From 'beastly philosophy' to medical genetics: eugenics in Russia and the Soviet Union.
Annals of science 2011 Jan; 68(1): 61-92
This essay offers an overview of the three distinct periods in the development of Russian eugenics: Imperial (1900-1917), Bolshevik (1917-1929), and Stalinist (1930-1939). Began during the Imperial era as a particular discourse on the issues of human heredity, diversity, and evolution, in the early years of the Bolshevik rule eugenics was quickly institutionalized as a scientific discipline--complete with societies, research establishments, and periodicals--that aspired an extensive grassroots following, generated lively public debates, and exerted considerable influence on a range of medical, public health, and social policies. In the late 1920s, in the wake of Joseph Stalin's 'Great Break', eugenics came under intense critique as a 'bourgeois' science and its proponents quickly reconstituted their enterprise as 'medical genetics'. Yet, after a brief period of rapid growth during the early 1930s, medical genetics was dismantled as a 'fascist science' towards the end of the decade. Based on published and original research, this essay examines the factors that account for such an unusual--as compared to the development of eugenics in other locales during the same period--historical trajectory of Russian eugenics.
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