On Saturday, May 15, the opening ceremony of a commemorative plaque in honour of Alexander Veniaminovich Bari was held outside the HSE building at 20 Myasnitskaya. The famous engineer’s company office, which was opened 140 years ago, was located in the building from 1880 to 1917.
Alexander Bari’s engineering company was the very first of its kind in Russia, and its contribution to Russia’s technological development was truly immense. For almost forty years, the renowned Russian engineer, Vladimir Shukhov, worked as the chief designer of Bari’s company, where his work contributed not only to the development of architecture, but also to numerous industries, such as oil, construction, and telecommunications.
The host of the ceremony, founder of the International Shukhov Foundation, Leonid Stern, noted that it was thanks to the combination of two of the greatest intellectuals of their time—the engineering genius Shukhov and the entrepreneurial genius Bari—Russia was able to implement a huge number of advanced industrial and architectural technologies. Shukhov was an ingenious inventor, but if not for Bari, almost all of Shukhov's inventions would have remained in blueprint form. ‘Before the revolution, Russia was one of the world’s five most developed countries, and this ingenious tandem made a huge contribution to this achievement,’ said architect Vladimir Surovtsev, who is currently working on creating a bas-relief dedicated to the joint activities of Bari and Shukhov.
An address by HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov, which was read out at the ceremony in his absence (Mr. Kuzminov could not personally attend), noted that the installment of the plaque dedicated to Bari coincides with the Year of Science and Technology in Russia. Moreover, it is located next to the entrance to the Shukhov Lab – HSE’s international laboratory of experimental urban planning, which bears the name of Alexander Bari’s famous colleague and partner.
The most touching moment of the ceremony was when the engineer’s great-grandsons, Andrey and Georgy Efimov, spoke. Alexander Bari had 10 children and 21 grandchildren, and the next generation of his descendants already numbers several dozen people. The great-grandsons described the historic figure’s extraordinary personality from a more intimate vantage point. For his contemporaries, they noted, Alexander Bari was known not so much for his engineering discoveries (which numbered nearly as many as Shukhov’s) and his entrepreneurial activity, as he was for his charity and endless love for people. Those in need would come to his house whenever they liked, without notice, and he helped everyone without fear of being deceived. His factory had the highest wages in the city, the shortest working day, and no fines. Bari communicated with the workers personally in an invariably respectful manner. ‘And when all the walkouts, strikes, and chaos began... He got cancer and died. Because he couldn’t bear it all,’ said Georgiy Efimov.
Mikhail Blinkin, Director of the HSE Institute for Transport Economics and Transport Policy Studies, informed the audience that HSE, together with the International Shukhov Foundation, are working to revive the memory of the great entrepreneur: events have already been planned in St. Petersburg (where there was a branch of Bari’s engineering company) and in Zurich (where he studied).
Photos by Daniil Prokofyev