Until the 1950s, diamonds were not mined in the Soviet Union. Our country had to buy this stone, important for machine building and industry, abroad. Despite the enormous costs for many years, a special expedition could not find deposits in the USSR suitable for development. Everything changed thanks to the dedication of two female geologists. Unfortunately, this story, instead of the triumph of Russian science, became an example of unprincipled and uncleanliness.
Larisa Anatolyevna Popugaeva was the daughter of the secretary of the regional party committee, who was shot in Odessa in 1937. Her mother, a famous art critic, after this family tragedy returned with her daughter to Leningrad, where Larisa graduated from high school and entered the Leningrad University. True, she was not accepted into the Komsomol for a long time because of the fate of her father, but the girl received an education. The war found her in Moscow. Larisa completed courses for nurses and anti-aircraft gunners, defended the sky of the capital from air raids. In wartime, the fact that she was "the daughter of an enemy of the people" was forgotten, and Larisa finally became a Komsomol member, and later joined the ranks of the party.
After the war, Larisa continued to master a non-female profession - she became a geologist, completing her studies at the Leningrad University, and began to travel on expeditions. Diamond deposits at that time were the main goal and task of Soviet scientists. Larisa Popugaeva became an assistant to the famous geologist Natalia Nikolaevna Sarsadsky. She, by the way, spent the whole war looking for precious deposits in the Urals. If Soviet scientists had managed to find deposits ten years earlier, then such an important financial infusion would probably hasten our victory in the war. But for many decades in the USSR, huge sums of money were spent on empty and ineffective searches. The stationary Amakinskaya expedition worked in the Urals and Siberia. Every year, scientists dug thousands of pits and washed thousands of cubic meters of sand, but apart from individual stones, they could not find anything worthwhile.
The situation changed only in 1954 thanks to the developments of Natalia Nikolaevna Sarsadskikh. This woman, having practically no data on the soils of the African mines known at that time, managed, thanks to intuition, to find a way to detect kimberlite pipes by the mineral pyrope - a satellite of diamonds. All such studies in the USSR were strictly classified, so they had to work in very difficult conditions. For several years, from 1950 to 1952, a courageous woman geologist walked and swam in a rubber boat across Yakutia for more than 1,500 kilometers, collecting data for her research. The samples obtained "in the field" were then studied in the laboratories of Leningrad. The "pyrope survey" method has shown excellent results - the first grains of diamonds have already been found in the mined samples. It was necessary to urgently go to Yakutia and complete the work on the banks of the Daldyn River, from where the most successful samples were brought.
Leningrad scientists were able to convince the leadership that their new method deserves attention and were able to organize a new expedition. True, the author of the method himself could not go to it - Natalia Nikolaevna had just given birth to a child, so a young assistant Larisa Popugaeva was appointed instead. That, too, had to make a difficult choice for the sake of science, Larisa Anatolyevna was also expecting a child. But the diamonds, so necessary for our country, turned out to be more important than personal fate, and the woman had an abortion to lead the expedition.
The new technique did not disappoint the scientists. Geologists very quickly discovered kimberlite, a diamondiferous rock. Popugaeva called the future field "Zarnitsa" and installed a pillar in the found place. Many years later, Natalia Nikolaevna Sarsadskikh was able to tell reporters about what happened next, and as a result she turned out to be perhaps the most important, but also the most offended character in this story:
In fact, Larisa Popugaeva really became a victim of elementary blackmail and intimidation. They remembered her father - an enemy of the people, was arrested and even accused of illegal export of diamonds. Two months of such treatment broke her, and the woman signed documents on the transition to work in the Amakinsky expedition (she was accepted there retroactively). Moreover, all the results of the research of Leningrad scientists were appropriated by competing geologists. Of course, colleagues from Leningrad perceived this step as a betrayal, and the professional fate of Larisa Popugaeva was distorted. Then the distribution of "elephants and gifts" began, but the real heroines of this victory turned out to be superfluous - the names of Popugaeva and Sarsadsky were deleted from the list for the Lenin Prize in 1957, completely different people received it. True, the real author of the method and the geologist-search engine got consolation prizes - orders. But then for many years these women were simply forgotten.
The title "Discoverer of the deposit" Larisa Popugaeva was awarded only in 1970, a few years before her death, and Natalia Sarsadskikh - 20 years later, in 1990. Today, two large Yakut diamonds are named after these women. In the place where Larisa Popugaeva once installed the first post-mark, there are now huge mining plants, and in one of the "diamond" cities, Udachny, her monument is erected.
You can find out how the world's largest diamonds look like in the review. precious finds.