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Philosopher of agriculture. In memory of Hrant Petrosyan. Oleg Harutyunyan.

Newspaper Noah's Ark №2(72)_February_2004, Moscow

And God remembered Noah... And the ark stopped in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat...  Bible, Old Testament


This article is dedicated to the memory of the outstanding scientist, talented organizer of science, teacher and public figure - Grant Petrovich Petrosyan.

    We know from the Bible that God first created the earth and the sky, and created man: male and female. And God blessed them, and said to them: fill the earth and subdue it.

The earth is God's most precious gift to people. Therefore, every person who works on the earth, creates on it and ennobles it, is doing the will of the Great Creator.

Farmer! This most honorable profession is thousands of years old and there is no higher rank than being a farmer. The vineyards and gardens he created, where birds sing, where the traveler takes refuge from the heat, wheat fields and flowering gardens - all this in all its glory sings a hymn to the Great Creator.

The work of the farmer has always been the most blessed. Hrant Petrosyan dedicated his entire life to his native land. He loved her, cherished, revived her, healed her wounds and illnesses. He gratefully accepted the sacred gift of God and increased the beauty of our land.


    The Armenian highlands ... A majestic panorama: snow-covered mountain ranges, the tops of which are shrouded in a haze of clouds, deep canyons and gorges, along the bottom of which silver ribbons of turbulent rivers and rivers meander. Between the mountains - the blue of small lakes with clear icy water. All climatic zones alternate here - from subtropics to eternal snows and glaciers.

Hot, sultry day. The southern sun beats mercilessly. Asphalt softened on the streets of Yerevan. It is difficult for people to endure the sweltering heat. And to the south of the capital, gray Ararat rises majestically, covered with eternal ice and snow. So, at a close distance, almost nearby - striking contrasts: hot summer and eternal winter. Sometimes all four seasons can be found here at the same time.

    The mountainous relief makes Armenia land-poor. Agricultural land accounts for only 46% of the land area. Of these, arable land makes up 18%, hayfields and pastures - 26%, and gardens and vineyards - only 1.7% of farmland.

    Approximately two thirds of the arable lands of Armenia are located on rocky slopes, are very sparse and are distinguished by pronounced fine contours. Therefore, a lot of work, patience and skill are required from the Armenian peasant to cultivate these lands and grow crops. In conditions of land shortage, when the possibilities of expanding cultivated land are almost completely exhausted, the inclusion of any piece of land in the economic circulation, and increasing the yield of agricultural products, has always been the most important task for Armenia.

    And Grant Petrosyan undertook its implementation.

He was born in Yerevan in 1923. From childhood, he fell in love with aviation and was accepted to study at the flying club. When the Great Patriotic War began in 1941, Grant did not have time to graduate from high school and voluntarily joined the army. After graduating from an aviation school in 1943, he first served as an instructor pilot, then as a senior pilot of the Red Banner Fighter Squadron.
    Could the young military pilot then imagine that he  life will connect with the most peaceful business - agriculture? Who could have known that he would become the founder and first, permanent director of the Scientific Research Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry of Armenia, a world-famous reclamator. Soil scientists from the USA and France, Holland and Canada, India and Spain and many other countries of the planet came to the USSR to personally get acquainted with the work of the institute he had created and with the director himself. But all this is ahead.


    Let's go back to 1947. After demobilization, G. Petrosyan completed his secondary education, and in 1952 he graduated from the Armenian Agricultural Institute. He studied willingly and purposefully, was a State scholarship holder. Two years later, Grant Petrosyan entered the graduate school of the Armenian Agricultural Institute and defended his PhD thesis. A promising scientist was offered to become a teacher at the institute, and then was appointed dean of one of the faculties. The party bodies of the republic drew attention to the promising specialist, and he was elected the first secretary of the Kirov district party committee of Yerevan. A tempting party career awaited him, promising many privileges and unlimited power. But he did not want to be an apparatchik. Years will pass, and he will again be invited to high positions in the party: to head the sectoral department of the Central Committee, to become the secretary of the Central Committee for agriculture. But he will give up everything in order to remain a farmer forever.

    He was drawn by the earth, practical work. He dreamed of applying his knowledge in practice. 1958 was a turning point in his life. It was in this year that he became the director, and in fact, the founder of the new Research Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Armenian SSR.

    The young leader realized that one of the most important reserves for the agriculture of the republic is the improvement of the lands of the Ararat plain. He also realized that although there are few fertile lands in Armenia, its land is generous, and the gifts are amazing. Many fruits and fruits cultivated here are simply impossible to grow in other regions of the USSR

    The Ararat plain is called the valley, the gold mine and the granary of Armenia. Occupying only 4% of the territory, it provided 40% of the crop production of the republic. Studying the soil of the valley, Grant Petrovich found that almost half of it is waterlogged, and a quarter is the so-called solonetzes. It became clear that if these lands are cured, then Armenia can increase the harvest of grapes, fruits and fruits by 25%. The prospect was enticing.

    But the solonchaks of the Ararat valley were difficult to "tame". However, Hrant Petrosyan was one of those who achieved his goal. The team of the Research Institute of Soil Science headed by him, in collaboration with practitioners, managed to find a fairly effective method for improving solonchak lands. Metol was based on the use of waste from the chemical and mining industries. Only the complex use of reclamation, agronomic and biological measures made it possible to renew saline soils and ensure their high return. And many years of work of soil scientists, under the guidance of G.P. Petrosyan, began to bear fruit. Each hectare, yesterday still barren land, began to bring 40-50 centners of winter wheat, 180-200 centners of early potatoes, 120-130 centners of alfalfa hay, the same amount of grapes, 250-300 centners of pink geraniums, watermelons and fruits.

    Petrosyan's idea about the expediency of improving the saline lands of the Ararat plain was confirmed by other examples. But not everything went smoothly. There were many problems: equipment needed to be updated, various bureaucratic instructions and command methods of management interfered.

    Meanwhile, science and practice confirmed that without a preliminary decrease in the level of groundwater, the construction of modern irrigation systems, it is futile to develop the solonchaks of the valley. The quality of the land was negatively affected by the prolongation of the development of land, as well as unsystematic washing of the soil. All this led to re-salinization of the soil. But Grant Petrovich did not yield. From the first days of the institute's establishment, he directed its activities towards establishing a close connection between theoretical research and practice, and towards introducing the achievements of science into production. The staff of the Institute and the Yeraskhaun experimental reclamation station, and their leader became developers and promoters of the introduction of new, scientifically based reclamation methods

    Hrant Petrosyan was the soul of the great undertaking. Realizing that the problems of land restoration can be solved only by complex methods of management, he defended this position in the government of the republic, ministries and departments, economic organizations, in Soviet and party bodies. The talented organizer of science spoke at scientific symposiums, in the pages of newspapers, at party congresses and sessions of the Supreme Council of Armenia, of which he was a deputy for many years. He was not afraid to criticize negligent officials and party secretaries, despite their high ranks.

    In August 1981, in his article in the Pravda newspaper, he wrote: “The shortcomings in the agrarian sector are largely due to the weak control of the economic authorities over the course of affairs. The vicious practice of introducing so-called bare hectares, which are not equipped with modern means of watering plants, also makes itself felt. Apparently, for a concrete improvement in business, it is necessary to put an end to fragmentation in the Glavarmvodstroy system. Salt marshes are developed by several subcontracting organizations, which, in fact, act inconsistently and are not responsible for the outcome of the work. There is a need for the construction of ameliorant storage facilities, the production of a sufficient number of pottery pipes for indoor drainage, and the organization of large specialized farms on the developed lands. We need a centralized service for the operation and maintenance of hydraulic structures listed on the balance sheet of farms.

    Petrosyan advocated the development of industrial technology of chemical reclamation, the development of advanced models of machines. Long before the notorious restructuring, he proposed to evaluate the work of all organizations responsible for the preparation and operation of the field, according to the final result. Moreover, he transferred the institute to self-financing, refusing state funding. For two years, the institute lived at the expense of its own income from the sale of agricultural products grown by the staff of the research institute.

    But the experiment was stopped. The leaders of other organizations, accustomed to living off the budget, were clearly not satisfied with such experiments. However, Grant Petrovich insistently demanded to change inefficient methods of management, opposed the vicious system of management of the agrarian sector of the economy that fettered the initiative of enterprises. He considered it wrong that in one ministry the functions of the customer, designer, contractor and receiver of all work, as well as their financing, are concentrated. The result was a vicious circle of collective irresponsibility. And he broke that cycle.

   The famous writer Boris Mozhaev , admiring the deeds of Grant Petrosyan, wrote on the pages of the Literaturnaya Gazeta in May 1985: “But there are examples within our Fatherland (then it was the USSR) of how you can get rid of paperwork and wastefulness with one simple decision. Here is one such example for you: the director of the Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry of Armenia, Grant Petrovich Petrosyan, obtained an order according to which land reclamators are obliged to hand over to the institute not certain types of work, that is, dug channels, laid drainage or pickled salt marshes, but the whole work in its entirety, in finished form: sown wheat on former salt marshes

    “Dear land reclamators,” Petrosyan tells them, “you have pickled the salt marsh — that’s good. And now, if you please, sow wheat on this site: and when it rises to its full height, then we will see the quality of your work. Wheat sprouted exactly on the whole field - we sign the acceptance certificate. If there are bald spots in the middle of the field, if you please, redo it, bring it to the end. So the Armenian land reclamators cannot rent another field for four years. How much because of this noise?! The minister himself came and tried to break this system. It didn't work out. And imagine, they remake, bring to this very condition. But Petrosyan has more than two hundred hectares of wonderful fields and gardens in the middle of the salt desert. And the yields are extremely high. I talked with the meliorators: they are angry with Petrosyan. And he is just a scientist and director, independent in the full sense, endowed with the rights of the owner by law.

    Imagine - the director of the research institute forced the whole ministry and even the minister himself to work in a different way. This is in the Soviet - that time ... What does this say? About the highest authority of an outstanding scientist-reformer, who managed to get ahead of his time and change the rooted economic system. In addition, the authority was not only all-Union, but also international.

From Research Institute to International Science Center

    Just ten years later, in 1969, the Petrosyan Institute became a well-known world center for soil science. This was evidenced by the International Symposium on Soil Reclamation held at the Institute in 1969, which was attended by over 250 specialists from 23 countries. In 1974, for representatives of 18 countries of the world - participants of the X International Congress of Soil Scientists, the Institute held seminars on the territory of Armenia, revealing the entire cycle of work: from land improvement to harvesting.

    For clarity, Grant Petrovich specially fenced with a lattice fence a piece of land in its original, unkempt form, next to which, the institute's gardens of Eden were fragrant. This contrast acted better than any persuasion on the specialists who came to the seminar.

    Over the past years, more than 330 delegations and individual groups of scientists from 97 countries have visited the Armenian Scientific Center for Soil Science named after G.P. Petrosyan (as the former research institute is now called). The President, Vice-President and Secretary General of the International Society of Soil Scientists, chairmen of the IOP commissions on soil physics, fertility and genesis, Hungarian leader Janos Kadar, many well-known political figures and heads of state were there.

    The activities of Grant Petrovich in the creation and strengthening of the international relations of the Institute were multifaceted and very fruitful. The director himself adequately represented the achievements of domestic land reclamation science at congresses and conferences in the USA, Canada, Egypt, Spain, India, Libya, Hungary, China and other countries, took part in the work of the FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) expert commission.

    It is clear that it was difficult for the Armenian ministers to deal with such a person. Of course, Grant Petrovich was not alone, like-minded scientists gathered around the talented director: J. Amirjanyan, E. Harutyunyan, G. Ananyan, B. Galstyan, F Grigoryan, G. Davtyan, R. Edilyan S. Sargsyan and many, many others.

    Possessing unsurpassed organizational skills, Grant Petrovich constantly put forward new ideas, looking for the shortest ways to solve them. He was one of the initiators of the International training courses on saline soil reclamation for specialists from Asia, Africa and Latin America, which received wide recognition. These courses have been held since 1978 and have received the status of UN International Courses. They covered researchers and specialists from 40 countries of the world.

   The Armenian Research Institute of Soil Science took an active part in the international exhibitions EXPO-74 and EXPO-77 in the years. Spokane and Los Angeles (USA), Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Canada, India, Syria, - International fairs in Czechoslovakia and Germany

   Petrosyan devoted a lot of time to the training of national personnel, many employees of the institute became famous scientists, worthy successors of his work. There is a whole galaxy of them and it is not possible to list them all in this article. Suffice it to say that Grant Petrosyan was awarded the Big Gold Medal of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba for his work in training personnel. He was elected deputy chairman of the MNP subcommittee on saline soils, a member of the International Center for Mineral Fertilizers, was deputy chairman of the All-Union Society of Soil Scientists and the Armenian branch of the Friendship Society of the USSR - Cuba, was elected a member of the Plenum of the NTO of Agriculture of the USSR and a number of problematic councils and sections of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Academy of Sciences Armenia, VASKhNIL, NTS of a number of ministries. For 20 years Petrosyan headed the Scientific and Technical Society of Agriculture of the Republic and the Armenian branch of the USSR Society of Soil Scientists, an expert of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

    Petrosyan's labor activity was marked by two orders of the Red Banner of Labor, the Order of the Badge of Honor and many medals. Among them are military awards, orders and medals of a participant in the Great Patriotic War.

   The well-known Russian publicist and expert on the peasant issue, Yuri Chernichenko , in the article “Lessons of Armenia” , describing the consequences of the thoughtless discharge of Sevan’s waters, noted: “Swamps, reed thickets arose in the Ararat valley, groundwater raised salt out. I knew a scientist who was literally unable to breathe. Dr. Grant Petrosyan, soil scientist and philosopher of agriculture, hosted soil scientists from all over the world. With chemistry and therapy, Captain Grant healed the white deserts from the salt, turning them into paradise... How the valiant "Captain Grant" would be needed now. ("Izvestia", September, 1997).

When Gorbachev's thoughtless anti-alcohol campaign was announced in 1986, which meant the extermination of the best varieties of grapes, among the members of the presidium of the congress

soil scientists in Tashkent, he said: "Armenians will not agree to this." And he kept his word.


    He did not live to see the days when his country became an independent republic, the flag of which flies at the UN building. He will not know what test his people and his land will be subjected to. About the devastating earthquake and the Sumgayit massacre, about thousands of Armenian refugees, about the years of the terrible blockade, in the grip of which his country will live and work.

    But we can confidently say that thousands of Armenian families, on the lands he healed, cultivate bread, grapes, potatoes and feed their children.

    Today, the Armenian land has been given to its true owner - the peasant. The agriculture of Armenia over the past time has become a leading sector of the economy. Agricultural products, including Armenian wines and cognac, are exported to dozens of countries around the world, bringing revenue to the country's budget.

This was facilitated by the land reform of 1990, which played an important role in the country's food security, and Grant Petrosyan made his contribution to this security.

    The general economic downturn of the 90s in Armenia, the destruction of economic ties caused by the blockade, could not but affect the financing of science

    The Institute was in a difficult situation and was on the verge of extinction. Only thanks to the foundation laid by Grant Petrosyan, the staff of the Scientific Center managed to survive. The current director of the Center, a student of Petrosyan - Hunan Ghazaryan, considers it his main task to preserve the legacy of the first director of the institute, his scientific and experimental base, the team of employees, the traditions laid down earlier.

    He died in October 1987, on the eve of the Karabakh liberation movement, and then he was only 64 years old. But how much he managed to do for posterity. And the best monument for him is his favorite brainchild, the gardens he has grown, hundreds of hectares of fertile land and the successors of the work he started. These are scientists L. Adamyan, E. Badalyan, V. Grigoryan, U. Ghazaryan, V. Nuridzhanyan, A. Sahakyan, G. Tatevosyan and many others.

    At the end of December 2003, he would have turned 80 years old. In honor of this event, as well as in order to perpetuate the memory of the outstanding scientist and public figure, the Government of Armenia decided to give his name to the Scientific Center of Soil Science, Agrochemistry and Land Reclamation.

    The solemn meeting dedicated to the 80th anniversary of G. Petrosyan was attended by many of his friends, students of the master of agriculture, representatives of the scientific community, members of the Armenian government. In his opening speech, Director of the Scientific Center for Soil Science, Agrochemistry and Land Reclamation Hunan Ghazaryan highly appreciated the contribution of the scientist to the world soil science. The President of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia and his friend F. T. Sargsyan, Deputy Chairman, spoke about the activities of Hrant Petrosyan. Council of Ministers of the Armenian SSR A.M. Kirakosyan, the head of the Agroindustry of the republic V. M. Movsesyan, who knew Grant Petrovich well and worked for a long time, the Minister of Agriculture of Armenia Liloyan.

    They noted that, despite constant disputes with a talented scientist, in their hearts they always understood that he was right, and outside of work they remained friends. “He didn’t follow our instructions, but rather we were forced to follow his recommendations,” F.T. recalled with a smile. Sargsyan, in those years - Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Armenian SSR. The current generation of Armenian leaders, although they did not personally know G. Petrosyan, however, recognized his merits and highly appreciated them. Many warm words addressed to the soil scientist were expressed by his students, prominent figures of Armenian science, his associates and friends.

    In honor of the anniversary of the first director, the G. P. Petrosyan Scientific Center for Soil Science, Agrochemistry and Land Reclamation issued a commemorative book that describes the life path of a scientist, a talented organizer of science and a brilliant teacher, his invaluable contribution to national science, to his native land.

    Everything said in the book clearly indicates that Grant Petrovich and the institute were perceived by absolutely everyone as a single whole. It was. And this feeling continues today. His whole life is an example of selfless service to the chosen cause.

    Everyone who worked and communicated with him admired his exceptional capacity for work, inspiration and love for science, genuine benevolence, combined with deep integrity and high demands on himself and his colleagues.

Grant Petrovich was one of the recognized leaders in the field of domestic and world soil science and land reclamation science. His image still serves as a vivid example for young scientists in Armenia.

The book ends with these words: “On this momentous day, all of us who were lucky enough to know and work with G.P. Petrosyan, at the top of our voices, we exclaim from the bottom of our hearts:  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OUR FAVORITE, HIGHLY DEAR GRANT PETROVICH!... HOW YOU ARE MISSED...

The entire Armenian nation is ready to join these words addressed to the worthy son of Armenia today. The bright memory of the philosopher of agriculture, patriot and patron of the Armenian land will forever remain in our hearts.

Oleg Harutyunyan

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