Arstiteaduskond stalinlike pseudoteaduste haardes. Stalinist Pseudoscience at the Medical Faculty of the University of Tartu


  • Ken Kalling



The scientific community and historians are rather well acquainted with so-called Lysenkoism, a Stalinist-era pseudo-science denying mainstream genetics (Trofim Lysenko was the most famous propagator of the doctrine based on Lamarckian foundations). The vulgar interpretations of the teachings of Ivan Pavlov and a theory by Olga Lepeshinskaya have received less attention among Stalinist pseudosciences. The latter challenged the cellular theory of Rudolf Virchow. According to Lepeshinskaya, life as such can be witnessed also in biological matter that is not organised into cells. Basically, the concept was about spontaneous generation.
All three doctrines—Lysenkoism, Pavlov’s cult and Lepeshinskaya’s teachings—affected the work of Soviet medical professionals in the late 1940s, early 1950s. Numerous campaigns launched to introduce the new “teachings”, hit Estonian scholars especially hard, as the country had only recently been annexed by Soviet Russia and the Western scientific tradition was still strong in Estonia. In new
circumstances Estonian medical professionals were obliged to introduce “sleep therapy” (based on Pavlov), “tissue therapy” (based on Lepeshinskaya) and accept the Lysenkoist denial of biological heritage. These ideologically inclined doctrines started to recede after Stalin’s death. Lysenkoism was declared a failure by the Communist Party only in 1966 and Soviet biology (and medicine) could turn back to the path of mainstream genetics. In Estonia the foundations for modern molecular biology were laid already in the early 1960s.


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