Ivan V. Kudryavtsev | History of Computing in Ukraine

Ivan V. Kudryavtsev

Ivan Kudryavtsev was an outstanding design engineer of electronic systems for military purposes. Under his leadership, the marine radar surveillance system using the targeting intelligence "Uspeh,” along with the defense systems P-6 and P-35, became the world's first precision location strike system, long-range anti-ship weapon of the Soviet Navy.

Ivan Kudryavtsev was born on July 7th, 1921, in Strugi Krasnye (Leningrad region), into the family of a forester. When he was 16 years old, his father was arrested, based on trumped-up charges of anti-Soviet activities. This was the time of Stalin's repressions. Ivan was expelled from the Komsomol as a "son of an enemy of the people."

In 1939 a military conflict with Finland broke out. Kudryavtsev, a second-year student at the Leningrad Institute of Aviation, together with his older brother, enlisted as volunteers for the Leningrad student ski battalion. Ivan did not fit the age limits, but the brothers insisted on their decision as an attempt to prove the groundlessness of the accusation against their father. During the military operation, his older brother was killed and Ivan was seriously injured, losing his leg.

The fact that the eighteen-year-old “son of the enemy of the people" received the Order of the Red Star proved his exceptional heroism and bravery during the war.

Having lost his leg (almost to the knee) from his wounds and the subsequent onset of gangrene, Kudryavtsev refused to live the life of a disabled person. He tried to "stand up" again on his feet, adapting an ordinary wooden prosthesis. Kudryavtsev regained his usual rapid pace and continued his involvement in sports. Subsequently, he got special permission to enroll in the Air Force Academy in Moscow, from which he successfully graduated with a degree in Radar Direction Finding.

It was the time of the Great Patriotic War and radar experts were highly valued, so Kudryavtsev was appointed to the Ministry of Aviation Industry as head of the Electronics Department. The next stage for him was Omsk, where the aircraft industry was growing rapidly. In eight years (1949-1957) he was able to arrange and organize the work of the Design Bureau to develop radar equipment for Tupolev aircrafts produced in Omsk. In 1958, Kudryavtsev was appointed to Kyiv. Here he created a high-capacity Research Institute of Radio "Quantum.” This institute provided the development, design and manufacture of a range of important electronic systems for surface and submarine fleets of the Soviet Union.

Kudryavtsev came to Kyiv with the dream of creating a system of targeting radar installed into aircraft. Initially the staff refused to support a new team leader who had decided to take this new direction in research. Kudryavtsev tried to refocus his colleagues on new topics for the next several months. Despite the fact that Kudryavtsev could simply order people to work, he always chose the democratic way, trying to captivate the staff with new interesting and creative work. And it worked – his Institute was the first in the Soviet Union to create computerized shipboard electronic systems.

The systems included all of the necessary hardware and software solutions for major problems of the fleet: obtaining information about the environmental conditions, control of the weapons (including missiles), navigation etc.

From the first meeting, Kudryavtsev made an unforgettable impression on people because of his amazing faith in science ("it can do everything") and people ("they can do everything, too"). His way of thinking made him different from many other leaders.

His intuition always "worked” in solving complex technical problems and turning seemingly fantastic ideas into real systems.

Kudryavtsev was a very shy person. Only his close family and friends knew about his Order of the Red Star. He did his best to ensure that people wouldn’t notice his prosthesis, and many at the Institute didn’t know that the director was without a limb. His ability and desire to understand people helped him to find a common ground with almost everyone.

Kudryavtsev believed that not only science, but also hard work, embodied any practical activity that makes sense. He would say: "You can just be a scientist or be a wise scientist, just as any work can give us a good lesson.”

Many of his employees remember him as a very sincere and kind man who would never refuse to help, despite the challenge of being a director. Kudryavtsev’s student, V.Y. Lapiy, recalls how a woman in her thirties once came up to him and asked for a raise in salary. Lapiy replied that if the head of the department would suggest increasing her salary, he would support it. The frustrated employee left saddened. When Kudryavtsev found out about this incident he angrily asked Lapiy: "What do you know about her? The woman’s husband died and now she is a single mother of a four-year-old! Call her, apologize and submit a report for her promotion!"

Kudryavtsev sincerely tried to help everyone who was in difficult circumstances and he always kept his promises. When the staff of "Quantum" grew quickly, he was able by extreme effort to find resources to build a 200-apartment building to accommodate his employees. He knew many employees by name, including those who worked at different branches, even far away from Kyiv. Kudryavtsev even knew everything about the master craftsmen of the machine workshops, whose work was crucial – the success of the all the staff’s work relied on their skills.

At the same time he was not just a kindhearted, good-natured person; he could ask much from a subordinate, demanding strict observance of employees’ assigned responsibilities. There were cases when the fulfillment of production plans required a strict attitude toward the staff, in order to mobilize their skills and talents. Kudryavtsev had his own methods of motivation; for example, in such moments he was very emotional when speaking to employees, and it was contagious, inspiring people and giving them the sense of necessity and belief that it was possible to achieve the planned deadlines.

His candor, integrity and perseverance were not always appreciated by the higher leadership. However, when the results were achieved, all the disapproval and doubts would disappear. Because of his character traits, Kudryavtsev was able to develop the Institute rapidly, receiving financial support for his projects. As a result, Kyiv’s "Quantum" was considered equal to the Moscow and Leningrad SRIs, and was one of the leading organizations in developing computerized shipboard electronic systems in the USSR.

Kudryavtsev managed to organize all the necessary research to develop basic technical equipment, including computers for the design systems at the Institute.

When he joined the institute in 1958 there were only two PhD professors. By the end of the 1970s their number had increased to 120 and 16 employees received the degree of Doctor of Science. He developed a cohort of top design engineers (Tuck, Stefanovich, Khaskina, etc.). I.V. Kudryavtsev was very good at selecting and training his assistants. Addressing the systematic issues associated with the mathematical software systems, he relied on V.Y. Lapiy, who as an intern became head engineer of the institute. He also worked closely with V.N. Plotnikov, who was head design engineer of the specialized computers that were used in those systems. They seemed to match and complement each other. The highly reliable computers would not have appeared if it wasn’t for Plotnikov, and the theory of radar data processing wouldn’t have worked as well without Lapiy. And without Kudryavtsev’s adamant will, great energy, amazing technical intuition and great organizational skills, many projects would have remained only on paper.

His distinctive strategy was that of investing in the younger generation. He himself was quite young (36 years old) when he came to Kyiv. His key assistants were 10-15 years younger than him.

Working for the military-industrial complex, Kudryavtsev realized that there is nothing more precious than a human life. Shortly before his death, Kudryavtsev gathered the chief design engineers together and asked them: "How long will we work to create weapons to kill people? Let's think about what we can do to help people!"  This laid the foundation for the Medical Electronics Department at the Institute. Under his leadership they developed a laser knife, a device for crushing kidney stones and other instruments. The medical academicians Kavetsky and Kolomiyets became frequent guests at the Institute.

Kudryavtsev died in February 1975. The secrecy of that time made Ivan Vasilyevich Kudryavtsev’s name almost unknown in the Soviet Union and in Ukraine, while in the West they knew about him and were very interested in his work. When he died in 1975, the British news agency BBC announced: "The major facilitator of the military industry has died."