Throughout Western media, there is a racist disregard for verifiable facts, when it comes to the assessment of both Russian and Soviet history. The point of this is twofold and involves reducing modern (capitalist) Russia to a tame adjunct of the European Union (EU), and turn the Western working class away from Soviet-style Socialism (and the notion of workers seizing power through a Communist Revolution, etc). This being the case, nothing should be taken for granted, and the Russian language sources of every story found in the West pertaining to the USSR, must be thoroughly researched to prove whether the story has any basis in fact, and to what extent the English version is the product of bias and fraud. Many such stories, of course, originate in the smoke-filled rooms of the American intelligence services, and are designed to create a highly negative interpretation of the Soviet Union. These kind of stories can be revealed for the fabrications they obviously are, and life can go on, but in the case of certain stories containing elements of truth, these truths must be carefully extracted from the corrupted narrative, and once again given their correct historical context. The case of Prof. Ilya Ivanov, the stories circling the internet in the West possess elements of truth that need clarifying.
For many, if not all in the West, Prof. Ilya Ivanov will be eternally associated with what is assumed to be a sinister ‘Soviet’ experiment to hybridize human sperm with an egg of a monkey. This fits in well with the general anti-Soviet Cold War rhetoric emanating from the West, and appears to equate the Soviet Union with Nazi German and its eugenics experiments. This story exists in various formats not only in the West, but also in modern Russia, where many Western anti-Soviets themes have been translated and absorbed. This process creates a type of ‘schizophrenic’ pseudo-history, where modern Russians examine their own past through the malignant imagination of an antagonistic alien ‘other’. Be that as it may, the general story suggests that the corrupt Soviet regime under either Lenin, Stalin or both, initiated an aggressive programme of pseudo-science, which sought to ‘manufacture’ (much like Frankenstein’s monster) a ‘hybrid’ of a human being with a monkey. This narrative further suggests that as the ‘oppressed’ and brain-washed populace of the USSR, there were ample ‘volunteers’ agreeing to participate in such a dastardly experiment. These stories sometimes say the experiments were successful, or that they failed, but they all generally end with Prof. Ilya Ivanov being sent to the gulag – in true Stalinist-style – where Prof. Ilya Ivanov conveniently ‘dies’ and all his research is ‘destroyed’. The problem with this narrative is that none of it is true.
Reliable Russian language sources state that Prof. Ilya Ivanov was born in 1870, some 47 years before the October Revolution (in 1917). This suggests that the foundation of his academic career was already well-established in Czarist regime, prior to the Bolsheviks coming to power. Prof. Ilya Ivanov was a world-renowned biologist, specialising in the early scientific fields of artificial insemination and the inter-species hybridization of animals. He graduated from Kharkov University in 1896, and after taking up a post at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, he was granted the rank of ‘Professor’ in 1907. After this date, Prof. Ilya Ivanov began to specialise in the hybridization of animals, particularly between domestic and wild variations, where he successfully crossbred a zebra and donkey, a bison and domestic cow, an antelope and cow, a mouse with a rat, and a mouse with a guinea pig. At that time, genetics as a science was still in its infancy, and there was a widespread view that such hybrids could give rise to new types of pets, and because of this, Prof. Ilya Ivanov work was considered very important not just within the rarefied academic community, but also throughout broader society. Prof. Ilya Ivanov also successfully specialised in the artificial insemination of horses. Whereas an average stallion could possibly inseminate between 20-30 mares over a given time period, Prof. Ilya Ivanov’s advanced scientific methods allowed a single stallion to ‘artificially’ inseminate upwards of 500 mares. In 1910, during his attendance at the World Congress of Zoologists in Graz (Austria), Prof. Ilya Ivanov announced that he intended the new first of trying to produce a hybrid between a male human and a female monkey. However, it was not until 1924 that he received permission from the Directors of the Pasteur Institute in Paris (where he still held tenure), to use the already established experimental station based in Kindia, French Guinea, which specialised in the study of primates, to officially pursue this idea. At the same time he requested funding from the Soviet Union to further support this objective, writing several letters to the People’s Commissar of Education – A. Lunacharsky – but no money (under Lenin) was forthcoming. It was only after the death of Lenin that Nikolai Gorbunov granted $10,000 from the Soviet Academy of Sciences (issued in September, 1925), allocated for Prof. Ilya Ivanov’s hybridization experiments between humans and monkeys. This agreement was carried-out apparently without the direct knowledge of Joseph Stalin.
As matters transpired, Prof. Ilya Ivanov used male human sperm (gathered from volunteers) to inseminate three chimpanzee females (in Guinea), but none of the procedures worked, and no chimpanzees became pregnant. When Prof. Ilya Ivanov asked permission to attempt to impregnate a human female with male monkey sperm, (also in Guinea), the French colonial authorities immediately called a halt to his genetic experimentations. This incident appears to have ended Prof. Ilya Ivanov’s association with French academia, and in 1927, he returned to the Soviet Union. However, Prof. Ilya Ivanov made another attempt to inseminate human females with the monkey sperm in Sukhumi (Georgia). In 1929, with the help of Gorbunov, he received support from the Society of Materialist Biologists, a group from the Communist Academy. In the spring of 1929, the Society organized a commission to plan Ivanov’s experiments in Sukhumi. The Commission decided that at least five women volunteers would be required for this study. In July 1929, before the experiment began, Ivanov learned that the only male monkey in Sukhumi, an orangutan that had reached puberty, died. A new batch of chimpanzees reached Sukhumi only in the summer of 1930. However, when Joseph Stalin was informed of Prof. Ilya Ivanov’s genetic experimentation and intended objective, he called an immediate ‘halt’ to all such endeavours. Contrary to popular belief, Prof. Ilya Ivanov was not sent to a gulag, but after his arrest, was rather ‘exiled’ for five years to the well-equipped and opulent Kazakhstan city of Alma-Ata – where he was allowed to continue his scientific work unhindered, providing he did not pursue his idea of hybridizing a human with a monkey. Prof. Ilya Ivanov died from a stroke in March, 1932. Within both the USSR and modern Russia, the memory of Prof. Ilya Ivanov was respected and revered. Neither Lenin nor Stalin authorised or endorsed Prof. Ilya Ivanov’s genetic experiments with human-monkey hybrids. In fact, when Stalin found out about them, he had Prof. Ilya Ivanov ‘punished’ for this idea (which was probably viewed as ‘bourgeois’ in nature). However, Prof. Ilya Ivanov did not receive much of a punishment simply because Kazakhstan was used very much for the Soviet scientific elite, and was designed to be a well-protected, and well-supplied area of self-sufficiency, where scientists and their families could live in material security, whilst pursuing advanced scientific research. It was the capitalist country of imperialist France that morally and financially backed Prof. Ilya Ivanov research in human genetic experimentation with the intention of splicing human genes with those of animals. This idea did not emerge out of Soviet ideology, but was solely the product of the bourgeois French academic system.
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