Memories of Joint Work with Anatoly Ivanovich Kitov
K.I. Kurbakov. Translation by Alexander Nitusov.
I became personally acquainted with professor A.I. Kitov in December 1958. Before that I had a pleasure of discovering for myself, his original work – the book „Digital Electronic Computers“ (Russ. “Электронные цифровые машины”), which described computer engineering and programming in detail. It was published by the all-union publishing house „Soviet Radio“ in 1956. In fact, that was the first Soviet publication on the subject.
In the beginning of 1958 I graduated, with distinction, from the Kazan Aircraft Institute (technical university) and received position of an engineer-designer at the Special Scientific Research Institute in Moscow. I worked at the Laboratory of Electromodelling (LEM) of the USSR Academy of Sciences (AS USSR), which was headed by professor L.I. Gutenmakher, a laureate of the USSR State Premium. He was a talanted Soviet inventor and scientific leader of the works on development of mini-computers based on magnetic amplifiers. The laboratory had already produced operating magnetic memory device.
All those works attracted attention of both Soviet and foreign scientists. In the end of 1958 I was appointes as (temporary) scientific secretary of the institute (of LEM) and, naturally, began participating in receptions of all visiting specialists. That was the time, when a representative of the USSR Ministry of Defense arrived. That was colonel A.I. Kitov, who had special permission for getting insight into all our projects.
Normally the Presidium of the AS USSR strictly limited visiting the laboratory (LEM), but an official representative of the Ministry of Defense was granted absolute freedom to study all our materials. Thus, he appeared in our rooms, a senior military officer in a very smart uniform, not a tall man bald at the temples. He had a big spreadsheet under his arm.
His appearence and the way of talking immediately attracted attention of our scietists. The man turned out to be Anatoly Ivanovich Kitov – one of the chiefs of the Computer Centre №1 at the Ministry of Defense, who conducted large-scale scientific works on development and implementation of computers. Kitov made many accurate and detailed notes from our materials and invited us to take part in scientific conferences on computers, conducted by the USSR Ministry of Defense.
During our private talks we discovered that we both were veterans of the Great Patriotic War and we had many common scientific and personal interests. Notably, much later we realised that the mutual attraction, which emerged at our first meeting, proved to be stable and continued durung all our life.
Already at his first visit to the LEM A.I. Kitov made impression of a solid and purposeful scientist, whose ways inspired people's liking. He was surprised that I was the laboratory's scientific secretary, however, didn't have a scientific degree and at once offered me his help in preparing of a thesis for dissertation. He attentively and thoroughly discussed with me my first scientific results, obtained during the 1957-1958s.
Thus, within those several days that Anatoly Kitov was visiting our LEM he made very positive impression. On request from L.I. Gutenmakher he made a report on some scientific projects conducted under his direct supervision, as he was the deputy of the Computer Centre № 1 director on scientific work. That was really very interesting.
Here it should be mentioned, that in the second half of the 1950s A.I. Kitov managed to form a unique, for its scientific potential, task force of researchers and designers at their Computer Centre №1. Among those there were: L.A. Lusternik (Lusternik Lasar' Aronovich), N.A. Krinitskiy, A.A. Lyapunov (А.А. Ляпунов), N.P. Buslenko, I.N. Kovalenko, O.V. Sosyura, G.A. Mironov, G.D. Frolov, I.A. Poletaev, V.P. Isaev, G.G. Belonogov, V.I. Bogatyrev, A.N. Nechaev, S.M. Shvartin, A.M. Bukhtiyarov, Y.I. Bezzabotnov, B.S. Trifonov, S.A. Abramov, G.B. Smirnov, R.G. Kotov, V.N. Vanin, V.L. Golubev, Y.V. Gaikovich, I. Pottosin, and many others. Later, L.I. Gutenmakher also joined (part-time) their Computer Centre №1. In the following years, those scientists authored very popular books on computers and their applications.
Establishing, or rather creation, of the USSR first computer centre – Computer Centre №1 at the USSR Ministry of Defense (MD USSR) by Anatoly Kitov, in the middle of 1954, was really an epic deed. Later the centre was transformed into the Central Scientific Research Institute – 27 of MD USSR. Then, it was not just a common scientific-research centre but the country's biggest source of cybernetical ideas, one of the advanced world-level computer centres.
At the same time, there was also, a typical for that cold war time, inconvenience – a cover of hyperbolised secrecy spread over the biggest part of military-related projects. Then, the major amount of scientific publications, collections of works, etc. of that broad research field were bearing defense classification lables. Quite seldom, some (perhaps, not more than a dozen) scientific works had „more liberal“ marking „For internal usage“. Therefore, only those who were „consecrated“ had possibilities of studying the main part of the scientific information (collections of works, etc.) – i.e. only those who had special permission. Unfortunately, much large number of civil specialists outside that „secret society“ had to be satisfied with just a small part of the novelties somehow conserning defense problems. Therefore, no wander that most of Kitov's scientific researches were classified, and access to them was very difficult. I know it very well from my own personal experience, because, after my working at the LEM, I spent number of years at another (military) organisation – Scientific Research Institute № 45 (MD USSR).
A.I. Kitov with his scientific ideas and their practical implementation got far ahead of his time and traditional practices of our country. No wander that it caused dissatisfaction of his supreme administration. Radical attempts of management structure rebuilding at the USSR Ministry of Defense, by means of organisation and forming large-scale infomation flows, and making fundamental solutions in the field of informatic and computing, should have led to significant changes in ministerial management ways and traditions.
Naturally, that also irritated higher administrators because of the need in impressive investments, principle changing of the structure of administrative communications, etc. All that created grounds for sharp discussions „in higher places“ with unpredictable results and consequences. In other words, it caused disbalance in the whole „ministerial construction“.
Those were the circumstances, which turned A.I. Kitov's, largerly pioneering, scientific activity into a „thorny way“ of the fighter for technical (and not only) progress in our country. Generally speaking, it would be a very hard way, although he himself undoubtedly deserved great respect and approval.
I have maintained close friendly relations with A.I. Kitov for about half of a century. Since 1980 we were working together at the G.V. Plekhanov Russian Economic Academy (university); naturally I could recall and tell a lot about him.
Let us notice the principal thing, by the end of the 1950s – beginning of the 1960s, regection of the cybernetical theories in our country began gradually „dissolving“ itself. Three „scientific fighters“ – academician S.L. Sobolev (С.Л. Соболев), colonel A.I. Kitov and Dr. A.A. Lyapunov not only boldly came out with correct understanding, and reasoning, of the cybernetics, but also proved that this science carried no danger for our society. Quite contrary, it would be a powerful tool for improvement and essential development of the management and control processes in our country. Their article was published in the central ideological journal „The Problems of Philisophy“, in the middle of 1955, and quickly attracted broad public attention (Russ. Статья, опубликованная в журнале “Вопросы философии” в середине 1955 года).
When making evaluation of such bold step out from the positions of to-day, one should agree that „the three“ really demonstrated good deal of civil courage. Those thmes it could be risky for their academic careers.
A.I. Kitov was the main author of the article. Speaking about Kitov's well-deserved professional life one can get an impression that his scientific biography reminded a „rose garden“ with triumphal wreaths. Of course it was not so. The pioneers are always „energetically exhausted“. Such people are usually severely criticised and often experince some kinds of oppressions. The history of science tells us countless examples of that. Anatoly Kitov was not an exception. The first positive article on cybernetics in our country, and the story how it was written, worth more close attention.
Nowadays, it looks like the words of famous poet Alexander Tvardovsky, „Evereybody thinks of himself to be a great strategist, when watching a battle from outside“. Now it is easy to „make judgements“ (of the past), however, that time things were different. So then, one needed really unusual courage to make such pioneer publishing within agressively negative atmosphere.
Well, let's go on with the Anatoly Kitov's bold deeds in the science. It was known that the state officials were most often merciless in the disputes with some scientists who were defending their principal positions. A.I. Kitov was „as steadfast as flint“ in struggle for his scientific principles and concepts.
In this connection one should not forget his global project USNCC – the Unified State Network of Computer Centres, which he presented to the USSR Communist Party Central Committee (supreme body of power, that time), in 1959. The following struggle was extremely fierce. The project received in the soviet scientific circles an informal name „the Red Book“.
In that project A.I. Kitov proposed establishing in the USSR a national-wide network of computer centres (i.e. computers linked with communication channels into well-controlled centralised system). The information processing and storing clasters of that net should be distributed in its key nodes all over the country. That was one of the basic postulates of his project.
In fact, Kitov proposed to create some national-wide structure of „autonomous informational state enterprises“, which should store and process national economical data (which was an approximate copy of, then actual, state policy aimed at creating relatively autonomous economical units, or districts, in the country). Thus, according to the project, it was proposed to establish a broad network of independent computer centres in various regions, which should perform analytical data processing with the use of computers, to integrate (or generalise) them and send the resulting output information over the communication cannels to the next superior rank computer centres of the network hierarchy.
However, the idea was immediately confronted with scores of sharp negative voices of the state officials and party functionaries. The questions like, „Why should these people make decisions which belong to our competence?“ or „Where is, then, the place for the party's leading role in this project?“, etc. could be heared at practically each meeting where the issue was discussed.
I myself was a member of such meeting, which was held at the State Committee on Science and Technologies (SCST). Anatoly Kitov was tidy and smart as usual, but derssed in a casual civil suit not a military jacket, which, to tell the truth, suited him much better. He was speaking in a low voice without unnecessary affectation, but his talk was clear and very logical. He backed up all his statements with very concrete argumentation. I remember very unpleasant discussion, which took place at that meeting. Right after Kitov's report some officials claimed that he „propagated substitution of the centralised party-and-economic bodies of power in the country“. His theories were estimated as „propaganda of the system of feodal appanage princes supported with computers“. That was a total distortion of the truth, of course.
Nevertheless, despite sharply negative reaction of the audience, Anatoly Kitov determinately defended his position on reasonability of establishing USNCC in the country, although he struggled practically alone against consolidated lobby of bureaucrats.
The next point. Nowadays, two scientific directions are popular abroad: Computer Science and Information Science. These notions are not mixed there. We, on our side, have founded own direction – considering informatics though prism of computer engineering. In the beginning of the 1960s, development of the automated control systems (ACS) encountered many problems and entered depression period. In that connection A.I. Kitov claimed the following, „New hardware – quicker computers and peripheral devices, all this is of course useful, however, the subject area is the main point in computer control systems“. Now we know this as „content“, but then it was called „Semantics“ or, sometimes, „Subject-matter“.
In 1959 the Moscow State University conducted a large international conference on computers. As mentioned before, then I performed functions of the LEM's scientific secretary. The conference reports were numerous. A.I. Kitov presented detailed review on principles of associative organisation of computer memory, which he was working upon that time. The report was impressively successful, and not only among the Soviet scientists but attracted attention of foreign colleagues, first of all - the Americans. By the way, Magnetic Operative Memory Device (MOMD) the Americans copied from our models, not we from theirs. That could be proved with published sources. At the conference they were ranning around everywhere with their photo cameras, however, didn't get many printed proceedings.
Soon after, one more meeting was conducted at the SCST. That time, dr. Mikhailov - the director of the All-Union Institute for Scientific and Technical Information – AUISTI (Russ. VINITI) was its chairman. A.I. Kitov presented there report on continuing his researches in the field of associative programming. Then, it was the first research on the subject. And again, a large part of the audience did not understand his ideas. As usual, there were many skeptical comments. Although, the report was a brilliant one and contained many fundamentals of the issue. A.I. Kitov proposed the thing which, in reality, is widely used in our time. That is the semantic integration method for information processing with computer.
One more example. By the beginning of the 1960s, many various institutes and design bureaus of the USSR developed (and produced) a big number of electronic computers, however, they were not compatible. There were 16 or may be even 18 different types of them; I don't remember exactly. Each model was good its own way but the inconveniences of such „multiplicity“ were causing lots of difficulties. Quite natural question arose – total absence of any standartisation. That was a very big obstacle for the further development. And it's not difficult to guess, who was the first one to raise a voice at the SCST for solving the computer incompatibility problem. A.I. Kitov made the first report on necessity of organisation measures, on the state level, for computer soft and hardware standardisation. A.I. Kitov was a man who, with his pioneer ideas, permanently „attracted“, or provoked, fierce criticism from the conservative majority of authorities, which could not understand progressive tendencies and „demands of the time“.
At the discussion on the computers, proposed by B.I. Rameev (Rameev Bashir Iskanderovich), Kitov remarked, „The URALs (Ural Family of Computers) are very good machines, but at the moment we urgently need information-logical complexes, with advanced software, for processing of various semantic data, predominantly of economical nature“. The idea itself of such complexes for semantic information processing was set forth by him as early as the middle of the 1950s. I have stored some notices about it.
An episode from the period when he was dealing with medical cybernetics. Working with medical systems, he paid tribute to some high-performance computer, however, claimed incessantly, „When making any medical Automated Control System or Information Retrieval System it is most important to create a subject field“.
When he was working in the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Information and Technical-Economical researches, an intence discussion arose after his proposal of focusing the main efforts not directly on increasing of computer performance, but on development of methods, algorithms and programs for essential increasing and widening the abilities for processing, storing and retrieval of semantic information.
I'd say that A.I. Kitov was a sort of „cybernetical Khodzha Nasreddin“ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasreddin) in our country. Espesially, when considering the fact that Kitov's birthplace was the town of Tashkent (Uzbekistan), where he spent the childhood and school years. He was a kind of person who never hesitated to tell the truth, directly and boldly to the people of power. Kitov was always firm in his moral principles and determinate in defending his own ideas. Figuratively speaking, he was always bringing hornet's nest about his ears; as if deliberately. Always disturbing traditional structures and stereotypes of power. His scientific ideas were sort of a stick, which he pushed into their ant-hill. Advanced, pioneer ideas are seldom pleasant for conventional, estblished power.
It's well known for those who have experience in process regulation. Just imagine, one has brought a system in order, everything runs well, one can relax and... again(!) somebody urges to change everything from the very beginning. Who -of the bureaucrats- would like that?
Kitov was a typical work-addict. Being persistent himself in everything he was doing, he was very attentive and helpful to the young scientists, who attempted to create something new. He was a very friendly consulter and scientific superviser and also highly efficient opponent of numerous dissertations for doctors and candidate degrees.
From the beginning of our friendship, and later, Kitov was always interested in the results of my „scientific growth“. He also volunteered to be my opponent both for candidate and doctor dissertations. In the 1960s the All-union scientific conference on cybernetics, informatics and computing was held in Tashkent. That was very representative conference. Among the participants there were academician A.I. Berg (А.И. Берг), professors: A.I. Kitov, N.A. Krinitskiy, R.G. Kotov, N.P. Buslenko and some other famous scientists. Active subject discussions became the specific feature of it. During all five days of its work the meetings, panels and discussions lasted from the morning till the late afternoon (what was unusual for Tashkent with its hot climate). All discussions were creative and friendly despite numerous critical and ironical remarks and comments. Genuine interest to the voices of „scientific youngsters“, including me, was also remarkable. Of course, A.I. Berg, A.I. Kitov, R.G. Kotov, N.A. Krinitskiy and N.P. Buslenko were in the focus of common attention. Cybernetical problems, research and development of computers and -mainly- their efficient usage in processes of control were the central issues. Rather radical criticism was also expressed, regarding the control in general, however, no political aspects were considered in that connection. Notably, all participants paid tribute to A.I. Kitov as the leading expert on the subject.
After that our scientific co-operation with Kitov acquired one more dimension. In the 1960s we supported each other with advices and recommendations during our work upon scientific monographs, subsequently released by the all-union publishing house „Sovetskoe Radio“.
Then I published monograph „Coding and Retrieval in Automatic Vocabulary“ (1968). A.I. Kitov released two new books, „Programming for Information and Logical Problems“ (“Программирование информационно-логических задач”), 1967, and “Programming for Economical and Management Problems“ (1971). Also in the 1960s he composed new algorithmic language ALGEM, intended for programming of economical-mathematical problems. That was impressive contribution. A little later ALGEM was completed and brought to commercial level. As it was popular in the USSR, it became a widespread piece of software. ALGEM was used by hudreds of organisations, firms, etc.
The last 25 years I and A.I. Kitov were working together, in close contact at the G.V. Plekhanov Russian Economic Academy. In 1980, I visited him at his home. He had retired not long before and besides, did not feel well. I said that it was right time for the person of his scientific level to impart his knowledge with the younger generation, and I was ready to hand him over my own position of the chief of the university's chair. And I proposed to be just a professor at that chair. Kitov immediately refused to head my chair, but said that he'd think over the idea to be himself a professor there. Notable, that we were discussing it in the presence of his wife Galina Vladimirovna. A few days later Anatoly Ivanovich promised to be a professor of the „Plekhanov's“ academy.
Remarkable trait of Kitov's nature: he possessed huge scientific potential and solid pedagogic experience, however, never desired to take high administrative position. During the next half of the year our (academy's) director B.E. Mochalov was trying to persuade Kitov to head some chair.
Finally we, together with Mochalov, managed to make (or force) him to take the chair of computer engineering. He headed it more than ten years. The highly qualified and consolidated scientific and pedagofical team was formed there, and the chair made significant progress. Later, when Kitov was already older than seventy, he left it for a professor's position. He also did a big work as a deputy of the chairman of the academy's Scientific Council.
Besides that, Kitov was a member of the Informatisation Council at the USSR Ministry of Education. He supported the council's activity both with his name and with his printed reviews on scientific works received by the council. His pedegogical contribution was also significant. Level of training in the field of informatics for students of G.V. Plekhanov Academy – economic, not engineering, university sharply increased. As talanted methodologist he authored unique course books, course materials and monographs on computers and informatics. They were widely popular in the USSR and many of them were translated in other countries, especially in the East Europe. Easy and clear language of these books and other printed methodical works simplified their implementation into educational and scientific processes.
Scientific school of A.I.Kitov totals fourty doctors and candidates, including foreign scientists. Anatoly Ivanovich Kitov was especially friendly with young scientists; he supported their efforts with all available means, although his own work schedule was always pretty tight. He practically never refused to be an opponent, provided the scientific core of their dissertations was appropriate.
Several times I myself was an opponent at defending dissertations, doing it together with A.I. Kitov. That was because we were working practically in the same field; shared similar principles and schientific methods. As an opponent A.I. Kitov was always friendly and well-disposed. Although could make some critical remarks, when necessary, his general tone was positive, he noticed and emphasised everything positive in the dissertation and often provided useful advices on concrete development of the subject under consideration.
In May 1997, at the Victory Day, our academy's directorate organised vocations for a group of veterans of the war (WWII) at the Cyprus island. A.I. Kitov and me were among them. During our travel we -two veterans of war- two scientists of the same field of knowledge, who had practically common circle of colleagues, we spent much time discussing the problems of our national science, teaching and, of course, the perspectives of their future development.
A.I. Kitov, N.P. Buslenko, N.A. Krinitskiy, M.R. Shura-Bura (Shura-Bura Mikhail Romanovich) and others were the cyberneticists and informaticists of the first national scientific wave in that area. They were the creators and founders of the national programming school for computers. K.I. Kourbakov, G.G. Belonogov, R.G. Kotov and others already belonged to the next wave.
Exceptional addiction to work, industriousness, impeccable thoroughness and full concentration on scientific problems were generally distinctive features of the veterans of war, who first were students then themseves became teachers. A.I. Kitov graduated from the F.E. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy with gold medal. That mark of distinction was his trait for the rest of his life. He made a brilliant example of scientist, teacher, frendly and desent man.
Notably, at exams students do not normally want to be examined by the chief of their chair, however, they always wanted to answer examenation questions personally to Kitov. The reason lay not in his liberalism (he was strict enough) but in his approval of the freedom of oppinions. He also ran examination talks with students without stress and much longer then other teachers.
Our common family parties also were pleasant to remember. A couple of times, professor T.M. Askerov -from Azerbaidjan- was taking part in them too. In fact, he was former Kitov's pupil and at home he was recognised as „Azerbaidjanian Kitov“. Galina Vladimirovna, the spouse of Anatoly Kitov was a perfect organiser and entertainer at those friendly meetings. She demonstrated excellent vocal skills and was „the soul of the parties“. That couple was very attractive and had ability to consolidate all friends around them.
Successful career growth of each scientist is normally „accompanied“ with scientific degrees, titles and other distinguishing marks. However, as it was mentioned before, pioneers, such as A.I. Kitov, not always receive a just reeward. Of course, A.I. Kitov has deserved honorary title of the member of the USSR Academy of Sciences (after the 1990s – the Russian Academy of Sciences). Nevertheless his pioneering activity did not make him a way to the Academy. Only at the beginning of the 1990s some other academies appeared, which immediately recognised him as a member of their scientific society. Thus, A.I. Kitov became a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of natural sciences. His contribution was widely recognised both in Russia and abroad; he is one of the famous persons in the field of informatics and cybernetics. His portrait was placed in the gallery of prominent scientists at the G.V. Plekhanov Russian Economic Academy.
A saying matches him very well, „One can see big things only from big distance“. Working closely with a person, one can not always correctly estimate real dimension of his personality. Only after some time it becomes clear, what a „global person“ he was.
I'd also like to emphasise that the basic principles of development and implementation of information-retrieval systems were formed by A.I.Kitov at his CC №1(CSRI-27) of the USSR Ministry of Defence. Anatoly Kitov was the founder of that scientific direction in our country, and he completely focused the work of the CC №1 at it.
Later A.I. Kitov developed it in various projects during his furter work at the Scientific Research Institute №5. When I was working there as a deputy of the chief designer on coding, cyphering and encription, I also took part in one of that projects – a system called „Sygma“.
As notable scientist in the field of cybernetics, informatics and computers, Kitov authored number of advanced theoretical and applied methods of computing and informatics implementation. Thus, his method of associative programming is widely used since the 1960s; it was recognised not only in the USSR but also by foreign scientific circles at the international congresses and conferences, where the scientists of different countries could maintain informal communication.
A.I. Kitov had always paid much attention to practical implementation of his scientific results. Among other, that was also during his work at organisations of the Ministry of Defence, Scientific Research Institute of Electronics and Radio Engineering, Scientific Research Institute of Automatic Devices, during development of the national variant of a large medical information system, new algorithmic languages ALGEM and NORMIN.
As a conclusion, I'd like to underline that science always needs such Kitovs. All people need them. A.I. Kitov was a sort of Prometheus. May the memory of Anatoly Kitov – a pioneer and hero of the national science live forever.
 According to one of folklore traditions, Nasreddin lived in Uzbekistan.
Edited and translated by Alexander Nitusov
Published in museum, 22.01.2016