Site: P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology
Academy of Sciences of Russia
23 Krasikowa St.
Moscow 117218
Telephone: 095-124-5996
Telex: 411968 OKEAN SU
Fax: 095-124-5987 (or 5983)

Date Visited: May 17, 1993

Report Author: D. Walsh



L. Gentry
B. Mooney
R. Seymour
D. Walsh


L. Savostin Director
V. Demchenko; Vice Director
Dr. A. Gorlov; (meeting coordinator)
(and about 12 other senior staff members)


The purpose of the meeting was to provide the WTEC team with a general familiarity with the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, which is the primary oceanographic research institution in Russia. This took a little over an hour, with the director conducting most of the briefing. A more in-depth visit to Shirshov was made later in the week by a three-person WTEC team. Some of the information that is in the report below was repeated at that time. Dr. Tengiz Borisov briefed the team on the work of KOPRON, the government's Special Committee for Undersea Work, for which he serves as chairman.


P.P. Shirshov Institute is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The institute employs 2,000 people at four locations: St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad (Baltic base), Ghelendzhik (Black Sea base), and Moscow (headquarters). The institute formerly had a branch in Vladivostok, and is planning to establish a new branch in Murmansk or Archangelsk. The Moscow headquarters is divided into four branches: biological, marine geology, hydrophysics (which includes acoustics and physical oceanography), and technical (instrumentation, submersibles, etc.).

The institute's technology research and development activities are largely concerned with the production of platform and instrumentation systems needed to support its oceanographic research work. In the time of the Soviet Union it was often extremely difficult to get "standard stock." off-the-shelf oceanographic equipment, due to export restrictions by Western countries and other impediments posed by the Soviet bureaucracy. Thus the institute was forced to do its own design, development, and construction. While this activity was driven by necessity, it also helped to stimulate the development of some unique devices that may now be of interest to the West.

At the time of the WTEC team's visit, much of Shirshov's operational programs and technology development work is shut down or greatly reduced due to severe budget limitations. As of the previous December (1992) all of its vessels were in storage; only minimal standby maintenance was being performed. An illustration of the institute's present difficulties is its newest class (1989) of research ships, which were designed to be super quiet for acoustics work. The two ships are Vaviloff and Ioffe. Already Ioffe has been leased to a German company for use as a passenger vessel. It is feared that Vaviloff may also have the same fate.

The institute has ten research ships. Six are specially built for oceanographic science and two are capable of supporting manned submersibles. The institute has six operational submersibles:

Osmotr and Argus are at the Black Sea base in Ghelendzhik. The Mirs have been quite active until recent budget cutbacks. Osmotr is for sale. Argus primarily operates in the Black Sea.

There are two new 4,000 m Rift class manned submersibles that are about 85 percent complete. Our hosts estimate that about $1.2 million is required to complete construction. These are of all-titanium construction and have been designed and built in Russia. The institute is actively seeking a Western source of funding to complete this project. Shirshov has indicated that it would offer one of the two Rifts to the investor as payback for the $2 million funding.

However the news is not all bad. The director said that the institute now has two years work for the Akademik Kheldish and its two Mir submersibles. This will be a joint mapping expedition in the Kara Sea with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Some U.S. Office of Naval Research funding is involved in this international expedition. The director said that ONR and WHOI representatives would be at the institute the next week to discuss program details. It appears that this work may be connected with surveying the nuclear waste sites in this area (see WTEC site report on KOPRON briefing by Borisov).

After the Kara Sea work, there will be another expedition to the Laptev Sea in cooperation with the German Oceanographic Research Institute at Kiel.


The director (L. Savostin) is optimistic that he can find funding to keep the majority of the institute's programs and facilities going. He told us that he had met with both the Prime Minister and the President, and was assured that support funding would be available.

In subsequent correspondence with the panel, Mr. Savostin noted that the institute is active in developing new robotics technology for a global ocean observing system and for long-term underwater ecological monitoring, and welcomes international partnerships in these fields.

Published: June 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian