Zhores Medvedev

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Zhores Aleksandrovich Medvedev
Native name Жорес Александрович Медведев
Born (1925-11-14) November 14, 1925 (age 96)
Tbilisi, Georgia, USSR
Nationality Russian
Fields biology, gerontology
Alma mater Russian State Agricultural University
Known for human rights activism with participation in dissident movement in the Soviet Union

Zhores Aleksandrovich Medvedev (Russian: Жоре́с Алекса́ндрович Медве́дев; born 14 November 1925 in Tbilisi, Georgia) is a Russian biologist, historian and dissident. His twin brother is the historian Roy Medvedev.


Zhores (cyrillic transliteration of Jaures family name) Medvedev and his twin brother Roy Medvedev were born on 14 November 1925 in Tbilisi, Georgia, USSR.

From 1926 until 1938, the Medvedev family lived in Leningrad. Medvedev's father, Aleksandr Romanovich Medvedev, was a professor at the Military-Political Academy with the military rank of brigade commissar. In August 1938, Aleksandr was arrested in a wave of political terror, charged as a "follower of Bukharin" and sentenced to eight years of forced labor. He died in March 1941 in one of the Kolyma Far Eastern camps. The rest of the family – Zhores, Roy and mother Yalia – moved to Rostov-on-Don. In September 1941, the family was evacuated to Tbilisi, shortly before the first German occupation of Rostov-on-Don.

In February 1943, Medvedev was drafted into the Soviet Army and sent as a foot soldier to the Taman front, where he was wounded and later discharged from the army. In 1944, Medvedev began studies at the K.A. Timiryazev Russian State Agricultural University. In December 1950, he was awarded a PhD degree (kandidat biologicheskikh nauk) for his research into sexual processes in plants. He became a Junior Research Scientist in the Agrochemistry and Biochemistry Department at Timiryazev Academy and he was promoted to Senior Research Scientist in 1954 and would remain at the academy until 1963.

Beginning in 1952, Medvedev had focused his attention on the problems of aging, concentrating on the turnover of proteins and nucleic acids. In 1961, he published the first paper suggesting that aging is the result of an accumulation of errors in the synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids. In 1962, Medvedev wrote his book on the history of Soviet genetics (later published in the USA as "The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko", Columbia Univ. Press, 1969), which was widely circulated in a manuscript typewritten version known as "samizdat" ("self-publishing").

In 1963, Medvedev moved to Obninsk to the Institute of Medical Radiology, where he was appointed head of the molecular radiobiology laboratory. He published two books, Protein Biosynthesis and Problems of Heredity Development and Ageing (1963; English translation 1965 Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh) and Molecular Mechanisms of Development (1966; English translation 1968, Plenum Press, New York). Medvedev was dismissed from his position in 1969 after the publication in the USA of his book The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko.

Between 1968 and 1970, Medvedev wrote two more samizdat books: International Cooperation of Scientists and National Frontiers [1] and Secrecy of Correspondence is Guaranteed by Law (about postal censorship in the USSR). They were published in 1971 as Medvedev Papers by Macmillan in London. These works were widely circulated in the USSR among scientists, and this activity resulted in Medvedev's arrest and forced detention in the Kaluga psychiatric hospital in May 1970. However, this action produced many protests from prominent scientists (Academics Andrei Sakharov, Pyotr Kapitsa, Igor Tamm, Vladimir Engelgardt, Boris Astaurov,[2] Nikolai Semyonov, and others) and well-known writers (Solzhenitsyn, Tvardovsky, Vladimir Tendryakov, Vladimir Dudintsev, etc.) which resulted in Medvedev's release (this experience was reflected in Zhores Medvedev's and Roy Medvedev's book A Question of Madness, published by Macmillan in London in 1971).

In 1971, Medvedev was given the job of Senior scientist of the Institute of Physiology and Biochemistry of Farm Animals in Borovsk, in the Kaluga region. In 1972, he was invited for one year's research by the National Institute for Medical Research in London at its new Genetic Division. While in London with wife Margarita and younger son, Medvedev was stripped of his Soviet citizenship and his passport was confiscated. He remained in London and worked as Senior Research Scientist at the National Institute for Medical Research until his retirement in 1991.

Medvedev published about 170 research papers and reviews, about sixty of them during his time in London. In 1973 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.[3] In 1980, Medvedev received British citizenship. His Soviet citizenship was restored by decree of President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990. He received the Aging Research Award from the United States Association of Biogerontology in 1984 and the Rene Schubert Prize in Gerontology in 1985.


Zhores Medvedev is famous for exposing the Kyshtym nuclear disaster, which occurred at Mayak near Kyshtym, Ozyorsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast in the Urals in 1957. He published the book The Nuclear Disaster in the Urals in 1979 (W.W. Norton, New York).

Medvedev was an early victim of official attempts to stifle opposition by detaining dissidents in mental institutions. In London, Medvedev continued to edit the samizdat journal XX Century jointly with his brother Roy. The two also coauthored Khrushchev: The Years in Power (1978) and several other books, the last one The Unknown Stalin (2007).


Medvedev had two sons, the elder of whom is deceased. The other, Dimitri, ran the Blue Bridge Café in Camden, London, before moving to Cornwall, where he owns a farm and has two children.


  1. "Zhores A. Medvedev, Mezhdunarodnoe sotrudnichestvo uchenykh i natsional 'nye granitsy 1969-1970". National Library of Medicine.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "World: Protesting Spiritual Murder". Time. 29 June 1970. Retrieved 12 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Retrieved October 9, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>