The town of Gorokhovets. The home on the bank of the Klyazma where Fyodor Savarensky was born. The street coming out to the river has been named after him. Early 20th century.
This has been the 125th birth anniversary of Acad. Fyodor Savarensky (1881 - 1946), the father of Russia's engineering geology, whose works and manuals have reared several generations of geologists. Preparing the present article for the press, the author (grandson of the eminent scientist) has used letters, documents and photographs never published before.
Our family legend has it that the Savarenskys (Sawarenskiis) were among Polish prisoners of war resettled by Czar Ivan the Terrible to the banks of the rivers Klyazma, Oka and Volga during the Livonian War of 1558 - 1583. However, our family archives at the Written Records Department of the Moscow State Museum of History contain a document-the Register of the Village Church of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos at the Savarni Pogost (country churchyard) of the Vyaznikovo Uyezd (district) bordering on the Gorokhovets district, the native parts of Fyodor Petrovich Savarensky. This newly recovered document is suggestive of the local roots of the family name, all the more so since many of Savarensky kin officiated as priests in the town of Gorokhovets.
The magic Klyazma, its scenic banks and picturesque localities inspired, as Fyodor Savarensky recalled later, his "pristine, truly heathen love of nature" and the choice of his profession. Fyodor was the youngest fifth,
The Klyazma above Gorokhovets. 1964.
The record book of Savarensky's, a Moscow University undergraduate. 1901.
son of a man serving as secretary of the district convention of justices of the peace who, for his long and irreproachable record had merited a top government award, the St. Vladimir Order, that enabled its holder to qualify for the hereditary rank of gentleman. In 1909 Savarensky, Jr., completed a course of natural sciences at the Department of Physics and Mathematics of Moscow University. His first job was in the town of Tula about a hundred miles south of Moscow; while there, he met his destined bride. The young marrieds moved to Chernigov (Ukraine) and then onto Saratov, an old Russian city in the middle reaches of the Volga. In 1915 Fyodor Savarensky joined the Volga party of prospectors.
"The severe shortage of water in this large area necessitated exploring the available resources of underground waters and appropriate surface water management by means of dams and dykes, and artificial irrigation of cultivated lands," the scientist recalled. It is at that time that he wrote articles on the geology and hydrogeology of the region on the other side of the Volga-works that became a handbook for local prospectors. Also in that period Fyodor Savarensky began his academic career as teacher. The abstracts of his lectures of the early 1920s have survived by sheer miracle to this day, namely Historical Review of the Theory of the Origins of Underground Waters from the works of Plato and Aristotle down to the publications of his contemporaries in this and other countries.
Fyodor Savarensky and his brothers-Col. Nikolai, subsequently a hero of World War I, and Dmitry, a public school inspector of the Saratov educational precinct. 1909.
All set to expand his research activities, Fyodor Savarensky returned to Moscow in 1922. In his letters to Mrs. Savarensky staying on in Saratov for a time, he described events and developments in the Russian capital, in particular, the stage life of the Moscow Art Theater where his older sister, Maria Uspenskaya, was among the company and on friendly terms with such luminaries of the Russian stage as Olga Knipper-Chekhova, Serafima Birman, Sofia Giatsintova, Yevgeni Vakhtangov, Vassily Kachalov and Mikhail Chekhov Leaving for a tour in the United States, the actrice stayed there for the rest of her days, and founded a drama art school of her own.
The Savarensky family was able to reunite in Moscow after its head had got lodgings there. He took to teaching at higher schools, including Moscow University. In 1930 its Department of Geological Surveying and the twin department at the Mining Academy (where Savarensky began working as lecturer in 1929) merged into a senior college in its own right, the Moscow Institute of Geological Prospecting, where Savarensky was lecturing on hydrogeology and where in 1932 he founded an academic chair (department) of engineering geology.
In 1924 Fyodor Savarensky was overseeing surveys in the Orlov, Smolensk and Kaluga gubernias (provinces), and the following year came to be in charge of land surveys on the site of the future DNEPROGES, the Dnieper Hydroelectric Power Station (Zaporozhye, Ukraine), and showed himself as a topnotch geologist and surveyor competent on feasibility studies for major hydrotechnical projects. Soon after he traveled to the arid Mugan Steppe in Azerbaijan, where cotton-growing had been in decline in the wake of First World War (1914 - 1918) and the Civil War (1918 - 1920), and where old irrigation networks had to be rehabilitated and new ones built. In 1927 Savarensky had to address similar problems in arid steppes of Azerbaijan.
In one of his letters sent from Transcaucasia to his family Savarensky shared impressions of Vladimir Arsenyev's book In the Ussuri Land (1921 )*: "A wonderful book! Though on geography, it offers illuminating insights into our world of things as well. The real type-that of a Goldi native with his animistic worldview-pictured there has grown on me as someone quite intriguing and intimate to my soul. He, Dersu, is part of my being." This book elated Savarensky to write a story of his own, which he did much later, during World War II. His storyRustam portrays a vivid gallery of characters, mores and psychology of Caucasian high-landers, possibly harking back to Leo Tolstoy's famous story Hadji Mural (Leo Tolstoy was one of the most favorite authors of Savarensky's) and Letters from Spain by Prosper Merimee, a French author who pictured the image of a noble bandido. This novella reflects the personal impressions of the author and his colleagues, and is an eloquent account of the selfless work done by Russian hydrogeologists in arduous conditions, and of respect they inspired among the local population.
In the spring of 1929 Savarensky went to Central Asia, but then came back again to the arid steppes of Transcaucasia where the need for irrigation projects was running high. His testimony: "People involved with water management enjoy great respect among the population of the Moslem East... Water brings high harvests of cotton, grain and fruit. Anyone who can help in this job... will be in for most benevolent attitudes..."
The explorations carried out in Transcaucasia by Savarensky and his team elicited lively interest-so much so that he was invited to the Second Congress of Soil Scientists held in Leningrad to make a report on land improvement in saline soil areas (salt gardens and salt bottoms). Savarensky illustrated his report with maps of the Kura-Araks lowland and other materials on its hydrogeology. In subsequent years Savarensky made frequent trips to Caucasia; in 1937 he took part in the work to combat landslides in the resort area of Sochi and Matsesta on the Black Sea Coast.
Savarensky's file has a report on his trip abroad in 1930. While in Germany he visited two laboratories-of hydraulic engineering and of ground testing where he saw samples brought in from the USSR. "Speaking of my Berlin impressions, I've been most impressed by heavy vehicular street traffic ... subways are very convenient, trains go as fast as
* See: V. Yessakov and V. Markin, "Dedicated to the Far East", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2004. -Ed.
Savarensky's private office. Tula. 1913.
Easter in the Mugan Steppe. 1925.
40 versts (kilometers) an hour..," Savarensky wrote to his family. He made the best of his experiences of the Berlin U-Bahn in the Moscow metro (subway) project launched in the early 1930s.
Savarensky combined his academic activities and field work with the duties of a senior geologist of the Institute of Subsoil Waters (1929 - 1933); he also headed the engineering laboratory of the national Ail-Union Institute of Mineral Raw Materials. For his spectacular work and research record Fyodor Savarensky was honored with an academic degree of doctorate in geology-it was awarded to him honoris causa in 1934, that is he did not have to present a doctoral dissertation.
A year after, the engineering laboratory was upgraded into an office of hydro- and engineering geology. It was charged with a wide range of jobs in hydrogeological and engineering surveys, equipment and production streamlining, feasibility studies, expert examinations, and so forth. As its head Dr. Savarensky made a tangible contribution in attacking problems related to the regulation of the river run-off in European Russia, including the Volga and its tributaries. In 1938 and 1939 Savarensky did a large amount of work for the integrated hydroscheme project at Kuibyshev in the middle reaches of the Volga. From 1932 on Fyodor Savarensky was among a panel of experts engaged on the Moskva-Volga canal project, and it was at his suggestion that the northwest-
Savarensky's private study in Moscow. Late 1920s.
ern route across the town of Dmitrov district was chosen as an optimal one.
Moscow subway; the metro, was perhaps his foremost achievement. "Having built the nicest and, no doubt, the best underground I have ever seen elsewhere and having spent large funds on it, it would be quite stupid to leave this wonderful engineering feat without proper upkeep and maintenance," Savarensky said. His specific recommendations for the first line of the Moscow metro (1935) concerned the monitoring of the water regime of the rock around the tunnels, the chemical action of subsoil water on their concrete shell as well as rock sagging and pressure. "Deformations of the ground surface should also be taken in good earnest, for these are most undesirable for the condition of the surface itself (damage of pavements and sidewalks, and hazards for nearby building) and for the tunnels as well, where surface water might seep in through cracks and loose soil..."
Assessing the geology of the second line of the Moscow subway commissioned in 1937 - 1938, Savarensky recommended "pinpointing the boundaries of the ancient washout" near the central hub of these lines since "upper ground indrawing and sagging was not excluded."
Concerning the hydrogeological feasibility study for the third subway line (1938), Dr. Savarensky had this to say: "The specific feature of the geological structure of the Pokrovsky subway line is in the presence of several deep ancient washouts of bedrock filled in with Jurassic continental deposits of clay cum interlayers of water sand or a thick stratum of Quaternary water sandy rocks, with quicksands here and there. It would be quite expedient to lay the tunnel below the bed of these washouts and leave intact the thick layer of stable rocks above the tunnel roofing."
Fyodor Savarensky made substantive proposals for the fourth (ring) line of the Moscow subway (1944) concerning the presence of an ancient washout of coal rocks as indicated by boreholes near the Moskva next to what is now the Taganskaya subway station. "The wells sunk in by the Metro Construction Authority in 1944 show that the washout is much deeper than believed before... It would not be bad to consult the geochemists of Acad. Vernadsky's laboratory... In view of the rock and soil pressure it will be necessary to seal tight (by injecting cement mortar) the gaps between the tubbing and the rock during tunnel-driving near the Paveletsky railroad terminal, especially where two tunnels intercross one above the other." As biographers say, Savarensky had done more for the Moscow metro within a very short time than any other prospector for that matter.
In 1920 to 1940 Savarensky was also involved with other major projects, like the Moscow-Donbass railway under construction then, the integrated Moskva water development project in Moscow's south, bridge building across the Moskva at the Danilov and Simonov monasteries. Savarensky's papers keep many of Moscow's urban maps, among them one drawn up in 1923 by the architect Alexei Shchusev (elected to the national Academy of Sciences in 1943); in the opinion of present-day historians of town planning and development, Savarensky showed a shining example of tender care for the layout and architectural monuments of inner Moscow.
As a big authority Savarensky was consulted about the engineering-geological feasibility of the Palace of Soviets project (1936) on the site of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior blown up in 1932. Savarensky warned against the great risk of erecting a tall structure and came up with a number of original solutions for ensuring the geological stability of the bedrock. Given the technical facilities of that time, his ideas could not be implemented. The skyscraper remained on the drawing boards for good and never rose up-something that he, the descendent of a church arch-priest in his native town, could regret but little.
Savarensky's note-books dating from 1934 to 1941 attest to his intense work engagement. His jottings for a report on engineering geology are eloquent enough. It was "a young science... All the makings for headway. In many things we are
ahead of other countries. Big opportunities. We must marry theory and practice. Not competition, but joint endeavor of the Science Academy and geological bodies... The need for an organizational and research center... Technical prospects of local power generating facilities ... using the hydro-power resources of small streams for energy, transportation, land improvement, sanitary and industrial water supply confined to particular regions and condition."
A foremost expert on landslides, in 1937 Savarensky joined the work of preventing such phenomena at Vorobyovy Heights in Moscow. Two years after, he was elected to the Academy of Sciences of the USSR as corresponding member. Early in 1941 Savarensky became a member of the standing commission of combating erosion (affiliated with the Soil Science Institute). Soon after, Dr. Savarensky signed a contract with the Soviet section of the International Association on Quaternary Studies whereby he was to write a chapter for the monograph about the role of underground waters and physico-geological processes for the formation and evolution of Quaternary deposits. He had many other ambitious plans, too, which were not destined to come true because of the Hitler attack of 1941.
Many residents of Moscow had to be evacuated to the hinterland in the east, scientists among them. As my father, Dr. Alexander Petrov recalls, the evacuation proceeded in an orderly fashion. Fyodor Savarensky and a large group of researchers left for Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. Once there he got down to work as head of a department engaged in the water supply of urban centers, industrial enterprises, railway stations and farmlands in the middle reaches of the Volga (many military enterprises were moved thither from the country's west). In particular, Dr. Savarensky and coworkers were exploring the possibilities of using streams and rivulets both as waterways and energy sources. Early in 1942 he had a bad heart attack. There were but few doctors in Kazan and shortages of medicines. His daughter had to quit the university where she was enrolled as undergraduate. Taking a job at a drawing office, she could put in more time for nursing her father at home. His condition was aggravated by an episode of quinsy. Still and all, Savarensky made a recovery and was up and about late in March. In July he was able to resume work by inspecting the river Sura, its tributary Piana, the high dam near the town of Penza as well as dykes down the Volga, the Sura, the Sviaga and the Koksha. Using chemical assay data, he was studying the hydrogeological situation in the region.
In a message to the Academy of Sciences Savarensky suggested setting up a body on water management problems and outlined priority objectives, specifically, induced water vapor condensation "by building special staictures after the model of those put up in the Crimea in ancient times or like those experimental ones built on the eastern shore of the Caspian... This matter is of paramount interest to us what with the vast waterless inland territories of Central Asia. The second question, likewise from the field of artificial condensation of water vapors of the air, is the phenomenon of precipitation induced by gun shots with the formation of a smoke or dust suspension. Some of the rural residents of eastern Transcaucasia were making use of this method of causing rainfall... The third water management question relates to the impact of large artificial lakes on the ambient climate and microclimate... Dealing with major hydrological and water management projects we have often come up against judgements about the ostensibly favorable effect of large water reservoirs which increase air humidity ... and, on the other hand, about the danger they pose by causing a fall in the level of natural bodies of water..."
Savarensky on a business trip to Berlin. 1930.
In Mid-December 1942 Alexander Fersman, an eminent chemist and mineralogist (elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1919), invited Dr. Savarensky to Moscow for reading a course of lectures on war-front hydrogeology to the top commanding officers of the Red Army, military academy instructors and the Corps of Engineers. Acad. Fersman was heading the commission charged with the geological and geographical support of the Red Army. In May 1943 Dr. Savarensky took part in a meeting at Gosplan (State Planning Committee) on the Molotov Hydroelectric Station and the geology of the potassium mill project at Berezniki, Perm.
Savarensky in the afternoon of his life. 1944.
In one single article it is hardly possible to describe in detail Savarensky's enormous wartime work record. He was concise on this score in an autography which he wrote in the fall of 1943, prior to the forth coming election to the Academy of Sciences: "With the evacuation of the Academy to Kazan i kept up... hydrogeological and defense work, and I got two prizes for this in 1941... At the present time I am working on theoretical problems (formation of subterraneous waters) and studying the natural productive forces of the Volga region; I am also catering to the current wartime needs at the Commission of the Academy of Sciences on the Volga Region."
Dr. Savarensky was elected to the national Academy of Sciences. He was "the first member of the Academy to represent hydrogeology as science", was the keynote of the messages of congratulations. He received a lot of letters from his pupils, among whom were those fighting at the battle-fronts. Acad. Savarensky cherished those letters most dearly. Said one of the letters, "While at the front I have been seeking to make use of your method of grasping the heart of phenomenon and assessing my field observations in all their practical implications."
Strenuous work told on Fyodor Savarensky's health. While recovering in a health resort at Uzkoye in a Moscow suburb he kept working on research problems. It was then and there that he wrote an aide-memoire on the effect of engineering structures and activities on the course of geological processes, in which he, thinking ahead of his time, anticipated many of the ecological problems of today. Here is a passage: "The extraction of large masses of ores and mineral bodies from the bowels of the earth, their utilization in industry and, in the long run, their dissipation through wear and operational losses upsets the natural distribution of elements. The intensive mining and consumption of fuel deposits, which are reserves of carbon and hydrocarbons accumulated in definite geologic periods, will in the end result in their oxidation via combustion and in an increase of the carbon dioxide concentration in the lower air layer, especially in towns, where because of fuel combustion and respiration it is about 25 percent higher than in the air of open fields... The impact of technology is particularly potent and varied on the natural, specifically, geological situation if it involves construction of major marine and hydrotechnical projects. In some cases this impact is too sluggish to attract notice. Or, conversely, it may proceed too fast before our very eyes..."
In 1944 and 1945 Acad. Savarensky continued working with abandon. As good as every day he met graduate and post-graduate students as well as doctorate seekers; he reviewed articles and dissertations. He often spoke at learned councils and sessions of the Academy of Sciences, but never neglected proceedings at his home laboratory of hydrogeological problems. In addition, Acad. Savarensky was elected president of the hydrogeological commission of the Society of Naturalists at Moscow State University (he had joined this society as member way back in the 1920s). In spite of this workload Acad. Savarensky managed to author research papers, draw up college curricula, participate in discussions on major national projects. During this period Acad. Savarensky was conceptualizing a science system capable of tackling formidable problems of theory and practice with an eye to possible ecological consequences.
Acad. Savarensky's life was drawing to a close. He died the following year after VE Day of 1945. One of the last letters that he received and read was from L. Belyaev, a young scientist. As it is customary in Russia, he addressed the mentor by the first name and patronymic. "My dear Fyodor Petrovich: I must defend my doctoral dissertation on the engineering-geological and hydrogeological prospecting at Kamyshin... I recall the immortal story of Nikolai Gogol about Taras Bulba, and I picture myself in the shoes of Ostap, his [Bulba's] son. I wish I could also cry out, 'Governor, do you hear me?' I wish I could just hear the voice of one whose kind heart and soul have never been tired of responding to every request at the most trying and crucial moments of my life..."
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