Alexander and Nadezhda Ponomarenko

We met and became friends with Yuri Alexandrovich in 1957, when we were entomology students, and we remained friends all our lives whatever happened. We always knew firmly that "Yurka" or "Kisa" (usual Popov's nicknames, no one called him otherwise, and children called him "Uncle Kisa") would always help. Already much has been said that Yu.A. was a remarkable scientist, but we cannot but mention once again how indispensable he was during expeditions. He always took on the hardest work. And not only work. He was very important for creating the proper emotional microclimate in the field party. Most often I remember not so much our joint work, but the evenings in Mongolia, when Yurka climbed the hill above the camp and played his flute sitting against the background of the magnificent Mongolian sunset. This was so important after a rather hard day of routine field work. Yurka was exceptionally easy-going and friendly, almost everyone loved him. One of his numerous friends created his coat of arms with a mirid bug in the heraldic field, and I came up with a motto for him...

Yu.A. was not a perfectionist. He was busy with many things at once. It was necessary to repeatedly remind him about the promised manuscript, and usually he was the last one to submit it. However, he still submitted it and the result was worth the trouble. One thing that I could not persuade him to do despite my numerous attempts was to focus on the Mesozoic fossils. The general features of the Mesozoic fauna of Heteroptera still remain unknown, and no one would have done this job better than he. The study of amber insects is, of course, necessary and important – as V. Mayakovsky would say, "more profit in it and more charm" – but it was better to focus the experience and skill of Yu.A. on despicable rock fossils, no matter how painfully hard it is to study them.

For the brief period we have left to live we shall remember our dear "Uncle Kisa."

Lev Medvedev

I met Yura in the distant 1953, when I, a second-year university student, taught an entomological program for high-school kids on behalf of the department head, E.S. Smirnov. Yura was still in the 9th grade. Two years later he also joined the biological faculty. Like many newcomers to entomology, he started with beetles, but his teacher O.A. Tshernova quickly reoriented him to true bugs. His first expedition was to Central Asia, where he was invited by the famous amateur entomologist N.N. Filippov.

Although Yura stopped studying beetles, we quickly became attached to each other. Yuri often stayed overnight in our new student dormitory (back then we used to have private rooms), and his mother, Natalia Nikitichna, often brought us something to eat.

For many decades we remained good friends and often saw each other. Unfortunately, Yura left first.

Sophia Sinitsa, Institute of Natural Resources RAS, Chita, Russia

In 1976, I was invited to study the Mesozoic geology of the Gobi Desert with a paleoentomological field party. This was were I first met Yu.A. Frankly speaking, it was very difficult for me, a geologist, to fit in that close-knit team of entomologists. We watched each other cautiously. And then Yu.A. drew the fire upon himself. I happened to mention that there were lots of black basalts around, to which Yu.A. immediately reacted: "Ah, then all the black is basalts and we collect fossils not in black siltstones, but in basalts?" I began to explain everything and suddenly saw that Yu.A. was quietly laughing... Outwitted me and enjoyed it. Then he tagged along me on one excursion. And it was all heat, no shadow... only low rock outcrops... no fossils... boredom... But Yu.A. was gleeful: "So that's how one has to examine everything along the route, even barren rocks?" And then he breaks a slab and screams with delight that he found bivalves, that's barren rocks for you...

My temper was explosive and I reacted to many things sharply, which earned me the alias "EFA" (sand viper) from Yu.A. Once we did not have a cook and I had to do the cooking. In the morning I get up, open the pack-case, and with horror see tails of little serpents flashing in the grits. I scream: "Yura, snakes!..", to which he retorts: "Why the plural? I see but one..." Yu.A. slept not in a tent but outdoors and with his one half-opened eye he watched with schadenfreude as I slammed the lid shut and rushed into the tent... I do not remember how Yu.A. extracted our grits from the snake dwellings, but he did it all grumbling and snorting: "A grownup afraid of babies..." I remember we drove to the next destination for two days and still drove and drove until it was completely dark... Everyone was tired and Yu.A. relented and said that there were some rocks around and we would stop there for the night. We quickly pitched large tents, quickly cooked something, and all zonked out. The next morning we saw with horror that we were camping at a large Mongol burial place among grave steles. Everyone was uncomfortable, to which Yu.A. reacted as usual with humor: "I hope the chieftains will not mind our invasion... we'll drink to their memory..."

It was a pure pleasure to work and mingle with Yu.A. He was amazingly kind, attentive, sensitive, provocative in a funny way, and he always knew where and when to stop and change the subject. It is painful and bitter to realize that he is no longer with us, but in our memory he will remain forever AN UNFORGETTABLE FRIEND.

Dmitry Shcherbakov

In 1976, still a student, I came to the Arthropoda Lab (located in those times on Malaya Polyanka Street in the basement of a former revenue house) and met many remarkable people there. One of the most striking figures was Yuri Alexandrovich. Large, loud, with a lush beard, always with a pipe, radiating friendliness and an aroma of Dutch tobacco, now and then absent due to another foreign trip – something about him was from a sea captain... It was impossible not to fall under his charm. What brought us closer yet was the fact that I started studying fossil cicadas, and Yu.A. studied bugs – "the true hemipterans," as he gently corrected, because only the lazy did not rhyme "klopov" (the genitive of the Russian word for "true bugs") with "Popov."

Having joined that friendly team I found myself sharing the office with Yu.A. and eventually became his collaborator in studies of Coleorrhyncha – the relic relatives of true bugs and cicadas. It was Yu.A. who invited me to join an expedition to Mongolia in 1986. Today's trips are no match to those expeditions – two GAZ-66 trucks, some fifteen people, and a loop to a half of the Gobi for the whole summer... Yu.A., as always, was the soul of the company. He needed to return to Ulan Bator earlier than others, and at parting all the ladies of our team hung on him as a live bunch...

There were other joint expeditions: to collect the Jurassic insects in Kubekovo above the wide expanse of the Yenisei River or to collect recent insects in Kopetdag. I remember how Yu.A. collected there small ground-dwelling bugs, "herpetobians," as he lovingly called them. In the fall of 1989, Yu.A. was in Germany, where he witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. He brought us a piece of it and the wind of changes. When our salaries shriveled, Yu.A. proposed at one of the laboratory gatherings to introduce a position of "a holy researcher," working out of pure interest.

Yu.A. has always been a leader in international cooperation. Since the 90's, he mainly switched to true bugs in ambers, describing them in collaboration with colleagues from various countries. He became one of the "pillars" of the Russian team at international congresses of paleoentomologists, starting from the very first one in 1998 in Moscow.

In the fall of 2016, Yuri Alexandrovich invited us to visit him. But for some reason the visit was slightly postponed, and then unexpectedly he was gone...

Victor Golub

During the years of our collaboration on fossil lace bugs and their relatives I invariably admired the intuition and foresight of Yuri Alexandrovich. These qualities came about from his talent, ability to quickly grasp key features of the organization, and, of course, his vast experience as a paleoentomologist. Without going into details, basing on just one or two characters he could confidently tell if the fossil represented a new species, genus, or even family. I do not recall a single mistake by Yu.A. in assessing the status of a particular taxon. He clearly understood the relationships of families, subfamilies, and tribes and their evolutionary succession. It was Yu.A. who initiated our joint monographic study of the evolution of the superfamily Tingoidea, which was eventually published, clarifying the evolution of these beautiful insects with "lacy" chitinous exoskeleton.

The interests of Yu.A. were diverse and his talents vast. While visiting us at home in Voronezh or my daughter in St. Petersburg he played piano, sometimes beautifully sang, and enthusiastically played with my granddaughter. Once we even arranged a concert. It was a kind of a mixed children-adult instrumental ensemble: Yu.A. played the children's pipe, my granddaughter the children's guitar, and her grandfather the children's drum. Probably, it was a new word in music. All of us laughed, and the long winter evening quickly went by. When we participated in anniversaries of the Voronezh University Biological Station, Yu.A. would always find someone in the audience to match him as an avid and expert singer, and then beautiful arias and songs of a powerful male duo would soar over the Usman pine forest, frozen with rapture.

But perhaps the most amazing quality of Yu.A. as a person was his great love for animals, especially for birds and dogs, including stray dogs. Yu.A. just could not imagine his life without animals. If we carried food from a store and met a lonely dog or several friendly dogs, Yu.A. would invariably give them a good share of sausages, shish kebabs, and other snacks. And surrounded by these "lesser brothers," abandoned by someone and now feeling the kindness of the big, deliciously smelling, bearded man we would slowly walk toward his country house near Moscow or my cabin at the bio station near Voronezh.

With one of these castaway cute dogs named Tsyganka (meaning "a gypsy," in reference to her black color), which we fed at the bio station, Yu.A. had a genuine strong and long-term "romance." It began in the winter when Yu.A. and I, as it often happened, were spending several days at the bio station in a picturesque corner of the Usman pine forest. I had to leave for Voronezh for a day, and I left Yu.A. alone in a well-heated house with a good supply of provision. It was very cold outside, as I remember now – minus twenty degrees Celsius. When I returned in the evening I saw a delightful and touching picture: Yu.A. was asleep with Gypsy napping on his chest. At hearing that someone had entered, she immediately jumped up, adopted the aggressive posture on Yu.A.'s chest, and even tried to growl slightly, defending her new master—although she knew me perfectly. It was a good thing that I brought food, because the stock of meat products was, understandably, gone. But Tsyganka's belly was disproportionately large and even impeded her movements over Yu.A.'s broad chest. Her new master told me that he had invited Gipsy into the house to share his meal, their eyes met, and they fell in love at first sight. And he immediately announced their mutual decision that they do not want to part, you see, and they shall not part. And he took her to Moscow despite my reasoning that Gypsy, as her name implied, was freedom-loving from birth and unlikely to become a room or even a yard dog. How Yu.A. managed to smuggle her onto the train without a vaccination certificate remained a secret, except that the dog reportedly won the heart of the car attendant. In his words, Gypsy behaved on the train impeccably—truly a noble breed. In Moscow Yu.A. cured her from a variety of diseases, including pleurisy, gave her a new name, Mukha ("a fly"), and she became a darling of both people and dogs near his country house—and moreover, the leader of the local four-legged, especially males.

Yu.A. was also very friendly with birds. Every morning he went on a walk around his house to refill feeding troughs for tits, bullfinches, sparrows, and crows, taking into account each species' diet. And the birds waited for their provider, flocked at the set time, and made merry ruckus at the "feeding stations." For this reason, even in the fierce winter time the garden of Yu.A. remained alive: here and there the feathered race flew by, one by one or in small flocks, waiting for extra food.

This inner harmony of Yuri Alexandrovich, a talented paleoentomologist who loved all living creatures, was, in my opinion, the essence of his life.