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Mikhail  Bulgakov

Mikhail Bulgakovís Exploration of the Inherent Nature of Man

Stalin and Lysenko: Proponents of a Socialist Science and Reign of Terror


Alexandra  Brinkert

Stalin's totalitarian regime and reign of terror served as a breeding ground for the introduction of an exclusive Soviet science known as Lysenkoism. Various factors contributed to the rise of Stalin, including economic instability, standards established by Lenin, fear of Trotsky, and Stalin's manipulation of power. Constant paranoia fed Stalin's lust for everlasting omnipotence. He introduced purges as a means of eradicating any enemies and terror escalated in the land. Stalin's associates, those who upheld his ideology and furthered his authority, also exercised the power of purges. Since Stalin's reign controlled all aspects of society, science, typically an international subject, was reduced to Russian nationalism. Stalin appointed Trofim Denisovich Lysenko as head of science in Russia, and allowed him to purge Soviet science of bourgeois, western theories. Though the scientific world accepted these western theories as correct views, Lysenko rejected them merely on the basis of chauvinism and practicality-only those theories which held practical use in the Soviet world were allowed. Lysenkoism became the national Soviet science, providing no opportunity for free scientific investigation. The purpose of science became support of socialism and political policy; Stalin categorized anyone found to be an obstacle to this goal as an enemy, and purged them from society. Thus, Stalin and Lysenko restricted scientific freedom and the ultimate freedom of Soviet citizens.

Mikhail Bulgakov, a Russian author, lived and wrote during Stalin's Reign of Terror, and the purging of "enemies" from the system influenced the message purveyed in his literary works. Bulgakov distinguishes between the acts and nature of man, claiming that man is inherently good and therefore the evil acts he commits stem from a source other than personal nature, namely, society. External forces push a man to make irrevocable, rash, and evil decisions. However, for many, once the actions have occured, a deep sense of regret looms over their heads. The conscience awakens and the reality of their actions takes a toll on their physical and mental health. In Bulgakov's works, there are characters who commit evil acts, but whom Bulgakov asserts are neither good nor evil. There are extremes in society, black and white, but most of the world lands in the middle of the spectrum: the gray area. Bulgakov distinguishes the evil characters, Pontius Pilate, Khludov, and Sharik, in his works, as gray individuals. Though they sin, the remorse they experience is on par with the actions they perform. Hence, they are not completely innocent, but simultaneously recognize the error and magnitude of their actions.

Major Works Consulted:

Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and Margarita. Trans. Mirra Ginsburg. New York: Grove, 1995.
---. Flight & Bliss. Trans. Mirra Ginsburg. New York: New Directions, 1985.
Gill, Graeme. Stalinism. Piscataway, New Jersey: Humanities, 1990.
Huxley, Julian. Heredity East and West: Lysenko and World Science. New York: Henry Schuman, 1949.
Photo Credit: Bulgakov, Mikhail. Flight & Bliss. Trans. Mirra Ginsburg. New York: New Directions, 1985.

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