S. I. Vavilov State Optical Institute

This web page was updated last time in 1999

Little was known to the outside world about SOI until recently, although it occupies huge territory in downtown St.-Petersburg (former Leningrad, the second city in Russia) with branches in a suburban city Sosnovyi Bor closed to visitors (known for its nuclear power plant) and in another places. The total number of employees working for SOI reached about ten thousand (then it was considerably downsized), anyone in Leningrad had at least one friend from SOI. The institute is owned by Russian Ministry of Defense Industry and it is working in part on development of modern weaponry that needs lasers and holograms. There are about thirty departments in SOI, the First Department (KGB) is probably the most important one. The library is relatively good, there were many books seized by Red Army in occupied Germany (unfortunataly, many books were returned to German Democratic Republic in 1984). The Department of Theoretical Physics (number 22) existed until 1986. Its last head Vlasov died at the end of seventies, then there was presumably a struggle who will be the leader. The Theoretical Department was dispersed in 1986 allegedly because "it ultimately fulfilled all formulated tasks", but according to a rumor, it was a result of a disagreement among senior scientists who would like to fill a vacant position of the head.

Currently A. S. is listed as a worker in the Department number 16 involved in fabrication of optical devices. The head of the Department is G. Gerasimov, the higher chief is V. Shilov. The department occupies a building in a classical style expropriated from a wealthy Russian family after the Bolshevic Revolution (there are still traces of reach bourgeois interior). According to a recent report, the Department does not work temporaryly; telephone, electricity and water were disconnected from the building.

SOI never had Internet connection, but there is a SOI webpage on a Moscow server, and there is also scientific information here and here.

In addition to science and technology, it is a common practice in SOI to work seasonally in a suburban collective farm "Detskoselskiy" picking up vegetables or in A. A. Zhdanov vegetable store house. Under the communist rule, it was mandatory for SOI staff to work at least about forty days every year. Even now, many people are happy to work in a field and steal a few heads of cabbage or carrots for their families.

Currently, the totalitarian legacy of SOI (as well as another numerous former Soviet institutes) is under restructuring. Since 1990, it was renamed several times to All-Union Optical Center, Russian Optical Center, Institute of Amateur Cinematography etc. Wage arrears are constantly reported.

Recent pictures of the Institute
Pictures of the Theoretical Department at work 1980 - 1982
Information about the Institute copied from Directory of Russian Defense Enterprises in St. Petersburg
Information about the Institute copied from "Palms and Company" documents

Work at State Optical Institute Directory of Sergeev's files Picture archives A. Sergeev