Solzhenitsyn, surgery and the supernatural: your quick guide to the Academies of Science

What are the National Academies of Science?

National Academies of Science are designed to be at the forefront of scientific and technological research. They are responsible for structuring and financing doctoral and post-doctoral programmes and they oversee the operation of many other academies, institutions, and research bodies.

They are common to the majority of countries and satellite states of the former USSR, including: Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary and Poland.

Although the Academies of Science operate under the direct administration of each country – usually regulated by a dedicated law – they have a significant amount of autonomy in terms of organisation and structure.

The Russian Academy of Sciences was founded by Peter the Great in 1724 and became a model for Academies in other countries.

So, are they universities?

Academies of Science are not universities per se as they usually only offer doctoral research-based awards, although the institutions affiliated with them can offer the full range of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.

In general, Academies of Science tend not to directly confer degrees themselves; instead, a body known as the Higher Attestation Commission – or a variant of this – is responsible for assessing these degrees and issuing the awards. In some instances, the country’s ministry, responsible for higher education, may undertake this role.

Distinguished alumni

As institutions of highly advanced research, Academies of Science frequently produce well-known scientists, authors, artists, poets and others at the forefront of their field.

Some of the most famous members of the Russian Academy of Sciences include Alexander Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature and author of The Gulag Archipelago, Cancer Ward, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; and Mikhail Lomonosov, a mathematician, scientist and poet, who discovered the presence of an atmosphere on Venus and hypothesised the wave theory of light.

Pioneering research

More unusual fields of research said to have been carried out at the Russian Academy during the Soviet Union era include telepathy and supernatural phenomena. Meanwhile, studies undertaken at the Georgian Academy of Sciences have discovered that Georgia was the first country in which grape wine was made (roughly 8,000 years ago). And at the Bulgarian Academy, archaeologists have recently discovered the oldest evidence of surgical amputation in southeast Europe which dates back to 4,000 BC!