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TRAC
Interview Transcript

Sergei Kapitsa   (cont)
Mr.  Kapitsa:  I think it's, well, you see, real recognition is hardly ever done in these cases.  The headlines are captured by people who are usually off limits and somehow captured the imagination of the media rather than this, or often it's a great personal sacrifice--have to persevere in a much more, I should say, closed way on establishing this understanding.  And my father, and Neals Bohr, for example, in the West, one of them.

Interviewer:  All right, to switch a little now, another chapter in your life, which I think bears upon what we're trying to get at with the archive, is your role as a television celebrity, as an educator, perhaps the number one public educator when it comes to science.  So just say a little about this, just to give a quick sketch of that.

Mr.  Kapitsa:  Well, that began in '73.  I was invited due to a number of circumstances to Soviet television system, and very quickly, with my collaborators, we developed this series that's been running for 25 years--although, now it's having a very difficult time--discussing science and society matters on our first network.

Interviewer:  Was it censored much?

Mr.  Kapitsa:  No, you see, censor, it was not exactly the word.  There were a couple of times when I was censored, but there was a certain understanding of how it should be done.  And for me, this understanding and trust that I had really mattered much more than, you see, challenging the authorities on my new tie and fighting them in that way.  I spoke my mind.  I didn't have to, I was never a member of the Party.  I was not in any way committed, you see.  But I was committed to science, and science is a cultural message.  And here, we are the net.  To begin with, I read all the dissident literature and all that, but I had my own way of perhaps even broadcasting those ideas, not directly, you see.  I had many supporting scientists on these programs, you see.  

Interviewer:  And this was on Saturday?

Mr.  Kapitsa:  Yes, it was Saturday, it really had a very good coverage.  It was Saturday prime time and rerun on a Thursday and then again on Sunday.

Interviewer:  Did you get much feedback from this?  From the country at large?

Mr.  Kapitsa:  Oh, yes.  It was a very, it was, in those television was very sensibly run.  There was a man called Latvin; he was hated by all the people who he didn't know how to talk, but he had straight forward ideas as what the service of television should be to the nation, and I remember once I was in England, and I had some connections with the BBC.  Suddenly one of my friends said, you know Lord So and So wants to see you.  So I said who is Lord So and So.  Oh, he is the controller of BBC.  He is something so important that nobody has ever seen or talked to him.  Like the head of 5 or 6, a figure of the British establishment.  Governments come and go, but these people stay.  Well, I said, I will be happy to talk to him, so I was taken to a very select, conservative club where we had a long lunch sitting there together discussing matters of television.  He was very knowledgeable, of course, and I think we can sum up my conversation with a remark that he said, "Well I see that you are." I don't know he was speaking to me thinking that I was something like himself, as I was an adjective.  It is all very hilarious.  We keep our journalists and television personalities on a long leash; you keep them on a short one.  I don't know who controls them better.  And I remember reports of this conversation to Latvin.  He was very, I don't want to say what.  He knew of this gentleman, but they had never met.  But I think a complete similarity of minds and attitudes.  But, the BBC is one of the best television systems in the world, although it is intimately controlled, of course, and you know how it is run in any country.

Interviewer:  So this is one of the themes I need to explore in these conversations, is the unrecognized.  To say something about the margins of freedom that did exist in the Soviet Union that conventional histories don't discuss.  So, to reflect a little on this somewhat unrecognized measure of freedom...

Mr.  Kapitsa:  Well I can tell you of two broadcasts that were of interest.  Once I was called by my father, and he said, can you come over tomorrow for lunch.  We'll have lunch with Vassily Leontieff, the great American economist of Russian extraction, a Nobel Prize winner and all that, and I've also invited Zamcev.  Zamcev, in those days, was the economic advisor to Brezhnev, a member of the central committee, a vice president of the academy responsible for economics and all that.  It has in our establishment, in terms of economy, questions of economy.  Well, we had a lunch.  Zamcev, my mother, myself, my father and Leontieff.

 

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RAO > Catalgoues > Transcripts > TRAC > Sergei Kapitsa p.6

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