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Stalinist Science

Stalinist Science

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Stalinist Science
    Book Description:

    Some scholars have viewed the Soviet state and science as two monolithic entities--with bureaucrats as oppressors, and scientists as defenders of intellectual autonomy. Based on previously unknown documents from the archives of state and Communist Party agencies and of numerous scientific institutions,Stalinist Scienceshows that this picture is oversimplified. Even the reinstated Science Department within the Central Committee was staffed by a leading geneticist and others sympathetic to conventional science. In fact, a symbiosis of state bureaucrats and scientists established a much more terrifying system of control over the scientific community than any critic of Soviet totalitarianism had feared. Some scientists, on the other hand, developed more elaborate devices to avoid and exploit this control system than any advocate of academic freedom could have reasonably hoped.

    Nikolai Krementsov argues that the model of Stalinist science, already taking hold during the thirties, was reversed by the need for inter-Allied cooperation during World War II. Science, as a tool for winning the war and as a diplomatic and propaganda instrument, began to enjoy higher status, better funding, and relative autonomy. Even the reinstated Science Department within the Central Committee was staffed by a leading geneticist and others sympathetic to conventional science. However, the onset of the Cold War led to a campaign for eliminating such servility to the West. Then the Western links that had benefited genetics and other sciences during the war and through 1946 became a liability, and were used by Lysenko and others to turn back to the repressive past and to delegitimate whole research directions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2214-0
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Nikolai Krementsov
    (pp. xv-2)
    (pp. 3-10)

    This Book is an attempt to analyze Stalinist science as we analyze the social history of science in other countries—that is, to explore its organizational and professional structures, disciplinary agendas and interest groups, politics and patronage, cultures and forms of practice, and to examine how they interacted and how they fit into their broader political and cultural context.

    The history of Stalinist science is full of striking, contradictory, and enigmatic events. Stalinist science was Big Science, a gigantic, centralized system with thousands of institutions and hundreds of thousands of scientists. Yet its explosive institutional growth was accompanied by the...


    • CHAPTER 1 Russian Science in Transition, 1890–1929
      (pp. 13-30)

      We are used to thinking of Soviet science as a huge, hierarchical, centralized, politicized, isolated, and strictly controlled system. This system, however, emerged only after more than a decade of Bolshevik rule. Despite the trauma and shock of the revolutions and the Civil War, Russian science in the 1920s was actually an expanded, slightly modifiedversion of the science system that had existed in Russia under the tsar: a diversified network of scientific institutions and an essentially autonomous scientific community with well-developed foreign contacts. Yet the modifications introduced in the 1920s—the creation of a single state patron for science, the...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Stalinization of Russian Science, 1929–1939
      (pp. 31-53)

      The year 1929 marked a dramatic change—a “Great Break” (Velikii Perelom), as Stalin termed it—in all aspects of the country’s life. The Bolsheviks launched a grandiose plan of rapid industrialization in order to build the “mater ial-economic basis of socialism.” NEP was abolished, private initiative and the market were suppressed, the peasantry was collectivized, and the state established a total monopoly over resources and production. This economic policy led to a system of strict control and administrative fiat. Directives and plans of production and distribution became the main instruments of economic policy, leading to centralized control and diminished...

    • CHAPTER 3 Stalinist Science in Action: The Case of Genetics
      (pp. 54-83)

      By the end of the 1930s, the Stalinist science system had come into being. A huge, centralized, hierarchical institutional structure had been created; the Soviet scientific community had been politicized and effectively isolated from its Western counterparts; and the party apparatus had established strict control over the institutions, personnel, communications, and research directions of Soviet science. But how did the system actually work? How did Soviet scientists function within it and interact with its control apparatus?

      At the pinnacle of this vast system sat the Central Committee of the Communist Party, itself a large, pyramidal, hierarchical, and centralized structure. Not...

    • KEY EVENTS, 1917–1939
      (pp. 84-92)

    • CHAPTER 4 World War II and the Sweet Fruits of Victory
      (pp. 95-128)

      World War II profoundly altered almost every aspect of Soviet life, including relations between scientists and the party-state apparatus. By the end of the 1930s, the Stalinist science system had reached maturity: the party apparatus had established strict control over the scientific community, and, concurrently, scientists had developed their skills at influencing the party-state bureaucracy. Isolated from its foreign counterparts, Soviet science seemed to follow exclusively domestic rhythms. In the early morning of June 22, 1941, the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union. Suddenly, everything changed.

      With its very survival threatened, the party-state bureaucracy recognized the vital importance of science and...

    • CHAPTER 5 On the Threshold of the Cold War, 1946–1947
      (pp. 129-157)

      A change In the international situation in 1946– 47 had profound effects on the Stalinist science system. The beginnings of the Cold War were signaled in spring 1946 by Winston Churchill’s “iron curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri, and the confrontation between former allies developed steadily during 1947. Europe was its focus. The announcement in March 1947 of the Truman Doctrine, with aid to Greece and Turkey to counteract the influence of Communism, indicated American initiatives and interests in Europe. In May the Communists were expelled from the coalition governments in France and Italy. In June the Americans announced the Marshall...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Fateful Year: 1948
      (pp. 158-183)

      In the history of Soviet science, the year 1948 is commonly associated with Lysenko’s infamous triumph at the August VASKhNIL meeting and the “death” of Soviet genetics, secured by Stalin’s long-suspected—and recently proved—personal intervention in the struggle. No other single event has so colored our view of the final years of Stalin’s reign, or of the character of Soviet science as a whole. Understandably, then, historians have paid much more attention to it than to any other subject in the history of Russian science. Lysenko’s victory at the VASKhNIL session has long been portrayed as a result of...

    • KEY EVENTS, 1941–1953
      (pp. 184-190)

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 191-192)

      During World War II, Western science was drafted into state service, which drastically increased its budget and enhanced the control of Western state bureaucracies over scientific activities. The coming of the Cold War accelerated this trend. For Soviet science, on the contrary, World War II brought liberation from the overwhelming control of party-state bureaucrats and a significant increase in scientists’ control over their own activities. The Cold War halted and reversed this trend. Both the Western and Soviet scientific communities used every available means to adjust their social practice to the new situation—to preserve the advantages and limit the...

    • CHAPTER 7 Talking the Talk: Ritual and Rhetoric
      (pp. 193-226)

      The August 1948 VASKhNIL meeting demonstrated the intention of party agencies to establish complete control over the scientific community and to affirm the status of the Central Committee of the Communist Party as the supreme authority in scientific questions. The scientific community understood perfectly well the lesson of the VASKhNIL meeting and hastened to display its compliance with the new “politically correct” line. During autumn 1948, the Michurinist campaign quickly spread to engulf almost all research and educational institutions in every field. Opened in late August by a gathering in the USSR Academy of Sciences, the cascade of meetings “to...

    • CHAPTER 8 Walking the Walk: Education versus Research
      (pp. 227-253)

      The dichotomy between education and research was a characteristic feature of the Stalinist science system. This is understandable in that the party-state patrons of science needed and demanded very different things from these two enterprises. From scientific research, they required the production of knowledge that would help them to build the economy and a strong military defense. The product of education, however, was to be above all a loyal adept of the party line.

      The educational system was a focus of particular attention by the Communist Party from the earliest days of its rule. The urgent need for professional education...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Realities of Stalinist Science: Careerism and Institutional Rivalry
      (pp. 254-286)

      The building of a successful career and the institutionalization of certain kinds of research are among the most important elements of the social practice of scientists the world over. In the Stalinist science system, the party’s strict control over personnel and institutions profoundly affected the way Soviet scientists built their careers and institutionalized their research.

      The events of autumn 1948, dramatic as they were, did not alter the fundamental character of Stalinist science: the hierarchical, bureaucratic system of decision making, the vital role of personal contacts of science spokesmen with top officials, the ultimate dependence of science policy on the...

    (pp. 287-292)

    In our examination of some three decades of Soviet science, we have chronicled its development from a scattered set of relatively autonomous institutions into a huge, centralized, hierarchical, and highly politicized system with its own language and etiquette. We have explored a sometimes bewilderingly complex set of institutional reorganizations and policy decrees, several waves of political campaigns, the fluctuating fortunes of various competing groups, and the rise and fall—and rise and fall again—of the status of science. We have witnessed the amazing careers of several dozen scientists and party bureaucrats, the peculiar games they played, and the roles...

  11. APPENDIX A Stalinist Scientific “Newspeak”: A Glossary
    (pp. 293-299)
  12. APPENDIX B Key Figures
    (pp. 300-306)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 307-358)
    (pp. 359-364)
    (pp. 365-371)