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Why genetics was banned in the USSR: science was almost destroyed

Anna OnishchenkoLife
Why the Soviet government banned genetics. Source: Generated by AI

The history of science knows many examples of censorship and persecution. One of the most striking and tragic episodes was the campaign to discredit genetics in the Soviet Union.

Until the 1930s, genetics was one of the most progressive sciences. OBOZ.UA has collected information on why it eventually declined and was banned in the USSR.

Genetics is used, in particular, to select new plant varieties that have better characteristics, such as disease resistance, high yield, and quality.

In 1920, the scientist Trokhym Lysenko proposed a method of vernalization (hardening) of plants in order to increase yields, but in practice the method proved ineffective. The luminaries of biology and genetics of the time were not very favorable to the scientist, but the authorities liked him. So when Lysenko received Stalin's approval, he became merciless with genetics.

Why genetics was banned in the USSR: science was almost destroyed

In the 1930s, all sciences in the USSR were already politicized. The authorities carefully monitored that the dogmas of Marxism and Leninism were not violated in any way.

At the same time, Lysenko excelled in biology and became a monopolist of the USSR Academy of Sciences, but not through scientific research, but through loud promises. He began to deny genetics, called it a pseudoscience, and began to denounce his fellow scientists.

As a result, representatives of the scientific community were recognized as enemies of the people and shot or imprisoned for life.

One of the repressed scientists was Nikolai Vavilov, who headed geneticists until the 1930s. He discovered the law of homologous series in hereditary variation, which played a crucial role in the study of evolution and selection. But instead of being recognized, he was imprisoned, and in 1943 he died.

Why genetics was banned in the USSR: science was almost destroyed

As early as 1939, it was announced that such a science as genetics could not exist in the USSR because it contradicted state ideology.

The so-called Lysenkoism lasted until 1964. It ended thanks to Ivan Frolov, a scientist who bravely opposed Lysenko and proved the existence of genetics through his scientific work. However, over the course of 25 years, it had seriously degraded and lagged behind, so even after the collapse of the USSR, it was unable to recover.

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