Lysenko vs. Vavilov
The battle between a scientist who really wanted to know and the one who said what the Force wanted to hear went down in history as a tragic event for science. The hot air of the agronomist Lysenko was well received by Stalin and the botanist Vavilov came to a rotten end. In her first historical novel, Plant hunter from Leningrad Scientist and writer Louise O. Fresco tells the story of a Russian botanist who came up with the pioneering idea of crossing seeds of wild plants.
Botany seems to be a rather innocuous branch of science, with which the dictatorship immediately has nothing to do with. Nothing could be further from the truth, says Fresco Never sleep again. “Vavilov wanted to improve agriculture and fight starvation.” This was already a political issue in the Soviet Union. Stalin wanted to get rid of small farmers through forced collectivization. They had to become industrial workers in the countryside. Vavilov was frustrated because he wanted to help farmers increase their crops. Agriculture was not apolitical in the Soviet Union. ”
Frisco focuses in her book on the Siege of Leningrad. Toepen surrounded it, trying to starve the city. They’ve been doing this for years, no bite and icy cold spreading too. In the midst of all the misery, Vavilov and his comrades steadfastly pursued the ideal: biodiversity as a means to improve the properties of wild seeds.
Stalin believed in science, but like many other politicians, he was selective about it. Stalin’s idea was: if you expose people to stress like starvation, then the stronger Soviet man will emerge. Lysenko literally did this, burying the bags of wheat in the snow and then triumphantly saying: Now cold-resistant. “It’s not scientifically right, but it has made political gains. The crowning achievement is a good nurturing of life,” Fresco says.
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