Eureka. Limetown. Hogwarts. These are three great examples of fictional locations that house some of the world’s most brilliant and talented individuals. But what if I were to tell you that Russia has long had a similar facility, dubbed the “Silicon Forest,” that plays host to the country’s elite scientific and research-minded professionals, all squirreled away amidst the pine and birch trees of Siberia?
Founded in 1957 as академгородок—pronounced Akademgorodok and hereafter known as “Academic Town”—this massive research facility in the city of Novosibirsk, Russia contains a state university, nearly three dozen research institutes, a medical academy, and all the amenities that the town’s 65,000 scientists and their families were privy to during its peak years. It wasn’t the only Academic Town to be created during the former Soviet Union’s reign, but it is still one of the largest, making it the focus of a recent podcast episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind.
During the 30 years of Soviet rule from 1961 to 1991, Academic Town was a haven for researchers, and not just because they had access to a wider variety and more consistent delivery of groceries than was available to the rest of the population. The residents enjoyed a relative freedom from the rules and restrictions imposed by the government during the facility’s early years, allowing them to explore subjects dubbed pseudosciences by Moscow—genetics and cybernetics, for example—until the Brezhnev era put an end to that freedom in the 1970s. Such research facilities that focused on these avant-garde topics include the Institute of Laser Physics, the Institute of Chemical Kinetics and Combustion, and the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, which has been quite successful in domesticating some adorable foxes. That latter facility also paid their respects to generations of lab mice with this delightful monument that stands on their grounds:
Though you might have a hard time finding gainful employment and research opportunities at Russia’s Academic Town, you can always check out its many facilities and storied history on your next trip to Novosibirsk.
Have you been to Academic Town or are you planning on visiting? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
Images: Elya, Anna Gorbunova