, over the years, in near equal measure.

2 Responses

  1. Is the Soviet roundtable discussion program (“The 9th Studio”) available to be viewed anywhere, on this blog or in The Pauling Archives? I’ve heard LP reference this event in various interviews, but have never been able to locate it. Thanks in advance.

  2. Hi PF,

    Most of what we know about this appearance is included in the annotated outline that we’ve now inserted as an illustration into the original post.

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