May 01, 2010

Transforming Nature

    Ivan Michurin: 1855-1935

given his social origins, one would not have expected the Soviet authorities to recognize the horticulturalist Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin, and one certainly would not have expected them to place him on the exalted pedestal this father of Soviet Darwinism occupied by the end of his life.

First, there were the noble ancestors, and even though they were from the lower nobility and not particularly wealthy, they were still members of the “exploiting class.” Second, there was the familial estate, and although it was relatively small and acquired with tremendous effort, it was nevertheless “private property.” Third, there was the Order of St. Anna awarded to Michurin by the tsarist government. Finally, there was his maniacal focus on simple fruit growing – not heavy industry, not building factories or even increasing wheat yields, simply the cultivation of orchards and the breeding of new sorts of fruits and berries. Given all of the above, one might have expected that, at best, the Soviets would ignore Michurin, and, at worst, they would destroy him along with his countless seedlings and apple varieties.

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