Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Russian Science Under Putin Likely to See Rise of New Lysenkos, Kabanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 17 – Putin’s policies are not only leading to the degradation of Russian science, leaving it ever more isolated and backward, but also making it more likely that the country will become the victim of frauds like the notorious Trofim Lysenko who promoted the idea in Stalin’s time that acquired characteristics could be inherited, Aleksandr Kabanov says.

            The corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences who now teaches at the University of North Carolina in the United States documents just how far behind Russian science has fallen because of both sanctions and the isolation from the world the Putin regime has promoted (

            The USSR on average was about ten years behind the West in scholarly work, but now Russia is “already 20 years behind,” Kabanov says. And tragically after the situation changed sharply following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, “there do not remain any hopes for a change to the better.”

            “There is no reason to think that a country isolated in all regard will be able to more successfully work in science than a country which isn’t isolated,” he argues. The USSR was isolated but less so than Putin’s Russia because it was larger and more diverse, invested more in science, and had leaders who listened to scientists and scholars more than Putin does.

            Russian scholarship still has some resources, but its limits were on view during the pandemic. Russian researchers were able to come up with a vaccine against the coronavirus, but they were not able to produce enough or convince the population to use it because they did not enjoy the full backing of the country’s leaders.

            And Kabanov says he foresees more problems ahead, including the rise of charlatans who will exploit the ignorance and isolation of the country’s leaders to boost themselves to positions of power. Such people will find it easy to do so given the isolation and super-patriotic rhetoric now on view in Russia.

            As a result, he says with regret, “I fear that we will again see new Lysenkos in [Russian] science.”

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