Basilevskiy Yury Yakovlevich
Text: V.V. Przhijalkovskiy E.N. Filinov
Edition and translation: Alexander Nitusov
Yury Basilevskiy was born into family of a school teacher on the 3 rd of May 1912 not far from town of Voronezh (Central Russia). In 1929 he graduated from secondary school in Maikop (a town in South Russia ).
From 1930 till 1932 he worked as turner and fitter at plants in southern towns Yeisk and Mariupol ( Zhdanov ). In 1931 he entered the –so-called- Institute of distant technical education and a year later changed for the Moscow Institute of Mechanical Engineering. In parallel he continued working, that time at the Moscow plant “Elektrometprom” and also did some research and design at the Experimental Institute of Metal Processing Machine-tools. In 1936 he finished his institute study with diploma of mechanical engineer-technologist on cold processing of metals.
Basilevskiy Yury Yakovlevich
After his graduation Basilevskiy was appointed a chief of technical department of special design bureau at the Moscow plant “Manometer” which belonged to the USSR Ministry of Heavy Mechanical Industry. In 1941, with the outbreak of the Second World War in the USSR, the plant was evacuated to West Siberia in town of Tomsk where he worked as chief of technical department, later chief engineer, of the plant No 838. He also was working as a university teacher and in 1942, was confirmed by the State Higher Attestation Commission  as lecturer (with scientific degree and promotion) at the chair of “Metrology and tool production”.
His promising career was interrupted in 1944, when an illness forced him to agree with a complicated operation. As a result his leg was amputated and, in 1946, he had to resign from the position of chief engineer at the plant No 838.
During 1947-1949 Y.Y. Basilevskiy was working as chief engineer at the ( Moscow ) Institute of Laboratory Instrumentation and Automatics. In 1949 he successfully completed an important government task and was awarded an order “Red Banner of Labour” and Stalin Premium (II grade).
In January 1950, M .A. Lesechko the director of so-called Special Design Bureau – 245 (SDB- 245 in Moscow ) applied to the ministerial administration for transferring Y.Y. Bsilievskiy to his disposal. Basilevskiy was appointed the chief of so-called department No 3, that was in charge of design of one of the first soviet computers “Strela” (arrow). That project was given top priority status at the SDB- 245 in 1950-1954.
Being older and having more working experience than other colleagues Basilevskiy, as the team leader, managed to quickly organise design of the most important units and devices for the computer. Also the project documentary, technological instructions and serial production of the units at the plant, as well as operational testing of assembled computers, were performed very efficiently. One can rightfully say that being an experienced engineer he could quickly realise technical problems and as talented administrator did everything necessary to maintain high level and rhythm of the work.
In 1953 computer “Strela” was officially accepted by the state commission and was put into serial production at the Moscow plant SAM. Seven computers “Strela”, assembled in 1953-1956, were mounted in most important research institutes and enterprises engaged in atom physics and space researches. It received a name “automatic, high-performance, mathematical computing machine”. In reality each piece of “Strela” series had its own specifics. They were assembled one after the other, therefore experience of the previous one generated numerous improvements in both the circuitry and assembling technology of the following. Speaking in modern terminology they were “not fully identical”. However, it was common practice with big machines. As they were used individually, differences did not have serious meaning.
Successful performance of the “Strela” computers was appreciated on the highest level. In 1954 Y.Y. Basilevskiy was awarded an honourable title “Hero of the socialist labour” and decorated with the “Gold Star” medal (one of the USSR highest state awards). He was also awarded the “Stalin Premium” of the first grade. That was a “special year” of his professional life. Soon M.A. Lesechko – director of the conglomerate: SDB-245, Institute of Computing Machinery and the SAM-plant, was appointed a vice minister and Basilevskiy received promotion to deputy of the SDB-245 chief on scientific work (in other words its vice-director). Considering status of the organisation in administrative hierarchy and importance of its projects one can easily see that it was really big position .
In 1956 Basilevskiy presented special report at the conference, “The ways of development in production of the Soviet mathematical machinery and instrumentation”. The report was titled “Special digital computers and the ways of their development”. There he analysed special digital computers dividing them into the following three classes:
-computers for the scientific and engineering researches implementing special complex of algorithms (solving of differential equations with partial derivatives, numerical integration, problem solving with Monte-Carlo method);
-computers for information processing with algorithms for logic problems, economic analysis, statistic analysis, physiological and medical researches, bibliographic selection, etc.;
- control computers for industrial processes and real objects.
Already before completion of the “Strela” project SDB-245 received another task. That time it should be an automatic computer complex for antiaircraft defence. New system should be based on the most modern electronic components of that time. It was intended for radar information processing, with following selection and recognition of flying targets with subsequent aiming antiaircraft missiles. The whole project was headed by the famous design bureau engaged in production of various aircrafts. It received the code name “Dal' - 111” . Yury Basilevskiy was appointed its chief designer.
It was absolutely new problem for that time and not an easy one. The first half of the 1950-s was still the time of electron valves, or at least their domination, and the range of new demands was much broader than everything their parameters could provide. Therefore design work was going on much slower than planned, and the project looked like being endangered. Nevertheless by 1959 the complex “Dal'- 111” was completed and the first experimental installation was produced by the SAM plant. In 1960-1961 it was already in a testing operation as a part of an experimental complex. Basilevskiy and his team had all reasons for being proud, prolonged “ heavy duty” testing proved efficiency of suggested information processing methods, functional control systems, as well as optimal choice of most of circuitry and other technical solutions.
Although the complex itself was operating more than satisfactorily development of the electronic components and also customers' demands were in progress. That was one more challenge, so in the same 1960, “Dal'- 111” was put into further modernisation. Now as the antiaircraft defence system 5E61.
Comparing with “ Dal'- 111” computer complex 5E61 was characterised with extended number of tracked and processed targets, increased remoteness of their early detection and bigger remoteness and precision of the anti-rocket aiming. It also possessed some new features in design. A new unit – additional special computing device, processed information received from new (additional) measuring systems and also controlled their operation.
Conducting those projects Basilevskiy had to perform all sorts of administrative and organisational work in parallel with own researches on information processing. He also demonstrated notable courage taking risky decisions and responsibility when he implemented brand new electronic components or testing methods.
However, in spite of all that the circumstances were not to his favour. In 1960 the SDB-245 received a new director, that time it was S.A. Krutovskikh who had his own ideas on the SDB-245 activity (since 1958 it was re-named into Scientific Institute of Electronic Machinery - SIEM). With permission of the Ministry of Defence, confirmed by the special commission of the USSR Council of Ministers, the institute changed its profile and turned into leading organisation for development of special, so-called “on-board” computers. Long lasting projects on anti-aircraft systems lost their priority status.
New director – S.A. Krutovskikh proved to be very energetic person, also efficient as organiser of scientific researches. Since the situation grew rather inconvenient Basilevskiy resigned from his position as the institute vice director on scientific work and changed for the USSR State Committee on science and engineering (a kind of ministry). It happened in 1961. In 1965 a new ministry was established – USSR Ministry of Instrumentation. It was in charge of research, design and production of automatic systems, systems of control and various instrumentation. Although it was rather bureaucratic organisation Basilevskiy headed its main Technical Office, which was in charge of the ministry's scientific work and began forming its scientific and technical policy. He also headed creation of common state system of (unified) industrial instrumentation and development of automatics. Special attention he paid to controlling computers and their implementation in industrial manufacturing technology. He remained an initiative leader until 1982. Than he retired from the ministry and worked in other place.
A year later, 10.06.1983, Y.Y. Basilewskiy died and was buried in Moscow.
1. Special commission at the Ministry of Higher (university) Education responsible for giving scientific degrees, etc.
2. Stalin Premium was established in December 1939 to commemorate his 60 years jubilee. It was an annual honourable premium given for outstanding merits in science, art, literature and engineering. One more Stalin Premium - “For strengthening peace between peoples” was established in 1949.
3. Computer plant SAM – “Schetno Analyticheskie Machiny” (Calculating and Analytic Machines) - one of the first soviet plants for computing machinery. It was founded in Moscow in the 1930-s for commercial production and further development of –Hollerith type- calculating machines. Electro-mechanical modifications of the late 1920-s – early 1940-s were called “calculating-analytical machines”.
4. M.R. Shura-Bura – an interview.
- B.N. Maloinovskiy. A history of computers in persons. Kiev, KIT, 1995.
- Y.Y. Basilevskiy. Universal electronic computer “Strela”. In journal “Priborostroenie” 1957, No 3.