first posted 981221
minor clerical change y10418

T. D. Lysenko -- Persecutor or Victim? (1/4)


Copyright 1998 by TL
Posted by permission of TL

TL invites comments and information from others who know about either T.D. Lysenko's career or his personal life. The E-mail address is

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The  scientific  end  of  this issue will be fully covered in the
future.  This  portion is not about science despite the fact that
the   events   took   place   within  a  scientific  setting  and
establishment:  they could have taken place in a clothing factory
for  all  that  matters.   Scientists  are  not police detectives
-  and  police detectives are not scientists though they may have
to  pose  as  such  if  they  are agents.  The two things, 1. the
science  and  2.  the  police  work, suspicions and charges: they
are  two  things,  two separate things.  If Dr. Salk, the creator
of  the  polio  vaccination,  turned  out  to be a child molestor
or  murderer,  not  only  would  no  one  stop  taking  the polio
vaccination,  but  the  "dirty secrets" would probably be covered
up.   And  if  they  came  out:  so what!  That does not make the
polio vaccination any less than what it is nor does it invalidate
Dr.  Salk's  work.   Only  the  most  abject  scum would deny the
medical  validity  of  the  vaccination due to some stupid, moral
objection  which  amounts  to  treating the reality of polio like
some  pipe-dream.   If  Dr. Salk were all these things, then he'd
be  called  immoral.   So  what:  his vaccination and his work is
still good!

Zhores  Medvedev was the first, translated into English, to write
against   Lysenko   with   limited   information   regarding  the
non-scientific  activities  but  with  loads  of  suspicions,  of
course,  one sided despite the fact that Medvedev is not involved
in  police  work.   Valery  Soyfer and Mark Popovsky were the two
to  later  write  against  Lysenko,  translated into English, and
it  is  from  them  that  "all  the worst dirty laundry" has been
said  to  have  been  exposed.  Neither of them are involved with
police  work.  I  repeat,  this  is  not  going  to  get into the
scientific  end  of  things which Marsh already covered.   I will
present  the  dirt  all  in one place, to make it "really dirty,"
and  present  it  in  a  way  that  makes  the  science  involved
irrelevant.   As  I  said,  it wouldn't matter if this took place
in  a  clothing  factory.  I will also put things in perspective.

First  of  all,  the  OGPU  (later,  NKVD),  was  a Secret Police
organization   that  the  head  of  our own CIA, Allen Dulles, in
his  book  on  the history of intelligence work, has said was the
best  of  its  type.  The  OGPU-NKVD  opened a file on Vavilov in
1931  and  even  Popovsky  has to admit Lysenko had nothing to do
with  this.   But  Popovsky  is  in  no position to know why they
opened  this  file  or  to  dismiss  their suspicions:  he is not
an  officer  of  the  law,  nor  a detective, nor an agent of the
NKVD  or  the  FBI!   Trying, then, to say that the "authorities"
wanted  any  old  peasant  to rise to the occasion of Proletarian
Scientist  and  then disparaging Lysenko's work is a dirty trick.
Vavilov  himself  refutes  these  charges  and  Vavilov was there
at the time, face to face with Lysenko's work.  Phil Marsh covers
this  part.   What  follows has nothing to do with science.   The
primary time period are the years 1936 through 1939.

This is what Zhores Medvedev knows, 1960's:
-Vavilov   is   important  man  in  Lenin  All-Union  Academy  of
Agricultural  Sciences.   He  used  to  be  the  head.  Next, two
others,  in turn, replaced him.  Lastly, Lysenko became the head.

-Lysenko works there and now heads it.
-Shlykov  works  there,  is  Lysenkoite  and  anti-Vavilov and is
a  scientist.   He  makes a few speeches publicly arguing Vavilov
but nothing so direct as a damning accusation.
-Shundenko  is then pushed through to get a degree; it is obvious
to  everyone  the  man's  not  a  scientist  and  is  utterly not
qualified but Lysenko hires him to work under Vavilov.
-Shlykov  and  Shundenko  are  seen  by  all to constantly run to
Lysenko  with  "reports  on Vavilov," or at least to talk to him,
for  if  no  one  heard what was said, then no one knows what was
-Later  on,  Shundenko  quits his job and joins the NKVD.  Rumors
are  that  he  merely  returned to his former job.  Just prior to
Shundenko quitting and joining NKVD, Vavilov is arrested.
One  can  surmise  what  one  wishes  from this.  There are other
Lysenkoites, that is, people who agree with his line of research,
Yakushkin,  Ya.  A.  Yakovlev,  I.  Prezent  and other people not
connected  to  real  or imagined intrigues, many others including
Oparin.   As  Joravsky  points  out, some folks on both sides got
into  trouble  during  the  Yezhov  years  so nothing is all that
clear.    Inferences   can  be  made,  circumstantial,  based  on
personalities  and  who  likes  whose  research  better.  This is
all that's known, thus far.

>From  Soyfer  and  Popovsky,  the two original, main sources from
which  all  other things are cited unless indicated, such as news
articles.  Archives  open  on  Vavilov  case and much is found in
there and in other archives to fill in Medvedev's information:
-Vavilov   works  at  Lenin  All-Union  Academy  of  Agricultural
Science.   He used to head it.
-Lysenko works there, he now heads it.
-Prezent,  the philosopher and Lysenko's theoretician comes there
to   lecture  students.   Prezent  was  once  fired  from  a  job
presumably  by Vavilov and he hates Vavilov.  Prezent and Lysenko
are  such  great  friends  that  when Prezent got arrested due to
molesting  a  minor,  Lysenko  managed  to  write to the NKVD, or
have friends write to the NKVD, and get Prezent out.
-Yakushkin  and  Kol  were  arrested  in 1931 and gave statements
to  OGPU  on  Vavilov's  sabotage,  specifically  naming him.  An
OGPU-NKVD  file  was  started  on  Vavilov, it already existed in
1931 prior to the testimony of Yakushkin and Kol.
-Professor  Yakovlev  (not Ya. A.) testified, in the 1934 Kamenev
trial,  that  Kamenev  put  him in charge of a terrorist group at
the   Academy  of  Science  ("The  Terror,  a  Reassessment"   R.
Conquest,  page  96).   Vavilov  had  been a corresponding member
of this academy since 1923. He was the Head of it later.
-Shlykov  works  there  (at  the  Lenin  All  Union  Academy), is
Lysenkoite  and  anti-Vavilov  and  is  a  scientist.  He makes a
few  speeches  publicly  arguing  Vavilov  but  nothing so direct
as damning accusation. But Shlykov not only makes public speeches
countering Vavilov, he also writes letters to the science section
of  the  Party  Central Committee coming just short of denouncing
Vavilov  and  implying  sabotage.   Also,  Shlykov writes another
secret   letter  utterly  denouncing  Vavilov,  accusing  him  of
outright  sabotage,  and  sends this to Malinin of the NKVD - and
in  the  text  of  this secret letter, it is evident that Shlykov
had  been  sending  Malinin  copies of other letters as well, all
the while.
-Shundenko  is then pushed through to get a degree, it is obvious
to  everyone  the  man's  not  a  scientist  and  is  utterly not
qualified  but  Lysenko  hires  him  to work under Vavilov.  Now,
it  is  learned  that Shundenko was all the while in the NKVD and
he  was  assigned  to  the "Vavilov Case!" The whole while he was
"working under" Vavilov, he was really investigating him!
-Shlykov  and  Shundenko  were  seen  to be pals, they hit it off
as  friends  right  away,  everyone  knows  this.  They were seen
running to Lysenko to tell him things.
-Lysenko  went  to  a  meeting  in the Kremlin along with others;
Polit  Bureau  and  Council  of  People's  Commissars  were there
discussing pseudo-science which is seen to have led to:
-Boris  A.  Keller  assigned  to  investigate  the  goings  on at
Vavilov's  Genetics Institute.  Keller is seen talking to Lysenko
a lot.
-Beria  writes  to  Molotov  asking  that Vavilov be investigated
further  for  trying  to  defame  Lysenko  ever since Lysenko got
promoted  to  head  of  the  Lenin  All-Union Academy. A new file
in the already thick file on Vavilov is created.
-After  Vavilov  is  arrested  a  commission  is  formed  to head
Vavilov's  trial.   The  members of the commission are people who
either  hated  Vavilov  or  were  against  his  ideas.  They were
approved by Lysenko and worked under NKVD Major Shundenko.
----- Now, that's some incriminating circumstantial evidence!

Did  Shlykov  know  that  his friend, Shundenko, was in the NKVD?
Did  Lysenko  know  this  when he hired Shundenko to be Vavilov's
Deputy at the lab?  It is the two of them, Shlykov and Shundenko,
that  kept  running  to  Lysenko  and  reporting to him.  Shlykov
and  Lysenko  both  surely knew that Shundenko was a Major in the
NKVD:   after  they  saw  him  in his uniform.  But did they know
this  before?    If Lysenko did know, was he working for the NKVD
in  hiring  Shundenko  to  "work  under"  Vavilov - or - was NKVD
Major  Shundenko  told  to  report  to  Lysenko?!   Shundenko and
Shlykov  went  to  Lysenko  to report things, or at least talk to
him,  as  Medvedev  points  out, everyone saw it, in other words,
they  didn't  try to hide it!  Were they reporting things or just
chatting?   What did Keller chat with Lysenko about?  Did Lysenko
know  exactly  what  the  scientists he approved of were going to
be  asked to do?  Or that Shundenko was head of an investigation?
(See  end  of  this  portion  for  what  I'd have done in such an
investigation,  keeping  in  mind  what Beria said about defaming

Soyfer  admits,  while  presenting  all this and entire copies of
the  letters  and  speeches,  that  there  is no direct link with
Lysenko.   Yes,  but  anyone  can  see  it is very circumstantial
and  if you combine the very circumstantial with the "this fellow
is  my  best  friend"  that  was also well-known to all, well....

No  one  compiling  this,  with  details  of  dates  and specific
institutes  galore,  ever  thinks  to  posit  one  question:  was
Vavilov  guilty  of  doing  things  that were sabotage or as good
as  sabotage  or things that were literally perceived as sabotage
or  severe  obstruction  even  if  innocently  done?  The critics
have  NO  trouble  forming  such  detective-like conclusions when
dealing  the  blow  to  Lysenko as they include disparagements of
his  scientific  achievements  far out of hand with reality.  I'd
say  that  the  NKVD  had the same types of "evidence" to lead to
their  conclusions,  and  probably  more that no one is aware of,
and  that  the  NKVD  based their ideas of Vavilov on conclusions
they  made  even  before  1931  when  they started a file on him:
and  they  were  trained  to  be  investigators,  the  best  ever
according to our own head of CIA, Allen Dulles!
This  can  not  be  looked  at  objectively by people who are not
detectives,  by  people  who  know  nothing of where Vavilov went
overseas,  by  people  who  don't  have  spies  looking  out  for
suspicious  activity,  by  people  who  have  no idea who Vavilov
knew  overseas!   We  think  Vavilov  was suspicious, even if you
don't  consider  his  foreign  contacts  and  his friendliness to
Soviet  defectors and White Emigres (pro Czarist Russians) during
those  dangerous  days,  and  can  prove  it on hindsight by what
is   known   now   to  be  right  versus  what  Vavilov  and  the
anti-Lysenkoites  were  saying  as  regards agricultural planting
and  botany.   Marsh  covers this.  But even if this all happened
in  a  clothing  factory:   Vavilov  had  overseas  contacts,  he
embraced  and  associated  with  outright  enemies  of  the USSR.
This  alone  would have been enough to ruin him and cause a great
deal  of  suspicion.   Vavilov's  visiting these anti-Soviets was
not  done  in  a  vacuum.  These anti-Soviets also knew people in
the  countries  they  lived,  countries often hostile to the USSR
especially  in  the  1930's.   Also,  what  have we not been told
regarding  Vavilov and/or Lysenko?   Just based on the statistics
Richard  Lewontin,  an  American  scientist,  presented,  we have
not  been  told  a  lot,  including  a lot of the truth:  Lysenko
fed  the  people,  he  did  practical work that was excellent and
again,  FED  THE  PEOPLE.  One does not have to blow up a machine
factory or derail a train or destroy a mine to sabotage socialist
building  of  society,  though  this would be small sabotage.  If
you  fail  to  feed  the  people,  all of the rest of the society
will  feel the brunt of this as work performance fails, as people
get  sick,  as  people  get fed up and strike.  If you could stop
Lysenko  from  feeding the people, you could stop factory workers
from  building  the  industrial  society  Stalin  needed to build
a  socialist  country,  in  fact,  you  could  stop the USSR from
becoming a world power.  So then, we KNOW that the Western powers
would  have  LOVED  to  sabotage this, especially Churchill whose
own  genocidal  statements damn him.  I note how the experts FAIL
to  figure  this  into  their  half-baked  equations.  To imagine
that  the  West  "merely  wanted  to help" the USSR increase food
production  is  to  lack  sanity!   Like,  duh:  was there reason
to  suspect  sabotage?  Oh, HELL YES!  Was Stalin like a dictator
when  it  came  to  feeding  the  people (agriculture)?  Well, if
he  wasn't, he SHOULD HAVE BEEN!  Hitler was not an auto mechanic
or  car  salesman.  He took it upon himself to DEMAND a well-made
and  cheap  car  and  he  became  like a dictator about "building
a  people's  car."   Well,  no  one  would fault Hitler for doing
this  since  the  Volkswagen  was  the  result:  an excellent car
and  cheap  enough  for everyone to buy.  There comes a time when
a  country's  leader  BETTER  take  things  under his control and
DEMAND  things,  either  do  that  or allow sabotage!  As Lecourt
points  out (Proletarian Science):  Lysenko had practical results
in  terms  of practical work, the geneticists had NOTHING to show
except  theories  about something we can't even eat:  fruit flies
and  flowers.   Transplant  this  to  clothing  factory scenario:
Lysenko  had  well-made  types of clothing for naked people while
his  enemies were wasting time and money sewing a bunch of frilly
doilies  or talking about HOW to make frilly doilies!  The Theory
and/or History of Doilies versus real clothing.

But  even  if  the  critics  recognize  and admit that suspicions
are right about Vavilov, the big issue still remains that Lysenko
(or  some  of his followers) was in cahoots with the NKVD.  Well,
so  what!   Does anyone imagine that buying a Communist newspaper
during  the  time  of  McCarthy  would not get you watched by the
FBI  or  your  phone  tapped  or get you arrested if you sent the
Communist  organization  money  to  buy something from them?  And
what  if  you  went  overseas  to visit the Communists and hugged
them  and  hung  out  with  them?   That's  what Vavilov did with
enemies  of  the  USSR,  hugged  them,  hung out with them!  Does
anyone imagine that there were not spies on both sides especially
when  the  facts  are  coming  out  of the closet these days from
the  CIA's  own  mouth?   Come  on!   Some  of  the most ordinary
Americans  were  not  only spies but sometimes "moles," long term
Soviet  agents  living  here  as ordinary Americans.  Does anyone
imagine  that  the  CIA  and other such earlier organizations did
not  have  a similar set up with spies and moles?  Come on!  Does
anyone  American  and  patriotic  go  out  of  their way to trash
another  American  who  was  a spy for their own FBI or CIA?  NO!
Consider  that!   Thank  you  very much!  And in case someone has
not  caught  a  clue  here:   WHO  in  the  USA would call an FBI
informant  a  pig?   Uh...well, lots of Communists would!  That's
the  point.   Communists  were  enemies  IN  THE USA's capitalist
society   and  they  openly  spoke  about  violent  revolutionary
overthrowing of the government.  OK?  OK!

Well?  The NKVD was the Soviet version of the FBI.  (Technically,
the  NKGB,  later  the MGB, became the KGB, often compared to our
CIA;  the  NKVD  became  the MVD.  KGB is State Security.  MVD is
Internal  Security  more  like  our  FBI, especially in the early
FBI  days.)   Soviets  were  expected  to  be  loyal and on guard
against  suspicious  actions  and/or  to cooperate with their own
NKVD,  especially  during  the days of Nazi Fifth Columns and all
kinds  of  spy doings suspected just based on the sheer hostility
of  the  capitalist  nations  against  the  USSR.  So then, there
is  a  lot  of  circumstantial  evidence  to "prove" that Lysenko
was  in  cahoots  with  the NKVD, or possibly even had a Major in
the  NKVD  reporting  directly  to  him  or  vice  versa because:
Shundenko  was  a  Major  in  the  NKVD.   Shundenko  did  report
everything  to  Lysenko  or  at least they talked a lot with each
other.   These are two facts.  The question remains:  did Lysenko
know  Shundenko  was Major in NKVD at that time?  Fact is Shlykov
was  best  friends with Shundenko.  Fact is Shlykov also reported
to  Lysenko or talked a lot with him.  Fact is Shlykov also wrote
to  the NKVD many times, was reporting to them too.  The question
remains  here  also:   did  Shlykov know his friend Shundenko was
in  the  NKVD  when  he  hung around with him?  No one can answer
that.   There  is  no  proof.  It is easy to befriend an agent or
even  marry one and be wholly unaware that he or she is an agent.
They are secretive people.  Shlykov mailed his reports to Malinin
of  the  NKVD, he did not simply hand them to Shundenko. Why not?
If  you  were  friends  with  an FBI agent and you wanted to make
sure  the  Chief  of the FBI got a letter you wrote, wouldn't you
hand  it  to  your  FBI  pal  for him to hand it in and make sure
it got read?  Sure you would.
On  interviewing  Khvat,  the NKVD interrogator of Vavilov, Khvat
admitted  that  he  did not think Vavilov was guilty of espionage
as  he  was  accused  due  to  a heap of suspicions, but he still
thought  that  some  of  Vavilov's  ideas  and  actions were very
strange   and   contrary  to  pro-Soviet  practical  methods  and
practical  results  - tantamount to sabotage: he believed Vavilov
was  a  wrecker.   I  have  to  wonder if the FBI formed the same
liberal  conclusions about people who were "huggy pals" of Julius
and  Ethel  Rosenberg!   Any  one  of  those  Soviet emigres that
Vavilov   was   pals   with  overseas  could  have  been  getting
information  from  things  Vavilov told them!  The point is moot:
Lysenko's  people  produced  practical  results; Vavilov's people
produced  theories  and  mutations  of  fruitflies.  If the deeds
that  result  from  Vavilov's  glossing over facts, or countering
Lysenko  when  Lysenko  is  right (which Vavilov admits later and
which  can  be  proven  now with careful study of the intricacies
of  botany),  or  if  they  don't  produce  practical results but
instead  stagnate  in  a  lab  filled  with theoretical non-doers
-  then  Vavilov  is  doing the deeds of a saboteur whether he is
one  or  not.   Anyone  having  foreign  contacts at that time in
history,  especially  one such as Vavilov known to embrace "White
Emigres"  who  were  Czarists  and other anti-Soviets, was highly
suspected  just  as  a  person  hanging  around  with anyone even
remotely  pro  Communist, or "left-wing," as it was called, would
have  been  spied  on  from  then on by McCarthy and J.E. Hoover.

The  attention  Vavilov  received  from  the  Western press which
also  criticized  the  Soviet  system only exacerbated an already
very  dangerous  situation since it seemed as if these Westerners
knew  what  was  going  on in the USSR!  Was Vavilov a completely
suicidal  moron  or  was  he  just flaunting his actions?  He was
the  son  of  a millionaire and, despite his politics as they are
stated  by  others,  such  people  tend to think they can just do
what the hell they want as if they are immune to the restrictions
that bind everyone else in the society they live in.  They flaunt
the  law.   Simple  as  that.  No excuses! In the USA, "ignorance
of the law" is NO EXCUSE!  So?

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