jeudi 18 juillet 2013

Vents contraires à travers le Rideau de fer

Le 24e Congrès d'histoire des sciences, des techniques et de la médecine aura lieu à Manchester (Grande-Bretagne) du 21 au 28 juillet 2013. 
La session Headwinds through the Iron Curtain: fundamental and applied sciences in Communist Eeastern Europe, origanisée par Cristiana Oghina-Pavie (CERHIO, Université d'Angers) et Luciana Marioara Jinga (Insitutul pentru investigarea crimelor comunismului si memoria exilului românesc, Bucarest) se déroulera le 22 juillet.

Symposium abstract :
The history of science in the countries of the Eastern bloc between 1945 and 1989 was a field of confrontation between opposing influences. In the early years of communism, the traditional relations with the West have been interrupted and Soviet scientists have become the essential references. Nevertheless, the scientific blockage was suspended by unexpected periods of opening during which certain sciences that had been annihilated (such as sociology, genetics) were restored as academic disciplines, while international networks were reactivated. The timeline of these different waves of influence, specific for each country, is not linear and it does not cover a homogeneous reality. Stalinization, de-Stalinization, national resistance and nationalist movements have influenced the degree of autonomy of science from political power. Moreover, an energetic refusal with respect to the “pure” science led to an active orientation of the research toward the fields of application.
This symposium aims to address the conflicting influences exerted on the various sciences (experimental, social or exact sciences, humanities) in all the countries from the Eastern bloc. In response to the overall theme of the Congress, Knowledge at work, the symposium wish to highlight the areas of applied science. Did they really use the Soviet methods during fieldwork, or just a scientific rhetoric that was accepted by the regime? In the case of agriculture, was there a difference in the reception of influences between the official line of Lysenkoist biology and methods of breeding? How do the social sciences reflect the realities of each country? What was the role of science in deciding the state health politics? Experimentation, application, technologies, and medicine - are they more autonomous than the fundamental research facing ideological and political influences?
Contributions focuses on Communist countries from Eastern Europe, in order to open a discussion from an international comparative perspective. This symposium will provide the opportunity to create an international network, the aim of which is to develop a collective, comparative approach of the subject.   


S025-A  Monday 22 July 11h-12h30
Chair : Luciana Jinga, Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and Memory of the Romanian Exile, Romania

11h-11h20 : Stéphane Tirard, Centre François Viète d’épistémologie et d’histoire des sciences et des techniques, Université de Nantes, France (

Lepeshinskaya’s concept of the cell: pseudo- scientific work or political strategy?
This paper presents the work in cell biology of the Soviet biologist Olga Lepeshinskaya (1871-1963) and analyzes the circumstances of its diffusion outside the USSR, after World War II. Lepeshinskaya’s work was produced in the context of Lyssenkoist science and was in strong opposition with the principle of the impossibility of spontaneous generation. The aim of this study is to analyze the manner in which such ideas were able or not to circulate and what background of their critics were.
The first part will present Lepeshinskaya's conceptions of the cell and of life in the general context of the Soviet science, with particular regard to the topic of the origins of life. The second part will inform on the reception of these ideas outside the USSR. Finally, it will analyze the rhetorical and editorial strategies of such contestable ideas.

11h20-11h40 : Piotr Köhler, Jagiellonian University, Poland (

Lysenkoism in biological textbooks in Poland
The appearance of Lysenkoism in biological textbooks in Poland was preceded by a flurry of events of a political nature. A council of educational activists of the Polish Workers’ Party (30 October 1948) ordered, among other things, the revision of curricula at all levels of education with the object of “thorough removal of the influence of reactionary ideology and the filling of the curricula with the ideology of historical materialism.”
The First National Congress of School Inspectors (29 May 1949) established that the scientific worldview would henceforth be the basis for teaching in Polish schools. The Central Course for Biology Teachers (17–19 June 1949) replaced school genetics curricula with Michurin-Lysenko theory. A revision of biology curricula was carried out. Starting with the school year 1949/1950, in place of genetics, ​​“rudiments of evolutionism,” including Lysenkoism, were introduced into the curricula.
Initially, there were no suitable textbooks in Polish. A Soviet textbook “Principles of Darwinism” by Melnikov, Shibanov and Korsunskaya was soon translated into Polish. This book went through seven editions in Poland. February 1953 saw the release of a manual for the methodical teaching of biology in classes V-VIII of general primary schools. The main objectives of teaching biology at that time were: to convince pupils of the materialist worldview, and then to ensure that this worldview took root.
Genetics was restored to the curriculum in schools at the beginning of the school year 1957/1958.
The purpose of my presentation is to examine whether indeed Mendelism (genetics) disappeared from the teaching of biology in Polish schools. Was it possible to teach genetics during the era of Lysenkoism in Poland?

11h40-12h : Cristiana Oghina-Pavie, University of Angers CERHIO UMR 6258, France (

Plant breeding versus evolution in Romania (1948-1965): complementarities and contradictions
Between 1948 and 1965, the lysenkoist pattern in Romanian biology imposed a new status of agronomic research, as “practical, useful and proletarian” applications of the evolutionary theories. The entire academic organisation of the biological sciences was thus founded on the priority of the applied sciences on fundamental knowledge. Nevertheless, all the agronomic work could be done in conformity with the specific synthesis of theories of evolution made by Lysenko.
Plant breeding was particularly concerned with the tension between practice and theory. We will analyse in parallel technical works on plant breeding and theoretical writings in “general biology” published in this period. Which were the influences of the Darwinian and Neo-lamarckian concepts on the manner in which the Romanian biologists adopted and adapted lysenkoism? Were there any consequences of their scientific training in Western universities before World War II? Was ideology more present in theoretical works than in application?
Our claim is to show how artificial selection reflected the ambiguities of lysenkoism in the particular case of Romanian biology.

12h-12h20 : Alexandru S. Bologa, Academy of Romanian Scientists Section of Biological Sciences / Romanian Committee of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Subcommittee Constantza, Romania (

Biology under romanian communist rule: preserving professional ethics
In everlasting tribute to their braveness and memory During the era of communist rule, some valuable scientists underwent the rigors of this criminal and antidemocratic regime. The praise of Russian/Soviet biologists and physicians, was mandatory. Instead, e.g., the founders of genetics were denigrated and minimized. But this evil period of Romanian national history y compris its history of biology also bore witness to illustrious personalities, for their education, professionalism, patriotism, morality and culture, outspoken or implicitly opposing this regime which marked and relegated Romania to the backstage of history for five decades. These remarkable specialists and experts in various fields of biology, affirmed both nationally and most of them also internationally, suffered from persecutions in different ways, for their own anticommunist beliefs. They were prevented from practicing their profession in higher education or research, deprived of civil rights, convicted, with or without trial, sent as political prisoners, to prison or labor camps, with punishment up to death, or forced to emigrate. The National Council for the Study of the Archives of the Security has enabled access to the individual tracking files, of different durations, of Alexandru Borza (1887-1971), Constantin Motas (1887-1971), Ioan G. Botez (1892-1953), Teodor Busnitza (1900-1977), Constantin S. Antonescu (1902-1981), Zaharia Popovici (1907-?) and Victor Angelescu (1912-2002), Petre T. Banarescu (1921-2009), Nicolae A. Boscaiu (1925-2009), Denis Buican (1936). This contribution, based on CNSAS archival research with the consent of those alive and/or of their descendants, is dedicated in memoriam to above named Romanian outstanding anticommunist biologists, as memento to their undeserved professional, family and private sufferings, humiliations and unfulfillments because of the repressive regime.

12h20-12h30 : Discussion
S 025 B : Monday 22 July 14h-15h30
Chair : Cristiana Oghina-Pavie, University of Angers CERHIO UMR 6258, France

14h-14h20 : Luciana Jinga, Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and Memory of the Romanian Exile, Romania (

A failure of socialist medicine: the pro-natalist policy during Nicolae Ceausescu’s régime
An important part of the communist propaganda, after 1945, was the establishment of nationwide, easy accessible, entirely free of charge, healthcare system. In order to achieve this purpose, the communist party expanded the medical network by opening new hospitals, clinics, Multidisciplinary teams have been introduced into general practice. In order to rapidly increase the medical personnel needed in the system, new medical schools have been created. In terms of medical care provided to its population, communist Romania had very clear objectives, among which: reducing tuberculosis incidence, reducing child mortality, the eradication of infectious diseases such as polio or malaria. Special measures concerned maternal and child healthcare, in order to reduce both infant and obstetric mortality, as well as birth defects. Nevertheless, the main objectives, the essential priorities have all been set more by economic and political requirements than by purely medical consideration. The Romanian communist regime, especially in the 1980’, due to unprecedented budget cuts, did not succeeded in ensuring equitable access, the necessary supply and distribution of the primary workforce for the medical system. Corroborated with the demographic concerns of Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime, the Romanian communist healthcare system became just another piece in the dictatorial machinery. The instrumentalisation of the Romanian medical system had tragic consequences, such as higher rates of infant and child mortality than any other European country at that time, high rates of obstetrical mortality, an important number of illegal abortions and, as consequence, of maternal deaths

14h20-14h40 : Corina Dobos, UCL/ University of Bucharest, Romania (

Pavlovian reinterpretations: medicine and ideology in 1950s Romania
The paper focuses on the major epistemological shifts that the relationship between medicine and politicis in the first decade of Communist rule in Romania. Under the authority of the Pavlovian principles promoted by High Stalinism, the 1950s in Romanian medicine were generally marked by Pavlov’s teaching on “theory of higher nervous activity” and of dynamic localization of brain’s functions, providing a strong pathological physiology for discussing and treating mental illness in recurrent terms as “protective inhibition”, “sleep therapy”, “stimulative therapy”. Inspired not only by Pavlov, but also by the works of I.M. Secenov, S.S. Korsakov or V.M. Bechterev, Romanian medicine in general, psychiatry, neurology and physiology in particular were subsumed to neurology and psychopatology and was redefined as a branch of natural sciences. Simultaneously, the ‘50s were characterized by a denunciation of the “bourgeois” idealistic and decadent medical concepts and practices, “psychomorphology”, “psychoanalysis” and “existential psychology” being particularly demonized.
This Pavlovian “break” in medicine created the opportunity for doctors to accede to new resources of research and higher professional status. Taking advantage by the new opportunities of medical research created in Romania after the Second World War by the communist rulers, leading interwar scientists (Parhon, Danielopolu, Kernbach) hurried to prove their loyalty towards the emerging communist regime in the country, and were ready to publicly reinterpret their work in Pavlovian terms. The paper deals with two scientific congresses discussing the Pavlovian reinterpretation of the history of Romanian medicine and future perspectives organized by the Romanian Academy in 1952, 1956 respectively. The research argues that the enthusiasm Romanian doctors showed in openly embracing the Pavlovian principles is to be understood instrumentally for getting access to new professional and symbolic resources.

14h40-15h : Bradley Moore, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States (

A western impulse in eastern garb: the cultural and scientific dynamics of communist public health in Czechoslovakia, 1948-1958
The Stalinization of medical practice demanded an explicit focus on preventative measures, a dialectical-materialist perspective, and the direct incorporation of a “Pavlovian” physiological approach which embraced the unity of man and environment. These imperatives aligned smoothly with various public health trends from the Interwar period in Czechoslovakia, and the effort to create a Soviet-style state hygiene service encountered a small but ready cohort of physicians whose existing structuralist and environmental health concerns found augmentation within the precepts of Marxist-Leninist medicine. Rather than suspending or eschewing Western traditions, a socialist approach to public health revitalized and empowered long-held progressive critiques of therapy-centered medicine, the uncontrolled nature of industrialization, and the unsanitary state of Czechoslovakia's living and working environment.
The precepts of Pavlovian medicine, based largely on an amalgamation of dialectical-materialist philosophy and the theory of conditioned reflexes, placed the source of internal biophysical change in the external environment: population health was primarily an outcome of a society's living and working conditions. These natural, physical, and material influences therefore required hygienic transformation in order to enhance the health of the proletariat, eradicate the sources of illness and disease, and develop salubrious conditions for work and daily life. Although this perspective moved Czechoslovak hygienists away from the socio-behavioral focus of most contemporary post-war public health work in the West, there was consistent interest in more structuralist Western scientific research and medical practices in the areas of toxicology, occupational health and hygiene, ergonomics, physiology, environmental pollution, and sanitary design. There was little hesitation to site foreign, bourgeois sources on these issues, and better established medical journals never ceased producing abstracts in English or French throughout the “high Stalinist” period of scientific intervention (1945-1953). The result was a medical discipline which did not experience an interruption by the communist milieu so much as a refraction and magnification of specific yet traditional interests and aims.

S025-C : Monday 22 July 16h-17h30
Chair : Stéphane Tirard, Centre François Viète d’épistémologie et d’histoire des sciences et des techniques, Université de Nantes, France

16h-16h20 : Jean-Philippe Martinez, Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7, France (

Lev Landau: une physique théorique «purement pratique»
Lev Landau est l'un des principaux acteurs de la physique soviétique du début du XXème siècle, son influence n'est aujourd'hui plus à démontrer. Après quelques années au contact des plus grands de son époque (Bohr, Pauli...) en Europe de l'Ouest, il rentre en URSS soucieux d'y développer une physique théorique de qualité. Son impact se traduit non seulement par la rédaction des célèbres Cours de physique théorique, mais aussi par l'organisation d'une école formant toute une génération de théoriciens. Ses travaux sur l'état condensé de la matière lui valent en 1962 un prix Nobel. Ils sont le fruit d'une étroite collaboration avec Piotr Kapitsa, physicien reconnu pour ses activités dans le domaine appliqué. Cette collaboration est symbolique de la conception de la physique théorique qui anime Landau : elle ne peut s'exercer qu'en étroite communion avec la physique appliquée. Peu étonnant pour un scientifique marxiste, mais véritable support dans notre contexte du double jeu du physicien confronté à la réalité du politique et de sa discipline. Sa valorisation d'une physique théorique « purement pratique », rhétorique acceptable pour le pouvoir, ne se fait pas au sens de « appliquée » mais plutôt dans celui d'une discipline peu concernée par la physique des principes. L'appui que prennent les théoriciens sur la physique appliquée est valorisé dans les deux grands lieux de la physique moscovite où Landau exerce son influence après-guerre : l'Institut de physique théorique et expérimentale et l'Institut pour les problèmes physiques. On y pratique une recherche fondamentale considérée par beaucoup comme trop abstraite, tout en répondant aux exigences de la physique appliquée, afin de suivre le credo d'une science au service de la construction socialiste. Les théoriciens, au cœur d'enjeux nationaux considérables (recherche nucléaire, conquête spatiale), y gagnent alors en autonomie en répondant aux attentes multiples du régime soviétique. La création en 1965 d'un centre uniquement dédié à la physique théorique, l'Institut Landau, en est une confirmation. En somme l'objet de cette communication est de montrer comment au travers des deux instituts suscités, l'influence d'un personnage charismatique comme Landau a permis à une communauté de physiciens théoriciens de s'épanouir. Le tout malgré le peu de considération, d'un point de vue du moins idéologique, du régime soviétique à l'égard de la science « pure ».

16h20-16h40 : Sarah Marks, University College London, United Kingdom,

Rewriting Marxism for the computer age: the ‘scientific-technical revolution’ in Cold War Czechoslovakia and East Germany
“…it is only possible to achieve real liberation in the real world and by employing real means, that slavery cannot be abolished without the steam-engine and the mule and spinning-jenny, serfdom cannot be abolished without improved agriculture, and that, in general, people cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. “Liberation” is an historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about by historical conditions, the development of industry, commerce, agriculture…” Karl Marx, The German Ideology, 1845 During the 1960s, publications from across all academic disciplines in the USSR and its satellite countries were making frequent reference to the ‘scientific-technological revolution’. Not only had science and technology become a primary means of demonstrating the successes of the socialist system on the international stage of the Cold War, but they were becoming inscribed as ‘force of production’ that could be utilized in the process of achieving a true communist society. This paper will draw from archival papers, academic publications, propaganda literature and CIA intelligence reports to explore how the concept of the scientific technological revolution was used by senior Communist Party officials and academics in East Germany and Czechoslovakia in the 1960s and ‘70s, as a means to update and reinterpret Marxist theory for the modern age. The term ‘Scientific-Technical Revolution’ was first coined by the British Marxist scientist J.D. Bernal in his 1957 edition of Science in History to describe a perceived second scientific revolution in the first half of the twentieth century, with the ‘discovery of the nuclear atom, relativity, and the quantum theory, as well as the processes of bio-chemistry and the inner structure of the cell, the electron microscope, and the electronic computing machine’. The use of these new fields, along with further innovation in science and technology, could act as an engine for historical change that could transform and liberate humanity. Such arguments were taken up enthusiastically by the scientific communities of Czechoslovakia and East Germany in particular, as a means of furthering their professional interests. Senior Party members also became involved in such debates; with rifts beginning to appear in both countries within the Party over how best to achieve a true Communist society. Those who remained in the Marxist-Leninist tradition as advocated under Stalin favoured a transformation of society through through propaganda and education, with the Party essentially being responsible for producing socialist subjectivity by ideological means. In contrast, those influenced by the concept of the scientific-technical revolution advocated a focus on scientific research and industrial investment as the method through which to change the historical conditions in order to bring about a socialist liberation of humanity, drawing specifically on Marx’s German Ideology. Central to this thesis was what CIA intelligence reports termed ‘Cybernetic Revisionism’. My paper demonstrates how concepts from cybernetics came to be used by Walter Ulbricht’s Party elite in the GDR, as well as by reformists in Czechoslovakia, as a solution to the social and economic problems facing both countries by the end of the 1960s. I will discuss how cybernetic concepts of self-regulation and feedback loops were appropriated by advocates of economic reforms who were dissatisfied with the performance of the centralised planned economy. By inscribing decentralisation measures in terms of the application of technology and increasing workers’ participation in the process of production, Party members were able to challenge the doctrine of centralisation whilst still maintaining a commitment to a socialist planned economy. I will also examine the increasingly utopian visions of a socialist future conjured by the possibilities of computer technologies and automatization, whereby workers would be liberated from manual work and thus enabled to fulfil their ‘human potential’ in more intellectual and scientific pursuits. In conclusion, I argue that such ‘cybernetic revisionism’ was crucial to understanding the history of Central and East European socialism in the 1960s, and played an often overlooked but fundamental role in the Prague Spring reform movement in 1968.

16h40-17h Elena Kochetkova, European University at Saint-Petersburg, Russia (

Western technologies and Soviet modernization, 1953-1964: Svetogorsk pulp and paper factory
My paper aims at studying the role which Western knowledge played in the Soviet Union during the Cold War despite the iron curtain. I consider the period of 1953 – 1964 which was the time of so called industrial modernization initiated by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The aim of modernization was to increase production, renew facilities and provide positive changes in outdated industries. This task, however, was very complicated to be completed in the post-war country because of lack of specialists and produced facilities. This forced the leadership to apply for the Western help under the idea of so called peaceful co-existence. This idea had to provide possibilities for studying and purchasing Western technologies via official trips by Soviet specialists to Finland, West Germany and other countries. I emphasize technology transfer into the pulp and paper industry which was significant but backward branch of the Soviet economy. I aim at studying the local level, i.e. seeing how the achievements of the government were introduced into a certain factory. That is why I focus on a case of Svetogorsk pulp and paper plant which was a former Finnish factory annexed by the Soviet Union after the Soviet-Finnish war of 1941 – 1944. I study how Western technologies were brought to a “former” capitalist enterprise and pay a specific attention to ways knowledge was transferred and used. I focus on ways Soviet specialists got technical knowledge and obtained particular skills being abroad on their business trips and implemented them in the Soviet Union later. On the one hand, I am interested in what technologies were transferred and implemented successfully and what role these technologies played in the Khrushchev`s modernization. On the other hand, I am analyzing reasons of technology transfer failures. I consider technologies and specialists, i.e. technological and social factors as mutually influenced each other, following Thomas Hughes, who emphasized an importance of social component of socio-technological systems for technological development. This allows to study how knowledge changed while being transferred? How did Soviet specialists deal with Western knowledge? And in general, was the Soviet Union capable to employ and adapt transferred technologies?

17h-17h30 Discussion and final comentary : Jean-Claude Dupont, Université de Picardie, Jules Verne, France.

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