Michael Forrest: first day in the USSR

Michael Forrest recalls his first trip to Russia as part of a joint Soviet-British nuclear experiment in the 1960s.

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So we had this very formal invitation from the Russians, and that was my first trip to Russia. We were met at the airport by Volodiya Sannikov the young Russian who was going to work with us. I think it was December the ninth, so it was a type of deepest Russian winter, a cold one as well, quite a blast when you got off the plane, and even more so when we got out the car to go into the hotel. The first day, I think the first day we went out to see the Park of Achievements, and the second day we went to the lab. Peter Wilcock has a different [laughs] he has a complete reverse, so this is one of these memory things where we remember totally different things. My version, this chap Dennis Ivanov who was the engineer physicist who designed T3, he picked up us up at the hotel and took us to the Park of Achievements in Moscow. This is where they show off all the latest – exhibitions of all the latest stuff. And of course then it was all space. So we actually saw Gagarin’s space capsule, which is fairly horrific. It was like a cannonball with leather straps inside, you just couldn’t imagine, you know, going inside that. I think – it’s a huge, it must have been about a 100 acre site, and it’s the middle of winter, and I think we were about the only tourists there. Anyway, Dennis said “lets go and eat and we'll start talking about the project.” So he took us to this restaurant and plied us with vodka. By the time the food had come [laughs] we were getting a bit sloshed, I think is the right word. Anyway, and then we started chatting, you know, technicalities and we ended up drawing – we didn’t have any drawings of the machine there, so we ended up drawing things on the paper tablecloth. In fact I can recollect carrying bits of this back so we’d have a record, because we honestly wouldn’t have remembered the conversation [laughs].

  • Interviewee Michael Forrest
  • Duration 00:01:55
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 6/28/2011
  • Shelfmark C1379/48

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