The prolific list of Russian inventions, is a testament to the spirit of human innovation and creativity and its potential. Let’s look at some of those well-known inventions that originated in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The famous Russian education and commitment to science, coupled with the effort to beat the west in an era of political rivalry, between 1947 and 1991, has led to many well-known inventions.
Below are some of the more notable contributions of the USSR to modern technology and the human knowledge.
Radios, television and other devices owe their functionality to the antenna which Grigoriy Zakharovich Ayzenberg (1904-1994), a Soviet physicist, has invented. Together with the scientists at the Scientific Research Institute for Radio where Ayzenberg worked for 30 years, the Soviets have made major contributions in designing the first radio antenna.
Soviet physicist Yurii Nikolayevich Denisyuk has come up with the first reflection hologram also known as the “Denisyuk hologram”. The technology is now popularly used in most holographic displays and it was the first to allow multi-color image reproduction in holograms.
Some of the greatest and most prominent inventions that have a Russian connection have to do with the quest to explore space and the technology associated with it. The father of the field of theoretical astronautics, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, was a Soviet. His works have been an inspiration to leading Russian rocket engineers Valentin Glushkl and Sergev Korolyov as well as other scientists who paved the way to the well-known success of the Russian space program. Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite orbiting the Earth, was launched in 1957.
In April 12, 1957, Yury Gagarin successfully made the first human trip in space. Since then, many other Russian and Soviet records in space exploration followed. Even now, Russia continues to be the leader in satellite launching, as well as the sole transport provider for space tourism. Soviets also invented space food, space suits, human spaceflight, and human space orbit.
Many inventions associated with Russian inventors are also prominent in the field of computing. The MESM (translated in English as “Small Electronic Calculating Machine”) project produced the first universally programmable computing machine. It was developed by the Institute of Electrical Engineering of the Soviet Academy of Science, a state-funded research and development center.
The MESM was created in a laboratory built Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. Headed by institute director Sergei Lebedev, the team was composed of 20 people most of whom lived at the upper floor of the laboratory in the period of 1948 to November 1950 or until the computer run its first program.
Lebedev is often considered as the Alan Turing of the Soviet Union. He’s been interested in computing since the 1930s but the war prevented him from pursuing the topic and advancing his ideas. His interest was revived when he became director of the institute and led to many new innovations.
Soviets were also at the forefront of the field of modern power sources. Igor Kurchatov directed the development of the first nuclear power plant which began generating electricity on June 27, 1954 at Obninsk, producing around five megawatts of electric power. The city of Obninsk was known as the Science City of the Soviet Union and has been the setting for a lot of other inventions since its founding.
The Soviets also pioneered the use of nuclear reactors in ships and submarines. NS Lenin was the first ship run by nuclear power. It was also the first nuclear powered civilian vessel.
When it comes to assault rifles, the Avtomat Kalashnikova, alternately known as the Kalashnikov or simply the AK, is the most famous assault rifle worldwide. His fame and popularity are attributable to its being highly durable, cheaply produced and user-friendly.
The AK type rifle, most famous of which is the AK-47, continues to be the most used rifle by a lot of countries’ armed forces as well as many revolutionary, terrorist and irregular armies the world over. More of these weapons have been made all over the world than all the other assault rifles combined.
Some would say, this is an invention the world could do without.
People crazy over phones and gadgets would be surprised to learn that the first mobile phone and the first pocket phone were invented by the Soviets. Known in 1958 as the first wireless phone, it connected to city phone lines through electromagnetic waves. The device weighed 500 g including battery, and was about the size of two cigarette boxes.
These pocket phones, however, were not produced for mass consumption – which was true for many inventions created by russians in that period.
Most exciting of all (it’s a joke!) is the invention in 1984 of the globally popular game Tetris designed by Soviet computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov who was then working at the Dorodnitsyn Computing Center.
Tetris has received Western exposure in 1986. It was licensed through state-funded company Elorg which received all royalties from the game. Pajitnov began receiving royalties and enjoying the fruits of his work, only in 1996. It’s hard to live in this day and age and not know Tetris – the game was everywhere at some point – millions were trying to stack cubes in place and build a wall.
The game has produced billions in profit and has been modified, adapted, improved, and enjoyed by millions of people to this day.
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