Khrushchev’s Dishonest Attack on the “Stalin Cult” (And the Role of Leaders in History)

Why did Khrushchev attack the “Cult of Personality”?

In 1956 the Soviet revisionist leader Nikita Khrushchev launched his attack on Stalin, the so-called “De-stalinization” and attack against the “Cult of the Individual”:

“It is of paramount importance to re-establish and to strengthen in every way the Leninist principle of collective leadership… The Central Committee… vigorously condemns the cult of the individual as being alien to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism”.
(Khrushchev, Report to the Central Committee, 20th Congress of the CPSU).

“…the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person”.
(Khrushchev, “The Secret Speech” in The Crimes Of The Stalin Era, Special Report To The 20th Congress Of The Communist Party Of The Soviet Union, p. 554)

Khrushchev attacked the cult of personality in order:
-to hijack the already existing criticism of cult-like behavior.*
-to attack his rivals by labeling them “Stalinists”
-to rehabilitate Tito
-to justify changes to policy and revision of theory

*for instance, according to Hungarian anti-communist historian Balázs Apor, there was already significant criticism of the ‘cult of personality’ before Khrushchev’s rise to power, but this criticism was never targeted against Stalin. (Source: Apor, The Invisible Shining)

Khrushchev’s project was accepted to the degree that it was, because it was legitimate to criticize the personality cult, though Khrushchev himself did it for false reasons.

Stalin Opposed the Cult of Personality

Khrushchev claimed Stalin orchestrated the Cult of Personality. But in reality Stalin always opposed it:

“I must say in all conscience, comrades, that I do not deserve a good half of the flattering things that have been said here about me…”
(J. V. Stalin, Reply to the Greetings of the Workers of the Chief Railway Workshops in Tiflis)

“You speak of your devotion to me… I would advise you to discard the ‘principle’ of devotion to persons. It is not the Bolshevik way. Be devoted to the working class, its Party, its state. That is a fine and useful thing. But do not confuse it with devotion to persons, this vain and useless bauble of weak-minded intellectuals.”
(J. V. Stalin, Letter to Comrade Shatunovsky, August 1930)

“The times have passed when leaders were regarded as the only makers of history, while the workers and peasants were not taken into account. The destinies of nations and of states are now determined, not only by leaders, but primarily and mainly by the vast masses of the working people. The workers and the peasants, who without fuss and noise are building factories and mills, constructing mines and railways, building collective farms and state farms, creating all the values of life, feeding and clothing the whole worldt hey are the real heroes and the creators of the new life.” (J.V. Stalin, Speech Delivered at the First All-Union Congress of Collective Farm Shock Brigadiers)

“I am absolutely against the publication of ‘Stories of the Childhood of Stalin’. The book abounds with a mass of inexactitudes of fact, of alterations, of exaggerations and off unmerited praise… the important thing resides it the fact that the book has a tendency to engrave on the minds of Soviet children (and people in general) the personality cult of leaders, of infallible heroes. This is dangerous and detrimental. The theory of ‘heroes’ and the ‘crowd’ is not a Bolshevik, but a Social-Revolutionary theory. I suggest we burn this book”.
(J. V. Stalin, Letter on Publications for Children Directed to the Central Committee of the All Union Communist Youth)

Stalin never accepted being equated with Lenin. He was only a continuer of Lenin’s work, a supporter of Lenin’s program:

“Robins: …throughout Russia I have found the names Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, linked together.
Stalin: That, too, is an exaggeration. How can I be compared to Lenin?”
(J. V. Stalin, Talk With Colonel Robins, May 13 1933)

”MOLOTOV (. . . stated that he is and will always he a faithful disciple of Stalin.)
STALIN (interrupting Molotov): This is nonsense. I have no students at all. We are all students of the great Lenin.”
(Unpublished Speech by Stalin at the Plenum of the Central Committee, CPSU October 16, 1952)

Who really promoted the personality Cult?


The Cult of Personality was dishonestly fostered by Stalin’s enemies, by traitors who used it to promote their own careers or used it to hide their anti-Leninist positions. A good example of this was the Trotskyist Radek:

“The first issue of ‘Pravda;’ for 1934 carried a huge two-page article by Radek, heaping orgiastic praise on Stalin. The former Trotskyite, who had led the opposition to Stalin for many years, now called him ‘Lenin’s best pupil, the model of the Leninist Party, bone of its bone, blood of its blood’… He ‘is as far-sighted as Lenin’, and so on and on. This seems to have been the first large article in the press specifically devoted to the adulation of Stalin” (R. Medvedev, Let History Judge, p. 148).


On the occasion of the celebration of Stalin’s fiftieth birthday in December 1929, Anastas Mikoyan accompanied his congratulations with the demand “that we, meeting the rightful demand of the masses, begin finally to work on his biography and make it available to the Party and to all working people in our country”. (‘Izvestia’, 21 December 1929, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid,;164).

Ten years later, on the occasion of Stalin’s sixtieth birthday in December 1939, Mikoyan was still urging the creation of a “scientific biography” (‘Pravda’, 21 December 1939, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid,.; p. 158) of Stalin.

An official biography was finally published in 1948. Khrushchev’s crony Mikoyan had been calling for such a biography for 20 years. But what did Khrushchev say in his ‘secret speech’? Khrushchev claimed that the book was created on Stalin’s instructions:

“One of the most chararacteristic examples of Stalin’s self-glorification and of his lack of even elementary modesty is the edition of his ‘Short Biography’. This book is an example of the most dissolute flattery”. (Khrushchev, “The Secret Speech” in The Crimes Of The Stalin Era, Special Report To The 20th Congress Of The Communist Party Of The Soviet Union, p. 554)

Grover Furr citing L.V. Maksimenkov points out that Stalin’s only involvement in the writing of his 1948 biography, was that Stalin diminished his own role. (Khrushchev Lied, pp. 117-121)


The right-wing opportunist and anti-Stalin traitor Ezhov was also a major builder of the “cult” around Stalin. Ezhov even demanded that the name of Moscow be changed to “Stalinodar” or “Gift of Stalin”. However, Stalin succeeded in preventing this from taking place:

“Ezhov commanded his subjects to create a project of renaming Moscow to Stalinodar (translated as “Stalin’s gift”)… But Ezhov didn’t take into account that Stalin hated plain flattery. He dismissed the suggestion as “foolish.”… There are accounts that Moscow was subject to another renaming campaign after WWII, (but Stalin refused the suggestion again)”

According to Sarah Davies in The Leader Cult in Communist Dictatorships: Stalin and the Eastern Bloc “On 20 May 1936, Stalin raised an item ‘On renaming towns etc.’ as a result of which the Politburo agreed to ban from 1 June 1936 the renaming of towns, small towns, district centres and railway stations.” (p. 41)


However, the biggest architect of the “cult” was Khrushchev himself:

“It was Khrushchev who introduced the term ‘vozhd’ (‘leader’, corresponding to the German word ‘Fuhrer’).”
(Bland, THE ‘CULT OF THE INDIVIDUAL’ (1934-52))

At the Moscow Party Conference in January 1932, Khrushchev finished his speech by saying:

“The Moscow Bolsheviks, rallied around the Leninist Central Committee as never before, and around the ‘vozhd’ of our Party, Comrade Stalin, are cheerfully and confidently marching toward new victories in the battles for socialism, for world proletarian revolution”. (‘Rabochaya Moskva’, 26 January 1932, cited in: L. Pistrak: ‘The Grand Tactician: Khrushchev’s Rise to Power’; London; 1961; p. 159).

At the 17th Party Conference in January 1934 it was Khrushchev, and Khrushchev alone, who called Stalin “vozhd of genius”. (XVII s’ezd Vsesoiuznoi Kommunisticheskoi Partii (B.); p, 145, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid.; p. 160).

In August 1936, during the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial, Khrushchev, in his capacity as Moscow Party Secretary, said:

“Miserable pygmies! They lifted their hands against the greatest of all men. . . . our wise ‘vozhd’, Comrade Stalin! Thou, Comrade Stalin, hast raised the great banner of Marxism-Leninism high over the entire world and carried it forward. We assure thee, Comrade Stalin, that the Moscow Bolshevik organisation — the faithful supporter of the Stalinist Central Committee — will increase Stalinist vigilance still more, will extirpate the Trotskyite-Zinovievite remnants, and close the ranks of the Party and non-Party Bolsheviks even more around the Stalinist Central Committee and the great Stalin”. (‘Pravda’, 23 August 1936, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid,; p. 162).

At the Eighth All-Union Congress of Soviets in November 1936 it was again Khrushchev who proposed that the new Soviet Constitution, which was before the Congress for approval, should be called the ‘Stalinist Constitution’ because “it was written from beginning to end by Comrade Stalin himself”. (‘Pravda’, 30 November 1936, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid.; p. 161).

“It has to be noted that Vyacheslav Molotov and Andrey Zhdanov did not mention any special role by Stalin in the drafting of the Constitution.” (Bland)

Why did the opportunists promote the Cult?

They did it to hide their own revisionism, to promote their own careers by trying to attach themselves to Stalin. Radek and Ezhov were conspiring against Stalin but they could never have defeated him openly. Radek and Ezhov pretended to be good loyal communists, when in fact they were not.

One might ask, “isn’t it counter-productive to foster this kind of hero-worship of Stalin, if one’s goal is to overthrow him?”. One might think it is counter-productive, yet that’s exactly what Khrushchev did successfully. Khrushchev promoted the cult more then anyone else, and used it to promote himself. But in the end he blamed the cult entirely on Stalin (who never even supported it) and Khrushchev then presented himself as some kind of great ‘democrat’ who fought against the cult!

Stalin knew that the cult was at least partially supported by traitors and opportunists, and he fought against it. He always gave credit to others, to the masses, to the party, and reminded people that the “great-man” theory of history is idealist.

The German writer Lion Feuchtwanger wrote:

“It is manifestly irksome to Stalin to be worshipped as he is, and from time to time he makes fun of it… Of all the men I know who have power, Stalin is the most unpretentious. I spoke frankly to him about the vulgar and excessive cult made of him, and he replied with equal candour… He thinks it is possible even that ‘wreckers’ may be behind it in an attempt to discredit him”.
(L. Feuchtwanger, Moscow 1937, pp. 93, 94-95)

The Finnish revisionist Arvo Tuominen wrote about a certain incident at a new years’ party in 1935. At this party Stalin parodied those who tried to suck up to him. He said:

“Comrades! I want to propose a toast to our patriarch, life and sun, liberator of nations, architect of socialism (he rattled off all the appelations applied to him in those days), Josef Vissarionovich Stalin, and I hope this is the first and last speech made to that genius this evening”.
(A. Tuominen, Bells of the Kremlin, p. 162).

Definition of “Cult of Personality”

In his attack against the “cult of Stalin” Khrushchev doesn’t treat the issue scientifically or in a marxist way at all. He never properly defines what the “Cult of Personality” even is. Khrushchev was not a theoretician, and did not understand what the role of individuals in history is. For Khrushchev, the “cult” was something vague like people singing songs about Stalin, naming cities after him, carrying pictures of him, and generally voicing their admiration and support for Stalin.

However, there is nothing inherently “cultish” or bad in admiring someone who legitimately has achieved something great. It only becomes a “cult” when the person in question is treated as an infallible god, and when people don’t simply respect his wise opinion, but uncritically accept everything without even thinking with their own brains.

Khrushchev never gave an exact explanation like this. Once again, Stalin had the correct position:

“Decisions of individuals are, always, or nearly always, one-sided decisions… In every collective body, there are people whose opinion must be reckoned with… From the experience of three revolutions we know that out of every 100 decisions taken by individual persons without being tested and corrected collectively, approximately 90 are one-sided…”
(J. V. Stalin, An Interview with the German Author Emil Ludwig)

A cult of personality promotes the idealist “great-man” theory of history. Stalin correctly said:

“the personality cult of leaders, of infallible heroes… is dangerous and detrimental. The theory of ‘heroes’ and the ‘crowd’ is not a Bolshevik, but a Social-Revolutionary theory.”
(J. V. Stalin, Letter on Publications for Children Directed to the Central Committee of the All Union Communist Youth)

The “great-man” theory is a remnant of bourgeois society and bourgeois ideology. To avoid this mistake, many Marxists today totally underestimate and disregard the importance of individuals and leaders. However, individuals and leaders do matter. It is not an irrelevant issue whether Stalin or Trotsky becomes the party leader, it is actually a very important issue.

“Marxism does not deny at all the role played by outstanding individuals or that history is made by people. But great people are worth anything at all only to the extent that they are able correctly to understand these conditions, to understand how to change them. If they fail to understand these conditions and want to alter them according to the promptings of their imagination, they will find themselves in the situation of Don Quixote… With us personages of the greatest authority are reduced to nonentities, become mere ciphers, as soon as the masses of the workers lose confidence in them”.
(J. V. Stalin, An Interview with the German Author Emil Ludwig)

To become a revolutionary leader, a person must win the support of the masses and correctly understand objective conditions.

Individuals always represent classes and tendencies. Stalin represented the proletarian political line, and thus relied on marxist theory and the support of the workers. Khrushchev represented a bourgeois line, the line which he pursued ended up restoring capitalism. Building socialism – a new superior type of system – requires a scientific theory and class consciousness. It is not easy to overthrow capitalism and the centuries of habits from class society. However, Marxist-Leninist theory provides the necessary answers for this work. In hindsight we can clearly see the erroneous policies and wrong positions introduced by the Khrushchevites, and avoid them in the future.

Soviet Science in the Lenin-Stalin era (work in progress)



Note: I realize this page describes many scientists also from the pre-revolutionary period. This is because progressive, revolutionary, democratic and materialist scientists from the pre-revolutionary period served as the inspiration and foundation for Soviet scientists. Countless great scientists worked in pre-revolutionary Russia, but they faced persecution or did not receive necessary support. Many great scientists such as K. A. Timiryazev became communists and others like I. P. Pavlov and V. I. Vernadsky supported the revolutionary democrats, and read their works. Still others did not delve into politics, but supported materialist views through their scientific work.

“Only conscious organisation of social production, in which production and distribution are carried on in a planned way, can lift mankind above the rest of the animal world as regards the social aspect, in the same way that production in general has done this for men in their aspect as species. Historical evolution makes such an organisation daily more indispensable, but also with every day more possible. From it will date a new epoch of history, in which mankind itself, and with mankind all branches of its activity, and especially natural science, will experience an advance that will put everything preceding it in the deepest shade.” (Friedrich Engels, Dialectics of Nature)

“no natural science and no materialism can hold its own in the struggle against the onslaught of bourgeois ideas and the restoration of the bourgeois world outlook unless it stands on solid philosophical ground. In order to hold his own in this struggle and carry it to a victorious finish, the natural scientist must be a modern materialist, a conscious adherent of the materialism represented by Marx, i.e., he must be a dialectical materialist.” (Lenin, On the Significance of Militant Materialism)

M. V. LOMONOSOV (1711-1765) (polymath, universal genius)

Mikhail Lomonosov lived long before the Soviet Union, but deserves mention because he was recognized as the greatest Russian scientist in history. Lomonosov was a universal genius, contributing to practically every field of science: chemistry, biology, physics, minerology, optics, astronomy, as well as history, art and linguistics. He founded modern geology and influenced the formation of the modern Russian written language. Among his discoveries were the atmosphere of Venus and the conservation of mass in chemical reactions. His work was profoundly materialistic.

In 1940 the Moscow State University (which Lomonosov had founded) was renamed to Lomonosov University.

The great Soviet geologist A. Fersman said about Lomonosov:

“Dozens of books and hundreds of articles were written about Lomonosov; the most prominent investigators, scientists, writers and poets devoted their best pages to the analysis of this giant of Russian thought and it is still impossible to exhaust this subject, because the genius of Mikhail Lomonosov, this Arkhangelsk pomor was so great and profound…

Courage, resolve and daring bordering on stormy fantasy, a thirst to know everything, down to the root of things and to the source of all sources, and a capacity for profound philosophical analysis in combination with a brilliant ability to conduct experiments, without which he could not think of science, were some of Lomonosov’s traits. And whereas seven cities of antiquity debated the honour of keeping Homer’s grave, more than a dozen different sciences and arts arc lighting for the main heritage’ of Lomonosov: physics and chemistry, mineralogy and crystallography, geochemistry and physical chemistry, geology and mining, geography and meteorology, astronomy and astrophysics, regional science and economics, history, literature, philology and engineering. To be sure, Lomonosov was, as Pushkin was wont to say: a “whole university’’ in himself.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, pp. 347-348)

“Geochemistry for everyone” by A. Fersman contains information on Lomonosov’s work on chemistry, geology, minerology etc. especially the chapter “From the history of chemical ideas”.

K. A. TIMIRYAZEV (1843-1920) (Botanist, Physiologist, Darwinist)

Timiriazev was the biggest defender of Darwinism in Russia and was a true communist and a true scientist. As someone who deeply understood Darwinism, he was among the first to strongly criticize the reactionary Malthusian aspects in Darwinism. Timiryazev also was quick to recognize that the scientific merit of mendelism was extremely exaggerated, and that mendelism was used to attack Darwinism.

The Life Of The Plant by K. A. Timiryazev
“Mendel” (article for encyclopedia “Pomegranet”) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
“Luther Burbank” (article for encyclopedia “Pomegranet”) (in Russian, but auto-translate works)

The Baltic Deputy (1936) A very good movie inspired by the life of Timiryazev.

The great Soviet biologist T. D. Lysenko said:
“Eminent biologists, like V. O. Kovalevsky, I. I. Mechnikov, V. M. Sechenov and particularly K. A. Timiryazev, defended and developed Darwinism with all the passion of true scientists.” (The Situation in the Science of Biology,1948)

V. O. KOVALEVSKY (1842-1883) (Paleontologist, Darwinist)

Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky carried out important scientific work and translated many works of Darwin into Russian for the first time. His brother Alexander Kovalevsky, an embryologist, was also a significant materialist scientist.

On the Osteology of the Hyopotamidae by V. O. Kovalevsky

A. O. KOVALEVSKY (1840-1901, embryologist, Darwinist)

Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky was an important materialist scientist.

“Alexander Kovalevsky, the famous embryologist… trained the students to have clear materialist ideas…” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 74)

I. I. MECHNIKOV (1845-1916) (Zoologist, Immunologist, Darwinist)

Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov was also deeply influenced by Darwin’s work and helped propagate it. He discovered phagocytes and received a Nobel prize in physiology in 1908 for his work on immunity.

“Nikolai Umov, the physicist, and Alexander Kovalevsky, the famous embryologist… trained the students to have clear materialist ideas, taught them to seek in the external world for the causes of internal changes, as Sechenov had done when he proved that the external world determines the character of the higher nervous activity of animals and man, as Mechnikov and Pasteur had done when they explained the role of the external world in the origin and spread of diseases.

The higher course students remembered how Mechnikov had once begun one of his lectures with the words:

“There is a disease which causes restriction in man’s field of vision. First he sees everything round him, then what might be called blinkers form round his eyes. Finally he can only distinguish one shining point in front of him.”

Mechnikov said no more for a moment but narrowly watched his audience. Then he concluded:

“If some scientists voluntarily inflict this disease on themselves, by concerning themselves only with their own narrow speciality, their own subject of observation, one can definitely forecast that they will create nothing truly great or truly important for humanity.”” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, pp. 74-75)

Works of Mechnikov:
Immunity in infective diseases
The experimental prophylaxis of syphilis [with Maisonneuve & Roux]
The prolongation of life : optimistic studies
The new hygiene : three lectures on the prevention of infectious diseases
The nature of man : studies in optimistic philosophy
On the comparative pathology of inflammation (Lectures delivered at the Pasteur Institute in 1891)
Embryologische Studien an Medusen. Ein Beitrag zur Genealogie der Primitiv-organe

A. N. SEVERTSOV (1866-1936, biologist)

Aleksey Nikolaevich Severtsov was an influential Soviet biologist, founder of the evolutionary morphology of animals.

Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1920), Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1925), Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR (1925), founder of the Russian school of evolutionary morphologists . The Institute of Evolutionary Morphology and Ecology of Animals of the USSR Academy of Sciences is named after him.

T. D. Lysenko and I. I. Prezent promoted Severtsov’s legacy and protected it from distortions.

(often called ‘Lysenkoism’)

I. V. MICHURIN (botanist, plant-breeder)

Before the October Revolution Ivan Michurin lived in economic difficulties which hindered his scientific research. He still created countless new plant varieties and American corporations tried to hire him. However, he did not want to leave his homeland. After the revolution his scientific work began on a bigger scale. He developed a truly materialist concept of heredity and had a deep and creative understanding of Darwin’s discoveries. Afterwards he was attacked by the capitalists, aristocratic scientists and out-of-touch dogmatists.

Michurin (1948) A nice Soviet film about the life and career of I. V. Michurin. Click the CC button for subtitles.

T. D. LYSENKO (agrobiologist)

Trofim Lysenko developed many scientific theories and concepts which became highly useful. His early research on vernalization and the theory of phasic development were recognized by the scientific community. Lysenko developed and applied the discoveries of Michurin. He opposed all idealism, dogmatism and separation of theory from practice. For Lysenko, practice was always the criterion of truth.

Lysenko came into conflict with snob-scientists who did not want to focus on real life problems. Lysenko came into conflict with the supporters of mendelian genetics (so-called ‘orthodox genetics’ invented by the Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel). For this reason Lysenko is attacked today. His critics claim that “Lysenko did not believe in genes”. However, this is a falsehood. Lysenko disagreed with the mendelists’ idealist definition of genes. For the mendelists, heredity (genes) were totally separate and isolated from the organism, they could not be influenced or altered by changes to the organism or to its living conditions. The genes were conceptualized as indestructible – even immortal – by idols of the mendelists such as August Weismann. Lysenko could not agree with these idealist, metaphysical and mystical notions.

For Lysenko, heredity was a more complicated interaction between the chromosomes and the DNA, the entire organism, and its environment. The heredity of an organism cannot be reduced to isolated genes, and these genes cannot be seen as unchanging. Lysenko produced significant discoveries. He helped reduce effects of plant-disease, contributed significantly to preventing famine during WWII, demonstrated the harmful effects of inbreeding in agriculture and combated distortions of darwinism. Lysenko promoted the theoretical developments of Michurin, Timiryazev, V. R. Williams and others, and systematized them to what he called Michurinist Agrobiology, or Soviet Creative Darwinism. Lysenko and his colleagues invented new agricultural techniques, new plant varieties and considerably improved agricultural yields.

Lysenko disagreed with the idea that animals evolve purely individualistically. He said that mutual aid of animals of the same species living in the same group or herd, is just as important (if not more important) than competition. Lysenko’s view was shared by the great Darwinist Timiriazev, but it is considered heretical by western “neo-darwinists”.

Lysenko also disagreed with the notion invented by western mendelist Thomas Morgan, that evolution and heredity are completely random. Lysenko said there must be reasons and laws governing evolution, mainly environmental factors, and heredity must also be influenced by the environment. Lysenko said that if heredity was completely random, we could never breed any plants or animals. His opinion was shared by Michurin who famously said: “We cannot simply wait for favors from nature, we have to wrest them from her”. Michurin meant that agriculturists must use scientific methods to breed new plants, instead of merely waiting for results from the supposedly random processes. For all these reasons Lysenko was attacked by his opponents.

Lysenko strongly opposed using western inbred corn, because it was unsuitable to Soviet conditions, unsustainable and risky. He was proven correct when Khrushchev’s attempt to use western inbred corn in the USSR failed completely. Western farming methods have been shown to be risky, prone to pests without constant use of massive amounts of poisons, and ecologically unsustainable.

Later I will write a full article about Lysenko (with sources) and debunk many of the myths about him.

The Great Force (1950) is another nice film about Michurinist biology.

Land In Bloom by V. Safonov (pdf) (archive) (An excellent and entertaining history of biological sciences from before Darwin to Soviet Science. Recommended reading)

(book by Alliance ML. This book has a lot of good information and debunks many lies about Lysenko. It is one of the better books available on the topic. However, the book also makes many mistakes, relies on bad, unreliable capitalist sources, and in particular gets the section on Lepishinskaya entirely wrong – and only due to relying on bad sources!)

The Fundamentals of Michurin Biology by V. N. Stoletov (Audiobook)

I.V. Michurin – the great transformer of nature by A. N. Bakharev (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

The philosophical significance of the theoretical legacy of I.V. Michurin by A. A. Rubashevsky (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

Fly-lovers and human-haters by Prof. A. N. Studitski (Russian) (English)

Works of Lysenko:
Agrobiology: essays on problems of genetics, plant breeding and seed growing
Theory of Vernalization (1935)
Plant Breeding and the Theory of Phasic Development of Plants (1935) with I. I. Prezent
Intravarietal Crossing and Mendel’s so called “Law” of Segregation (1938)
Hereditary Constitution
Controlling the nature of plants (1940)
Converting Winter Wheat (1940)
Degeneration of Potatoes (1943)
Improving potatoes by culture
Vegetative Hybrids (1946)
Soil Nutrition of Plants (1953)
Distant Hybrids (1954)
Sunflowers and Broom Rape (1954)
Hybrid Maize (1955)
Soviet Biology: Report to the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences (1948)
New Developments in the Science of Biological Species (1951)

Works of Michurin:
The results of sixty years of work (1949) (text) (archive) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Principles and methods of work (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Breeding new cultivated varieties of fruit trees and shrubs from seeds (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Selected Works of Michurin (English) (Russian)
Seeds, their life and preservation (1915)
The Orchid Lily (1915)
Pyrus elaeagnifolia (1915)
Noodle Squash (1925)
Improving pear trees by layering (1929)
Layering Tubes (1929)
Vegetative Approximation (1929)
Age and condition of parents (1929)
Frost-resistant Peaches (1929)
High Atmospheric Pressure (1929)
Breeding Apples
Vegetative Pear (1932)
Short-Season Grapes (1934)
Selection of Seedlings (1934)
Actinidia varieties (Kiwi fruit)
Hybridizing (1952)
Pear grafted on Lemon (1952)

Hansen on Michurin and Tsitsin (1941)
Liang: China’s Achievements in Michurin Genetics (1959)
Konstantinova: Michurin methods, alfalfa (1960)

Works of Luther Burbank: (An American plant-breeder, who was widely respected in the USSR)
Luther Burbank (biography) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Luther Burbank. Wilbur Hall. Harvest of life (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Selected Works of L. Burbank (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Beach Plum, Prunus maritima (1901)
Crinums (1912)
California Poppies (1914)
California Poppies part 2 (1914)
Burbank, Wilks: Shirley Poppies
Walnuts (1914)
Giant Winter Rhubarb (1914)
Raspberry-Blackberry Hybrids (1914)
White Blackberry (1914)
Raspberry x Strawberry Hybrids (1914)
Domesticating the Camassias (1914)
Heuchera micrantha, curled leaf (1914)
Corn Selection – Illinois (1914)
Fatherless Beans (1914)
Shasta Daisies (1914)
Stamen Counters (1914)
Stoneless Plums (1914)
Plum hybrids with Prunus maritima & P. besseyi (1914)
Sunberry (1914)
Hybrids of pears with apples, quinces (1914)
Papago Sweet Corn (1919)
Sorghum Pop (1920)

Smith: New Winter Rhubarb (1903)
Harwood: Burbank’s California Poppies (1905)
Bland: Burbank’s Winter Rhubarb (1915)
Howard: Burbank the Pariah — of Scientists (1945/6)

Academician N. F. Kashchenko is an outstanding Michurinist biologist (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Memories of N.F. Kashchenko (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
M. V. Ritov. Selected works (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
The Green laboratory by B. Dizhur (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

Finnish works on Michurinism:
Darwin and the continuers of his work by Erkki Rautee (translated by myself)
On living matter and its transition to cell form by Heikki Kuusinen (translated by myself)
Capitalism threatens humanity with starvation by A. Hulkkonen (translated by myself)
“Excerpt against eugenics” (translated by myself)

OLGA LEPESHINSKAYA (microbiologist)

O. Lepeshinskaya was a michurinist biologist who studied the development of cells. She demonstrated how cells developed during their lives, and how living matter organized itself.

There is an article on Lepeshinskaya in In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

A. N. STUDITSKY (medical biologist)

Studitsky particularly studied regeneration and wound-healing. He applied michurinist teachings to his work and demonstrated their validity in practice: he successfully regenerated muscles from minced tissues, and managed to re-grow completely healthy avian bones from small fragments.

Studitsky’s achievements are impressive but they’ve been acknowledged even by modern-day capitalist researchers, for example:

Relationship Between the Tissue and Epimorphic Regeneration of Muscles, Carlson
The Regeneration of Skeletal Muscle – A Review, Carlson
Types of Morphogenetic Phenomena in Vertebrate Regenerating Systems, Carlson

List of some scientific papers and articles by Studitsky

A. I. OPARIN (biochemist)

Alexander Oparin was a biochemist who studied the origins of life from non-living matter. In 1924 he presented the hypothesis that life has emerged through the chemical evolution of carbon based molecules in the so-called ‘primordial soup’. Throughout his career Oparin further developed this idea. He showed convincingly how life emerged naturally without the need for any kind of supernatural creator. Oparin refuted both idealist vitalism and mechanistic models, and defended the correctness of dialectical materialism.

There is an article on Oparin in In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

Works of Oparin:
The Origin Of Life (1952)
The Origin Of Life (1955)
The origin of life on the earth (1957)

ISAAK PREZENT (Michurinist, Philosopher)

Prezent was one of the most important michurinist philosophers of science and a close collaborator of T. D. Lysenko.

Embryo Culture (1948)
Vegetative Tomato Hybrid (1948)

И. В. Мичурин и его учение, Презент, Исаак Израилевич [I. V. Michurin and his doctrine, Isaak Prezent]

G. V. PLATONOV (1918-2006, Michurinist, Philosopher of science)

I. GLUSHCHENKO (biologist)

Doctor of Agriculture Science; Professor; Director, Laboratory of Plant Genetics, Institute of Genetics, USSR Academy of Science, since 1939; member, All Union Lenin Academy, of Agriculture Science, since 1956. Order of Red Banner of Labor; two Stalin Prizes, 1943, 1950. Member of the Communist Party since 1938.

ВЕГЕТАТИВНАЯ ГИБРИДИЗАЦИЯ РАСТЕНИЙ [Vegetative hybridization of plants] (1948)
The importance of vegetative hybridization to understanding the heredity of plants (1950)
Glushchenko: Polyfertilization (1957)

N. I. NUZHDIN (biologist)

Graduated from the Yaroslavl Pedagogical Institute in 1929, employee of the Institute of Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR since 1935. Received the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1945). In 1949-1952 he headed the Department of Zoology at the K. A. Timiryazev Agricultural Academy in Moscow.

D. A. DOLGUSHIN (biologist)

Agrobiologist and selectionist. Doctor of Agriculture Science since 1936; full member, All-Union Lenin Academy, of Agriculture Science, since 1948. Stalin Prize, 1941; Order of Red Banner of Labor.

V. N. STOLETOV (biologist)

The Fundamentals of Michurin Biology by V. N. Stoletov (Audiobook)
List of some scientific papers and articles by Stoletov

N. V. TURBIN (biologist)

Oddities of Segregation (1948)
List of some scientific papers and articles by Turbin

I. D. KOLESNIK (1900-1953, agrobiologist)

Ivan Danilovich Kolesnik graduated from the Poltava Agricultural Institute (1931), researcher at the Research Institute of Fruit and Berry Farming of the Ukrainian SSR (1931-1935), senior researcher at the Ukrainian Institute of Selection (1935-1938), experimental base of the All-Union Agricultural Academy of Agricultural Sciences “Gorki Leninskie” (1939-1941), All-Union Agricultural Academy of Agricultural Sciences (1941-1946). At the same time, in 1942-1946, deputy head of the Main Directorate of the Vegetable Rubber Industry of the People’s Commissariat of the Rubber Industry of the USSR.

Since 1946, director of the Research Institute of Natural Rubber, since 1947, head of the laboratory of mass-production experiments of the All-Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Candidate of Agricultural Sciences (1937), Academician of VASKhNIL (1948).

I. D. Kolesnik was awarded the Great Gold Medal of the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition (1939), the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1940), the Stalin Prize (1943) and the medal “For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War” (1946)

“As far as the hill sowing of kok-saghyz is concerned, I only suggested the idea. For the elaboration and practical application of this method credit must be given to Stalin Prize winner I. D. Kolesnik and to the collective-farm members of Kiev Region.” (Lysenko, Why bourgeois science is up in arms against the work of Soviet scientists, Agrobiology, p. 511)

A. A. AVAKIAN (1907-1966, Michurinist Biologist)

Colleague of T. D. Lysenko. Graduated from Yerevan Agricultural Institute (1931). He worked as an agronomist-cotton grower at the Sardarpat state farm of the Armenian SSR (1931-1932). Postgraduate student of the All-Russian Research Institute of Plant Growing (1932-1935). Senior researcher, head of the department of genetics of the All-Union Research Institute of Selection and Genetics (1936-1939). Head of the genetics department of the experimental base of the All-Union Agricultural Academy of Agricultural Sciences “Gorki Leninskie” (1939-1941). Head of the Laboratory of Plant Genetics at the Institute of Genetics of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1941-1944). Senior researcher, head of the potato department of the Moldavian Agricultural Complex Experimental Station of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Moldavian SSR (1944-1946). Head of the laboratory of genetics, and. O. director, senior researcher at the experimental base of the All-Union Agricultural Academy of Agricultural Sciences “Gorki Leninskie” (1946-1966).

Doctor of Agricultural Sciences (1941)
Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1946)
Full member of VASKhNIL (1948)

Avakian was awarded the following prizes:
Laureate of the Stalin Prize (1941, 1951)
Order of Lenin (1949)
Order of the Badge of Honor (1939)
Small Gold Medal of the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition (1939)

N. V. TSITSIN (botanist, biologist)

“Academician Tsitsin, by crossing wheat with couch grass, produced a new variety of perennial wheat that is impervious to drought. In a conversation he had with Academician Tsitsin, Comrade Stalin said: “Be bolder in your experiments, we will support you.” (A History of the USSR, ed. A. M. Pankratova (1948) vol.3, p. 380)

Hansen on Michurin and Tsitsin (1941)

M. F. IVANOV (1871-1935, animal breeder)

Mikhail Fedorovich Ivanov was a significant Soviet animal breeder, teacher. He was one of the founders of the zootechnical experimentation industry in the USSR. He was awarded the Honored Worker of Science and Technology of the RSFSR in 1929 and was elected to the position of academician of VASKhNIL in 1935.

“Academician V. R. Williams contributed a great deal to the theory of agrobiology in the sphere of agronomy, as has Academician M. F. Ivanov in the field of animal husbandry.” (Lysenko, Engels and certain problems of darwinism, Agrobiology, p. 350)

V. L. KOMAROV (1869-1945, botanist)

Botanist Vladimir Leontievich Komarov was awarded numerous awards such as Hero of Socialist Labor (10/13/1944), three orders of Lenin (1939, 1944, 1945) and two first degree Stalin Prizes in 1941 for the work “The doctrine of the species in plants” and in 1942 as part of a team for the work “On the development of the national economy of the Urals in war conditions”. Komarov was the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences since 1936 to his death in 1945.

CHAGANAK BERSIYEV (1881-1944, agricultural innovator)

“The late Chaganak Bersiyev, a Kazakh collective-farm member and one of the foremost millet growers, achieved most admirable results. He obtained yields for millet that have not been matched anywhere in the world for any grain whatever, namely, 1,200 to 1,300 poods per hectare. This record even surpassed the yields that theoretical calculations had forecast as the highest possible.” (Lysenko, The tasks of the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the USSR, Agrobiology, p. 494)

“The western part of north Kazakhstan is famous for its millet. It was here, in the Aktyubinsk Region, that the Kazakh collective farmer Chaganak Bersiev raised the record crop of 20.1 tons of millet per hectare in 1943. (This is roughly equivalent to 9 short tons per acre.) Before the advance of the collective farms the soil in these parts of the country yielded no more than about three-tenths of a ton of millet per hectare—less than one-sixtieth of Bersiev’s record.

Calculating the amount of solar energy a plant is capable of absorbing, the celebrated Russian scientist Williams maintained that it is possible to raise the yield of cereals to over 8 tons per acre. This would appear fantastic, but Soviet collective farmer Bersiev, has not only justified Williams’ forecast, but has even surpassed it. And this peasant was a Kazakh, a representative of the people whom the tsarist colonizers considered incapable of pursuing field husbandry. Bersiev’s initiative has developed into a nationwide movement. The collective farmers have been won over en masse to advanced agrotechnical methods of millet cultivation.” (N. Mikhailov, The sixteen republics of the Soviet Union, pp. 63-64)

Bersiyev was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1940.

V. P. BUSHINSKY (1885-1960, agrobiologist)

Vladimir Petrovich Bushinsky was a Russian scientist in the field of soil science and agriculture. Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1939), Academician of the All-Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences (1948). Honored Worker of Science and Technology of the RSFSR (1937).

“He graduated from the Moscow Agricultural Institute (1911), in 1906-1915 he participated in the research work of the Department of Soil Science.

Since 1914, associate professor at the Higher Courses for the Training of Specialists in Meadow Growth. Since 1916 professor. In 1916-1922 head. chair of soil science of the Saratov Agricultural Institute, at the same time in 1918-1921 professor and dean of the agronomic faculty of Saratov University .

In 1921-1928 in the bodies of the People’s Commissariat for Education of the RSFSR . Simultaneously with 1922 head of the Department of Soil Science of the Moscow Forestry Institute and Professor of the Department of Soil Science of the Moscow Agricultural Academy.

From 1922 to 1951 he was director of the All-Union Institute of Agrosoil Science, the Institute for the Study of Salt and Irrigated Lands, and head of the Soil and Biological Laboratory of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Since 1939, head of the Department of Soil Science of the Moscow Agricultural Academy.

Doctor of Agricultural Sciences (1937).

In 1948, he sharply criticized the work of the Soil Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, in the spirit of the decisions of the August session of the All-Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.” (Wikipedia)

He was given the following awards:

3 orders of the Red Banner of Labor
2 orders of the Red Star
Order of the Badge of Honor
Honored Worker of Science and Technology of the RSFSR (1937)
Medal of the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition

T. S. MALTSEV (1895-1994, agrotechnician)

Terenty Semyonovich Maltsev is famous for developing a new system of plowing. In WWI Maltsev was imprisoned by the Germans and in 1919 together with other prisoners he created the Russian section of the Communist Party of Germany. He returned to the USSR and in the 1920s he acted as a village council chairman and started his work on farming technique. In the 1920s he created a farming cooperative with other villagers. He joined the CPSU(B) in 1939. Maltsev was self-taught and his personal library consisted of thousands of books. He was elected an honorary academician.

He has received the following awards:

Hero of Socialist Labor (1955 and 1975)
Hammer and Sickle Gold Medal (1955 and 1975)
Six Orders of Lenin (1942, 1955, 1966, 1973, 1975, 1985)
Order of the October Revolution (1971)
Orders of the Red Banner of Labor (1949 and 1972)
Order of the Badge of Honor (1957)
Medal “For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945”
Large gold medal of the All- Union Agricultural Exhibition (1940)
Large gold medal named after I. V. Michurin (1954)
Honored Worker of Agriculture of the USSR (1983)
Stalin Prize of the third degree, 1946 – for improving the varieties of grain and vegetable crops and for the development and implementation of advanced agrotechnical farming methods in agriculture, which ensured high yields in the arid Trans-Urals
W. R. Williams Prize, (1973)
Order of the “Star of Friendship of Peoples” in gold, 1986, German Democratic Republic
Honorary Academician of VASKhNIL (1956)
Honorary citizen of Russia and diploma of the Council of the Russian Chamber – for special services to the people “in the preservation and development of the best traditions of the Russian peasantry”, (1992)
Honorary citizen of the Kurgan region (2003)
Honorary citizen of the city of Shadrinsk (1975)
In 1989, the grain growers of the Central Aimag of Mongolia established a prize named after. T. S. Maltsev.


V. D. OGIEVSKY (1861-1921), G. N. VYSOTSKY (1865-1940) & G. F. MOROZOV (1867-1920)

Vasily Dmitrievich Ogievsky, Georgy Nikolaevich Vysotsky and Georgy Fedorovich Morozov, were the top forestry experts of pre-revolutionary Russia. Vysotsky also worked with the Soviet state. They supported progressive policies such as nationalization of forests. They followed the theories of V. Dokuchaev.

“Some forestry experts like Morozov, Vysotsky and Ogiyevsky, who were well acquainted with forest life, made correct practical recommendations but at that time it was beyond their power to change biological theory, to throw overboard the reactionary thesis of intraspecific struggle. Therefore, the practical recommendations of these scientists were shelved indefinitely while the false theoretical propositions on forest cultivation persisted until the recent past.” (Lysenko, Agrobiology, p. 565)

“”These observations were the occasion for a special report by G. N. Vysotsky in 1893 in which he developed his idea that underbrush should be introduced instead of elms. In his opinion the underbrush would shade the soil during the first few years, the same as the elms did, but would not choke off the oaks.” [M. K. Tursky’s textbook Silviculture (1929)]

I have quoted this passage from Tursky’s textbook in order to show that In practice some foresters discerned, practically sensed, the existence of interspecific struggle and mutual assistance. They also knew that different species under different conditions behave differently toward each other. Practical forest cultivation shows that combinations of secondary forest-tree species must be chosen with skill so that they may help and not hinder the dominant species, such as oaks and pines.” (Lysenko, Agrobiology, p. 566)

“Some foresters recommended that oaks be sown or planted not singly but patchwise. Ogiyevsky, true enough, experimented in patchwise sowing of oak on a rather large scale, on hundreds of hectares, not for the steppe but for the forest zone (Tulskiye Zaseki). He sowed about 200 acorns on each 2 sq. m. patch. He saw and realized that in a forest zone the oaks’ chief enemy is the aspen and in order to protect the oak from the aspen he sowed the former thickly in patches in the expectation that a great number of oak sprouts on a small patch of land would be able to withstand the pressure of other species. As we know, this experiment of Ogiyevsky’s proved a splendid success.

That Ogiyevsky’s experiment in thickly planting forests patchwise should be made use of in our practical work is not the only point here. This old-time experiment also implies that its author realized from his observation of forest life that what existed in nature was not intraspecific but interspecific competition while in science false theses continued to exist.” (Lysenko, Agrobiology, p. 566)


The political economy of hybrid corn (a critique of hybrid corn) by Jean-Pierre Berlan & R.C. Lewontin. The authors follow mendelism, but this is a good article.
The commoditization of science (a critique of profit-motive in science) by Richard Levins & Richard Lewontin. The authors follow mendelism, but this is a good article. [Audio version]
Stalin’s Environmentalism by Stephen Brain. This is a bourgeois article but it demonstrates the environmental protection (of forests in particular) in the Stalin era.


VASILY DOKUCHAEV (1846-1903, geologist, pioneer of ecology, founder of modern soil science)

V. Dokuchaev was the founder of modern Soil Science. He lived before the Soviet Union, however his work was continued by Soviet scientists. The weakening quality of soil in the Russian Empire and resulting famines inspired Dokuchaev to create modern soil science. He had to struggle against the Tsarist authorities. His work was continued and further developed by Soviet scientists, particularly Vasily R. Williams and T. D. Lysenko.

Dokuchaev discovered the reasons for the weakening of soil fertility. The reasons were related to depletion, climate change and structure of the soil. He began to understand the soil as an interrelated process of chemical, biological and hydrological factors. He advocated the planting of large forest shelter-belts to halt desertification and climate change. This plan started to be implemented in the Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature, but was cancelled by revisionists after Stalin’s death.

Dokuchaev also advocated protection of forests and waters in order to protect nature, the soil, climate, and as a result also the fragile agriculture of Russia. These protections were implemented only in the Stalin era but dismantled by revisionists immediately after Stalin’s death.

During his research of the Russian Chernozem Dokuchaev began to understand the soil as an evolving phenomena with a history. This concept of the evolution of soil was the crucial thing which helped V. I. Vernadsky make his discoveries.

The Fundamentals of Michurin Biology by V. N. Stoletov (Audiobook) contains information on the career and discoveries of Dokuchaev.

Tchernozéme (terre noire) de la Russie d’Europe (Dokuchaev’s famous work Russian Chernozem in French)
Short scientific review of Proffessor Dokuchaev’s and his pupil’s collection of soils, exposed in Chicago, in the year 1893

P. A. KOSTYCHEV (1845-1895, one of the founders of soil science)

P. A. Kostychev together with Dokuchaev helped create modern soil science, which was continued by Soviet scientists, particularly Vasily R. Williams and his co-workers.

K. K. GEDROYTS (1872-1932 soil scientist, agrochemist)

Konstantin Kaetanovich Gedroyts (sometimes spelled Gedroitz) is the founder of colloidal soil chemistry.

Graduated from the St. Petersburg Forestry Institute in 1898. Received the title of Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the Department of Physical and Mathematical Sciences in 1927. The same year, he was elected president of the International Association of Soil Scientists and awarded the Lenin Prize.

Was elected Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the Department of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (soil science , agronomic chemistry) in 1929. Became Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR in 1930. He was also a Corresponding Member of the Czechoslovak Agricultural Academy.

“Academician K. Gedroitz, well-known soil scientist, was the first to divine the geochemical nature of the soil. He found in it the particles which retain different metals, especially potassium, and demonstrated that the fertility of the soil in large measure depended on the potassium atoms which are so lightly and so loosely connected with it that each plant cell could absorb these atoms and make use of them for its own life. And it is by absorbing these lightly-bound, seemingly free-hanging, potassium atoms that the plant develops its sprouts.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 147)

VASILY R. WILLIAMS (1863-1939, soil scientist, ecologist)

Well-known Russian scientist, soil researcher, grassland ecologist, agronomist, one of the founders of agricultural soil science. Head of Timiryazev Academy in 1907-1908 and 1922-1925. Williams developed the travopol’e system which protected soil and increased agricultural yields by planting grasses and other protective plants.

He was awarded the Order of Lenin, was elected into the Supreme Soviet, and was a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences

The teaching of Williams was synthesized together with the teachings of I. V. Michurin, into Michurinist agrobiology, Soviet Creative Darwinism.

The Fundamentals of Michurin Biology by V. N. Stoletov (Audiobook) contains information on the career and discoveries of Williams.

“Prof. V. R. Williams” by E. John Russell (written on the occasion of the death of Williams)

P. A. TUTKOVSKY (Geologist)

Pavel Apollonovich Tutkovsky (biography) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Autobiography of P. A. Tutkovsky (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Bibliography of P. A. Tutkovsky (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

Works of P. A. Tutkovsky:
Fossil deserts of the northern hemisphere (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Geological research along the Kiev-Kovel railway under construction (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Volyn excursion guide (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Geographical reasons for the invasions of the barbarians (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Natural distribution of Ukraine (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Amber in the Volyn province (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Who didn’t like the landscapes of Ukraine (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Coast of the Lva River (Geographical and geological description) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
The oldest mining industry in Volyn (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Glossary of geological terminology (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Landscapes of Ukraine (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Caucasian beauty Azalea (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Geological outline of Vladimir-Volynsky, Kovelsky and Ovruchsky districts of Volyn province (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Southwestern edge. Popular natural history and geographical essays (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

N. S. KURNAKOV (1860-1941, chemist, geochemist)

Nikolai Semyonovich Kurnakov is internationally recognized as the originator of physicochemical analysis. He also was one of the principal founders of the platinum industry in the USSR. A chemical reaction that he pioneered, known as the Kurnakov test, is still used to differentiate cis from trans isomers of divalent platinum and is his best-known contribution to coordination chemistry.

Kurnakov was a colleague of D. I. Mendeleev. He received several prizes for his work, for example, the Mendeleev Prize in 1936, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour in 1939 and the Stalin Prize in 1941. The mineral kurnakovite was named in his honor.

Kurnakovplayed an important role in finding the first potassium deposits in the USSR. The discovery was made while Kurnakov was working in the laboratory on the composition of salt from old Permian salt-works. After Kurnakov found a high potassium content in the salt, Geologist P. I. Preobrazhensky carried out the test borings which confirmed the discovery. He became famous for this potassium deposit, which is the largest in the world.

P. I. PREOBRAZHENSKY (1874-1944, geologist)

Pavel Ivanovich Preobrazhensky is famous as discoverer of the world’s largest deposit of potassium-magnesium salts (Verkhnekamskoe). This discovery was made based on the initial findings of N. S. Kurnakov.

Preobrazhensky worked in the territory controlled by white general Kolchak in 1919-20 and was appointed as minister of public education. As a result he was arrested by the Reds and sentenced to forced labor when Kolchak was defeated. However, Maxim Gorky and V. I. Lenin intervened on his behalf. He was given the opportunity to serve the proletariat through his scientific work. He became professor in 1922 and was the head of the Departments of Geology and Mineralogy of Perm University in 1923-1924. He became Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences in 1935. He made the famous potassium discovery in 1934. He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor in 1934 and the Order of the Badge of Honor in 1944.

“Russian explorers tried for many years to find potassium deposits in Russia. Individual conjectures proved fruitless until the persistent work of a whole school of young chemists supervised by Academician N. Kurnakov resulted in the discovery of the world’s largest potassium deposits. The discovery was accidental, but accidents in science are usually the result of long and laborious preparation, while the “accidental discovery” is nearly always merely the last step in the lengthy struggle for the effectuation of a definite idea and a reward for a protracted and persistent search.

This also holds true of the discovery of potassium. Academician Kurnakov had studied the country’s salt-lakes for many decades and his mind persistently searched for the remains of the ancient potassium lakes. While working in the laboratory on the composition of salt from old Permian salt-works Nikolai Kurnakov noticed in some cases a high potassium content.

On a visit to one of the salt-works he observed a small piece of brown-red mineral which reminded him of the red potassium salts, the carnallites of the German deposits. True, the personnel of the salt-works were not sure where this piece had come from and whether it had not been from the collection of the salts they had received from Germany. But Academician Kurnakov took the piece, put it in his pocket and went to Leningrad.

Upon analysis he found much to everybody’s surprise that the piece was potassium chloride. The first strike was made, but that was not enough; it was still necessary to prove that this piece of potassium had come from the entrails of the Solikamsk earth and that there were large deposits there. A hole had to be bored, some salt extracted under the difficult conditions of the twenties and its composition studied.

P. Preobrazhensky, one of the most prominent geologists of the Geological Committee, undertook to do the work. He pointed out the necessity of boring deep holes, and soon these holes reached thick layers of potassium salts, thus opening a new era in the history of potassium over the entire surface of the earth… A small piece of brown-red salt noticed by the keen eye of a scientist in the laboratory of the works thus led to the solution of one of the greatest problems, the problem of potassium. The country was now in a position not only fully to provide the fields with fertilizer and to increase their yield, but also to create a new potassium industry and to produce the most diverse potassium salts so indispensable to chemical production.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, pp. 150-153)

V. I. VERNADSKY (1863-1945, mineralogist, founder of geochemistry, biogeochemistry and radiogeology)

Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, one of the founders of geochemistry, biogeochemistry, and radiogeology. He invented the concept of the ecological biosphere (though he wasn’t the first to coin the word itself). He is most noted for his 1926 book The Biosphere and was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1943.

The founders of geochemistry were Russian and Soviet scientists and the field of geochemistry was largely founded in the USSR. All the greatest discoveries of geochemistry were made by Soviet scientists.

“Geochemistry is still a young science and it has come to the fore mainly owing to the work of Soviet scientists.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 18)

“Soviet geochemistry has made such headway that it has quite deservedly won the most honourable place in world geochemical science. The basis for the Russian school of geochemistry was laid at Moscow University by academicians V. Vernadskv and A. Fersman” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 357)

However, A. Fersman notes in his book also the significance of American scientist F. Clarke (1847-1931) and the Norwegian scientists J. Vogt (1858-1932) and V. Moritz Goldschmidt for the birth of geochemistry. (Ibid. p. 357)

Geochemistry for everyone by A. Fersman contains information on Vernadsky, especially the chapter “From the history of chemical ideas”.

There is an article on Vernadsky in In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

P. A. KARPINSKY (1847-1936, Geologist)

Important Russian and Soviet geologist. President of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1917–1936. In 1947 (on the centenary of his birth) the Academy of Sciences of the USSR created the Karpinsky Gold Medal, awarded for outstanding contributions in the field of geology.

F. N. CHERNYSHOV (1856-1914, Geologist, Paleontologist)

Great geologist Feodosy Nikolayevich Chernyshov studied under Karpinsky. The Leningrad Central Geological Research Museum was named “The Chernyshov Museum” in his honor.

P. A. KROPOTKIN (1842-1921, Geographer, Zoologist)

Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a zoologist and geographer of aristocratic background. He turned his back on the aristocracy and influenced by utopian socialism became a revolutionary.

Kropotkin’s politics:
Kropotkin advocated anarcho-communism. Kropotkin never overcame his aristocratic individualism and utopianism which are evident in all his work and writing. However, he wrote effective (albeit utopian) critiques of capitalism and tsarism. After the February Revolution Kropotkin got entangled in opportunism and was supportive of the Mensheviks and Kerensky’s provisional government. After the Great October Socialist Revolution Kropotkin was in contacts with various menshevik, monarchist, capitalist and other reactionary anti-communist elements conspiring against the Soviet government, but he never entered into an active fight against the Bolsheviks. This is characteristic of Kropotkin’s softness, wavering wishy-washy utopianism, indecisiveness. Kropotkin was confused and wavered, hung out with reactionary elements. He did not want to betray the revolution but also did not understand it.

Kropotkin as a scientist:
Kropotkin sympathized with darwinism but fought strongly against malthusian ideas and social-darwinism. He was correct to do this, but did not do it from a firmly materialist, sufficiently scientific standpoint, but from a standpoint unfortunately influenced by his overall utopianism.

All the progressive scientists were seeing the reactionary stagnant nature of tsarism, and so did Kropotkin. Kropotkin made some significant discoveries in geology:

“This hypothesis of drifting, i.e., floating, ice persisted in science until the sixties or seventies of last century when some scientists, including Kropotkin, Russian geographer and revolutionary, advanced the hypothesis of continental glaciation. At first this hypothesis appeared monstrous because it was hard to conceive that all of Europe, down to London and Berlin, had formerly been covered with ice. But gradually such facts as moraines, outwash plains, eskers, crag and tails, and roches moutonnees, which the hypothesis of drifting could not explain, compelled everybody to accept the hypothesis of glaciation.

Subsequent detailed observations all over Europe and North America fully confirmed it and from a hypothesis it became a theory. But for a long time yet, almost up to the time of the October Socialist Revolution, while recognizing the glaciation of all of Europe and North America, scientists denied glaciation of the north of Asia (Siberia), believing that its climate was too continental for it, i.e., poor in atmospheric precipitations. But already 70 years ago the same Kropotkin discovered signs of
glaciation in several places in Siberia and assumed that the north of Asia had also gone through an ice age. Only the observations accumulated little by little forced everybody to recognize that Siberia, too, had been under an ice sheet.” (V. Obruchev, Fundamentals Of Geology, p. 161)

F. Y. LEVINSON-LESSING (1861-1939, Geologist)

Feodor Yulievich Levinson-Lessing graduated from the physico-mathematical faculty of the University of St. Petersburg in 1883, was placed in charge of the geological collection in 1886, and was appointed privat-docent at St. Petersburg University in 1889. In 1892 he became professor, and the next year dean, of the physico-mathematical faculty of Yuryev University. Aside from his work on petrography he published also essays in other branches of geology, the result of scientific journeys throughout Russia. He was influenced by V. Dokuchaev.

Works of Levinson-Lessing:
Petrographisches lexikon. Repertorium der petrographischen termini und benennungen
Геологический очерк усадьбы Южно-Заозерск на Северном Урале

B. B. GOLITSYN (physicist, one of the founders of seismology)

Boris Borisovich Golitsyn was a prominent Russian physicist who invented the first electromagnetic seismograph in 1906. He was one of the founders of modern Seismology. In 1911 he was chosen to be the president of the International Seismology Association. Despite his aristocratic background (he was a part of the small-gentry, member of one of the noble families with the most members) he was held in high regard in the USSR due to his extraordinary scientific discoveries.

“The studies of earthquake waves registered by sensitive instruments, called seismographs, clearly show that there are shells of different composition in the interior of the earth. The very sensitive instruments invented by B. Golitsyn, Soviet academician, has made it possible to detect not only the waves that travel the shortest route but also those which run around the entire globe and those that are reflected from the borders of layers of the earth of different densities, for example, from the core of the earth.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, pp. 275-276)

Y. V. SAMOILOV (1870-1925, mineralogist, geochemist, lithologist)

Yakov Vladimirovich Samoilov was a well-known Russian and Soviet minerologist. He studied under V. Vernadsky.

I. M. GUBKIN (1871-1939, Geologist)

Ivan Mikhailovich Gubkin was appointed to lead a government commission tasked to study the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly. The commission proved the relation between the anomaly and the nearby iron ore deposits. Gubkin joined the Communist Party in 1921. He was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1929, and served as its vice-president from 1936 to 1939. Gubkin’s book “The Study of Oil” (1932) developed theory on the origins of oil and the conditions necessary for the formation of oil deposits, and laid out the principles of oil geology. He led the studies of the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly from 1920 to 1925, which eventual led to the discovery of huge iron deposits. Gubkin was the editor of the journal Problems of Soviet Geology. During the first and second Five-Year Plans, he was chairman of the “Production Committee” of the Academy of Sciences (1930–1936). In 1936 he became Vice President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

He was awarded the Lenin Prize (1931), Order of Lenin (1937), Order of the Red Banner (1939).

A. D. ARKHANGELSKY (1879-1940, Geologist)

Andrey Dmitriyevich Arkhangelsky was a professor at Moscow State University, corresponding Member of the Division of Physical-Mathematical Sciences since 1925, and Academician of the Division of Physical-Mathematical Sciences since 1929. He won the Lenin Prize in 1928.

A. F. FERSMAN (1883-1945, Geologist)

Alexander Evgenʹevich Fersman. Prominent Soviet Russian mineralogist, and together with his teacher V. Vernadsky founded modern geochemistry in the USSR. He was a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1919–1945).

He was awarded the Lenin Prize (1929), Stalin Prize (1942), Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London (1943), and Order of the Red Banner of Labour. His name was given to the Fersman Mineralogical Museum, the minerals fersmite and fersmanite, a crater on the Moon, the research vessel RV Geolog Fersman, and streets in multiple Russian cities, including Moscow, Monchegorsk, and Apatity. Since 1946, the Soviet, and then Russian Academy of Sciences was giving the Fersman Award for outstanding research in geochemistry and mineralogy.

Russia’s treasure of diamonds and precious stones
Драгоценные и цветные камни России том 1 [“Precious stones of Russia vol. 1”]
Драгоценные и цветные камни России том 2 [“Precious stones of Russia vol. 2”]
Самоцветы России том 1 [“Gems of Russia vol. 1”]

M. M. PRIGOROVSKY (1881-1949, Geologist)

Mikhail Mikhailovich Prigorovsky headed the coal section of the Main Geological Directorate under the Presidium of the Supreme Economic Council. He conducted research and presented scientific papers, for example at the 17th International Geological Congress in Moscow in July 1937.

D. S. BELYANKIN (1876-1953, Geologist)

Dmitry Stepanovich Belyankin was director of the Institute of Geological Sciences (1945-1947), director of the Mineralogical Museum (1947-1952) and the Kola Base of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1948-1952). Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1943), member of the London Geological Society (1946). He was the author of hundreds of scientific papers and collaborated with F. Y. Levinson-Lessing.

Belyankin received two Orders of Lenin (1945 and 1946), the Wollaston Medal (1946), the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1951) and the A. P. Karpinsky gold medal (1949).

V. A. OBRUCHEV (1863-1956, Geologist)

Vladimir Afanasyevich Obruchev was Professor of the Tomsk Engineering Institute (1919–1921), Professor of the Taurida University in Simferopol (1918–1919), Professor of the Moscow Mining Academy (1921–1929); Member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1929); Chairman of the Committee on Permafrost Studies (since 1930); Director of the Institute of Permafrost Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (since 1939); Secretary of the Department of Geological and Geographical Sciences of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1942–1946); Honorary president of the Soviet Geographical Society (since 1948).

He was awarded The Przhevalsky Prize, Two Chikhachov Prizes from the French Academy of Sciences (1898 and 1925), The Constantine Medal of the Russian Geographical Society (1900), The first ever Karpinsky Gold Medal (1947), The Lenin Prize (1926), Two Stalin Prizes (1941, 1950), Five Orders of Lenin Order of the Red Banner of Labour, and numerous medals. Hero of Socialist Labor (1945).

He discovered many new minerals, wrote numerous books on science and also entertaining science-fiction.

Fundamentals Of Geology by V. Obruchev

D. I. SHCHERBAKOV (1893-1966, Geochemist)

Dmitry Ivanovich Shcherbakov was a Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences (1936), Professor (1946), Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1953). He was a long time friend and colleague of A. Fersman.

GEOLOGY IN THE U.S.S.R. by G. W. Tyrrell


D. I. MENDELEEV (1834-1907) (Chemist)

Dmitry Mendeleev lived before the Soviet Union, but in Soviet times he was lifted to legendary status and was recognized as the greatest Russian chemist of all time. Truly it wouldn’t be far-fetched to call Mendeleev the greatest chemist in world history. He is most well known for formulating the Periodic Law in chemistry, and creating the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, which is still used everywhere.

His discoveries gave additional proof of the correctness of the materialist conception and gave a shattering blow to metaphysics, as they demonstrated the unity of the material world. There are no absolutely separate, isolated and different elements, but all chemical elements consist of the same basic matter particles, only organized in different ways. Mendeleev’s discoveries provide strong proof of the law of transformation of quantity into quality, as adding or subtracting a given amount of atomic particles will give rise a to qualitatively different chemical element.

“Mendeleyev proved that various gaps occur in the series of related elements arranged according to atomic weights indicating that here new elements remain to be discovered. He described in advance the general chemical properties of one of these unknown elements, which he termed eka-aluminium, because it follows after aluminium in the series beginning with the latter, and he predicted its approximate specific and atomic weight as well as its atomic volume. A few years later, Lecoq de Boisbaudran actually discovered this element, and Mendeleyev’s predictions fitted with only very slight discrepancies. Eka-aluminium was realised in gallium… By means of the – unconscious – application of Hegel’s law of the transformation of quantity into quality, Mendeleyev achieved a scientific feat which it is not too bold to put on a par with that of Leverrier in calculating the orbit of the still unknown planet Neptune.” (Engels, Dialectics of Nature)

Despite being the greatest in his field Mendeleev was never elected to the Academy of Sciences in the Russian Empire, because the scientific establishment was dominated by elitist reactionaries. His merit was not sufficiently recognized by the Tsarist government. The Nobel Committee for Chemistry also refused Mendeleev’s nomination for several years in a row, because it was controlled by reactionaries who fought against Mendeleev’s discoveries. As a result he was never awarded the Nobel prize.

In the USSR the “D. I. Mendeleev Moscow Institute of Chemical Technology”, which had previously been named after Tsar Alexander II was renamed in Mendeleev’s honor.

Geochemistry for everyone by A. Fersman has a lot of information about Mendeleev.

A. M. BUTLEROV (1828-1886) (chemist)

Alexander Butlerov invented a materialistic model of chemistry. He argued against the agnosticism and mechanism of Kekulé’s theories. Butlerov argued that chemical formulas express the real structure of bonds between atoms, thus he opposed agnosticism. He argued that chemical bonds are not merely linked, but also interact reciprocally, thus he opposed mechanistic metaphysics. (see also “Criticism by modern materialist chemists of the idealistic theory of resonance-mesomerism” by B. M. Kedrov)

Butlerov’s work was continued by V. V. Markovnikov (1838-1904) and Soviet chemists used their work as a basis.

Important Soviet chemists include Alexander Nesmeyanov (chemist), Nikolay Dimitrievich Zelinsky (chemist), Alexander Vinogradov (geochemist).

L. A. CHUGAEV (1873-1922, chemist, bioghemist)

Lev Aleksandrovich Chugaev was a prominent early Soviet chemist. He was awarded a posthumous Lenin Prize in 1927

V. G. KHLOPIN (1890-1950, radiochemist)

Vitaly Grigorievich Khlopin was an academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1939), Hero of Socialist Labour (1949), and director of the Radium Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1939-1950). One of the founders of Soviet radiochemistry and radium industry and one of the founders of the Radium Institute and leading participants in the atomic project, founder of the school of Soviet radiochemists.

I. Y. BASHILOV (1892-1953, chemical technologist, metallurgist)

Ivan Yakovlevich Bashilov was sentenced to five years in prison for counter-revolutionary activities in 1938 but after serving his term he became a distinguished scientist. He was awarded the Order of the Badge of Honor (1945), medal “For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.” (1946), Stalin Prize of the second degree (1948) for the development and implementation of new methods of purification of valuable metals (together with N. D. Kuzhel and others).

N. D. KUZHEL (1906-1979, metallurgical engineer)

Nikolai Dmitrievich Kuzhel. After graduating from the Moscow Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals and Gold, he completed postgraduate studies at metallurgical plants in Norway. After returning to the USSR, he worked as the head of the Pilot Plant at the Mednogorsk Copper and Sulfur Combine, then at the Severonikel plant in Monchegorsk, and since 1941 at the Norilsk Combine. From May 1945 to 1955 – head of the Krasnoyarsk non-ferrous metal plant. He proposed a pyrometallurgical method for enrichment of raw materials with a low content of precious metals. During this period, the first platinum ingots were obtained, and the extraction of ruthenium began; mastered the method of melting palladium in a vacuum induction furnace and organized its production in ingots; a section for electric arc furnaces and a fractional electrolysis shop were created; the method of electrochemical production of rhodium was introduced.

He was awarded the Stalin Prize of the second degree (1948) for the development and implementation of new methods for the purification of valuable metals (together with I. Y. Bashilov and others)


A. I. Kitaigorodsky (physicist)
Grigory Aleksandrovich Gamburtsev (geophysicist, seismologist)

A. G. STOLETOV (1839-1896, physicist)

Soviet Stamp of A. G. Stoletov from 1951

Alexander Grigorievich Stoletov was a leading pre-revolutionary physicist. He taught A. K. Timiryazev, N. P. Kasterin and many other Soviet physicists. Stoletov made numerous discoveries such as the first law of the photoelectric effect. He founded the physical laboratory of Moscow University. The Tsarist Regime did not provide sufficient institutional possibilities for scientific work, so outside of his university activity Stoletov devoted much time to the Society of Lovers of Natural Science which united both academics and hobbyists. The Society was monitored by the tsarist regime, but was a private Society outside official academia.

Stoletov was recommended by other scientists as a member of the Scientific Academy, but the president of the Academy Grand Duke Konstantin, placed in control of science by the tsarist government, prevented Stoletov from being accepted into the Academy. His colleagues carried out demonstrations against this decision.

P. N. LEBEDEV (1866-1912, physicist)

Pyotr Lebedev is one of the greatest Russian physicists of all time and was highly valued in the USSR, where his work was continued. Among his discoveries is that was the first to measure the pressure of light on solid bodies, and his discoveries related to inertia of energy preceded similar discoveries of Einstein. In 1934 the major physics research institution “Lebedev Physical Institute” was named after him.

N. A. UMOV (1846-1915, physicist, mathematician)

Nikolay Alekseevich Umov was a materialist researcher who made great discoveries such as the Umov-Poynting vector and Umov effect. He was a collaborator of P. N. Lebedev.

“Nikolai Umov, the physicist… trained the students to have clear materialist ideas…” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 74)

N. P. KASTERIN (1869-1947, physicist)

Nikolai Petrovich Kasterin was a Soviet physicist, colleague of A. K. Timiryazev and student of A. G. Stoletov. He published papers in support of the Michelson Experiment and objected to idealistic interpretations of Relativity Physics.

D. S. ROZHDESTVENSKY (1876-1940, physicist, pioneer of Soviet optics)

Dmitry Sergeevich Rozhdestvensky was a significant physicist, the founder and first director (1918-1932) of the State Optical Institute (GOI), one of the organizers of the optical industry in the USSR, Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1929).

L. I. MANDELSTAM (1879-1944, physicist)

Leonid Isaakovich Mandelstam was an important Soviet physicist, one of the founders of the Russian scientific school of radiophysics; Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1929). He was awarded the V. I. Lenin Prize (1931), the D. I. Mendeleev Prize (1936), the Stalin Prize of the first degree (1942). For outstanding services in the field of science and the training of scientific personnel, L. I. Mandelstam was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1940) and the highest order in the USSR, the Order of Lenin (1944).

S. I. VAVILOV (1891-1951, physicist)

Sergey Vavilov was a leading Soviet physicist and founder of the Soviet school of physical optics. In 1934 together with Pavel Cherenkov he discovered the Vavilov-Cherenkov effect for which Cherenkov also received a Nobel prize.

Sergey Vavilov was a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences from 1932, Head of the Lebedev Institute of Physics (since 1934), a chief editor of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia since 1948, a member of the Supreme Soviet from 1946 and a recipient of four Stalin Prizes (1943, 1946, 1951, 1952). He wrote on the lives and works of great thinkers, such as Lucretius, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Mikhail Lomonosov, Michael Faraday, and Pyotr Lebedev, among others.

In 1945 Sergei Vavilov became the President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, replacing the respected botanist V. L. Komarov who had just passed away.

Sergei Vavilov is not to be confused with his brother N. I. Vavilov, a eugenicist pseudo-scientist who was sentenced to prison for sabotage and espionage.

A. K. TIMIRYAZEV (1880-1955, physicist)

Arkady Klimentievich Timiryazev was a prominent communist physicist and son of the legendary biologist K. A. Timiryazev (see the section on biology). He was a firm critic of all kinds of idealism and servility towards the West. Arkady Timiryazev is known for strongly objecting to idealist interpretations of Relativity Physics.

“In addition to the alliance with consistent materialists who do not belong to the Communist Party, of no less and perhaps oven of more importance for the work which militant materialism should perform is an alliance with those modern natural scientists who incline towards materialism and are not afraid to defend and preach it as against the modish philosophical wanderings into idealism and scepticism which are prevalent in so-called educated society.

The article by A. Timiryazev on Einstein’s theory of relativity published in Pod Znamenem Marksizma No. 1-2 permits us to hope that the journal will succeed in effecting this second alliance too. Greater attention should be paid to it. It should be remembered that the sharp upheaval which modern natural science is undergoing very often gives rise to reactionary philosophical schools and minor schools. trends and minor trends. Unless, therefore, the problems raised by the recent revolution in natural science are followed, and unless natural scientists are enlisted in the work of a philosophical journal, militant materialism can be neither militant nor materialism. Timiryazev was obliged to observe in the first issue of the journal that the theory of Einstein, who, according to Timiryazev, is himself not making any active attack on the foundations of materialism, has already been seized upon by a vast number of bourgeois intellectuals of all countries; it should be noted that this applies not only to Einstein, but to a number, if not to the majority, of the great reformers of natural science since the end of the nineteenth century.” (Lenin, On the Significance of Militant Materialism)

In the 1920s Arkady Timiryazev made anti-dialectical mistakes and supported the so-called “mechanists” in the philosophical debates. Many of the mechanists claimed to actually support dialectics but they did not truly understand it. The debates culminated in “mechanism” being defeated by the “dialectical” school headed by Deborin, and the Deborin school being criticized for “menshevizing idealism”, scholasticism (being out of touch with real life practical work) and defeated by the Marxist-Leninist philosophers headed by M. B. Mitin.

A. F. IOFFE (1880-1960, physicist)

Abram Fedorovich Ioffe was a prominent Soviet physicist. He received the award Honored Worker of Science of the RSFSR (1933) and the Stalin Prize (1942), was an expert in electromagnetism and solid state physics, and was active in establishing physics institutions. He was correctly criticized for servility towards the west (or lacking vigilance in the struggle against western imperialism) after WWII. Physicists such as Arkady Timiryazev, criticized Ioffe for alleged idealism (whether the charge is accurate is hard to say) but Ioffe remained an important figure in Soviet physics.

L. K. RAMZIN (1887–1948, thermal engineer)

Leonid Konstantinovich Ramzin was a Soviet thermal engineer, and the inventor of a type of flow-through boiler known as the straight-flow boiler, or Ramzin boiler.

In 1930 Ramzin was put on trial as an ideological leader of the anti-Soviet group known as The Industrial Party. Ramzin deeply regretted his actions and fully admitted his guilt, explaining that the Industrial Party was supported by a Russian emigre capitalist organization called the Russian Trade and Industrial Committee. This group worked together with British intelligence services, and supported a French-British plan of a new foreign invasion of the USSR led by escaped White Generals. Ramzin explained that engineers such as himself had become an out-of-touch privileged group, and when socialist construction was launched in 1928, they were firmly against it. This was facilitated by the fact that ideological and class struggle had become extremely fierce and society was polarized, the privileged engineers felt isolated from regular workers, who distrusted the engineers. Thus, the engineers were drawn into the plot of the White Guards and imperialists, who used them as their pawns. At the trial, Ramzin and several others were sentenced to death, but the sentence was reduced to 10 years in prison. (See The Industrial Party Affair and Wreckers on Trial)

Ramzin and his colleagues wanted to repair the damage they had caused the USSR, and wanted to do what ever they could in order to help society and become honest citizens. In prison they were given the opportunity to continue scientific research. They developed the ground-breaking new boiler and in 1936 they were amnestied. They were rewarded for their valuable productive work and it was considered they had become fully rehabilitated.

In 1943 Ramzin received a first degree Stalin Prize for his boiler design, and for continued successes in scientific work the Order of the Red Banner of Labor in 1946 and the Order of Lenin in 1948.

D. V. SKOBELTSYN (1892-1990, physicist)

Soviet experimental physicist, specialist in the field of cosmic radiation and high energy physics . Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1946).

He was awarded the following awards:
-Six Orders of Lenin (1949, 1953, 1962, 1969, 1972, 1975)
-Two orders of the Red Banner of Labor (1944, 1945)
-Hero of Socialist Labor (1969)
-Lenin Prize (1982) – for the cycle of works “Investigations of primary cosmic radiation of super-high energy” (1947-1980)
-Stalin Prize of the first degree (1951) – together with N. A. Dobrotin and G. T. Zatsepin for the discovery (1949) and study of electron-nuclear showers and the nuclear-cascade process in cosmic rays, presented in a series of articles published in the journals Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR, Zhurnal eksperimental’noi i teoreticheskoi fiziki and “Bulletin of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR” (1949-1950)
-S. I. Vavilov Gold Medal of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1952)

Skobeltsyn also worked as a Soviet representative in the UN (1946-48). He signed the Pravda letter of 1973 condemning A. D. Sakharov.

Y. I. FRENKEL (1894-1952, physicist)

Yakov Frenkel made very significant discoveries in condensed matter physics, superconductivity and kinetic theory of liquids.

Corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1929), doctor of physical and mathematical sciences (1934), received Stalin prize first degree for the monograph «Kinetic Theory of Liquids» (1947).

Frenkel was criticized in 1947 in Literaturnaya Gazeta for servility towards the West.

Kinetic Theory Of Liquids by Y. Frenkel

P. L. KAPITSA (1894-1984, physicist)

Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa was a significant Soviet physicist, particularly in the field of low-temperature physics. He was an old school bourgeois scientist from the tsarist era and was often criticized for ideological mistakes and not having any understanding of politics. Despite this, he was given every assistance in his scientific work, made scientific contributions and served his country and was appreciated as a result. He is by far the most skilled bourgeois-physicist in the USSR, and remained a rightist all his life. He collaborated with the Soviet government, wanted to help his country, and understood that the USSR had massively helped science. However, his total ignorance on philosophy and politics got him into fights very often.

“Not a single one of these professors, who are capable of making very valuable contributions in the special fields of chemistry, history or physics, can be trusted one iota when it comes to philosophy… The task of Marxists… is to be able to master and refashion the achievements of these [bourgeois scientists]… and to be able to lop off their reactionary tendency, to pursue our own line and to combat the whole line of the forces and classes hostile to us.” (Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism)

Kapitsa was given the following awards:
Hero of Socialist Labour (1945)
Stalin Prize, 1 degree (1941)
Stalin Prize, 1 degree (1943)
Order of Lenin (1943)
Order of Lenin (1944)
Order of Lenin (1945)
Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1954)
He was also given a Nobel Prize in Physics (1978) and various medals.

Kapitsa signed the notorious anti-Michurinist “Letter of the 300” and together with Tamm is definitely among the few truly skilled scientists to have signed it. But given Kapitsa’s rightist views and his total ignorance of philosophy, we shouldn’t have expected anything else from him. Kapitsa had no expertise in biology, but predictably this did not prevent him from intervening in biology and signing the letter.

P. A. CHERENKOV (physicist)

Pavel Cherenkov was a Nobel prize winning Soviet physicist. Out of his collaborators Ilya Mikhailovich Frank and Igor Tamm also received a Nobel prize. Cherenkov received a Stalin prize in 1946 and 1952.

I. M FRANK (nuclear physicist)

Ilya Mikhailovich Frank received a Nobel prize together with P. A. Cherenkov and Igor Tamm. He received a Stalin prize in 1946 and 1953. He led research into nuclear power. The USSR became the first country to create a nuclear power plant in 1954.

I. Y. TAMM (nuclear physicist)

Igor Tamm received a Nobel prize together with P. A. Cherenkov and Ilya Frank. He received a Stalin prize in 1954. Tamm was a leading researcher in the Soviet nuclear bomb project.

Despite being a very skilled physicist, Tamm was too ignorant of philosophy of science, and of Marxism-Leninism. In the period of ideological confusion and serious struggle by mendelist-pseudo scientists and right-deviationists against Michurinism, Tamm was fooled by colleagues into signing the notorious so-called “Letter of the 300”. He is perhaps the most skilled scientist to have signed the letter, which is a definite black mark of disgrace on his career.

A. A. MAKSIMOV (philosopher of science, physicist, mathematician)

Corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1943). Member of the CPSU since 1918.

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Maksimov graduated from the physics and mathematics department of the University of Kazan in 1916. In 1922 he began to teach philosophy. Since 1929 he was a professor at the Institute of the Red Professors, Moscow State University, and the Communist Academy. From 1944 to 1949, Maksimov was a member of the philosophy department at Moscow State University. His major work has focused on problems of the history of science and philosophical issues of the natural sciences. Maksimov edited translations of the works of G. Hegel, E. Haeckel, R. Mayer, and M. Faraday. He was awarded the Order of Lenin, two other orders, and various medals.

D. D. IVANENKO (nuclear physicist)

Dmitri Ivanenko was awarded the Stalin prize in 1950 for his work.

A. A. SOKOLOV (nuclear physicist)

A. A. Sokolov was awarded the Stalin prize in 1950 for his work.

I. V. KURCHATOV (1903-1960, physicist)

Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov is known as the “father of the Soviet nuclear bomb”. In the late 1950s, Kurchatov advocated against nuclear weapons tests. The Soviet Union advocated the banning of nuclear weapons, but since the Western imperialists did not agree, the Soviet Union had to develop its own nuclear weapon. The first atomic reactor in Europe (1946) and the first nuclear power plant in the world (1954) were created under his leadership. He became a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1943.

He was given following awards:
Three times Hero of Socialist Labor (1949, 1951, 1954)
Five Orders of Lenin
Two Orders of the Red Banner
Medals: “For Victory over Germany”, “For the defense of Sevastopol”
Stalin Prizes (1942, 1949, 1951, 1954)
The Lenin Prize (1957)

M. A. MARKOV (1908-1994, physicist)

Moisey Alexandrovich Markov was a Soviet physicist-theorist who mostly worked in the area of quantum mechanics, nuclear physics and particle physics. He is not a particularly important Soviet physicists, but is known mainly for having proposed the idea of underwater neutrino telescopes in 1960.

Markov graduated from the Faculty of Physics of Moscow University in 1930. He worked at the Institute of Red Professors (1931-1933) and the Faculty of Physics of the Moscow State University (1933-1934). Since 1934 he worked for the Lebedev Physical Institute. In 1956-1962 he was the head of the Neutrino Physics Laboratory of the Institute for Nuclear Research. Markov was a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences since 1953.

Despite his communist background, Markov made serious mistakes, was fooled by the Khrushchevite Revisionists and also signed the notorious anti-Michurinist “Letter of the 300” in 1955. Markov naturally had absolutely no grasp of biology, and no expertise on Michurinism. It is unclear why he signed, but it seems some colleagues convinced him. The letter did not seriously try to refute Michurinism on scientific grounds, but instead claimed Michurinism was dictatorial and harassing scientists. If they were fooled into believing this lie, scientists from fields distant from biology could’ve been convinced to sign the letter.

G. N. FLYOROV (1913-1990, nuclear physicist)

Georgy Nikolayevich Flyorov was a Soviet nuclear physicist who is known for his discovery of spontaneous fission and his contribution towards the physics of thermal reactions. He is also known for his letter directed to Joseph Stalin, during WWII urging the development of the Soviet Atomic Bomb.

“In 1939 it was discovered that when uranium, the heaviest chemical element, was acted upon by neutrons of low energy, the atoms of uranium suffered a new, formerly unknown, type of disintegration in which the nucleus of the atom split up into two approximately equal halves. These halves are themselves unstable varieties of the atomic nuclei of familiar chemical elements found in the middle of Mendeleyev’s Periodic fable. One year later, in 1940, K. Petrzhak and G. Flerov, young Soviet physicists, discovered that this new type of disintegration or new type of radioactivity of uranium, also occurred in nature, but that it was encountered much more rarely than the usual disintegration of uranium.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 78

Flyorov was awarded the following awards: Hero of Socialist Labour (1949) Order of Lenin (1949), Stalin Prize, twice (1946, 1949), Honorary Citizen of Dubna. The element flerovium (atomic number 114) is named after him.

In the period of ideological confusion and serious struggle by mendelist-pseudo scientists and right-deviationists against Michurinism, Flyorov was fooled by colleagues into signing the notorious so-called “Letter of the 300”.

K. A. PETRZHAK (1907-1998, nuclear physicist)

Konstantin Antonovich Petrzhak was a Soviet physicist who together with G. Flerov discovered spontaneous fission. Petrzhak also contributed to the Soviet atomic bomb.

He was awarded the Stalin prize 2nd degree (jointly with Georgy Flyorov for discovery of spontaneous fission) in 1946, Council of Ministers Prize in 1950, Stalin Prize (for work on the soviet atomic project) in 1953 and Order of the Red Banner of Labour (for work on the soviet atomic project) in 1953.

N. S. AKULOV (physicist)

Akulov Nikolai Sergeevich. A Stalin prize winning specialist in ferromagnetism.

A. S. PREDVODITELEV (1891-1973)

Aleksandr Savvich Predvoditelev was a Soviet physicist, Corresponding member of the Academy of sciences of the USSR since 1939. He graduated from Moscow University in 1915 and was a professor there from 1935. From 1939 he was also head of a laboratory of the Institute of Power Engineering of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

“Predvoditelev’s major works were on molecular physics, hydrodynamics, and thermal physics. He studied the processes of combustion, the distribution of waves in liquid and gaseous mediums, and the physical properties of liquids. He was engaged in the development of the theory of heterogeneous combustion.” (Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979))

Predvoditelev collaborated on carbon combustion research and received a Stalin Prize in 1950 for his monograph The Combustion of Carbon published in 1949.

A. A. VLASOV (1908-1975, theoretical physicist)

Anatoly Aleksandrovich Vlasov was a Soviet, theoretical physicist prominent in the fields of statistical mechanics, kinetics, and especially in plasma physics. Igor Tamm was his doctoral advisor.


A. S. POPOV (1859-1906, physicists, electrical engineer, inventor)

Alexander Stepanovich Popov lived in pre-revolutionary Russia, where his work received no support from the government. However, his work was continued to great effect by Soviet scientists. Popov is known as one of the inventors of a radio-telephone device, independently and contemporaneously with the Italian G. Marconi. In the USSR May 7 was made a holiday “Communications Workers’ Day” or colloquially ‘Radio Day’ in Popov’s honor.

Alexander Popov (1949) A Soviet Film about Popov

American western-centric and anti-communist propaganda ridiculed the notion that a Russian could have invented the radio transmitter or telephone. However, the first functional electromagnetic telegraph was also invented by Russian Pavel Schilling.

A. A. PETROVSKY (1873-1942, radio engineer, physicist)

Alexey Alekseevich Petrovsky was a Soviet scientist in the field of radio engineering, geophysics, electrophysical methods of geological exploration. He was one of the founders of Soviet radio engineering, together with his student I. G. Freiman. Petrovsky was the student and colleague of inventor A. S. Popov. Petrovsky developed the theory and methodology of electrical prospecting. State Councillor, the first professor of radio engineering and the author of the first theoretical guide to radio engineering in Russia. Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Honored Worker of Science and Technology of the RSFSR.

Petrovsky was a military officer in the Russian Empire. After the October Revolution Petrovsky moved to a teaching position in the United Naval Forces Classes (1918-1922), and also lectured at the Institute of Higher Commercial Knowledge (until 1930). In 1919 he headed the Petrograd (later Leningrad) branch of the Russian Society of Radio Engineers. In the summer of 1921, he took part in the experimental work that had begun in the Baltic Sea on the organization of radio communication between coastal stations and submarines in a submerged position.

On the initiative of Petrovsky and engineer I. G. Freiman, in November 1922, the first radio amateur circle in the USSR was organized in Petrograd, and in 1923 a radio section was organized at the Electrotechnical Institute.

From 1923 to 1925, he taught electrical engineering at the Higher Military Electrotechnical School of the Commanders of the Workers ‘and Peasants’ Red Army (RKKA) and the Military Engineering Academy. In April 1925, on the pages of the monthly magazine “Friend of Radio” Petrovsky, wrote an article on the 30th anniversary of the invention of the radio by A. Popov, and expressed the prophetic words: “May 7 will turn into a real holiday for radio operators!” Since 1945, the Radio Day holiday has been celebrated annually.

In 1924-1930 he was the head of a department at the Institute of Applied Geophysics ( Institute of Applied Geophysics named after Professor V. I. Bauman). He was engaged in the development of electrical methods for the exploration of mineral deposits. In 1928-1938 he taught at the Leningrad Mining Institute , and in 1934 he became the first head of the new department of geophysical methods of exploration, which trained geophysical engineers.

In 1932 he was appointed deputy director of the Geophysical Institute of the Ural branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences (UFAN). In 1935 he defended his thesis for the degree of Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and was awarded the title of professor.

In the position of deputy director, and then head of department in UFAN, he continued to work until 1942. In 1941 he was awarded the title ” Honored Worker of Science and Technology of the RSFSR”. Over the entire period of his activity, he wrote more than 200 scientific papers on radio engineering, telecommunications, electrical prospecting for minerals and the history of radio.

A. A. CHERNYSHEV (1882-1940, electrical engineer, scientist)

Alexander Alekseevich Chernyshev was a soviet scientist, one of the inventors of the radar. He became a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1929 and full member in 1932. He was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1930.

I. G. FREIMAN (1890-1929, radio engineer and scientist)

Imant Georgievich Freiman together with A. A. Petrovsky was one of the founders of Soviet radio engineering and builder of powerful radio stations. He introduced the terms “radio engineering” and ” radio broadcasting ” into circulation. He designed and built a radio transmitter for the world’s first radio probe, was the first chairman of the communications and observation section of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Red Naval Forces. Freiman was a teacher, dean of the electro-physics faculty, head and professor of the country’s first radio engineering department at the Electrotechnical Institute and head of the radio communication department of the Naval Academy in Petrograd.

In 1918 he took an active part in the creation of the “Russian Society of Radio Engineers” (RORI) in Petrograd, thanks to which the Nizhny Novgorod radio laboratory was formed and a special magazine “Telephony and Telegraphy without Wires” began to be published. In March 1919 he joined the Workers ‘and Peasants’ Red Army. In May 1919, he was appointed as a radio receiver in the Mine Department of the Main Directorate of Shipbuilding, and in October 1921 he became a senior radio receiver. At the same time he worked on a thesis on the topic: “On the laws of the similarity of radio networks” and taught a course in radio engineering at ETI, was elected secretary of the publishing committee of the institute.

In 1919 he filed an application for the invention of a device for multiple telephony using cathode electron-beam switches, which subsequently outstripped the practical development of multichannel communication. In 1921 he defended his master’s thesis and was approved as a professor at ETI. In the same year he founded the first electrovacuum laborary together with professor of physics M. M. Glagolev. In 1922-1925 he worked as the dean of the electrophysical faculty of ETI. From 1922 to 1929 he was a member of the Radio Technical Council of the Trust of Low Current Plants and the Central Radio Laboratory, scientific consultant of the Scientific Test Station of the People’s Commissariat of Posts and Telegraphs (in 1922-1928).

In September 1921, he made a report at the first All-Russian Congress of Amateurs of World Studies, in which he proposed to develop radio amateurism on a national scale. On the initiative of A. A. Petrovsky and Freiman, in November 1922, the first radio amateur circle was organized in Petrograd, and in 1923 a radio section was organized at ETI. Handbooks for radio amateurs were published under the editorship of Freiman.

In 1922, he became the organizer of the Department of Radio Communication at the Naval Academy and until 1929 was its head, at the same time during these years he taught a course in radio engineering at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Military Engineering Academy , continued lecturing at the Second Polytechnic Institute. In the summer of 1923, he organized an internship for his students in Sevastopol. During the practice, the students of the Naval Academy, among others N. P. Suvorov and A. N. Grinenko-Ivanov established underwater communications on the submarines of the Black Sea Fleet.

He was appointed the first chairman of the communications and observation section of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Naval Forces of the Red Army in 1924-1927. He was the initiator and leader of the development of the first radio equipment of the fleet “Blockade-I”, on the basis of which the next two generations of naval radio systems were later created.

In 1924 he became the chairman of the publishing committee of ETI, in the same year his fundamental work “Course of radio engineering” was published (again in 1928), in a review of this book, the future academician Professor A. A. Chernyshev wrote: that this book was the world’s first textbook of radio engineering as an engineering science”. From 1925 to 1926 he worked as deputy director of ETI for educational work.

In 1928 I. Freiman developed and created a radio transmitter for the world’s first radio probe, which was launched after the death of a radio engineer.

V. N. KESSENIKH (1903-1970, radio physicist)

Vladimir Nikolaevich Kessenikh was active in developing radio technology and in physics research. He solved many problems related to communication technology, for example:

“in 1932, he found a solution to the problem of excitation of electromagnetic waves in a wire, which marked the beginning of a series of studies on the concentrated excitation of electromagnetic fields in the theory of antennas and transmission lines. He carried out fundamental research on the electrodynamics of radiating systems. He was the first to introduce the analytical task of a lumped source into antenna problems and found their correct solution. He received the formula for the input impedance of a thin antenna, which was included in textbooks and reference books under the name “Kessenich’s formula”. He laid the theoretical foundations for the study and creation of broadband antenna systems. Kessenich conducted the first computational and analytical study of the detection of cracks in the metal using eddy currents; in the laboratory of the Siberian Institute of Physics and Technology, a number of experimental flaw detection hand trucks were developed for checking railway rails.” (Wikipedia)

In the Great Patriotic War he received the Order of the Red Star in 1942.


N. A. TELESHOV (1828-1895, aviation engineer)

Nikolai Afanasievich Teleshov was a Russian engineer and designer of one of the first Jet Aircraft in the world. He was another pre-revolutionary inventor held in high regard in the USSR.

K. TSIOLKOVSKY (physicist, aeronautics and rocketry theorist)

Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) is the grandfather of Soviet rocketry and aeronautics and one of the inventors of rocketry and the airplane. He began his work during the Tsarist regime but continued it with government support in the Soviet Union.

“The capitalist system was the grave of popular talent. In those times only a few individuals climbed to any height in art and science… Another genius was the grandfather of Russian aviation, K. Tsiolkovsky. He designed an airplane thirteen years before the first airplane rose into the sky. He invented the metal dirigible airship several years before the first dirigible was built in Germany. But in tsarist Russia the value of these inventions was not appreciated. Only in the Land of Soviets were Tsiolkovsky’s discoveries put to use.” (A Short History of the USSR, ed. A. V. Shestakov, p. 242)

His work was the inspiration for the leaders of the Soviet space program Sergei Korolev and Valentin Glushko.

“Haven’t Jules Verne’s fantasies, which still fascinate us, been transformed into reality of today ! We find an even greater scope of fantastic thought in our remarkable Russian scientist K. Tsiolkovsky and though only some thirty years have elapsed since his daring predictions, much of what he wrote then has already come true. We must, therefore, never fear scientific fantasy nor take it as something already existing; we must fight for it because fantasy is one of the methods of scientific work. It was not without reason that Lenin said that fantasy was a quality of the. highest value” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, p. 386)


Soviet astronomy defended the theory of cosmic evolution, that planets, stars and galaxies were not supernaturally created in their current form but evolved from other forms and such evolution is still going on. Soviet astronomy defended the position that life is not unique to planet Earth but instead any planet with suitable conditions can produce life, and the Earth is not the only such planet. Important Soviet astronomers include:

Victor Ambartsumyan (astrophysicist)
Vasiliy Grigorievich Fesenkov (astrophysicist)
Georgi Shain (astronomer)
Boris Kukarkin (astronomer)
Gavriil Adrianovich Tikhov (astrobiologist, “the father of astrobotany”)
Norair Sisakyan (biochemist, one of the founders of astrobiology)

OTTO SCHMIDT (1891-1956, mathematician, astronomer, geophysicist, polar explorer)

Otto Schmidt was a Soviet scientist and polar explorer. Information about his polar expeditions and career is in the section “EXPLORERS” while this section only deals with astronomy.

The first scientific hypothesis about the origin of our galaxy was created by Kant and Laplace. Later bourgeois scientists attempted to develop this hypothesis. Schmidt and other Soviet scientists pointed out the errors of these bourgeois scientists and made important developments to the hypothesis. However, Schmidt’s theories still contain a number of shortcomings which were criticized at the Soviet First Conference On Cosmogony. Schmidt contributed greatly to a scientific theory of cosmogony.

“The first scientific cosmogonic hypothesis based on facts established by science was proposed in the eighteenth century by Kant and Laplace. These scientists believed the Sun and all the planets revolving around it to have formed by condensation of one primary incandescent nebula which rotated even before the origin of the Sun…

The Kant-Laplace hypothesis was long thought appropriately to explain the formation of the Earth, but the rapid development of astronomy, geophysics and geology in the nineteenth century made it possible to reveal several errors in this hypothesis, and new explanations appeared. For example, the scientist Chamberlain thought that the little Earth, formed in the manner proposed by Kant and Laplace, gradually grew larger by the addition of meteorites… Jeans believed the Solar System to have formed as a result of the passage of another star very close to the Sun… For a number of years this hypothesis was thought very adequate, but was then disproved because the passage of one star so close to another that it may cause the supposed ejections of material is a very rare phenomenon and unlikely to explain the formation of the planets revolving around the Sun. Several serious errors were discovered in this hypothesis chiefly by Soviet scientists.

More than 10 years ago Academician O. Schmidt put forward a new hypothesis of the formation of our Earth and the other planets revolving around the Sun. He assumed that moving in the Galaxy through the dust and gases which form the interstellar matter the Sun attracted part of them and came out surrounded by a cloud of this substance. According to the law of gravity this cloud revolved around the Sun, the particles composing the cloud moving in it in all directions, colliding with each other, sometimes breaking up, but more frequently uniting, the smaller particles joining the larger ones; the planets were thus gradually formed in the cloud. The part of the cloud closer to the Sun was heated more intensely, and the nearest planets Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars are therefore small and consist of dense matter, rock and metal, and little gaseous remains, whereas Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, the more distant planets, are of enormous size and consist of gaseous and volatile substances. The bodies that failed to join the solid inner planets form comets and asteroids.

Schmidt originally thought that the meteorites forming part of the primary cloud had played an important part in the making of the planets; later he relinquished this idea and believed the gas-dust mass to have been the initial material for the creation of the planets.

Schmidt’s hypothesis successfully explains a great deal in the formation of the planets, but it is not devoid of serious short-comings, as was pointed out at the very first conference on problems of cosmogony. The hypothesis considers the formation of the planets of the Solar System, but leaves out the Sun; it offers a good explanation of the origin of the terrestrial type planets, but the large planets with their physical properties do not fit into it. Schmidt did not study the evolution of the Sun or the problem of the origin and evolution of the stars and did not utilize the rich material of modern astrophysics. All this shows that Schmidt’s hypothesis is as yet unable to explain the formation of all the heavenly bodies and is inadequate in its present form.

Most of the Soviet scientists studying problems of astronomy and geophysics believe that the Earth and the other planets of the Solar System were formed not of substance brought from without, but of the gaseous or gas-dust matter existing within the limits of this system.

Schmidt’s and several other hypotheses assume that the Earth and other planets of this type formed of the gas-dust substance were originally cold. Subsequently, the substance was divided according to its specific gravity by means of gravitational differentiation and the globe was stratified into geospheres of different densities as a result of the rise of the lighter particles to the outer shells of the Earth…

The discovery of deep-focus earthquakes originating at a depth of more than 600 kilometres has persuaded some geologists that the outer shell of the Earth consists of solid substance to a depth of at least 800 kilometres. This structure of the earth’s crust conforms to the assumption of the origin of a “cold” Earth from cosmic dust better than to the hypothesis of a fiery-liquid Earth.

According to Schmidt’s hypothesis the originally “cold” Earth had in its composition radioactive elements which by disintegrating served as the source of energy, and the Earth gradually melted, only the outer shell of the Earth — the crust — remaining hard. On the other hand, as A. Vinogradov points out, if we take the meteorites to be fragments of planets (this is now believed firmly established) we must also admit that these planets went through the stage of complete melting. Thus, the Earth, whose internal geospheres have, according to modern assumptions, a structure analogous to that of different types of meteorites, must, as a whole, have gone through the stages of a molten body in which the processes of liquid differentiation, liquation and stratification occurred. In Vinogradov’s opinion the Earth began to cool from the inside and long retained a molten shell.

If we summarize the discussions of Schmidt’s hypothesis at the First Cosmogonic Conference we shall see that the problem of the origin of the Earth and planets, the problem of whether the energy produced by the decay of radioactive elements is alone enough to heat and melt the globe, and the problems of the further differentiation of the Earth’s substances and the process of the Earth’s cooling have as yet been inadequately elaborated and that astronomers, geophysicists and geologists have come to no agreement.” (V. Obruchev, Fundamentals Of Geology, pp. 259-262)

P. F. SHAJN (1894-1956, Astronomer)

Pelageya Fedorovna Shajn, was a Russian astronomer in the Soviet Union, and the first woman credited with the discovery of a minor planet, at the Simeiz Observatory in 1928. Pelageya also discovered numerous variable stars and co-discovered the periodic, Jupiter-family comet 61P/Shajn–Schaldach.

In 1948 she discovered a new minor planet and named it Otto Schmidt after the famous Soviet geologist and explorer.


N. I. LOBACHEVSKY (1792-1856, geometer)

Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is the main inventor of hyperbolic non-euclidian geometry, which is also called Lobachevskian geometry. The Lobachevsky Prize was created in 1927 by the USSR Academy of Sciences.

P. L. CHEBYSHEV (1821-1894, mathematician)

Pafnuty Lvovich Chebyshev is often called the founding father of Russian mathematics. He was held in high regard in the USSR.

I. V. VINOGRADOV (1891-1983, mathematician)

“Our Soviet mathematician, Academician Vinogradov, found a brilliant solution for Goldbach’s problem, on which the greatest mathematicians all over the world had been working for nearly 200 years.” (A History of the USSR, ed. A. M. Pankratova (1948) vol. 3, p. 380)

Vinogradov developed the so-called ‘Vinogradov method’ in mathematics. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1941.

“With the help of this method, Vinogradov tackled questions such as the ternary Goldbach problem in 1937 (using Vinogradov’s theorem), and the zero-free region for the Riemann zeta function. His own use of it was inimitable; in terms of later techniques, it is recognised as a prototype of the large sieve method in its application of bilinear forms, and also as an exploitation of combinatorial structure. In some cases his results resisted improvement for decades. He also used this technique on the Dirichlet divisor problem, allowing him to estimate the number of integer points under an arbitrary curve. This was an improvement on the work of Georgy Voronoy. In 1918 Vinogradov proved the Pólya–Vinogradov inequality for character sums.” (wikipedia)

Works of Vinogradov:
The Method Of Trigonometric Sums In The Theory Of Numbers
Proceedings of the International Conference on Number Theory (Moscow, September 14-18, 1971)

V. A. STEKLOV (1864-1926, physicist, mathematician)

Vladimir Andreevich Steklov. Prominent early Soviet mathematician.

D. A. GRAVE (1863-1939, mathematician)

Dmitry Aleksandrovich Grave was an important Soviet mathematician, elected to the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in 1919 and to the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1929.


A. P. WALTHER (1817-1889, physiologist) and V. A. BASOV (1812-1879, physiologist)

“In briefly touching upon the development of physiology in Russia, we have to state that among the important achievements of science in the first half of the 19th century were the investigations carried out by Walther and Basov. In 1842, Walther (1817-1889), a pupil of N. Pirogov, showed that a cross-cut of the “sympathetic nerve threads admixed to the sciatic nerve of a frog” (i.e., of the sympathetic nerve fibres) caused a dilation of the vessels of the web. In the same year Basov (1812-1879) elaborated a method of penetrating the stomach of an absolutely healthy animal by applying a stomach fistula and, for the first time in the history of physiology, demonstrated the feasibility of a protracted, chronic experiment. However, Walther and Basov did not appreciate the importance of their discoveries and did not develop them. Claude Bernard was the man who elaborated the theory of innervation of blood vessels. But it was Pavlov who turned the method of investigating physiological processes in normal, healthy animals into an instrument which revolutionized the entire development of physiology.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, p. 20)

I. M. SECHENOV (1829-1905) (Physiologist, Pioneer of psychology, Darwinist)

Ivan Mikhaylovich Sechenov propagated Darwinism and applied it in his work on physiology. Ivan Pavlov referred to him as the “Father of Russian physiology and scientific psychology”.

Eminent biologists… [like] V. M. Sechenov… defended and developed Darwinism with all the passion of true scientists.” (Lysenko, The Situation in the Science of Biology,1948)

The Selected Works of I. M. Sechenov contain a detailed biographical essay by M. Shaternikov about Sechenov’s life and work.

Sechenov, Avtobiograficheskie zapiski

I. P. Pavlov wrote: “Sechenov’s teaching of the reflexes of the brain is, in my opinion, a sublime achievement of Russian science. The application of the reflex principle to explain the activity of the higher nervous centres is a proof that causality can be applied to the study of the highest forms of organic nature. For this reason the name of Sechenov will forever remain dear to the Russian scientific world.” (Quoted in p. XXV Selected Works of Sechenov)

“particularly, the discovery by Sechenov in 1862 of the phenomena of inhibition in the central nervous system, gave rise to the study of the factors which determine the nature of inhibition and its role in reflex activity.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, p. 20)

“The works of Sechenov marked a new stage in Russian physiology. Sechenov was born in 1829 in the former Simbirsk Gubernia. In 1850, after a short period of service in the army as an officer in the engineering corps, he entered the medical faculty of Moscow University. There, under the guidance of Glebov and Orlovsky, he learned the principles of experimental and theoretical physiology. Not only the medical faculty, but the university as a whole, with its intense activity, together with Granovsky’s lectures on history and the ideological atmosphere created by the philosophical works of the revolutionary-democrat A. Herzen, played an outstanding role in forming Sechenov’s world outlook. His materialistic views, which underlay all his creative work, took shape already in his student days at the university.

In 1856, after his graduation, Sechenov went abroad on a scientific mission. There he worked in the laboratories of Ludwig, Helmholtz and Claude Bernard. Upon his return to Russia, he headed the chair of physiology of the Medico-Surgical Academy (later renamed the Military Medical Academy) in Petersburg.

In 1862, Sechenov discovered the phenomenon of inhibition in the central-nervous system, and in 1863, he published his brilliant work Reflexes of the Brain, in which he gave a consistently materialistic interpretation of mental phenomena. This book made him a political suspect in the eyes of the tsarist government, and only the fear of attracting still greater attention to this work compelled the government of Alexander II to give up the idea of taking legal action against Sechenov. Subsequently, Sechenov worked at the Odessa, Petersburg and Moscow universities. He died in Moscow on November 15, 1905.

Sechenov has gone down in the history of science as a great scientist and thinker; he was the first to subject the most intricate domain of nature—the phenomena of consciousness—to a natural-scientific analysis.

Sechenov had many pupils, some of whom became prominent scientists. For example, N. Spiro discovered the so-called reciprocal inhibition in antagonistic centres (the fame of the English researcher Sherrington is due to a large extent to his thorough elaboration of this problem). V. Pashutin (1845-1901), another of Sechenov’s pupils, founded the Russian school of pathology (pathological physiology) and, jointly with A. Likhachov, was the first to work out precise methods of directly measuring the total heat produced in the human organism. The outstanding pharmacologist N. Kravkov was also a pupil of Sechenov, as was the prominent physiologist B. Verigo, who investigated the peculiarities of the action of a.continuous current on the tissues and showed that the taking up and release of oxygen by haemoglobin play an important role in the carriage of carbon dioxide by the blood.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, pp. 21-22)

M. SHATERNIKOV (1870-1939, Physiologist)

Mikhail Nikolaevich Shaternikov was a significant physiologist. He worked in Sechenov’s laboratory. Sechenov was awarded the title of Honored Scientist of the RSFSR in 1935.

“Sechenov’s associates included M. Shaternikov (1870-1939), who studied general metabolism, and A. Samoilov (1867-1930), the prominent investigator of electrical phenomena in living tissues who first advanced the hypothesis of a chemical mechanism governing the transmission of excitation from the nerve to the skeletal muscle and from one neuron to another in the central nervous system.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, pp. 21-22)

N. Y. WEDENSKY (1852-1922, physiologist)

Nikolai Yevgenyevich Wedensky (1852-1922) was one of Sechenov’s pupils at Petersburg University; after Sechenov and Pavlov, he must with all justification be ranked among the leading Russian physiologists. In his remarkable experimental researches, Wedensky, who had participated in the revolutionary movement in his youth, advanced the important concept — of the inner unity of the externally opposite phenomena of excitation and inhibition. A. Ukhtomsky (1876-1942) carried on Wedensky’s researches and profoundly developed his ideas.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, pp. 21-22)

“Among the physiologists who worked in Petersburg beginning with the sixties and seventies of the 19th century were I. Cyon who, together with K. Ludwig, proved the existence in the aortic arch of specialized sensitive formations—receptors stimulated by the rise of arterial blood pressure, F. Ovsyannikov (1827-1906) to whom science owes the study of the vasomotor centre and of a number of researches into the fine structure of the nervous system, and I. Tarkhanov (1846-1908), who is known for his discovery of the skin galvanic reflex.

A prominent place in the development of Russian physiology belongs to Kazan University, where N. Kovalevsky (1842-1891) and his successor, N. Mislavsky (1854-1929) used to work. Kovalevsky discovered that arterial blood pressure rises as a result of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the organism. Mislavsky ascertained the exact location of the respiratory centre in the medulla oblongata and jointly with V. Bekhterev established that the stimulation of the cerebral cortex influences respiration and blood circulation.

Important physiological investigations relating to various branches of physiology were made by Professor V. Danilevsky of Kharkov (1852-1939), V. Chagovets of Kiev, and A. Kulyabko of Tomsk.” (Bykov, Text-book of physiology, 1958, p. 22)

IVAN PAVLOV (physiologist, psychologist)

I. Pavlov was one of the founders of modern psychology, focusing particularly on classical conditioning. His study of physiology was also further developed for disease prevention and other medical purposes by Soviet scientists, for example Alexander Speransky (pathologist), Nikolay Nikolayevich Anichkov (pathologist) and Anatoliy Ivanov-Smolensky (Psychiatrist, pathophysiologist).

Academician Ivan Pavlov (1949) A nice Soviet film about Pavlov’s life and work.

Selected works of Pavlov
Pavlov, Lectures on conditioned reflexes
Pavlov, Psychopathology and Psychiatry
Pavlov And His School on The Theory Of Conditioned Reflexes

There is an article on Pavlov in In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

S. V. KRAVKOV (1893-1951, Founder of Physiologist and Psychologist of Optics)

Sergei Vasilievich Kravkov was a Soviet psychologist and psychophysiologist, Doctor of Biological Sciences (1935), Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences (1946), Honored Scientist RSFSR (1947).

K. M. BYKOV (pavlovian psychologist-physiologist)
Bykov was a leading pavlovian psychologist in the USSR together with Anatoliy Ivanov-Smolensky.
Text-book of physiology
The cerebral cortex and the internal organs
Studien über periodische Veränderungen physiologischer Funktionen des Organismus [Studies of periodic changes in the physiological functions of the organism] (in German)

B. M. TEPLOV (psychologist)
Psychology [textbook] (1953)


D. S. SAMOILOVICH (1744-1805, physician, epidemiologist)

Danilo Samoilovich Samoilovich was a Russian military physician and the founder of Russian epidemiology. He made ground-breaking discoveries during his work to contain epidemics of the bubonic plague. He was held in very high regard in the USSR, considered a great scientist and a hero of his people.

During the 1771 Moscow plague outbreak he was helped by famous pediatrician Pyotr Ivanovich Pogoretsky and Kasyan Osipovich Yagelsky in fighting the plague.

“From 1761 to 1770, Samoilovich was a student and physician’s assistant at the St. Petersburg Admiralty Hospital. In 1771 he was a staff physician at the military hospital in Moscow. He received his doctor of medicine degree in 1784. From that year Samoilovich participated in the struggle against plague, and in 1793 he became physician in charge of quarantines in southern Russia. From 1800 he was an inspector for the Black Sea Medical Board. He generalized the experience gained in the struggle to control plague, which he regarded as a special nosologic form. Samoilovich was the first Russian scientist to give a clinical description of plague, and he came to the conclusion that after recovering from the disease, the patient was no longer susceptible to it. He demonstrated the contagiousness of the disease and substantiated the necessity for anti-plague inoculations. Samoilovich developed a congruous system of antiepidemic measures, including reporting each incidence of the disease, isolating the patient, carrying out disinfection, involving the populace in the control of epidemics, and setting up quarantines. Samoilovich was a member of 12 foreign academies of science.” (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979))

Samoilovich was a pioneer ahead of his time. The tsarist regime did not value his work sufficiently and his work had to be rediscovered by other pioneers: “the work on anti-plague inoculations that Danilo Samoilovich had begun, had been discontinued when he died, and was forgotten.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 24)

“Life Triumphs” by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Samoilovich.

P. I. POGORETSKY (1734-1780, pediatrician)

Pyotr Ivanovich Pogoretsky, comrade of D. S. Samoilovich, was one of the founders of pediatrics in Russia. He graduated from the University of Leiden (Kingdom of Holland), became Doctor of Medicine in (1765). He wrote the first Russian manual on childhood diseases, published in Latin in 1768.

N. I. PIROGOV (1810-1881, surgeon)

Nikolay Ivanovich Pirogov was a Russian scientist, medical doctor, pedagogue, public figure, and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1847), one of the most widely recognized Russian physicians. He was held in high regard in the USSR. He is considered to be the founder of field surgery, he was the first surgeon to use anaesthesia in a field operation (1847) and one of the first surgeons in Europe to use ether as an anaesthetic. He is credited with invention of various kinds of surgical operations and developing his own technique of using plaster casts to treat fractured bones.

Works by Pirogov

“Pirogov” (1947) a Soviet film about the life of the great surgeon.

G. N. MINKH (1836-1896, pathologist)

Grigory Nikolaevich Minkh carried out important research related to the bubonic plague and other contagious diseases. He did not receive support from the tsarist government and his work was not adequately respected. However he served his people, made an important contribution to science, and was correctly appreciated in the USSR.

“When Grigory Minkh had collected a host of irrefutable facts throwing light on the laws of the spread of epidemics, he prepared for the press a serious work on plague, a handbook scientifically correct and passionately human for all those who would continue his work Unfortunately he was unable to publish his book; he had insufficient money to cover the cost of printing. But after his death, his family stinted themselves for many long years, denying themselves every comfort in order to buy paper and pay for the work of the compositors. Finally they achieved their goal and the brilliant scientist’s book made its appearance and rendered a great service.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 30)

“Life Triumphs” by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the life and work of Minkh.

V. K. VYSOKOVICH (1854-1912, pathologist, bacteriologist, epidemiologist)

Vladimir Konstantinovich Vysokovich was an important epidemiologist, co-worker of I. I. Mechnikov and N. F. Gamaleya.

Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Vysokovich.

V. I. RAZUMOVSKY (1857-1935, surgeon, doctor of medicine)

Vasily Ivanovich Razumovsky was a surgeon and scientist, author of about 150 scientific papers. He was awarded the Title of Hero of Labor (1923 ) and Honored Scientist of the RSFSR (1934).

VLADIMIR KHAVKIN (1860-1930, bacteriologist, epidemiologist)

Vladimir Aaronovich Khavkin developed the first effective vaccines against cholera and plague. He studied under E. Mechnikov.

“Upon graduation from Novorossiia University in Odessa in 1884, Khavkin worked at the Odessa Zoological Museum. In 1888 he became assistant professor at the University of Geneva; he held a similar position at the Pasteur Institute in Paris from 1889 to 1893. From 1893 to 1915 he worked in India, serving as a bacteriologist for the government from 1893 to 1904. Khavkin helped organize the Plague Research Laboratory in Bombay, and served as its director from 1896 to 1904. The laboratory, which was reorganized and renamed the Haffkine Institute in 1925, became a center for the study of bubonic plague and cholera in Southeast Asia.

Khavkin’s principal works dealt with cholera and plague. He revealed the infectious nature of cholera and was the first to develop effective vaccines against cholera (1892) and plague (1896). He tested the vaccines on himself to prove their safety. Khavkin was directly involved in the vaccination of the Indian population during the cholera epidemic of 1893–95 and the plague epidemic of 1896–1902. On the 60th anniversary of Khavkin’s anti-plague laboratory, the Indian president R. Prasad remarked that “we in India are greatly indebted to Doctor Khavkin. He helped India rid itself of its principal epidemics—plague and cholera.” (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979))

“Life Triumphs” by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Khavkin.

I. A. DEMINSKY (1864-1912 medical doctor, epidemiologist)

Ippolit Aleksandrovich Deminsky was a brave pioneering bacteriologist. He specialized in combating plague. He traveled to epidemic zones, treated people and researched plague spreading animals. Deminsky supported D. K. Zabolotny’s theory that between outbreaks plague survived among animals. Deminsky came to conflict with the tsarist government, because the government refused to spend adequate funds on medical care and prevention of epidemics. In those years plague was mainly combated and researched by self-sacrificing heroes such as Deminsky, who received no significant support from the government and risked their own lives to help mankind. Deminsky died as a result of contracting pneumonic plague during his work. This was largely because the tsarist government neglected to provide anti-plague medical workers with protective equipment in sufficient quantities and in a timely manner.

Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Deminsky.


Elena Merkuryevna Krasilnikova was a co-worker of I. A. Deminsky.

Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Krasilnikova.

V. I. TURCHINOVICH-VYZHNIKEVICH (1865-1904, veterinary scientist, bacteriologist)

Vladislav Ivanovich Turchinovich-Vyzhnikevich was a brave pioneering bacteriologist who specialized in combating plague. He died after having contracted pneumatic plague during his research.

Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Turchinovich-Vyzhnikevich.

D. K. ZABOLOTNY (1866-1929, bacteriologist, epidemiologist)

Daniil Kirillovich Zabolotny was an important early Soviet epidemiologist. In 1920, he created the world’s first department of epidemiology in Odessa. He became Academician of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (1922), Academician of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences (1928), Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1929) and was the President of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (1928-1929).

He led expeditions to Asia to fight plague there, to discover its sources, how it reproduced and survived outside human hosts. In 1922 he discovered the zoonoses of the plague, i.e. he discovered that it was transmitted by and survived in various wild animal species, and only occasionally passed to humans, causing an outbreak.

“Zabolotny and other scientists after him put forward the supposition that steppe rodents are the carriers of plague from one epidemic to another. If only the officials in the government offices of the Russian Empire and other countries had listened to a brilliant Russian scientist, subsequent epidemics might have been averted and large numbers of lives saved. But the work had to be done almost single-handed.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 67)

“Sometime in the future when communism is victorious over the whole world, scientists will strive to achieve what is at present a dream: they will study and destroy all the centres of dangerous microbes to be found on our planet. This will not come about all at once. Gradually one disease after another, together with the natural disease-carriers, will vanish for all time even from the memory of mankind. Daniel Zabolotny was one of the initiators of this splendid trend in science. Almost nothing was known of the paths along which plague was spread, before Zabolotny made his investigations.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 56)

He also saw the terrible results of colonialist imperialism and condemned it in his notes:

“Famine is the most terrible scourge affecting this vast country. The English have inundated India with cotton fabrics and in Dacca, the ancient centre of Indian weaving, only 20,000 remain of the original 150,000 inhabitants; the rest either died of famine or fled. In 1741 five million people, being one-third of the population, died of famine in the single Indian province of Bengal. In 1874 there was famine in Bombay, Madras and Hyderabad. Between 1874 and the middle of the nineties more than 20 million Indians died of famine.” (quoted in A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 35)

A socialist student studying with him at the Novorossiya University in Odessa named Makar Saulyak “supplied Zabolotny with thick volumes of Sovremennik [Magazine founded by Pushkin, where Chernyshevsky often published articles] for 1856 and other years, books by Belinsky and Pisarev and research papers by Darwin and Chernyshevsky…” (Ibid., p. 69) These gradually introduced Zabolotny to democratic revolutionary and socialist thinkers, and to materialist philosophy. There were also materialist teachers at the university, who struggled against clericalism and for democracy.

“Only a short time previously Sechenov and Mechnikov had been lecturing there. The university still cherished the traditions of the great Russian natural scientists. Nikolai Umov, the physicist, and Alexander Kovalevsky, the famous embryologist, read lectures there. These professors trained the students to have clear materialist ideas, taught them to seek in the external world for the causes of internal changes, as Sechenov had done when he proved that the external world determines the character of the higher nervous activity of animals and man, as Mechnikov and Pasteur had done when they explained the role of the external world in the origin and spread of diseases.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, pp. 74-75)

Darwin’s theories also became a very important factor in Zabolotny’s life-work. Zabolotny was expelled from the university for revolutionary activities and imprisoned. However, in prison his health became worse and the authorities were afraid his death would cause disturbances, so they released him. After his release “friends of Mechnikov, Bardakh and Gamaleya gave Zabolotny a friendly welcome to the Mechnikov laboratory.” (Ibid. p. 78) where he carried out research. Later he embarked on his many expeditions.

Western reactionary scientists opposed Zabolotny and denied his theory that the plague survives among animals and is transmitted from animals to humans. Instead they insisted that plague is only spread by contact with infected persons or their belongings. Zabolotny also came into fierce conflict with supporters of Malthus who considered epidemics a necessary population control mechanism.

“Life Triumphs” by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Zabolotny.

N. F. GAMALEYA (1859-1949, bacteriologist)

Nikolay Fyodorovich Gamaleya was a pioneer of microbiology and vaccine research, one of the greatest Soviet microbiologists.

After graduating from Odessa’s Novorossiysky University in 1880 and the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy in 1883 he traveled to France in 1886 to work in Louis Pasteur‘s laboratory (Pasteur is the main developer of the germ theory of disease). Gamaleya defended Pasteur’s research against reactionary dogmatists in the scientific community. Pasteur’s opponents sabotaged and delayed his research, ordering him not to treat rabies patients until further tests had been done. Pasteur’s opponents falsely claimed his rabies vaccines were dangerous and caused disease. Gamaleya knew that any delays were lethal and patients were dying all the time, as rabies was considered incurable and practically always fatal. He proved that Pasteur’s opponents were sabotaging vaccine tests intentionally by a campaign of lies and due to their incompetent unhygienic methods. He tested the vaccine on himself and showed it to be safe.

After his return to Russia he joined I. I. Mechnikov in organizing an Odessa bacteriological station for rabies vaccination studies and research on combating cattle plague and cholera, diagnosing sputum for tuberculosis, and preparing anthrax vaccines. He improved upon the work of Pasteur. The Odessa Bacteriological Institute became Russia’s first-ever bacteriological observation station. Despite lack of resources the scientists were able to succeed in figuring out the conditions under which the rabies vaccination was most effective. Gamaleya’s proposal for using killed bacilli in anti-cholera vaccines was later successfully applied on a wide scale as well. Similar stations were soon founded in Kiev (1886), Yekaterinoslav (1897), and Chernigov (1897).

After defending his dissertation in 1892, Gamaleya served as director of the Odessa Bacteriological Institute in 1896-1908. Researching anthrax in 1898, Gamaleya was the discoverer of the bacteria-destroying antibodies known as bacteriolysins.

Gamaleya initiated a public health campaign of exterminating rats to fight the plague in Odessa and southern Russia and pointed to the louse as the carrier of typhus. In 1910-1913, Gamaleya edited the journal Hygiene and Sanitation.

Gamaleya organized the supply and distribution of smallpox vaccines for the Red Army and made strides toward the eventual eradication of smallpox in the USSR.

The author of more than 300 academic publications on bacteriology, Gamaleya was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. He also served as head of the All-Union Society of Microbiologists, Epidemiologists and Infectionists.

Gamaleya received two Lenin Orders, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, the Stalin Prize in 1943 and other awards.

Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid description of the work of Gamaleya.

K. I. SKRYABIN (1879-1972, Helminthologist)

Konstantin Ivanovich Skryabin. Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences since 1939, academician of USSR Academy of Medical Sciences, Hero of Socialist Labor (1958), winner of Stalin Prize and Lenin Prize. He was a founder of the helminthology school, and an author of landmark books on helminths in Soviet Union. He was a Head of the Department of the Moscow Veterinary Institute (1920-1925) and (1933-1941), and at the same time Head of Helminthology Division of the Central Tropical Institute (1921-1941).

A. A. BOGOMOLETS (1881-1946, pathophysiologist)

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Bogomolets was a Soviet scientist who mainly researched cancer and aging. His parents were revolutionaries and Aleksandr was born at the infirmary of women’s prison. The opponent during his doctoral defense was I. P. Pavlov, who valued Bogomolets highly. In his early career Bogomolets worked at the so-called “Plague Fort”, a pioneering anti-disease station where legendary Russian and Soviet immunologists spent their early careers. He joyfully greeted the October Revolution and carried out medical and research work for the Red Army.

A. A. Bogomolets is the founder of the Russian and Ukrainian schools of pathophysiology, endocrinology and gerontology. In 1936 he developed the Anti-reticular Cytotoxic Serum, which helped treat certain illnesses and was hoped to prolong life. Bogomolets organized the first ever scientific conference on aging and longevity in Kiev in 1938. He made significant discoveries in cancer treatment and created the doctrine of the interaction between the tumor and the body.

He was awarded the following awards:
-First Degree Stalin Prize (1941) – for the scientific work “Guide to pathological physiology” in three volumes (1935-1937)
-Hero of Socialist Labor (1944) for outstanding achievements in science, for the creation of valuable drugs for the treatment of wounds and bone fractures.
-Two orders of Lenin (1940; 1944)
-Order of the Patriotic War, 1st class (1945)
-Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1944)
-Medal “For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945”

V. A. DOGIEL (1882-1955, zoologist, parasitologist, protozoologist)

Valentin Alexandrovich Dogiel (sometimes “Dogel”). Professor at the St. Petersburg (Later Leningrad State University) since 1913, and head of the Leningrad Laboratory of Protozoology at the Zoological Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences since 1944. In 1923 he founded the Laboratory of Parasitology at the Fisheries Research Institute VNIORKh in Leningrad.

Dogiel contributed significantly in the field of taxonomy of parasites and protozoa in general. He also worked on more general questions of comparative anatomy and zoology. He was appointed a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1939, and a foreign member of the Linnean Society of London in 1944. He was a co-worker of Y. N. Pavlovsky.

He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor in 1945 and the Order of Lenin in 1953.

Y. N. PAVLOVSKY (1884-1965, zoologist, entomologist, parasitologist)

Yevgeny Nikanorovich Pavlovsky was an important parasitologist. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1939), the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR (1944), honorary member of the Tajik Academy of Sciences (1951), and a lieutenant-general of the Red Army Medical Service in World War II.

In 1908, Yevgeny Pavlovsky graduated from the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy. He became a professor at his alma mater in 1921. In 1933–1944, he worked at the All-union Institute of Experimental Medicine in Leningrad and simultaneously at the Tajik branch of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1937–1951). Yevgeny Pavlovsky held the post of the director of the Zoology Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1942–1962. In 1946, he was appointed head of the Department of Parasitology & Medical Zoology at the Institute of Epidemiology & Microbiology of the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences. He was the president of the Soviet Geographical Society in 1952–1964. Under Pavlovsky’s direction, they organized numerous complex expeditions to the Central Asia, Transcaucasus, Crimea, Russian Far East and other regions of the Soviet Union to study endemic parasitic and transmissible diseases (tick-borne relapsing fever, tick-borne encephalitis, Pappataci fever, leishmaniasis etc.).

Yevgeny Pavlovsky introduced the concept of natural nidality of human diseases, defined by the idea that microscale disease foci are determined by the entire ecosystem. This concept laid the foundation for the elaboration of a number of preventive measures and promoted the development of the environmental trend in parasitology (together with the works of parasitologist Valentin Dogiel). Yevgeny Pavlovsky researched host organism as a habitat for parasites (parasitocenosis), numerous matters of regional and landscape parasitology, life cycles of a number of parasites, pathogenesis of helminth infection. Pavlovsky and his fellow scientists researched the fauna of flying blood-sucking insects (gnat) and methods of controlling them and venomous animals and characteristics of their venom.

Pavlovsky’s principal works are dedicated to the matters of parasitology. He authored several textbooks and manuals on parasitology. Pavlovsky was a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th convocations. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1941 and 1950) and the Mechnikov Gold Medal of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1949), and gold medal of the Soviet Geographical Society (1954). Yevgeny Pavlovsky was awarded five Orders of Lenin, four other orders, and numerous medals.

“If the causative organisms of the disease passed only from one human being to another, then having killed the last person in their path in a particular locality, the microbes themselves should then cease to exist. But for millions of years bacteria had been adapting themselves to the changing environmental conditions. The microbes of many most dangerous diseases make the complicated journey not in space, not from one country to another, but on one and the same restricted territory, passing from one species of animal to another. This path of infection, when the virus does not go beyond the bounds of wild nature, can be called its “minor cycle.”

People who have penetrated the depths of the Far Eastern taiga suffered from taiga encephalitis—an inflammation of the brain which is dangerous to life Years of heroic labour were spent before Yevgeny Pavlovsky and other Soviet scientists deciphered the “minor cycle” of the movement of encephalitis, discovered its natural haunts and proved that the tick which lives in the taiga introduces the virus of this disease into the blood when it bites a human being. The infection existed before, but it would now be visible and would pass along the “major cycle” which includes mankind.

During the years of the first five-year plan, when building began on the desert shores of Vakhsh in Central Asia, doctors observed the appearance of a serious disease which was a special variety of Leishmaniasis. Soviet scientists succeeded in establishing that the jackal is one of the links in the movement in nature of the Leishmania.

In this way scientists are investigating the limits of the spread of one or other microbe. In taiga, forests, steppes, deserts, mountains, swamps, wherever human beings live or will live, this work Is in progress. Scientists are discovering the invisible, well-concealed haunts of the enemy, They are laying bare the repositories, the reservoirs of the disease-creating microbe in order to protect mankind from it…

Soviet doctors are abolishing malaria by draining swamps and using aeroplanes to spray chemical substances on malaria-infested localities and so destroy mosquitoes. In all the main centres of malaria throughout the entire territory of our country, this exhausting disease, which afflicted millions of people, is almost entirely wiped out. As they master the depths of the taiga, scientists are destroying the haunts of the tick which carries the virus of taiga encephalitis. They find and destroy the natural bases, the secret natural haunts of the microbes which are the sources of infection.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, pp. 55-56)

“Evgeny Nikanorovich Pavlovsky elaborated his theory that diseases have their natural centres” (A. Sharov, Ibid. p. 196)

M. A. LEBEDEVA (1894–1957)

Maria Alekseyevna Lebedeva was a brave pioneering bacteriologist and revolutionary. She specialized in combating plague, and was a co-worker of D. K. Zabolotny.

She was imprisoned for revolutionary activity by the tsarist regime. She continued her scientific work after serving her sentence.

“Geneva, the taiga, revolutionary work, prison, work in an epidemic—this was the perfectly straight road taken by a woman who lived to bring the future nearer.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 124)

Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Lebedeva.

M. P. POKROVSKAYA (1901-1980, bacteriologist)

Magdalena Petrovna Pokrovskaya. She is known as the creator of the world’s first effective anti-plague vaccine (1934). In reality, an earlier vaccine had already been created by Soviet scientist Vladimir Khavkin. However, Pokrovskaya’s vaccine was far superior.

In 1934-1952 she worked at the Stavropol anti-plague station, headed the laboratory of microbiology. With the reorganization of the station into the Scientific Research Anti-Plague Institute of the Caucasus and Transcaucasia in 1952-1953, she held the position of Deputy Director for Research.

The anti-plague vaccine she developed used a living strain of plague bacteria which had been bred to be non-dangerous (avirulent). As a result it was able to provide particularly strong immunizing effect. The earlier vaccine developed by Khavkin had used dead plague bacteria. In order to accelerate the vaccine program, Pokrovskaya tested the vaccine on herself. She took this step because she was convinced the vaccine was effective, and because she was afraid Fascist Japan and Nazi Germany were going to invade the USSR and could have developed plague based bacteriological weapons. It turns out she was correct, as Japanese “Unit 731” really had developed such weapons.

Pokrovskaya was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, the Order of the Red Star, and the medal “For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War.”

Life Triumphs by A. Sharov contains a vivid depiction of the work of Pokrovskaya.

A. L. BERLIN (1903-1939, microbiologist)

Abram Lvovich Berlin was a Soviet microbiologist.

N. N. ZHUKOV-VEREZHNIKOV (1908-1981, microbiologist, immunologist)

Nikolai Nikolaevich Zhukov-Verezhnikov. Academician of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. He was a strong advocate of Michurin biology.

Graduated from the Medical Faculty of the 2nd Moscow University (1930). In 1932-1948 he worked in various research institutions in Saratov and Rostov-on-Don. In 1948 he organized and headed the laboratory of experimental immunobiology at the Institute of Experimental Biology of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. From 1948-1950 he was director of the institute. Academician of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences since 1948 and its vice president in 1949-1953.

In 1949, he acted as the Chief Forensic Medical Expert at the Khabarovsk trial of Japanese war criminals.
In 1952 he became Deputy Minister of the USSR Ministry of Health.

Scientific papers
-He researched plague and cholera and proposed methods of preventing these diseases.
-In 1944 he created a new live anti-plague vaccine (“ZhV”).
-Developed a method for treating pneumonic plague. Previously it was considered fatal in practically all cases.
-He put forward the theory of species-forming variability of bacteria.
-Developed the principle of obtaining vaccines against influenza.

“Zhukov-Yerezhnikov and Khvorostukhina together created a new live vaccine “ZhV,” which possessed a wonderful power of producing immunity” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 228)

Zhukov-Yerezhnikov was awarded the Stalin Prize of the second degree (1950), the Honored Scientist of the RSFSR award, two Orders of Lenin, Order of the October Revolution, two Orders of the Red Banner of Labor and various medals.


“Soviet scientists Yoff and Tiflov made a close study of the fleas which live as parasites on steppe rodents, and they have explained the importance of certain species of fleas in the spread of plague.

Tumansky and Polyak were the first to prove that it was possible for plague microbes to be preserved for a long time in the organism of fleas, during the period separating one outbreak of epizootic disease from another…

Stupnitsky, Tinker and many others completed the chain of investigations. It appeared that the microbes fully preserve their strength; they, together with the blood of the plague-stricken suslik, could only have entered the belly of the insect when the summer epizootic disease was at its height and long before the rodents’ winter hibernation.” (A. Sharov, Life Triumphs, p. 206)


N. M. PRZHEVALSKY (1839-1888, geographer, explorer of Central and East Asia)

Nikolay Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky was a Russian geographer and renowned explorer of Central and East Asia. He traveled through regions then unknown to the West and discovered many previously unknown species. His contribution to science and his people was recognized in the USSR.

“Przhevalsky” a nice Soviet film about his career.

MIKLUKHO-MAKLAI (1846-1888, legendary explorer, ethnologist, anthropologist, biologist)

Nicholas Miklukho-Maklai (sometimes “Miklouho-Maclay”) was a legendary traveler and explorer who became famous as one of the earliest scientists to settle among and study indigenous people of New Guinea who had never seen a European.

He was a brave fighter for democracy and freedom. He sought to defend indigenous people from colonial exploitation. During his research he became convinced that racism was not scientific:

“His conclusion – that all races possessed identical intellectual potential – led him to campaign against slavery and for the rights of indigenous people.” (The Guardian, The dashing Russian adventurer who fought to save indigenous lives, June 21, 2020)

“Miklukho-Maklai” a nice Soviet film about his career.


“The ideas that the higher layers of the atmosphere… are inaccessible have also… receded into the past: Fedoseyenko, Vasenko and Usyskin, Soviet stratonauts, have made the first successful attempts at mastering the altitudes at the peril of their lives.” (A. Fersman, Geochemistry for everyone, pp. 267-268)

Osoaviakhim-1 was a ground-breaking mission to launch a manned stratospheric balloon. The balloon reached the altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet) successfully and began to descend. The flight lasted 7 hours. However, as the balloon descended to 12,000 meters, it experienced loss of buoyancy and crashed as a result, killing the crew.

The crew consisted of the following persons:

Pavel Fedorovich Fedoseenko (1898-1934) military pilot, aeronaut, commander of the crew. Was previously awarded the Order of the Red Banner and other honors.
Ilya Davydovich Usyskin (1910-1934) physicist.
Andrei Bogdanovich Vasenko (1899-1934) aerological engineer and designer.

All three crew members were posthumously awarded the Order of Lenin. Postage stamps were issued in their honor and their ashes were buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. They have become immortalized as fearless heroes of science.

IVAN PAPANIN (1894-1986, Polar explorer)

Ivan Dmitrievich Papanin was a Soviet polar explorer, scientist, Counter Admiral, and twice Hero of the Soviet Union, who was awarded nine Orders of Lenin.

In 1931 he took part in the expedition of the icebreaker Malygin to Franz Josef Land. In 1932-1933 he was the head of a polar expedition on Tikhaya Bay on Franz Josef Land. In 1934-1935 he was in command of a polar station on Cape Chelyuskin. In 1937-1938 he was in charge of the famous expedition North Pole-1. Four researchers, Ivan Papanin, Ernst Krenkel, Yevgeny Fyodorov and Petr Shirshov, landed on the drifting ice-floes in an airplane flown by Mikhail Vodopyanov. For 234 days, Papanin’s team carried out a wide range of scientific observations in the near-polar zone, until taken back by the two icebreakers Murman and Taimyr. It was the first expedition of its kind in the world. All members of the expedition received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, which was extremely rare before World War II. In 1939-1946 Papanin was the successor to Otto Schmidt as head of the Glavsevmorput’ (Glavniy Severniy Morskoy Put’) – an establishment that oversaw all commercial operations on the Northern Sea Route. In 1940 he received a second Hero of the Soviet Union title for organizing the expedition that saved the icebreaker Sedov. During World War II he was the representative of the State Defence Committee (Gosudarstvennij Komitet Oborony) responsible for all transportation by the Northern Sea Route. In 1941-1952 he was a member of the Central Revision Commission of the Communist Party. In 1948-1951 he was the deputy director of Institute for Oceanology of the USSR Academy of Sciences and from 1951 the Head of the Academy’s Department of Maritime Expeditions.

OTTO SCHMIDT (1891-1956, mathematician, astronomer, geophysicist, polar explorer)

Otto Yulyevich Shmidt was a Soviet scientist, Hero of the USSR (27 June 1937), and member of the Communist Party. He made important contributions especially to geology, but also to mathematics and astronomy. However, he is probably most famous for his leadership of the Polar Expedition North Pole-1.

He worked at Narkompros (People’s Commissariat for Education), the State Scientific Board at the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, and the Communist Academy. He was Chair of the Foreign Literature Committee from October 1921. He was also employed as the director of the State Publishing House (Gosizdat) from 1921 to 1924, and chief editor of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia from 1924 to 1941. From 1923 he was a professor at the Second Moscow State University and later at the Moscow State University, and from 1930 to 1932, Schmidt was the head of the Arctic Institute.

From 1932 to 1939, he was appointed head of Glavsevmorput’ (Glavnoe upravlenie Severnogo Morskogo Puti) – an establishment that oversaw all commercial operations on the Northern Sea Route. From 1939 to 1942, Schmidt became a vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, where he organized the Institute of Theoretical Geophysics (he was its director until 1949). Otto Schmidt was a founder of the Moscow Algebra School, which he directed for many years.

In the mid-1940s, Schmidt suggested a new cosmogonical hypothesis on the formation of the Earth and other planets of the Solar System, which he continued to develop together with a group of Soviet scientists until his death.

Schmidt was an explorer of the Arctic. In 1929 and 1930, he led expeditions on the steam icebreaker Georgy Sedov, establishing the first scientific research station on the Franz Josef Land, exploring the northwestern parts of the Kara Sea and western coasts of Severnaya Zemlya, and discovering a few islands. In 1932, Schmidt’s expedition on the steam icebreaker Sibiryakov with Captain Vladimir Voronin made a non-stop voyage from Arkhangelsk to the Pacific Ocean without wintering for the first time in history. From 1933 to 1934, Schmidt led the voyage of the steamship Cheliuskin, also with Captain Vladimir Voronin, along the Northern Sea Route. In 1937, he supervised an airborne expedition that established a drift-ice station “North Pole-1”. In 1938, he was in charge of evacuating its personnel from the ice.

Otto Schmidt was a member of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR and a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of the first convocation (1938-1946).


B. M. KEDROV (1903-1985, philosopher of science)

B. M. Kedrov, “Criticism by modern materialist chemists of the idealistic theory of resonance-mesomerism” (From the book Evolution of the Concept of the Element in Chemistry)

M. B. MITIN (1901-1987, philosopher, philosopher of science)

Mitin was a michurinist philosopher. He studied philosophy at the Institute of Red Professors in 1925-1929, became a member of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in 1919. From 1944 to 1950 he served on the editorial board of the journal Bolshevik. In 1939 he was elected to the Central Committee and as the director of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CPSU Central Committee.

Mitin spearheaded the campaign against Deborin’s menshevizing idealism in the 1930s and consistently defended and developed Dialectical Materialism throughout his career.

Works of Mitin on marxist theory


In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

Istoriia Akademii nauk SSSR [History of the USSR Academy of Sciences] (in Russian)

История черной металлургии в СССР [History of ferrous metallurgy in the USSR] Volume 1, by S. G. Strumilin (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

«Наука и жизнь» . [“Science and life”] no. 5 (1953) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)


Kachalov – Basic economic law of socialism

The successes of Soviet science:

V. Venikov – Simulation of electrical systems.
V. Dogel – In the world of protozoa.
V. Orekhovich – Conversion of proteins into organisms
L. Masevich – The origin of Stars…
M. Nikolskaya – Insects against insects.
N. I. Nikitin – Lumber Chemistry.
A. Fedorov – In the new China by the paths of Michurin.
L. Solsviev – Increasing the fat content of milk.

Development of I.P. Pavlov’s ideas:

P. Frolov – Hygiene of mental labor…

Science and production:

V. A. Kolesov – 10 norms per shift!

Science and technology news:

S. Samoilov – Gas generator diesel locomotive
V. Zheleznov – Ftivazid
P. Kholopov – Catalog of Professor Kharadze
I. V. Yakushkin, M. Edelstein – Pre-harvest beet feeding

Our homeland:

G. Ushakov – On untouched land

Criticism and bibliography:

N. Shcherbinovsky – Creators of soil science



August Weismann (1834-1914) was a reactionary biologist who invented the so-called “germ-plasm theory”. According to this reactionary theory, heredity is only contained in small particles called the germ-plasm. According to Weismann, the germ-plasm is indestructible, unchangeable and totally separate from the rest of the organism. By this he meant that the heredity of the organism cannot be influenced in any way by its living conditions. The organism inherits the eternal germ-plasm from its parent, and passes it to its own offspring. The living body is only a temporary vessel for the immortal germ-plasm. The germ-plasm basically reincarnates into different bodies. The germ-plasm can never change, it can only grow and divide. Weismann explained hereditary change by claiming that elements of the germ-plasm mix during sexual procreation, although they can never truly change and new heredity can never be added. The existing hereditary elements have existed since the beginning of time. By this Weismann practically denied the possibility of evolution and development from lower to higher organisms. Through fallacious experiments Weismann focused on trying to debunk the inheritance of acquired characteristics, which he failed to do.

The idealist-mystical notion of the eternal germ-plasm which is isolated from the body of the organism is known as weismannism.

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) was an Austrian augustinian monk. Mendel is considered the founder of modern reactionary bourgeois genetics. Living at a monastery he carried out a number of experiments with peas. He developed the idea that heredity consists of “hereditary factors” (now called ‘genes’). He held similar views to weismannism and believed hereditary factors are not influenced by material conditions. Mendel was interested in mathematics, and his main focus was trying to impose statistical laws on biology. He believed that hereditary traits mix during sexual procreation according to mathematical ratios (most famous is his 3:1 ratio). Mendel also developed a number of other views, now often called “Mendel’s laws” such as the idea that traits are passed down separately from each other and that there is no relation between one hereditary trait and another, that there is no blending of hereditary traits etc. It is now recognized that these are not laws, and apply only to a limited extent and only in certain cases.

Mendel’s ratios only apply to certain plants, and as T. D. Lysenko said, they are only a statistical reality, an average, but not something which applies to every individual organism. The phenomena of dominance discovered by Mendel is a real fact but Mendel understood it metaphysically as something absolute. In reality traits can be dominant or recessive depending on the circumstance, and dominance can change.

Mendel’s discoveries did not have any scientific importance during his life and he was ignored, although he was able to present his findings to scientific bodies. He rejected his own findings in his second paper, because he realized his findings only applied to peas (to the degree that they apply at all) and he wasn’t able to replicate them. Mendel’s follower R. A. Fischer also concluded that Mendel had fabricated the data in the paper which showed all his “discoveries”.

Mendel is usually associated with the theory of the “gene” although Mendel didn’t use the term himself. The theory that heredity is contained only in small particles called “genes” which are located in chromosomes, which are mixed during sexual procreation is called mendelism. Mendelism is idealist because it does not recognize heredity as a property of the entire organism in relation its environment, because it sees the genes as something isolated from the rest of the organism and impervious to change and impervious to effects of the material conditions.

According to the chromosome theory of reactionary biologists Sutton and Boveri, the genes, and thus all heredity, are located only in the chromosomes. Soviet science debunked this long ago, and even modern bourgeois science admits that this is not true. The chromosome theory still remains a core principle of mendelism. However, after the theory was debunked and after DNA was discovered, mendelism has begun claiming that genes consist of DNA, and are located where ever DNA exists. This only demonstrates that while DNA actually exists, genes are not real physical things, but merely a theoretical concept.

Mendelism originally opposed Darwinian evolution. Leading mendelists such as Wilhelm Johannsen (1857-1927) denied Darwinian evolution because it was incompatible with mendelism. Darwin also advocated the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, while mendelism denies it. Modern mendelism upholds the so-called “modern synthesis” which attempts to combine darwinism with mendelism. They achieved this by distorting darwinism into neo-darwinism. The term “modern synthesis” was coined by reactionary imperialist geneticist Julian Huxley.

Mendelists quickly adopted the pseudo-science known as “eugenics”, which is closely associated with racism and fascism. Developers of the “modern synthesis” Julian Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky and their supporters were leaders of the eugenics movement. Eugenics or “population hygiene” is the idea that “inferior people” such as the poor, the disabled or the non-whites, should be killed, aborted, sterilized etc. and thus removed from the “gene pool”. Eugenics is the continuation of “race science”, sterilization of natives and other similar colonialist and fascist policies.

Mendelist Cyril Dean Darlington (1903-1981) also contributed to the “neo-darwinian synthesis”. Darlington who was often criticized in the USSR, supported eugenics and racism:

“English biologist, geneticist and eugenicist, who discovered the mechanics of chromosomal crossover, its role in inheritance… contributed to modern evolutionary synthesis… In 1972 he, along with 50 other prominent scientists signed “Resolution on Scientific Freedom Regarding Human Behavior and Heredity” in which a genetic approach to understanding the behaviour of man was strongly defended. He staunchly defended his colleague in the fight against Lysenkoism, John Baker, who published the controversial book “Race” in 1974. Races are, according to Baker (and Darlington), breeding populations with demarcations drawn at whatever level of detail is required for the problem at hand. Asked by a reporter for the Sunday times whether or not he was a racist, Darlington replied: “Well, I’m regarded as one by everyone except the Jews, who are racist, and who utterly agree with my views.”” (wikipedia)

Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945) carried out mutation experiments with fruit-flies. His work was important for creating the neo-darwinian view of evolution, which is incompatible with the teaching of Darwin but is compatible with mendelism. In the view of Morgan, evolution happens because of mutations which are purely random. He fallaciously claimed there were no governing principles or biological laws behind mutations, because he could not discover any. His theory denies the possibility of discovering the laws behind evolution and also denies the possibility of guiding development of organisms. His theory proclaims man’s powerlessness before nature, and promised absolutely no practical utility.

Morgan also admitted that his mutation experiments using radiation, were not able to produce any beneficial mutations, but only harmful mutations. As a result he questioned whether evolution towards more advanced organisms was possible.

The notion that evolution is entirely random and its laws are unknowable is called morganism. It provides mendelism-weismannism with a way to excuse any changes caused by material conditions and any inherited acquired characteristics, as nothing but “random mutations”. Morganism is unfalsifiable and thus unscientific even by bourgeois standards.


Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow (1821-1902) was a physician who invented the doctrine that life can exist only in the form of cells, and that cells can only emerge from other cells. Virchow did not invent the cell-theory, but instead he distorted it. Virchow’s theory is unscientific because it makes it necessary to believe the first cell somehow emerged complete and fully formed. That would be a miracle which presupposes divine creation.

Soviet scientists Olga Lepeshinskaya, Alexander Oparin and their collaborators demonstrated that life began with forms much simpler than a fully formed cell. Even modern bourgeois science doubts Virchowism and it is widely understood that life began with self-replicating proteins. However, Virchowism is still the mainstream consensus among the bourgeois academia.

As a reactionary idealist Virchow denied the materialist theory of Darwinian evolution and called Darwin an ignoramus. He also did not accept the materialist germ-theory of disease developed by Louis Pasteur.


N. K. KOLTSOV (1872-1940)

Nikolai Konstantinovich Koltsov was a reactionary scientist, supporter of mendelism in the USSR. Koltsov supported the fascist pseudo-science of eugenics and was active in the Russian Eugenic Society until it was closed down. Koltsov was arrested and held under arrest in 1920-1921 because of his involvement in the anti-Bolshevik Tactical Center which united reactionary intellectuals to overthrow the government.

I. I. SCHMALHAUSEN (1884-1963)

Ivan Ivanovich Schmalhausen was a leading reactionary mendelist geneticist in the USSR. He advocated neo-darwinism and helped the eugenicists J. Huxley and T. Dobzhansky develop the so-called neo-darwinian “modern synthesis”. His work was translated into english by Dobzhansky. Schmalhausen was removed from his position in the Institute of Evolutionary Morphology and Department of Darwinism of Moscow University in 1948 because of his reactionary views. After the death of Stalin Schmalhausen was a leading figure in the anti-michurinist movement.

N. I. VAVILOV (1887-1943)

Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov was a prominent reactionary mendelist geneticist in the USSR. He supported eugenicist pseudo-science and was connected to international eugenicists such as Hermann Joseph Muller. He was also connected to the Right-Opposition. N. I. Vavilov was sentenced to prison in 1940 for sabotage in agriculture and espionage on behalf of Britain. He died in a Leningrad prison in 1943 due to hardships of WWII. His brother was the successful physicist and communist S. I. Vavilov.

P. M. ZHUKOVSKY (1888-1975)

Pyotr Mikhailovich Zhukovsky was a reactionary mendelist geneticist. He was a follower of N. I. Vavilov and involved in the anti-michurinist movement after the death of Stalin.

N. P. DUBININ (1907-1998)

Nikolai Petrovich Dubinin was a leading reactionary mendelist geneticist in the USSR. After the death of Stalin he was a leader of the anti-michurinist movement. During the revisionist period he was promoted and became the head of the Laboratory of Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1956.


A Soviet mendelist who defected to Germany and worked for the Third Reich. After the defeat of Nazism in 1945 he returned to the USSR and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was supported by other mendelists and continued to promote reactionary views after his release.

Other significant reactionary mendelists in the USSR were M. M. ZAVADOVSKY (1891-1957) and
A. R. ZHEBRAK (1901-1965).


L. A. ORBELI (1882-1958) received harsh criticism for distorting Pavlov’s theories in support of reactionary mendelism.

P. K. ANOKHIN (1882-1958) attempted to replace Pavlov’s theories with reactionary mechanistic cybernetic theories. Anokhin pretended to support Michurinism (probably so he could steal Orbeli’s position) but showed his true colors when he himself was criticized as a reactionary soon after Orbeli. He signed the notorious anti-Michurinist “Letter of the 300” in 1955.

PETR KUPALOV (1888-1964) was heavily criticized for his distortions of Pavlov’s theory.


B. E. RAIKOV (1880-1966)

Boris Evgen’evich Raikov was a soviet pedagogue who was harshly criticized at a meeting of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences on September 4, 1948, for his promotion of mendelism-morganism and distorting darwinism. Revisionists later rehabilitated him and the 1979 edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia falsely portrays him in a positive light without mentioning the criticisms.


Mendelists in medicine were Leonid Bliakher, Aleksandr Gurvich and Sergei Davidenkov who also attempted to distort pavlovism.


“Cybernetics: a reactionary pseudoscience that appeared in the U.S.A. after World War II”
(Soviet Short Philosophical Dictionary, 1954)

Cybernetics is a reactionary mechanistic and idealist worldview developed mainly by N. Wiener, which denies dialectical materialism. It claims that humans are basically the same as machines. In the 1960s and 70s the term “cybernetics” began to be used for computer science and automation in general, but this is a mistaken usage of the term.

A detailed critique and historical overview of Cybernetics: Cybernetics in the USSR: A Marxist-Leninist Perspective

A. I. BERG (1893-1979, electrical engineer, saboteur, revisionist)

Axel Ivanovich Berg was a Soviet physicist and electrical engineer who at one time held certain responsible positions. He was an Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences since 1946 and member of the CPSU since 1944.

Berg was arrested in 1937 for sabotage and held in custody for 3 years. He was released in 1940 due to insufficient evidence. In the revisionist period he was one of the founders of cybernetics in the USSR.

E. KOLMAN (1892-1979)

Cybernetics was promoted in the USSR by Ernest Kolman who Benjamin Peters in his article “Normalizing Soviet Cybernetics” characterizes as “a failed mathematician” (p. 159).

Kolman was described as a “true stalinist” but in reality he was only a careerist. His commitment to marxism had always been self-serving and disingenuous. He was hardly someone defending the integrity of marxism from bourgeois pseudoscience and “had spent time in a Stalinist labor camp after World War II for straying from the party line in his interpretation of Marxism.” (p. 160).

Later Kolman defected to Sweden where he openly rejected Leninism entirely and strongly criticized Marx and Engels.


P. A. MOLCHANOV (1893-1941, meteorologist, traitor)

Pavel Alexandrovich Molchanov was a Soviet meteorologist who held certain responsible posts such as the head of the Department of Air Navigation at the Leningrad Institute of Civil Air Fleet Engineers, until he was arrested for treason in 1941 and shot.

L. D. LANDAU (1908-1968, physicist)

Lev Davidovich Landau was a soviet physicist and quantum physicist. He held important positions and made contributions to science. However, he also made numerous idealistic mistakes in science and philosophy of science. From 1937 until 1962, Landau was allowed to be the head of the Theoretical Division at the Institute for Physical Problems.

He was held in prison for interrogation in 1938-1939 because he spread counter-revolutionary leaflets which equated Marxism and Nazism.

A. D. SAKHAROV (1921-1989)

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was a physicist and counter-revolutionary from the USSR. He was involved in nuclear physics. The USSR was the most advanced country in that field. Since he worked under a team led by brilliant physicists such as Igor Tamm and Igor Kurchatov who won the Stalin Prize for their achivements, Sakharov was also awarded one in 1953. He kept his reactionary views secret while working on nuclear physics and succeeded in leeching off the success of his colleagues. Secretly and later publically Sakharov supported capitalism and imperialism, and after Stalin’s death began campaigning against progressive sciences such as michurinism. He was later stripped of all his awards.

When he was carrying out scientific work he was not given any awards by the West and generally his work was entirely overshadowed by his more capable colleagues, but later he was given a Nobel Prize for being an anti-Soviet dissident.

The Sakharov-Solzhenitsyn Fraud

Art in socialist Hungary

This article contains some basic information about Socialist Realism and politically progressive art in Hungary. I will try to update this as I research more.


FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886)

The most famous pre-revolutionary music composer was Franz Liszt (1811-1886) who represents perhaps the peak of bourgeois-revolutionary music in Hungary. Liszt was a romantic composer who contributed significantly to the development of music through his masterful piano playing, through his compositions and by helping other composers. He contributed significantly to music criticism through his articles and books (most famous being his book about the life and work of Chopin). Liszt was sympathetic to revolutionary ideas, was deeply concerned about the life of the ordinary working people, and supported the democratic and national liberation movements. He tried to create a Hungarian national style in classical music. As his inspiration in this venture he used the verbunkos, a style of dance music used in military recruitments in Hungary.

At the time Hungary was an Austrian protectorate and culturally dominated by the Germanic world. However, after the failed 1848 revolution by Lajos Kossuth, the reactionary Hapsburg rulers of Hungary were forced to make compromises. They gave Hungary somewhat more cultural autonomy and Liszt was able to start a Musical Academy in Hungary in 1875 with his colleague Ferenc Erkel as its director.

FERENC ERKEL (1810-1893)

Ferenc Erkel was another important composer of the pre-revolutionary era. He is the founder of Hungarian national opera, the first Hungarian composer to write operatic music. His most successful work was the patriotic opera Hunyadi László (1844) and another highly respected work is Bánk bán (1861). He also composed the opera Dózsa György (1867) about the famous peasant revolution of 1514.

The Ferenc Erkel Prize for great composers was created in the Hungarian People’s Republic in 1952.

Like Liszt, Erkel was largely influenced by Western styles but tried to create a Hungarian kind of music and tried to make art music something which ordinary people can also enjoy. The greatest composer of the Hungarian People’s Republic, Zoltan Kodaly said that Erkel “chose the path that made it possible to bring music closer to the people, and the people closer to music. In composing the music for a whole series of folk plays he used genuine folk music. It is a pity that he did not go further, but the gap between folk song and opera seemed to him too big to make any decisive attempt at bridging it. Yet until this has been done, there can be no hope of establishing real contact between the ordinary people and the higher forms of music.” (quoted in László Eősze, Zoltán Kodály: his life and work, p. 149)

“Erkel, Ferenc. Born Nov. 7, 1810, in Gyula; died June 15, 1893, in Budapest. Hungarian composer, conductor, teacher, and figure in the music world.

Erkel studied under H. Klein in Pozsony (now Bratislava). From 1828 to 1835 he was in Kolozsvár (now Cluj), where he taught and, in 1830, was a bandmaster. In 1835 he took up residence in Budapest, where from 1838 to 1890 he served as the principal conductor and music director of the National Theater. He was appointed music director of the Philharmonic Society in 1853 and of the National Hungarian Association of Choral Singers in 1868. From 1875 to 1889 he served as principal and professor of piano at the National Academy of Music in Budapest; F. Liszt was the academy’s president.

Erkel was the founder of the Hungarian national opera. Most of his operatic works are based on tragic episodes in the struggle to liberate Hungary from its conquerers, the most important being the heroic lyric operas Hunyadi László (1844) and Bánk ban (1852; staged: Pest, 1861; Moscow, 1957; Novosibirsk, 1958), which gained great popularity among the composer’s contemporaries. Several melodies from these operas, some set to new lyrics, became mass songs that were sung during the revolutionary popular demonstrations of 1848–49 and 1918–19.

Erkel achieved a synthesis of contemporary Western European opera and traditional Hungarian music, making use of the verbunkos (dance) style and Hungarian folk melodies. Among his other operas—he composed a total of nine—are Báton Mária (1840), Dósza György (1867), and two comic operas. Erkel also composed the Festival Overture (1887), works for the piano, incidental music for “popular plays” (népszinmü), and choral works, notably “Hymnusz,” the Hungarian national anthem (1844).

Szabolcsi, B. Istoriia vengerskoi muzyki. Budapest, 1964. Pages 71–74. (Translated from Hungarian.)
Maróthy, J. “Put’ Erkelia ot geroiko-liricheskoi opery k kriticheskomu realizmu.” In Muzyka Vengrii. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from Hungarian.)
Abrányi, K. Erkel Ferenc élete és müködése. Budapest, 1895.
Legány, D. Erkel Ferenc miüvei és korabeli történetük. Budapest, 1972.”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979, article by P. F. Veis)

BELA BARTOK (1881-1945)

An important composer of the early 20th century was Béla Bartók (1881-1945), whose work (such as his symphonic poem “Kossuth” about the 1848 revolution) was progressive and supported national liberation. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic (1919) Bartók was a member of the Musical Directorate. After the revolution was crushed he toured abroad and considered emigration. “Everything is being ruined here”, he wrote in an autobiographical work. He finally had to escape the country after Hungary joined WWII on the side of the Nazis. He went to the USA, where he died in poverty.

Right from the beginning Bartók had been inspired by Liszt to create a Hungarian national music. However, after serious research into Hungarian folk music he realized that although the verbunkos are genuinely Hungarian, they are not really folk music. After conducting serious research among the masses he began using and popularizing folk musical motifs collected from the peasants of Hungary and neighboring countries. He began his long collaboration with Zoltan Kodaly, who also collected and studied folk music and had a similar goal of creating a national Hungarian music.

Due to periods of marginalization, isolation from the people, and foreign emigration (which he deeply regretted), part of Bartók’s work suffered from negative bourgeois influences. He lived during the period when capitalism entered its imperialist stage, and the bourgeois system suffered a serious decline in quality of art which has continued ever since. Bartók’s early goal had been to unite the folk music of the masses with elements from contemporary academic music. He had to eventually abandon this project as impossible, and was disturbed by the deepening crisis of bourgeois music.

Bartók’s idea of uniting mass music with classical music had been absolutely correct. However, he didn’t realize that what the contemporary academia considered ‘classical music’ was really decadent imperialist music, which was decaying more and more, and abandoning all principles of art, and all principles of classical music. Bartók understood this only instinctively. In reality Bartók had stumbled upon the core problem of musical art. It was necessary to combine the music of the people (the folk) with classical music, but bourgeois music had abandoned this goal and started to decline further and further. The only solution was to go forward to Socialist Realist music.

Bartók was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century with great artistic achievements. Though Bartók was not a communist he was an ardent anti-fascist and often worked with communists, for example with the writer Béla Balázs. Bartók was a patriot who defended Hungarian independence, and an internationalist. A telling example of Bartók’s internationalism is that he collected thousands of folk songs originally in Hungary, but eventually expanded his research to Slovak, Romanian, Ukrainian, Turkish and other folk songs, even using them in his compositions. A deep and critical Marxist analysis of Bartók’s work was written by Chao Feng (Bartók and Chinese Music Culture).

Bartók’s mistakes

Despite his great genius and his great achievements, some of Bartók’s works suffered from decadent bourgeois formalism. Some works such as “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta” is written based on mathematical patterns, and sounds like random dissonant notes. It sounds like it could’ve been written by a computer without ears. It was written in the style called “Serialism” which was fashionable in bourgeois circles at the time, and which reached its peak in atonality. (Atonality means music which doesn’t have a key. It sounds extremely unnatural, unsettling and irritating.)

Some other works such as “The Miraculous Mandarin” are vulgar, without artistic merit and exhibit the same values as typical capitalist consumerism, the main protagonists are villains, prostitutes, thieves and murderers. It also sounds blatantly ugly.

Along with formalistic ugliness the most typical problem in Bartók’s work is pessimism. His works all depict someone who is deeply alienated in capitalist society and often isolated from the masses. Even good works by Bartók such as “the Concerto for Orchestra” suffer from this.

Bartók’s great achivements

Despite the faults, Bartók wrote some very good works which were frequently performed and played on the radio. Favorites included songs for singing such as “Enchanting Song”, “Don’t Leave Me!” and “Pillow Dance”; selections from the Ten Easy Pieces for Piano (particularly “Evening with the Széklers and “Bear Dance”). The Sonatina and the Romanian Folk Dances were also very popular and played many times a week on the radio. Bartók’s late works (particularly the Violin Concerto, the Divertimento, the Concerto for Orchestra, the Third Piano Concerto, and the Sonata for Solo Violin) were also played very often.

Additional information, criticism and analysis about individual works as well as a full list of Bartók’s works that were considered artistically valuable and not formalistic is attached as appendix 1 at the end of the article (even formalistic works continued to be played sometimes. There wasn’t necessarily a complete “ban” against them).

Communists took art seriously and wanted to make sure Bartók’s best work was being displayed. A newspaper editorial from 1950 states:

“The purpose of these programs is to make known Bartók’s true face, his true art, for the working class. We introduce Bartók, the fierce scholar of the Hungarian folk song, Bartók, the progressive artist, the great composer. This week the Radio’s listeners will find practically every outstanding work of his on the program, and through lectures, popular explanations, and introductions these works will find their way to the hearts of the listeners.” (quoted in Danielle Fosler-Lussier, Music divided, p. 56)

The Western imperialists’ reaction to Béla Bartók

The capitalist west carried out a two-fold strategy regarding Bartók. On the one hand, they tried to claim Bartók for themselves. They claimed that the majority of Bartók’s work, all the folk-inspired pieces, and other beautiful and artistic pieces were worthless. In the opinion of the western imperialists only the ugly formalistic and dissonant works, as well as to a lesser extent the escapist and mystical influenced works had any merit. They tried to propagate Bartók’s worst pieces and attacked Communists for not performing them or liking them. They tried to appropriate Bartók, without ever mentioning that when Bartók was alive he never received any support from the West. They let him die of illness in poverty and misery.

Great Hungarian composer Ferenc Szabó wrote:

“Even if we do not agree with certain details of the Bartókian worldview, Bartók belongs to us organically and cannot be separated from us. This is why the English-speaking students of Goebbels trumpet to the world that the Hungarian People’s Republic has denied Bartók, and that in his home—in Hungary—today it is forbidden to perform Bartók’s works. This statement is just as false as their claiming Bartók as their own, equating Bartók with themselves and their filthy worldview. The Hungarian People’s Republic sincerely, rightfully, and with decided openness has always acknowledged Bartók as its own. One of the loveliest streets in Budapest is named after him. One of the most important musical institutions that leads and comprises the spontaneous musical activity of the Hungarian workers carries Bartók’s name. . . . We, the composers of the Hungarian People’s Republic, down to the last man, claim him as our own.” (“Bartók Does Not Compromise” quoted in Music divided, p. 64)

While propping up fascists in Greece, South Korea and Spain and supporting fascists all over the world, Western commentators hypocritically attacked all democratic folk-music and folk-inspired music as fascistic. They also claimed that all melodic classical music inherently seemed “stalinist” and thus should be persecuted. These theories were promoted by fake leftists on the payroll of the CIA such as Theodor Adorno and “the Frankfurt School”, and American Trotskyists of the Partisan Review including Clement Greenberg, Dwight Macdonald and Kurt List. They were also funded through the CIA front organization “Congress for Cultural Freedom”. This was a crusade by the imperialists to destroy beauty in art and to destroy Socialist Realism.

The second half of the imperialists’ strategy regarding Bartók was to minimize his relevance for contemporary composers. Because he wrote folk-influenced and beautiful music Bartók was seen as suspiciously similar to Socialist Realism. Historian Danielle Fosler-Lussier writes:

“Bartok’s music largely fell out of the teaching repertory for composition students at two important European centers of innovation, in Messiaen’s courses in Paris and at Darmstadt. The thinkers who subscribed to modernism as an ethical imperative were also among Europe’s most influential teachers—Leibowitz, Adorno, Scherchen, and Messiaen—and their prominence surely hastened Bartok’s departure from the curriculum and influenced the musical preferences of the next generation of composers. The turn away from Bartok as a model was not merely a shift in taste; it reflected new views of history and of musical style that were shaped directly or indirectly by the political pressures of the early cold war years. For some, such as Scherchen and Stuckenschmidt, the new view was heavily influenced by perceptions… of the threat of socialist realism. For others, such as Stockhausen, the new view seems to have been encouraged by Adorno’s philosophical criticism of musical style but applied in an abstract way to the history of style… (Music divided, p. 48)

When reactionary composers left Hungary and moved to the USA, they were not allowed to show any love for Bartók, or for anything Hungarian:

“Apprehension about the influence of Bartok and the quasi-political connotations his music had acquired lingered for years. The composer Gyorgy Ligeti, who left Hungary for the West late in 1956, exemplified this long-lasting anxiety about Bartok in a particularly poignant way… for Ligeti, as for the other figures [of his ilk], the question of Bartok’s influence was uncomfortably entangled with the [so-called] political backwardness [i.e. socialism] of Eastern Europe; for Ligeti, these were also fraught questions about his personal history and about where he belonged… Ligeti… explicitly avoided addressing the question of Bartok’s influence or even acknowledging the existence of his own works before his emigration… in 1970 he still felt the need to suppress these elements of his personal history, to draw a veil over everything that connected him to his Hungarian past. (Music divided, pp. 49-50)

BELA REINITZ (1878-1943)

According to Finnish marxist music critic Ilpo Saunio among the first to discover the importance of Bartók was communist composer Béla Reinitz. According to Saunio Reinitz himself was “one of the most important proletarian composers of the early 20s” (Saunio, Sisko, veli, kuulet kummat soitot, p. 101). In 1919 Reinitz worked together with Bartók and was the kommissar for music and theatre affairs in the Hungarian Soviet Republic. He was forced to escape Hungary after the fall of the Soviet Republic. In emigration he composed various works, including communist songs (such as the hilarious satire “Der Revoluzzer” and the anti-war “Der müde Soldat”). After returning to Hungary he composed works based on the great revolutionary poets Sándor Petőfi, Endre Ady and Attila József.

ZOLTAN KODALY (1882-1967)

The greatest composer of the Hungarian People’s Republic was Zoltán Kodály. He was a long time collaborator of Béla Bartók both as a composer and researcher. He devoted his life to composing music, musical education, and researching folk music. He made great achivements in all three fields. His music, which is greatly influenced by folk music, is characterized by an optimistic, clear, democratic-humanist spirit.

The Communist composer Bela Reinitz had said: “In the future, Kodaly will be numbered amongst the most illustrious Hungarians. His name will be added to the list of distinguished men who have upheld the culture of our country” (quoted in László Eősze, Zoltán Kodály: his life and work, p. 19). Reinitz’s prediction turned out exactly correct.

Kodaly’s life goal was to unite the music of the masses, the folk music, with art music. With Bartok he traveled the countryside of Hungary and neighboring countries collecting folk melodies.

In the Hungarian Soviet Republic

“The very best of the creative intelligentsia, scholars, painters, composers and others, had lined up with working-class power, a number of them, like Zoltan Kodaly and Bela Bartok, accepted responsibilities in the cultural field.” (Henrik Vass, Studies on the History of the Hungarian Working-Class Movement (1867-1966), p. 136)

In 1918-19 Kodaly worked in the Musical Directorate of the Hungarian Soviet Republic under Reinitz:

“The administration of music was put in the hands of Bela Reinitz, who assumed executive authority from the time of the bourgeois Revolution in October 1918; and who, in the discharge of his duties, called upon Kodaly, Bartok and Dobhnanyi for their expert advice, appointing them as his musical Directory. At its meeting on 14th February, 1919, the Council of Ministers reorganized the Academy as the National Academy of Music of Hungary… Kodaly was appointed to the newly created post of Deputy Director. Kodaly accepted the post at the instance of Reinitz. But he was also motivated… partly because he saw it as a long-awaited opportunity of realizing one of his cherished plans, the creation of a sound system of solfeggio instruction, hitherto badly neglected… The fate of the Hungarian Republic of Councils was sealed by foreign intervention; and at the beginning of August 1919, the dictatorship of the proletariat was overthrown. With the restoration of capitalism, Kodaly’s initiative at the Academy was completely crushed. A witch-hunt was started against anyone who had held office under the Hungarian Republic of Councils, and it became a time for paying off old scores. Reinitz had to flee the country.” (László Eősze, Zoltán Kodály: his life and work, p. 22)

Among other things Kodaly was accused of allowing Red Army soldiers to be recruited at the Music Academy and instructing Academy staff to orchestrate the Internationale (László Eősze, p. 23).

On 3rd February Bartok who also participated in the Music Directorate of the Soviet Republic, wrote to the authorities to defend Kodaly. (László Eősze, p. 24)

Kodaly was accused of anti-patriotism but he defended himself and was shown to be the true patriot, a true servant of the people, while his Horthyist fascist accusers were fake-patriots, simple bourgeois nationalists, nothing but servants of rich capitalists and foreign corporations. Kodaly said:

“Let him who has done more for Hungary than I… come forward to lecture me. All the work I have accomplished has been done without any financial aid from the State, but with an expenditure of my own money that might almost be called prodigal. And, incidentally, (these efforts) are of a kind that cannot be paid for in money. And from where have I obtained the energy for all this? Doubtless from that ‘anti-patriotic disposition’ of which people are so anxious to find me guilty. I have never meddled in everyday politics. But, figuratively speaking, every bar of music, every folk tune I have recorded, has been a political act. In my opinion, that is true patriotic policy: a policy of actual deeds, not of mere phrase-mongering. And it is for this I am being persecuted.” (László Eősze, p. 24)

Kodaly never apologized for working in the Music Directorate of the Soviet Republic and defended all his comrades, including the Communist Reinitz:

“As to the men with whom I had the pleasure of serving on that body, any Hungarian musician, I should have thought, would have been flattered to share the company of men like Dohnanyi and Bartok.” And, defending Reinitz, then in voluntary exile, he said: “Our relations were founded on mutual respect. I learned to know him as a fanatic for truth and a man of character from whom I cannot withhold my respect.” (László Eősze, p. 25)

Kodaly was removed from the post of Deputy Director and put on forced leave of absence from the Academy, but since all the best academics defended him, he could not be dismissed entirely.

Under Horthyism

In 1926 Kodaly composed his famous opera Hary Janos, which he stated, represents the truly Hungarian optimism. This great opera achieved popularity.

Horthyist fascist critics attacked the opera, and in particular attacked it for using folk melodies: “it smells of the ethnographical museum. . . the musical score, consisting as it does of motifs artificially transplanted from folk song, has very little chance of lasting success.” (quoted in László Eősze, p. 32)

The Hungarian fascists actually were not patriotic, they did not love their own people but despised them. The fascists were bourgeois nationalists, fake patriots. Actually their policy had always been to enslave Hungary to Austria, Germany, and other Western imperialist powers. The fascists did not support Hungarian culture but romanticized capitalist Germanic music and Germanic culture, which at that point had already been fully taken over by stagnating elements and had begun to decline.

Kodaly as a real patriot and democrat, servant of his people, said:

“We refuse to be a musical colony any longer. We are not content to continue aping a foreign musical culture. We have our own musical message, and the world is beginning to listen to it attentively. It is not we who have invented Hungarian music. It has existed for a thousand years. We only wish to preserve and foster this ancient treasure; and, if sometimes the opportunity should be granted us, to add to it.” (László Eősze, pp. 30-31)

Kodaly then focused on developing Hungarian choral music, because at the time it did not exist. All choir works up to that point had always been sung in foreign languages, such as Latin or German. The attacks of the decadent fascists against Kodaly continued. The reactionary clerical newspaper Magyar Kultura wrote:

“Kodaly in particular, but also in many respects Bartok, is essentially a destructive spirit” (quoted in László Eősze, p. 38)

Things became more and more difficult with the rise of Italian and German fascism:

Kodaly expressed his protest against Fascism in his greatest work The Peacock Roared or The Peacock Variations with lyrics by Endre Ady. The choral singing version of it was banned outright, and a number of instrumental performances were also prohibited by the Fascists (László Eősze, p. 92)

“Both [Kodaly] and Bartok were amongst the first to protest against legislation in favour of racial discrimination; and already in 1938 [Kodaly] had joined a number of progressive artists and scientists who signed a declaration, addressed to the Hungarian people and Parliament, advocating equal rights for all citizens. This courageous stand was regarded with considerable suspicion by the authorities… and it even led to several performances of The Peacock being banned by the police on account of its revolutionary words and stirring music.” (László Eősze, p. 39)

The Hungarian Fascists were completely out of touch with the people and with Hungarian culture. They did not even recognize Hungarian peasant melodies as Hungarian:

“Kodaly and Bartok were attacked on the grounds that the folk songs they collected were not Hungarian but Slovakian and Rumanian… Bartok and Kodaly were accused of promoting alien interests, and therefore of opposing official policy.” (László Eősze, p. 170)

“The Horthy regime’s… racist, anti-liberal, anti-intellectual and anti-cultural disposition, coupled with the purges and denunciations of professors and teachers (by no means only Jewish ones), led in the 1920s to an unprecedented brain-drain from the scientific-cultural milieu… Many of those who had opted to stay in the country, such as the composer Zoltan Kodaly, the poet Mihaly Babits and writer Zsigmond Moricz, and the scientists Gyula Pikler, Zsigmond Simonyi and Lajos Fülep, suffered harassment. The great poet Endre Ady was spared the fate of his friends by his untimely death, but even then incitement against this passionately anti-feudal and revolutionary voice continued: at a Roman Catholic convention in 1920-23 Bishop Ottokár Prohászka claimed that Ady’s soul had been “inoculated with Jewish blood.” (Paul Lendvai, The Hungarians, pp. 385-386)

After Liberation

Already in 1945 Kodaly was chosen to head the newly formed Arts Council, elected unanimously to the Academy of Sciences, and elected as a representative to the parliament. He was also chosen to lead the Board of Directors of the Academy of Music and became the president of the Musicians’ Union. (László Eősze, p. 42)

In July 1945 to a lecture at the Hungarian-Soviet Friendship society Kodaly said:

“The idea that the common people also have a contribution to make in the field of culture was expressed for the first time during the intellectual ferment that preceded the French Revolution… It is a source of great encouragement that to-day, for the first time, the common people of Hungary are entering this field, not only as consumers, but also as producers. What we have to learn from the Soviet Union is, first and foremost, to appreciate art and the artist as they deserve.” (quoted in László Eősze, p. 42)

After returning from a concert tour in the USSR where his Hary Janos had been performed by the Leningrad philharmonic with him conducting Kodaly told a meeting of the Music Academy:

“The way the Soviet State provides for its scientists and artists, removing every obstacle from their path, should he an example to any country which regards the promotion of culture as being one of the functions of Government. And all that the Soviet State demands in return is that its scientists and artists should dedicate themselves to their work. This is another respect in which the model she offers deserves to be copied.” (quoted in László Eősze, p. 43)

“And in an interview with Die Brücke, the journal of the Austrian-Soviet Cultural Society, he praised the exemplary organization of musical training in the Soviet Union.” (László Eősze, p. 43)

In 1947 when Kodaly was 65 years old, his birthday was again celebrated by lovers of music, but for the first time there were official state honors and state celebrations. Kodaly had achieved the respect he deserved:

“In addition to receiving the freedom of his native town, Kecskemet, he was invested with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Republic by the Minister of Education; and on 15th March, 1948, he was one of the first of his countrymen to he awarded the newly instituted Kossuth Prize, “for signal services in the fields of science and the arts.” (László Eősze, p. 43)

On the same evening his new opera, Czinka Panna, with a libretto written by Bela Balazs, got its first performance by the Budapest Opera Company. The text by Balazs was criticized for historical inaccuracy, but the critics’ only complaint about the music was that “there was too little of it; and indeed there are parts of it—notably the Minuetto Serio and the Rakoczi March—that brilliantly evoke the spirit of the anti-Habsburg war of independence in the 18th century.” (László Eősze, p. 43)

In 1951 Kodaly succeeded in introducing his methods into musical education institutions and in 1952 he was awarded his second Kossuth Prize, the First Division of the Order of the Hungarian People’s Republic, and the title of “Eminent Artist.” (László Eősze, p. 45)

Zhdanov’s Advice

Kodály well understood the importance of folk music and agreed with the Soviets about it:

“in 1946, he [Zoltan Kodaly] had publicly praised the Russian tradition of basing works of art music on folk music: “The Russian composers came closer to their people because they lived among them, spoke in their language. For their melodies they discovered the outstanding, original forms of polyphony that preserve the characteristics of the melody. In their own creations they maintained the atmosphere of folk music, even as they also elevated its forms almost exponentially.”” (Music divided, p. 97)

After Zhdanov’s well-known criticism of formalism in 1948 Kodály wrote:

“Zhdanov’s warnings are nothing new to us. For thirty years I’ve said the same thing. By this I do not mean to say that we are ahead of them… They have already gotten over a national classicism that we have just come to. On the other hand, there was such here too (at the same time as theirs: Liszt, Erkel), only they did not succeed in such a close connection with the people as Rimsky and his fellows. We had to make up for that… In any case there are many common problems, and we can learn a lot from each other.” (Music divided, p. 97)

Kodály fully agreed with Zhdanov’s statement that “Internationalism in art does not spring from the depletion and impoverishment of national art; on the contrary, internationalism grows where national culture flourishes… Only a people that has a highly developed musical culture of its own can appreciate the musical riches of other nations.” (Zhdanov, On Literature, Music and Philosophy)

Kodály said:

“The question that faces us is, whether we can best hold our own in world music by sacrificing our individual characteristics or by emphasizing them? Some think that it is by the former method that we shall become the best citizens of the musical world. My own view, on the contrary, is that the more intensively we study and cultivate our own music, the more we shall be able to contribute to world music.” (Kodaly quoted in László Eősze, Zoltán Kodály: his life and work, p. 78)

Criticism of Kodály’s “peasant romanticism”

Kodály was correct in highly valuing folk music, but he supported folk music too one-sidedly and uncritically. Classical music inspired by folk music alone is not enough. Kodály sometimes implied that if one only used folk elements then that is all that was required, and even more erroneously that even a formalistic piece would be elevated to the status of real art, if it utilized folk motifs.

In May 1950 in New Music Review (Új zenei szemle) “Miklós Csillag published a harsh critique of Kodály that included a cautionary comment about the interpretation of folk music influences in art music [the interpretation that using folk elements is all that is required]. He wrote:

“The young people of Hungarian music regarded Zoltán Kodály with great expectations. They expected that he would stand before them and show the direction for the founding of a new Hungarian music worthy of our revitalized nation. They waited for him to step forward, all the more so because they believed that his musical work of the past justified this hope. Kodály, however, still owes the people’s democracy this positive leadership. Our composers lacked direction, and thus it is understandable that when they brought with them formalist trends not only from the environment, but also from our musical education of past decades, they ran into a dead end both in general content and in the formal sense as well. Many were of the opinion that the working out of folk themes would avert the formalist dangers from the outset. However, the problem is that with us, the folk theme most often went through the mill of the kind of formal and harmonic processes that made it wholly inappropriate and unenjoyable for our working masses.”” (Music divided, p. 104)

The great Communist theoretician of art József Révai said:

“The folk song cannot, it is impossible that it could, reflect the new richness of feeling, the richness of feeling that belongs to the person who is building socialism. Does this mean that we turn our backs on the folk song? It is not even worth debating about it. Now we are the ones who say that Hungarian poetry cannot go further on the path of Ady or even of Attila József, because neither is sufficiently part of the folk. One can go further on the path of Petofi—naturally with new content. Now I ask you, apply this to Bartók. My opinion is that we can continue better on Kodály’s path than on Bartók’s. . . . [But] if we state that we cannot go further on Bartók’s path, this does not mean that we deny Bartók.”

Almost immediately after his statement that Kodály’s path was preferable to Bartók’s, Révai proceeded to criticize Kodály’s person and his politics in no uncertain terms, even while continuing to praise his music. “I maintain what I said, that I had not heard a work as valuable as the Peacock [Variations] in our ‘socialist music literature,’ and Háry János too is an entirely outstanding opera. Unconditionally we must work with Kodály—here there is no disagreement at all. But to believe that Kodály can be a leader ([aside:]Comrade Szabó), that he should stand at the forefront of our new music, I feel there must be a certain lack of confidence with regard to our own strength and a misunderstanding of the relationship between us and Kodály.” Révai went on to describe how Kodály had tried to save choruses that were affiliated with Catholic religious organizations (“cover organizations for the political reactionaries”) and to state that Kodály was a sentimental populist who wanted to hold back the development of Hungarian music. His rhetoric became irate; he concluded by remarking that he could say much more, but he did not wish to “blacken Kodály’s name.”

Révai’s assertion… that Kodály’s style was the one that should be followed was moderated by the repeated statements that the folk song could not be used as it was (as in, for instance, Kodály’s opera Háry János), but must be fundamentally changed to express the new content… The party thus notified composers that even though in general Kodály’s path was better than Bartók’s, it was by no means the perfect model.” (Music divided, pp. 112-114)

Kodály received extremely high praise from Révai, who stated that his opera “Háry János” is outstanding and that the “Peacock Variations” is the best music of socialist Hungary. Révai also stated that the path of Kodály was superior to Bartók. Why is that? Kodály’s work was consistently more melodic, simply beautiful while artistically deep, more popular and democratic in style, not obscure, bizarre and dissonant, and not pessimistic.

But Kodály also received some harsh criticism. He was not a Communist and did not understand Communism or the proletariat. He had petit-bourgeois tendencies: he shielded conservatives and reactionaries because they were his friends, he looked at things in a petit-bourgeois way, in a supposedly “neutral way” and not from the point of view of the proletariat. Such an “objectivist” or “neutral” petit-bourgeois outlook always only shields the outlook of the capitalists.

Musically Kodály was already becoming outdated. His was the music of the utopian peasant democrat. The music was not urban enough, not proletarian enough, and relied too heavily on copying what was old instead of developing something truly new. Kodály’s music was the best music of the past and of today, but what was required was a music of the future.



It was necessary that as a Socialist society was being built, a new Socialist music was created. Socialist Realist music needed to master classical music, folk music, and develop something truly new and superior from the best old sources.

The most influential Socialist Realist composer in the Hungarian People’s Republic was Ferenc Szabó. He had studied and worked with Kodály. Szabó’s work is of excellent quality, but he lost influence after de-stalinization and the rise of revisionism.

Szabó wrote symphonic works and other instrumental works, but achieved even greater success with choral works and mass songs, including film music. He won the Kossuth Prize for the film score for Ludas Matyi (1950). His score for Föltámadott a tenger (1953) is also excellent.


Another skilled composer of Socialist Realism was Endre Szervánszky. His song “Honved kantata” (“Homeguard cantata”) is well known and highly respected. Szervánszky was awarded the Kossuth Prize in 1951.

“Szervánszky was given the silver award for his orchestral Rhapsody and for the Home Guard and Patriotism cantatas, and Szabó received the gold award for Song Singing and for the music to the 1950 film Ludas Mátyi. These works continued to be played often on the radio as well as in live performances for several years.” (Music divided, p. 114)

Detailed analysis and criticism of the works of Szabó and Szervánsky is at the end of the article as appendix 2.


The creation of a Socialist Realist musical life was hampered by the sabotage activity of a reactionary composer Endre Székely inside the Hungarian Working Peoples’ Party and Union of Composers. Székely was strongly criticized in a 1950 document found in the archives of the Party’s Agitation and Propaganda Division:

“”Whereas in the other branches of the arts serious progress is shown . . . our musical culture demonstrates nonetheless a constant and rapid regression. The leadership, or one might say “rule,” is held in the hands of a narrow little clique, which in directing our musical politics keeps in its sights not the goals of our party or the interests of the working people, but rather the individual interests of the clique’s members. Many signs point to the fact that here we are speaking not merely of the careerism of individuals, but rather of enemy influence, intentional troublemaking, and sabotage.”

…the typescript announced that Endre Székely was the leader of the clique accused of obstructing Hungarians’ progress toward socialist realist music… The author of the typescript indicted Székely as a brutal dictator who controlled nearly every facet of musical life and who hindered every socialist development. He also accused Székely of “political crimes”: the corruption of Hungarians through the appropriation of politically tainted melodies (including the tunes of fascist marches and Zionist songs); the placement of “enemy elements in important functions”; the intentional alienation of Kodály; and the programming of “reactionary” (sacred) choral music by composers such as Handel, Lassus, and Viadana.” (Music divided, p. 121)

Already in the past “Ferenc Szabó had lodged complaints about him [Székely] to the Ministry of Education and to the party’s Division of Agitation and Propaganda.” (Music divided, p. 121)

Opportunist composer András Mihály was Székely’s main accomplice. Mihály was strongly criticized for his conservatism, nationalism and anti-Soviet bias. Both Mihály and Székely were bureaucratic despots who suppressed other composers and suppressed democracy. Due to their reactionary nationalism they tried to repress true communist composers like Szabó and attacked them as “Soviet composers”.

A memorandum to Révai stated:

“In the area of musical life András Mihály and Endre Székely cannot hold leading functions. From this it follows that they must resign from membership in the board of the association. We further recommend that Mihály resign his membership in the Music Academy’s board of directors, that Székely resign from the membership of the Opera’s board of directors, and that likewise both of them resign from their offices in the Association of Hungarian Librettists, Composers and Music Publishers. Only Székely must resign from the editorial committee of the New Music Review; Mihály may continue to fulfill that function. Székely’s resignation from the position as the director of the Radio Chorus may be considered if we can find an appropriate replacement.” (Quoted in Music divided, p. 136)

A meeting was then held under Révai’s leadership where Mihály and Székely had the chance to defend themselves. Székely failed to say anything adequate while Mihály gave a self-criticism. However, this self-criticism was not severe or thorough enough, and his later career showed it was entirely dishonest. Mihály continued a covert struggle against the Party and socialism for years afterwards.


In the realm of popular music and musical entertainment in the Hungarian People’s Republic, Folk Ensembles were created, such as the Honvéd military Ensemble, the Radio Folk Ensemble, the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and Rajkó Ensemble, Gypsy Orchestra of the League of Young Communists.




Mihály Csokonai Vitéz was an early progressive Hungarian poet who drew inspiration from the people:

“Csokonai Vitéz, Mihály Born Nov. 17, 1773, in Debrecen; died there Jan. 28, 1805. Hungarian poet and dramatist.

Csokonai Vitéz’ poems, representative of the Enlightenment, reflect the influence of J.-J. Rousseau and Voltaire; they include “Evening” and “Constantinople.” In the satirical play Tempefői (published 1844; staged 1938), he denounced the stagnation and ignorance of the nobility. The poem cycle Songs of Lilla creates an atmosphere of amorous languor, bitter solitude, and disappointment while protesting against social inequality. Csokonai Vitéz’ poems combine traditional mythological elements and a refined style with the form and language of Hungarian folk poetry.

During his lifetime, Csokonai Vitéz published only a small amount of poetry, the collection of translations Spring (1802), and the comic epic poem Dorottya (1804).

Összes versei, vols. 1–2. Budapest, 1967.
In Russian translation:
[“Stikhi.”] In Mad’iarskie poety. St. Petersburg, 1897.
[“Pesnia.”] In Antologiia vengerskoi poezii. Moscow, 1952. Pages 89–97.
Gidash, A. “Tvorets prekrasnykhpesen.” Ogonek, 1955, no. 4.
Sinkó, E. Csokonai életműve. Novi Sad, 1965.
Tótfalusi, I. Árkádiában éltemén is Csokonai élete. Budapest, 1966.
Csokonai Vitéz Mihaly: Bibliografía. 1945–1954. Budapest, 1955.”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979)

FERENC KÖLCSEY (1790-1838)

Ferenc Kölcsey was a Hungarian poet, literary critic, and reform politician. He wrote Himnusz, the national anthem of Hungary in 1823.

“KÖLCSEY, FERENC (1790-1838), poet and politician, author of the text of the Hungarian National Anthem. He was the son of a family of the lesser nobility. After finishing his law studies he lived from 1812 on his estate in the countryside. He endeavoured to promote the country’s advance from feudalism by his contributions to literature. In 1829 he was deputy clerk of Szatmar County, and then became a delegate to the diet, one of the finest speakers of the Reform Party, a spokesman for the emancipation of the serfs. From 1830 he became a full member of the Academy of Sciences.” (Biographical note in Ervin Pamlényi, A History of Hungary)

In the study of Jozsef Revai ““Kölcsey helye a magyar irodalomban” (The Place of Kölcsey in Hungarian Literature), which deals with the great nineteenth century Hungarian poet Ferenc Kölcsey… Revai recalls Kölcsey, who had experienced and understood the universal problems of the Hungarians of his day. The confrontation of homeland and progress emanated from the objective fact that in Hungary, in the first half of the nineteenth century, the leading national class was the bourgeoisified middle nobility which could lead the country onto the path of bourgeois progress only after great internal struggles, inhibitions and reactionary relapses by keeping one leg on the feudal ground against which it had to fight.

Kölcsey’s concept about the relation between nation and progress was free of conflict and in all aspects pointed the way ahead. The homeland could only be assured, in his view, if the contemporary demands of progress were satisfied, if the serfs were liberated and if civil liberties were obtained. Therefore, prompted by his love of his country, he fought for social progress in the interest of the rebirth of the nation. The organic interconnection between homeland and progress was the basis, in Kölcsey’s world outlook, which led him to take the first steps towards a proper interpretation of the complete unity of national and world freedom. It follows from Kölcsey’s example, Revai wrote, that “the patriotism of one people cannot be in contradiction with that of another: those who love their own country and people, understand and love every country and people, the world over. In other words, those who know how to fight for the happiness of their own people, for its freedom and independence, regard the liberty and independence of another nation as their own cause”.” (Studies on the History of the Hungarian Working-Class Movement (1867-1966) by Henrik Vass, pp. 278-279)


“We are the rightful heirs, the straight continuation of all that which was progressive in our thousand years of history, of all which was vigorous and pointed to the future. That is why we could intimately and unitedly celebrate the centenary of the 1948 revolution, the birth of Vörösmarty, the anniversary of the death of Petöfi and the fighter for freedom, General Bem. That is why we develop further and lead to victory the great ideas of Hungarian progress. This historical heritage makes every Hungarian Communist duty-bound to fight even better, not to spare his efforts for the happiness and flourishing of his much-suffered people. (M. Rakosi, Report to the Second Congress of the Hungarian Working People’s Party February 25, 1951)

“Mihaly Vörösmarty (1800-55)—The great poet of the Reform Period, whose work still bore marks of the classical period, but who turned more and more towards national and popular themes His great epic poem The Flight of Zalan, marked the beginning of a new period in Hungarian literature. His poetry expressed the romantic spirit of the times His later life was affected by the defeat of the War of Liberation, and his poetry became pessimistic and full of foreboding.” (biographical note in Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”)

“Vörösmarty, Mihály. Born Dec.l., 1800, in Kapolnasnyék; died Nov. 19, 1855, in Pest. Hungarian poet, playwright, and critic; exponent of Hungarian romanticism. Graduated from the departments of philosophy and law of the University of Budapest.

In 1825, Vörösmarty published the romantic patriotic narrative poem Zalán’s Flight. His play The Exiles (1830) embodied the notion of the lawfulness of an uprising against a despotic king, and the story-play Csongor and Tünde (published 1831) gave expression to the idea of the victory of life over death. Sympathy for the people (the ballad Beautiful Ilonka, 1832) and the spirit of the love of freedom (the historical drama Czillei and Hunyadi, published 1844; the poem The Call; and others) are characteristic of his writings. He welcomed the revolution of 1848 (the poem Battle Song) and was elected deputy to the revolutionary parliament. In 1849 he became a judge of the High Court of Appeals of Hungary. The poems Foreword and The Old Gypsy, written after the defeat of the revolution, when terror was prevalent, testified to Vörösmarty’s fidelity to the ideals of national liberation.

In Russian translation:
Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1956.
Klaniczai, T., J. Szauder, and M. Szabolcsi. Kratkaia istoriia ven-gerskoi literatury. [Budapest] 1962.
Horváth, J. Vörösmarty drámái. Budapest, 1969.”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979)

SÁNDOR PETÖFI (1823-1849)

Sándor Petőfi was a legendary patriotic poet and revolutionary. He was a key leader in the 1848 revolution and is the National Poet of Hungary. His poetry was taken as a model by Socialist Realists.

“Sandor Petofi (1823-49)—The greatest Hungarian poet, and one of the great poets of the world. He was also the most far-seeing of the political leaders of the 1848 revolution. He was killed in battle in 1849. His writings were distorted and in some cases repressed by the Hapsburg Monarchy and the Horthy regime. Under the People’s Democracy his work is widely appreciated, and lie is hailed as its leading precursor.” (biographical note in Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”)

“Petőfi, Sándor. Born Jan. 1, 1823, in Kiskőrös; died July 31, 1849, in Fehéregyhaza. Hungarian poet and revolutionary democrat; participant in the Revolution of 1848-49 in Hungary.

Petőfi’s father, I. Petrovics, a Serb by birth, was a cattle merchant; his mother was from a poor Slovak family. Poverty led Petőfi to enlist as a soldier in 1839. He was dismissed from the army in 1841 because of illness. He became an itinerant actor and also earned his living by translating and copying. His first poem, “The Drinker,” was published in 1842. In 1844 his collection Verses was published on the recommendation of M. Vörös-márty. It already revealed a nationally based world view and a realism imbued with humor. Many of Petófi’s poems, such as “Once Into the Kitchen I Flew” and “Bargaining,” have become popular songs.

The rebellious protest of Petőfi’s poetry became democratic in character at an early stage, as seen in “Against Kings” and “The Wild Flower.” In his heroicomic narrative poem The Village Smith (1844) and the folkloric fairy-tale epic The Knight János (1844), Petőfi abandoned the prevailing conservative pseudo-romantic literary canons and affirmed popular content and form.

Disappointment in love, critical attacks on his alleged crude-ness and tastelessness, as well as concern for the fate of his country, led to an inner crisis for Petófi. The cycle Clouds (1845— 46) is imbued with a sense of the disharmony of existence, and the narrative poems Szilaj Pista Silai (1846) and Salgó (1846) contain tragic themes.

In 1846, Petőfi attempted to found a revolutionary organization, the Society of Ten, among the radical youth of Pest, in order to strive for a democratic literature. His friendship with J. Arany and marriage to Julia Szendrey (1847) were of great importance for Petőfi. As the social struggle intensified, his poetry became almost a calendar of its events, expressing civic responsibility and a craving for revolutionary action. This is seen in “Only One Thing Troubles Me,” “The Palace and the Hovel,” “To the Poets of the 19th Century,” “In the Name of the People,” and “Heroes in Sackcloth.” In his love lyrics, Petőfi celebrates a woman whom he sees as a comrade in the revolutionary and patriotic conflict. The unity of socially analytical realism and revolutionary romanticism and of clarity of expression and intense intellectuality, as seen in Man and Lights!, elevates Petőfi’s work to humanistic and literary heights.

In 1847, Petőfi became head of the Young Hungary organization. He helped develop the program for the bourgeois democratic revolution (the “12 Articles”). Together with P. Vasvári, he led the revolutionary uprising of Mar. 15, 1848, in Pest and Buda. He called for the complete abolition of feudalism, the intensifying of the revolution, and the founding of an independent and democratic Hungarian republic. The poet-tribune demanded full implementation of popular rights in such works as “National Song,” “To the Gallows With the Kings!” and “To the Nation.”

Defeated by the nobles in elections to the National Assembly, Petőfi joined the revolutionary army in September 1848, becoming the aide-de-camp of J. Bem in January 1849. He wrote battle songs glorifying the soldiery. As before, the content of his lyrics merged with the revolutionary cause, but now tragic chords appeared as well, evoked by national difficulties, the enemy’s military superiority, and the absence of other revolutionary centers in Europe. These traits are seen in “Most Terrible Times” and “Life or Death” and in the narrative poem The Apostle (1848; published in full in 1874), whose hero sacrifices his life for the liberation of the people.

Petőfi died in a clash with cossacks of the tsarist army. His works began to appear in Russian in the 1850’s in translations by V. Benediktov, F. Korsh, M. Mikhailov, and A. Mikhailov. In the Soviet period his translators have included V. Levik, G. Abashidze, A. Lunacharskii, L. Martynov, B. Pasternak, L. Pervomaiskii, and N. Tikhonov. His poetry has been translated into most of the national languages of the USSR.

Összes művei, vols. 1-3. Budapest, 1955.
Összes Költeményei, vols. 1-2. Budapest, 1966.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1-4. Moscow, 1952-53.
Tigr i giena. Moscow, 1957.
Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1958.
Stikhotvoreniia, poemy. Moscow, 1971.
Vitiaz’ Ianosh: Izbr. stikhotvoreniia. Moscow, 1972.

P-ov, S. “Aleksandr Petefi: Vengerskii poet.” Russkoe slovo, 1861, no. 3.
Mikhailov, A. “Aleksandr Petefi.” Zhivopisnoe obozrenie, 1878, no. 21.
N-v, N. “Aleksandr Petefi.” Zhivopisnoe obozrenie, 1899, no. 32.
Kun, B. “Shandor Petefi—poet mirovoi svobody.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1958, no. 3.
Gidash, A. Shandor Petefi. Moscow, 1960.
Lunacharskii, A. V. “Aleksandr Petefi.” Sobr. soch., vol. 5. Moscow, 1965.
Shakhova, K. O. Shandor Petefi spivets’ ugor’skoi revoliutsii. Kiev, 1969.
Gershkovich, A. A. Poeticheskii teatr Petefi. Moscow, 1970.
Iiesh, D. Shandor Petefi. Moscow, 1972.
Rossiianov, O. K. “Sovremennost’ Petefi.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1973, no. 1.
Ferenczi, Z. Petőfi életrajza, vols. 1-3. Budapest, 1896.
Hatvany, L. Igy élt Pető fi, vols. 1-5. Budapest, 1955-57.
Ady, E. Ifjú szivekben élek. Budapest, 1958.
Pándi, P. Petőfi Budapest, 1961.
Petőfi tüze. Tanulmányok Petőfi Sándorról. [Budapest] 1972. (Bibliography, pp. 565-77.)”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979, article by O. K. Rossiianov)

JÁNOS ARANY (1817-1882)

“Janos Arany (1817-82)—The greatest epic Hungarian poet of the nineteenth century. He supported the revolutionary movement of 1848-49. His greatest work The Trilogy of Toldi, was the story of a fifteenth century small nobleman, who fought against the ruling oligarchy. He translated Shakespeare into Hungarian, and wide a number of essays on poetry, drama and literary history. A member of a group of writers studying folklore and folk poetry; his work showed strong influence of this trend.” (biographical note in Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”)

The poet János Arany was another revolutionary comrade and friend of Sandor Petőfi.

Arany’s poetry reflects peasant life with deep truth and insight and his poetry shows the aspirations of the peasantry for liberation. Arany’s epic Toldi trilogy, powerfully depicts the struggle of the peasant masses (see Lukács György: A százéves Toldi)

Arany’s works also advocated a scientific materialist worldview (such as the poem “The Mustache”, a parody of a superstitious kulak)

Despite Lukacs holding right-deviationist views and later becoming a renegade, his analysis of Toldi is profoundly correct. After the failure of the 1848 revolution and the death of Petöfi, Arany’s work changed. He became somewhat pessimistic and escapist. Already in Toldi we see that the protagonist is alienated from the aristocratic world, but doesn’t consciously fight against it, only abandons it. In his late work Toldi became interested in myth and the ancient Hungarian past. Without Petöfi’s revolutionary courage and vision, he could no longer attain the political sharpness and heights of artistic quality of his best work.

After the proletarian power was established in Hungary there was an increased interested in Arany. The works of the great poet were studied and became popular:

“For the 1950 Book Day, an anthology of the poet’s poems was published… János Arany’s oeuvre received increased attention on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of his death [1952].” (Ágnes Eitlereitler, “The “Re-Tuning” of János Arany’s Life and Work in the Popular Education of the 1950s”)

“Arany, János Born Mar. 2, 1817, in Nagyszalonta; died Oct. 22, 1882, in Budapest. Hungarian poet.

Arany was the son of a peasant. He worked as a schoolteacher and was a clerk on the town council. His epic poem Toldi brought him recognition and the friendship of M. Vörösmárty and S. Petöfi. He took part in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848–49 and wrote the popular songs “Song of the National Guardsman” and “What We Do.” In 1857, Arany wrote the angry patriotic ballad “Welsh Bards.” He was also the author of historical ballads (such as “László V”), epic poems (Toldi, 1846; Toldi’s Eve, 1848; and Toldi’s Love, 1878), narrative poems (such as Kevehaza), satirical poems (such as The Lost Constitution); and lyrical and philosophical poetry.

Összes munkái, vols. 1–12. Budapest, 1900.
Összes kolte ményei, [vols. 1–3. Budapest,] 1955.
In Russian translation:
Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1960. [Foreword by E. Malykhina.]
Ballady. Budapest, [1962].
Tri velikikh vengerskikh poeta. Budapest, 1952.
Levik, V. “Poeziia la. Arania.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1961, no. 12.
Klaniczai, T., J. Sauder, and M. Szabolesi. Kratkaia istoriia vengerskoi literatury XI-XX vv. Budapest, 1962. (Translated from Hungarian.)
Riedl, F. Arany János. Budapest, 1957.
Keresztury, D. “S mi vagyok én . . .”: Arany János’ 1817–56. Budapest, 1967.”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979)


Sándor Csizmadia was a social-democratic poet who served for a time as the People’s Comissar of Agriculture in the Hungarian Soviet Republic. However, he later adopted an opportunist nationalist line. He split from the social-democratic party and created his own faction. Despite his later opportunism he “played an important role at the beginning of the century in the development of proletarian culture.” (Studies on the History of the Hungarian Working-Class Movement (1867-1966) by Henrik Vass, p. 195)

ENDRE ADY (1877-1919)

The most important pre-revolutionary Hungarian poet of the 20th century was Endre Ady who wrote democratic, patriotic and anti-imperialist poetry. The best analysis of Ady’s work was done by the marxist theoretician Joszef Revai. I have added links to collections of Ady’s poems in English at the end of the article.

In the introduction of Poems of Endre Ady by Anton N. Nyerges, the author claims that Ady fits poorly into the “communist mold”. This is simply an ignorant statement. Ady of course was not a socialist realist, he actually came from the symbolist tradition. However, there is nothing of the usual reactionary character of much of symbolism in Ady. Ady opposed the non-political attitude and pessimism of symbolism. In Ady’s work there is nothing similar to the poet Akhmatova, who was strongly criticized by Zhdanov. There is sadness, but no apathetic pessimism, there are themes of love and emotion, but nothing anti-political, there are themes of ancient mythology, but nothing about wanting to return to the past.

Ady began from the symbolist tradition and wrote much about mortality and death. He used symbolist techniques and religious imagery, but he developed a unique Hungarian and democratic set of symbols. The class struggle deeply resonated with him and he started also writing about it and demanding revolution. The first imperialist world war shocked him deeply, and as a committed democrat and internationalist he focused a lot of his artistic attention to oppose the war. In his last works the horror of the war is the main theme, and this is generally regarded as the peak of his career.

In his poems there can be found an anti-imperialist, internationalist and socialist revolutionary program:

In the book Blood and Gold the entire cycle “Money, Our Lord” is a critique of capitalist society, albeit perhaps obscure. Ady writes:

“By gloomy banks of Babylon I sit…
My father, Mammon, hear these fawning prayers
trembling from your little servant’s lips
…I sit enslaved
…Mammon, soothe my sorrowing chasteness
and say that it was you who willed my fate.
Hum that my lot is good, my rags no curse.”

In the book On Elijah’s Chariot in the poem “Song of the Magyar Jacobin” Ady perfectly characterizes the situation. Hungary is asleep, the masses are asleep. But only when the masses awaken to revolution they can build a better life for themselves:

“poor anaesthetized Hungary.
Do you exist? — and we?…
When will we fuze a thousand mycelian desires
into one enormous will?
How long will they be rulers
and we the sheepish millions?…
all belongs to us tomorrow
in this land of the sombre disinherited
if we will and if we dare.”

He also emphasizes internationalism, and says all the different nationalities must work together against their common oppressors:

“for magyar, slav and roman sorrows
are issue of a single sorrows…
When shall we coalesce
and out in one voice
we the rabble and homeless
the magyars and non-magyars?”

The poem “The Star of Stars” from the same book is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read:

“Never will the red star fall —
sun, moon, and Venus streak from sight,
but the red star lords in the eastern sky.
…dawn can emerge with one star alone.

Red star, shine refulgent and rule.
Since first men looked toward the sky,
the red star has kept their hope alive.”

In “The Grandson of Dozsa” (Dozsa was the leader of the Hungarian peasant uprising of 1514) Ady identifies himself with the revolutionaries and threatens the nobility:

“I am grandson of George Dosza…
If the people come, ho magnates,
whither from marauding castle litters
shall you flee?”

In “The Message of the Mirage” Ady warns the bourgeoisie too:

“Ye, good burghers…
Tomorrow may be too late to change,
To correct old sins, the ancient charge.
Gentlemen, there may be dire trouble some dawn
If you be awakened by a red mirage.”

In one of his most beautiful poems, “The Sun of March” Ady writes a communist revolutionary program:

“Sun of the March month, mighty is your power,
and yet in aeons you never seared us with
a Revolution, a Hungarian March.
Like Mastodons we sate in mirrors of ice

…if we fail to trample those who bar our way,
all those who hinder a Hungarian March.
If there is a God who smites, let him smite
those who would keep the smallest bit of old.
A curse is on this land, we must destroy
all the agglomerations of our past…

We see revolt in every passing hour
and look with unspeakably murderous eyes
at haughty aristocrats and the newly rich,
because within this world that hurries on
our future and our life is now at stake.
The stench of rank and money stupefies…

The radiant March has ordered everyone
to be reviewed and weighed in battle ranks.
At last this March may reach sad Hungary

… a miracle of beauty your coming.”

Ady’s anti-war poems have become famous, particularly “Remembrance of a Summer Night” and “Leading the Dead” which depict in a fittingly apocalyptic style the destruction, death and madness that overtook the entire country. Another famous poem is “Greetings to the Victors” where Ady mourns the horrible devastation.

Of course Ady was not a Socialist Realist, and showed the influences of his own time. He was a solitary individual artist, a visionary, and not a stereotypical idealized proletarian poet. But nonetheless, in Hungary he was the best of his time.

“Ady, Endre. Born Nov. 22, 1877, in the village of Ermindscent; died Jan. 27, 1919, in Budapest. Hungarian poet and publicist. Son of an impoverished nobleman. Studied at the law faculty of Debrecen University.

Ady’s first collection was Poems (1899). His passionate striving to change bourgeois reality begins to appear in the collection Once Again (1903). His article “Earthquake” (1906) was devoted to the December 1905 armed uprising in Moscow. During the years when the liberation struggle in Hungary was on the ascent, one of Ady’s main lyric themes was the call to revolution—for example, in the cycle “Song of the Street” in the collection On the Chariot of Elijah the Prophet (1908) and in the poem “Let Us Gallop Toward the Revolution” (1913).

Összes versei, vols. 1–2. Budapest, 1955.
Válogatott cikkei és tanulmanyai. Budapest, 1954.
Összes prózai mũvei, vols. 1–8. Budapest, 1955–68.
In Russian translation:
Stikhi. Moscow, 1958.
Rossiianov, O. K. Tvorchestvo Endre Adi. Moscow, 1967.
Bóka, L. Ady Endreélete es mũvei. Budapest, 1955.
Bölöni, G. Az igazi Ady. Budapest, 1966.
Varga, J. Ady Endre. Budapest, 1966.”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979)

ATTILA JÓZSEF (1905-1937)

The time of true Proletarian Poets was going to follow: the best example of this is Attila József. He joined the Communist Party in 1930 and was persecuted by the fascist government. The life of the great proletarian poet ended tragically, as he had long suffered with mental illness (probably Schizophrenia) and committed suicide in 1937. Particularly in the early 30s József developed Socialist Realism. Some of his later poems show signs of his suicidal mood and mental degradation, dealing with topics of madness and premonitions of his own death. Some of his poems particularly from the period of his worsening mental health, do not stand up to the same high quality as his best works. They suffer from pessimism, mysticism, individualistic subjectivism and general formalism. All the negative qualities and mistakes in his art are explained primarily by the fact that Attila József remained quite isolated from the masses.

It must be noted that Attila József committed some political mistakes (idealistic tendencies), which were caused or made worse by his mental suffering (more about his mistakes in appendix 3 at the end of the article). Despite any mistakes, he was always held in very high regard by the Hungarian Communist government. Attila József was awarded a posthumous Kossuth Prize in 1948. In 1950 the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic created the Attila József Prize which was awarded to Hungarian writers of excellent quality.

The great national liberation revolutionary poet Petőfi, the democrat, internationalist, socialist poet Ady, and the proletarian Attila József, laid the foundations for Socialist Poetry in Hungary. All the other great national poets such as János Arany and Mihály Vörösmarty were also greatly appreciated. However, Petöfi was the greatest because he was the most connected with the masses, learned from them and thus achieved the greatest clarity and expressiveness. Jozsef Revai said:

““It could disturb our progress, had we not related critically to such giants of the Hungarian culture as Béla Bartók, Endre Ady, Gyula Derkovits and also a part of the works of Attila József should be listed here in a manner. Theirs is a great work, eternal treasure of the Hungarian culture. But it is not a coincidence that the Hungarian poetry did not depend on the ways of Endre Ady or Attila József, but in the imaging methods and democratization of the style going back to Sándor Petőfi. These great rebels without exception had the weakness that although they hated the old world and wanted the new one, they were more or less isolated from the revolutionary popular movements of their age, or they did not quite uphold it”” (quoted in “The rule of Sándor Petőfi in the memory policy of hungarians, slovaks and the members of the hungarian minorty group in Slovakia in the last 150 years”, Ivan Halász, Andor Mészáros, Gábor Schweitzer, Károly Vȍrȍsp. 135)

Stressing the superiority of Petőfi, Revai said in another speech “Hungarian poetry cannot go further on the path of Ady or even of Attila József, because neither is sufficiently part of the folk. One can go further on the path of Petőfi—naturally with new content.” (Music divided, p. 113)

That is not to say that others didn’t make contributions, they certainly did, and it had become part of the artistic culture, but Petőfi’s superiority lay exactly in his democratic clear style, which was most suitable for advancement. It needed to be developed further and given a new Socialist content.

“József, Attila. Born Apr. 11, 1905, in Budapest; died Dec. 3, 1937, in the village of Balatonszarszo. Hungarian poet; became a member of the Hungarian Communist Party in 1930.

József was the son of a worker. He studied at the universities of Szeged and Vienna and at the Sorbonne. Imitation of E. Ady, G. Juhász, and W. Whitman is noticeable in his first collection, Beggar of Beauty (1922). However, in his collections It Is Not I Who Shouts (1924) and No Father or Mother (1929), despite the well-known influence of expressionism and surrealism, he was already asserting his own defiantly grotesque, but at times sincere, lyric manner. József’s poetry, in which an intense drama-tism appears, reflects the unfortunate condition of working people and their will for revolutionary struggle (the collections Root Out the Stumps and Don’t Whine, 1931; Night on the Outskirts, 1932; and Bear’s Dance, 1934). In his last collection, Very Painful (1936), bitter protest is interwoven with depression and despair.

Összes versci. [Budapest] 1966.
Összes művei, vols. 1–4. Budapest, 1952–67.
Irodalom es szocializmus. [Budapest] 1967.
In Russian translation:
Stikhotvoreniia. Moscow, 1958.
Stikhi. Moscow [1962].
Shargina, L. ‘Attila Iozhef.” In the collection Pisateli stran narodnoi demokratii. Moscow, 1959.
Rossiianov, O. “Poeticheskii obraz u Attily Iozhefa.” In the collection Poeziia sotsializma. Moscow, 1969.
Szabolcsi, M. Fiatal életek indulója. Budapest, 1963.
Forgács, L. József Attila esztétikója. Budapest, 1965.
Tötök, G. A lira: Logika. Budapest, 1968.
Balogh, L. József Attila, 2nd ed. Budapest, 1970.”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979, article by O. K. Rossiianov)



Mihály Táncsics was a significant revolutionary writer, close comrade of Petőfi and a socialist propagandist.

“TANCSICS, MIHALY (1799-1884), writer, publicist and politician. Until the age of 20 he worked as a serf, then became a weaver. He was self-taught, and travelled over Europe. He was the first in Hungary to demand the emancipation of the serfs without compensation (1846). He was imprisoned because of his writings, until the revolution of March 15, 1848 liberated him. In 1848 and 1849 he was a member of the parliament, and in his paper, Munkasok Ujsaga (Workers’ Journal), he demanded the expropriation of the big estates. After the defeat of the War of Independence he was sentenced to death in contumaciam. For eight years he went underground and spread illegal leaflets. He escaped only after the Compromise with Austria but he was nearly blind. In 1869 he became a member of Parliament and editor of the workers’ paper Aranytrombila (Golden Trumpet), and then the chairman of the General Workers’ Association. He retired after 1870 and wrote only a few articles for the workers’ press.” (Biographical note in Ervin Pamlényi, A History of Hungary)

“Táncsics, Mihály Born Apr. 21, 1799, in Ácsteszér; died June 28, 1884, in Budapest. Hungarian revolutionary democrat.

The son of a serf, Táncsics worked as a farm laborer, weaver, and teacher. He was a supporter of the French Revolution, the Jacobins, and Robespierre and an advocate of French utopian socialism. In The People’s Book (1842), Views on Freedom of the Press (1844), and The Voice of the People Is the Voice of God (1848), he set forth the most radical program of revolutionary reforms of his time, including emancipation of enserfed peasants without redemption payments and the introduction of universal suffrage. In 1847 he was jailed for his revolutionary pronouncements. His liberation, on Mar. 15, 1848, was one of the first events of the Revolution of 1848–49 in Hungary, in which Táncsics, together with S. Petőfi and P. Vasvári, led the radical wing.

In June 1848, Táncsics was elected a deputy to the Hungarian National Assembly. After the defeat of the revolution, he was sentenced to death in absentia. He hid until the proclamation of a general amnesty in 1857. In 1860 he was arrested and imprisoned for organizing a demonstration to commemorate the anniversary of the revolution. After his release, in 1867, Táncsics formed ties with the workers’ and socialist movement, and for a time he was chairman of the Universal Workers’ Union.

Válogatottirásai. Budapest, 1957.
Moi zhiznennyi put’. Moscow, 1972. (Translated from Hungarian.)”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979, article by T. M. Islamov)

JOZSEF EÖTVÖS (1815-1871)

“Jozsef Eötvös (1815-71)—A poet, writer, philosopher and politician, he was a member of the liberal-minded aristocracy. He fought against injustice, the feudal system and for the emancipation of the Jews. He was the author of several historical novels, one of them dealing with the peasant revolution of 1514. His style is heavy and complex, but full of thought. In later life he joined the Government, and compromised with the Hapsburg Monarchy.” (biographical note in Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”)


“Kalman Mikszath (1849-1910) —One of the most popular Hungarian novelists, who introduced political satire into his short stories. He was well acquainted with the life of the people and the small gentry, and showed up the abuses of the bureaucracy. Although he depicted the debauchery and decadence of upper-class life, he did not go as far as to draw conclusions from his observations, his style is full of charm and natural humour.” (biographical note in Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”)


Zsigmond Móricz was Hungary’s greatest fiction author of the 20th century. He wrote Critical Realism. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic he worked for several communist newspapers and in the Writers’ Directorate. As a result he was persecuted and blacklisted in Horthy’s Hungary. Móricz’s most famous work is Be faithful unto death, which has been translated into English. It is a semi-autobiographical story about a sweet student boy named Mihaly (or “Misi”) who is struggling with the hardships of life and is falsely accused of theft. It reads a lot like Charles Dickens, and is just as good. I absolutely loved reading it. The book vividly reveals the class realities of semi-feudalist capitalist Hungary.

Other works of Móricz that are available in English include Relations and Gold in the mud: a Hungarian peasant novel.

Relations is a novel about a poor clerk in a small town, who is promoted and discovers how corrupt the town bureaucracy is. The rich bureaucrats have been stealing town funds for decades and are involved in all kinds of scams. This is a very hard-hitting critical realist work.

Gold in the mud is realistic examination of peasant life with incredibly life-like characters. The premise might sound boring, but the book is absolutely gripping. The depiction of the characters small and big joys, life’s monotony and agony of unhappiness are all shown with amazing reality and life. The characters are so vivid and believable that you get very invested in them, you smile at even their brief happiness and cry at their tragedies.

“Móricz, Zsigmond. Born July 29, 1879, in Csécse; died Sept. 4, 1942, in Budapest. Hungarian writer.

The son of a peasant, Móricz studied at the University of Debrecen; he later became a journalist. He won renown for his story “The Seven Kreuzers” (1908). His novels on country life, Gold Nugget (1911), Behind God’s Back (1911), and The Torch (1917), are imbued with sympathy for the common people. In 1918, Móricz hailed the bourgeois-democratic revolution and, in 1919, the Hungarian Soviet Republic.

In 1920, Móricz published his novel Be Good Till Death (Russian translation, 1959), his lyrical reminiscences of childhood. In the novels Gentry Spree (1927; Russian translation, 1961), Hot Fields (1929; Russian translation, 1963), and Relatives (1930; Russian translation, 1954), Móricz depicted the decline of the feudal gentry in Hungary and the greed of the capitalists. He wrote the historical trilogy Transylvania (1922–33). In 1935, Moricz published his novel The Happy Man, about the tragic fate of a Hungarian peasant condemned to inescapable poverty in a world of moneygrubbers.

In the last years of his life, Móricz became increasingly rebellious; for example, his novel Betyár (1937). His works, following the trend of critical realism, occupy an important place in Hungarian literature.

Összegyüjtött müvei, vols. 1–49. Budapest, 1953–60.
In Russian translation:
Rasskazy. Moscow, 1954.
Izbrannoe, vols. 1–2. Introductory article by O. Rossiianov. Moscow, 1958.
P’esy. Moscow, 1962.
Zhuzhanna v Klagenfurte: Rasskazy. Moscow, 1970.
Ady, E. “Móricz Zsigmond.” Nyugat, Aug. 16, 1909.
Móricz, V. Apám regenye. Budapest, 1963.
Illés, E. Krétarajzok. Budapest, 1957.
Czine, M. Móricz Zsigmond útja a forradalmakig. Budapest, 1960.
Móricz, M. Móricz Zsigmond érkezése. Budapest, 1966.
Vargha, K. Móricz Zsigmond: Alkotásai és vallomásai tükrében, 2nd ed. Budapest, 1971.”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979, article by E. I. Malykhina)

Jozsef Revai said about the great classical Hungarian authors:

“Our struggle for socialist humanism is indeed humane because our fight for a classless society is strengthened and enlarged by the knowledge that the old and inhuman world has been loathed, not only by us but also by those great critical realists such as Jozsef Eötvös, Kalman Mikszath and Zsigmond Moricz, who unveiled the depravity and rottenness of the old world with shattering force. It is we who carry out the death sentence on the old world, but Moricz in his novels had already pronounced that this world was ripe to perish.

To honour classical realistic inheritance and to study it seriously, of course, does not mean that we renounce the right to set out and criticise the weakness and class-limits of our great realistic writers. We know that Eotvos was not only the writer of The Village Scribe, etc., but also the man who was frightened by the storm of 1848 and who compromised after 1867, We know that Mikszath not only criticised the Hungary of the gentry with murderous satire but also contemplated the process of its decay with cynical amusement, without giving voice to the despair of the people. Zsigmond Moricz, who in the last period of his life already searched for a way out, by means of popular revolution, from the decay of gentry Hungary, nevertheless could not free himself completely from a certain melancholic sympathy, from feeling a certain “Hungarian solidarity” with the gang of depraved gentry who set fire not only to their own homes but to the whole country.

We do not thus close our eyes to the class-limitations of our classical realists and to the weaknesses which arise from them, but we also know that their work and their importance and the part played in the history of Hungarian literature cannot be characterised and understood from these class- limitations alone. Can we understand Eotvos only by the fact that he was a baron, and he was in the Ministry of the compromising Bathanyi Government who forsook freedom? Can we understand Mikszath only from the fact that he played cards with Kalman Tisza?” (Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”, pp. 25-26)

*Tisza was a liberal politician who eventually became a strong reactionary.

LAJOS BARTA (1878-1964)

Lajos Barta was a socialist realist writer and communist politician. He worked in the socialist movement and during the Hungarian Soviet Republic worked in the Writers ‘Directorate. He was also the secretary of the Writers’ Trade Union and edited the Torch, the daily newspaper of the Public Education People’s Committee. His drama Revolution was also performed by three theaters in Budapest. In 1919 he was arrested and emigrated after his release. He continued his work in exile and returned to his homeland in 1946. He was awarded the Kossuth Prize in 1956.

GYÖRGY BÖLÖNI (1882-1959)

György Bölöni was a Hungarian socialist realist author and communist politician. He was the Netherlands ambassador of the Karolyi government and later the Hungarian Soviet government. As a result he could not return to his homeland during the White Terror. He carried out communist work in France until his return to Hungary in 1945, where he joined the Hungarian communist party. He again served as the ambassador to the Netherlands in 1948-1950. He was given the Baumgarten Prize in 1948 and the Kossuth Prize in 1955.

PETER VERES (1897-1970)

“Peter Veres—Born in 1897, the son of a day-labourer. He worked as a swine-herd until the age of eleven. Alter serving in the First World War as a private, he became the most prominent member of the “peasant romantic” trend in Hungarian literature. He was many times persecuted by the police, and sent to a forced labour camp during the Second World War. After the liberation he became one of the leaders of the Peasant Party. In 1950 he was awarded the Kossuth Prize for his novel The Test Case.” (biographical note in Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”)

“Socialist construction, the leading role of the Party in the life of the people, can be depicted to an even lesser degree as time goes on by standing outside and above the struggles of the people, without Party adherence, and by the “objectivity” of old realism. This is proved, for instance, by the development of Peter Veres who, as a peasant realist writer, while depicting the new peasant life without any preconceived “political” intentions, found himself confronted with the problems of the producer co-operatives, of Communist peasants, and of the role of the Party; and when trying to solve these problems in a literary way, under the pressure of creation, so to speak, developed from a peasant realist into a socialist realist.” (Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”, p. 25)

Despite growing closer to socialism, Veres remained to a significant degree influenced by his lifelong career as a peasant populist. As such he could not follow the correct course with guidance from the Marxist-Leninists. In 1953-55 he came somewhat under the influence of rightism. During the 1956 counter-revolutionary uprising, Veres did not actively support the uprising, but also did clearly understand its significance. He wanted to bring an end to the bloodshed by negotiations, but this was utopian. After the uprising Veres continued his work in the People’s Democratic government, but could not understand or resist the new Kadarist revisionism.

ÁRON TAMÁSI (1897-1966)

Áron Tamási was a folk-writer and member of the National Peasant Party. He carried on progressive work in the 1930s.

He wrote in 1933: “In Transylvania we are not Hungarians in fomenting hostility between religious denominations, we are not Hungarians in upholding the feudal estate system, we are not Hungarians in protecting the capitalist bank policy and we are not Hungarians in the pursuit and acceptance of cheap and harmful irredentism.” (Studies on the History of the Hungarian Working-Class Movement (1867-1966) by Henrik Vass, p. 265)

However, he never superseded the stage of peasant romanticism in literature. In the National Peasant Party he sided with the rightist faction of Imre Kovacs. He was given more significant political and literary positions and a Kossuth Prize in 1954 during the ‘new course’ policy of Imre Nagy.

JOZSEF DARVAS (1912-1973)

“Jozsef Darvas—Born in 1912, the son of a day-labourer. He became a teacher and, later, editor of the left-wing periodical Thought. His first book, Black Bread, was one of the pioneer works of Hungarian popular literature. One of the founder-members of the Peasant Party, he was Minister of Construction m 1947-49, and Minister of Education in 1950.” (biographical note in Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”)

Jozsef Revai said that after Horthy’s counter-revolution many writers apologized for their support of the Soviet Republic. But after the creation of the Hungarian People’s Republic, how many self-criticized for their concessions to horthyism? Revai said: “Jozsef Darvas is the only one who did that, and he isn’t the one who had most reason.” (Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”, p. 22)

In 1953-54 Darvas wavered politically. He held something like a middle position between the Marxist-Leninists and the rightist group of Imre Nagy. In 1954 he returned to the Marxist-Leninists, but couldn’t put up a serious enough resistance against the later Kadarist revisionism.

ERNO URBAN (1918-1974)

A skilled writer who received the Kossuth Prize in 1952 and the Attila József Prize in 1971. Urban had political waverings in 1953-54 when his satirical play “The Cucumber Tree” was published. This play was influenced by rightist views and received criticism from the Marxist-Leninists. Urban distanced himself from Imre Nagy in 1954 and came back to the side of the party. However, he couldn’t put up a serious fight against the later Kadarist revisionism.

SÁNDOR NAGY (1922-1990)

Sándor Nagy was a writer and journalist from the Peasant Party. In 1948 he joined the Communist Party and helped organize the People’s Colleges. He won the Baumgarten Award and the Kossuth Prize in 1949. He began working for Szabad Nép and Hétfői Hírek. In 1952 he won the Third Degree Stalin Prize for his work “Megbékélés” (Reconciliation). In the mid 50s he worked for the Művelt Nép and wrote articles on culture for Hétfői Hírek.

Sándor Nagy “confronted the Communist Party in the early 1960s, because of its Sino-Albanian policy. He was convicted on charges of political agitation in a so-called Sino-Albanian lawsuit.” (sources 1, 2) At that time the Party had become revisionist and held anti-Chinese and anti-Albanian views (I would really like to get more information about this). After serving his sentence Sándor Nagy worked as a manual laborer.

In 1950 Revai had criticized Sándor Nagy for objectivism (political neutrality in art): “We can unfortunately observe this tendency in the young and otherwise gifted Sandor Nagy.” (Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”, p. 31)

An advanced Socialist Realist type of literature was emerging. Perhaps the best representative of this new art is Béla Illés (1895-1974). Unfortunately his work has largely not been translated for foreign audiences and it suffered at the hands of the Kadarists. Other socialist realist authors include Antal Hidas, Andor Gábor, Sándor Gergely, László Benjámin, Ferenc Juhász, Péter Kuczka, Sándor Rideg and others. The 1948-53 period represented the peak of Socialist Art in Hungary. The rise of revisionism negatively affected the work of authors, either forcing them out of politics or causing them ideological confusion.

Special conditions (nationalism, titoism etc.) prevailed in Hungary during the revisionist “New Course” and rise of Imre Nagy (1953-1956) and were strengthened by it. As a result a significant number of potentially valuable writers became renegades. These writers had been given awards and support by the People’s Republic, on the assumption that they would later grow up to be great writers and worthy of expectations. However, they failed to fulfill these expectations and instead became traitors. The traitor writers are the following:

Gyula “Julius” Háy (1900-1975), a writer. Like many others, he was supported by the People’s Republic to become a progressive, democratic, anti-fascist and pro-socialist writer. He received the Kossuth Prize in 1951. In 1950 Revai had criticized Háy for his method of making the class enemy into a “tragic” central figure of a plot (see Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”, p. 33). At least since 1953 Gyula Háy became a revisionist supporter of Imre Nagy. In the Writers’ Union he supported Nagy, titoist policies, and opposed the government during the 1956 counter-revolution. He was expelled from the workers’ party and sentenced to 6 years in prison in 1957. After serving his sentence he emigrated to the West.

Gyula Illyés (1902-1983), a writer. He was a member of the peasant party, and was promoted by the People’s Republic to become a progressive, democratic, anti-fascist and pro-socialist writer. As a result he received the Kossuth Prize in 1948 and the József Attila Prize in 1950. However, right before and during the 1956 counter-revolution he began to agitate against Marxism-Leninism and support a right-deviation. He didn’t produce anything of quality after that. Already in 1950 Revai had seen serious flaws in the work of Illyés and had seen that Illyés wasn’t keeping up with socialist construction: “Gyula Illyes… takes a stand for the cause of the working people, independently of time and space, but evades every reference to the present working man who in general does not only toil but is building Socialism.” (Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”, pp. 25-26)

Tibor Déry (1894-1977), the most influential and gifted of all the renegade writers. He was a member of the Communist party and his book “The Unfinished Sentence” (1947) was appreciated highly by Communists. It is considered his best work. In 1948 Déry was given the Kossuth Prize. His book “The Answer (volume 2)” (1952) received very negative reviews. The flaws of the book were symptoms of his ideological deviation, but ever since getting negative reviews his revisionism and bourgeois tendencies became more blatant. He was a fellow traveler during times when Communists complimented him, but immediately when he was criticized and asked to self-criticize he showed his true colors. He was a bourgeois individualist, an egoist who couldn’t stand criticism. Déry became an angry outcast fighting against socialism. His literary work also completely deteriorated and became decadent, ugly and nothing else. He attacked the People’s Republic and Marxism-Leninism as much as he could in a discussion venue called the Petöfi Club in 1956 and was expelled from the party. Being a committed enemy of Socialism at this point, Déry worked on behalf of the 1956 counter-revolution and as a result was sentenced to 9 years in prison. He continued serving a suspended sentence since 1961 and was amnestied in 1963.

Tamás Aczél (1921-1994), a famous renegade writer, started writing agitational poems and his first collection came out in 1941. He received support from the People’s Democratic government and began writing progressive poems and novels. He received the Kossuth Prize (1949) and the Stalin Prize (1952). However, since 1953 he became a supporter of the New Course (promoted by the USSR under Malenkov’s leadership) and of Imre Nagy, who promoted the rightist economics of the New Course, but also rightism on the whole ideological and cultural front. Under Nagy’s influence Aczél completely abandoned progressive and socialist literature and poetry. As a Nagy supporter, he sided with the 1956 counter-revolution and after its failure, migrated to England (1957-1966) and later to the USA (1966-1994). In exile he became part of western academia and wrote books attacking socialism (such as “The Revolt of the Mind: History of Intellectual Resistance behind the Iron Curtain”).

Tibor Méray (1924-2020), writer and journalist. Since 1946 he worked as a Szabad Nep foreign correspondent at least in the DPRK and DDR. He was awarded a silver degree Kossuth Prize for his work in Berlin in 1953. For his literary work he was also awarded the József Attila Prize in 1951 and 1952. He was the chief editor for the literature magazine Csillag in 1947-49. During the rightist New Course Méray became secretary of the Hungarian Writer’s Association (1953-54) and was on the editorial board of Szabad Nep (1954-55). Marxist-Leninists finally succeeded in dismissing him from his position in Szabad Nep in 1955. He supported Imre Nagy during the 1956 counter-revolution and after its failure fled to Yugoslavia and later to France. In exile he wrote books attacking socialism and defending Imre Nagy and collaborated with Tamás Aczél.


Realism and Critical Realism

The foremost painter of pre-revolutionary Hungary was the Realist Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900). He painted many masterpieces, most famously the gritty “The Last Day of a Condemned Man”. Near the end of his career he turned towards more political themes and painted “Strike”, a picture of striking workers.

“Mihaly Munkacsy (1844-1900)—One of the greatest Hungarian painters of the nineteenth century His work is characterised by brilliant technique and a realist outlook. For subject he usually chose the life of the peasants, and the poor m general. Some of ins paintings show Biblical scenes. He spent some lime in Paris, where he very soon became famous.” (biographical note in Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”)

László Mednyánszky (1852-1919) was from a noble background and influenced by impressionism. However, he became disgusted with the aristocracy and began painting Critical Realist works depicting the suffering of ordinary people. During WWI he painted the misery of prisoners of war.

János Nagy Balogh (1874-1919) came from a proletarian background and painted pictures of workers.

Adolf Fényes (1867-1945) painted many Critical Realist works, most famously “The Life of the Poor Man” series. In the Hungarian Soviet Republic he belonged to the “Artistic Executive Committee”. Because of his jewish origin he was forced into the Budapest Ghetto by the Arrow Cross Fascists which seriously undermined his health. He died from illness in 1945.

Nagybánya school

In pre-revolutionary Hungary the Nagybánya artist colony (founded in 1896) included many leading painters of the time. Its style began with naturalism (which depicts reality metaphysically, as static and with an over-emphasis on unimportant details) and later developed under the influence of impressionism (which sometimes meant progress but soon lapsed into subjectivism especially with the neo-impressionists or “Neos” of Nagybánya) and more abstract styles. The Nagybánya school included elements of the stagnation of bourgeois art, but also trained future artists. By the 20s the school had stagnated. In 1920 the territory was annexed by Romania and the school was closed by Romanian Fascists in 1937. Nagybanya attempted to create a Hungarian national style, which was correct, but its attempt to do this was misguided. It sought to achieve this by combining elements of naturalism and post-impressionism.

The French cubist, Italian futurist, German expressionist and other foreign trends were influential in Hungarian bourgeois art for a short period in the 1900s but never took root with the people. They merely represented the crisis of bourgeois art internationally and in Hungary. This is also shown by the fact that although many artists dabbled in these styles they also quickly abandoned them as the styles ended in stagnation and crisis.

“The Eight” (approximately 1909-1918)

The “Eight” group also had contradictory tendencies. Their project represented an attempt to solve the problems of contemporary bourgeois art. The attempt ran into a blind alley, but their work had a progressive influence on the next generation of artists. It was the necessary transitionary step for some artists of bourgeois origin. The “Eight” did not have a unified style, but were influenced by a variety of foreign bourgeois trends. Their ideology was petit-bourgeois radicalism and idealist utopianism. Many of their members are not worth mentioning here as they did not contribute to progressive or socialist art.

A significant early member of the group was Károly Kernstok (1873-1940). Inspired by the Critical Realism of those times, one of his earliest paintings is a realistic picture of a socialist agitator. He also created paintings of workers and peasants (such as “The Plum Pickers”) but these were already impressionistic. Afterwards he veered further and further away from reality. This is when “the Eight” group was created. Kernstok supported the Hungarian Soviet Republic and had to flee Hungary to escape the White Terror.

Bertalan Pór studied at Nagybánya, later joining the Eight. In the course of his career he was able to overcome the bourgeois influences of his early period. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic he was the head of the painting department of the Art Directorate and designed some of the most iconic posters for the revolution. After the revolution he lived in emigration in the Soviet Union. After his return to Hungary in 1948 he changed his style completely, and began producing works of Socialist Realism.

“The Activists” (approximately 1914-1925)

The artists gathered around the magazines “Tett” (“action”) and “MA” (“today” but also short for “Magyar Aktivizmus”) are known as “the activists” . Their style was similar to the Eight and they shared a similar petit-bourgeois outlook.

A member of the activists worth mentioning, Béla Uitz, became a marxist and joined the Hungarian Communist Party. Like many other members of the group he was initially attracted to the ultra-left Proletkult art movement in the USSR. Together with his comrades he split from the activists and created a communist art magazine Egység (1922-24). During the revolution of 1919 he had created posters for the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Most activists had to escape from Hungary after the revolution was crushed by the Horthyists, many emigrated to the USSR. In the USSR Béla Uitz began developing a realistic style focusing on frescoes. He painted frescoes for the Kirghiz Soviet Republic.

Other forerunners

Istvan Desi Huber was influenced by post-impressionism but worked in the Labor Movement and tried to develop a socialist style of art. He died in 1944 during the Nazi occupation.

Gyula Derkovits originally followed the post-Nagybánya style but the content of his work made him a forerunner of the Hungarian Socialist Realists. He was a proletarian, and created pictures of proletarians. He joined the Communist Party in 1918. After the mid 1920s he began to discard the formalistic bourgeois influences of his past more and more. In the late twenties he created the “1514” engravings about the Dózsa peasant revolt and in the 30s his true masterpieces “Generations”, “Along the Railway”, “Weaver” and others. Unfortunately his poverty had undermined his health which led to his early death in 1934.

“The Group of Socialist Artists” (1934)

In 1934 the Socialist Artists’ Group was founded. This group did not have a unified method or style, but tried to create a socialist type of art. Painters and visual artists in the group included:
Endre A. Fenyő (painter who later became famous for Socialist Realism)
Béla Ban (painter who made some Socialist Realist works but was mainly a surrealist)
Béla Fekete Nagy (painter who made some realistic works but was mainly influenced by bourgeois styles)
Andor Sugár (painter who was influenced by Impressionism but made beautiful Socialist Realist works. He died in a German concentration camp)
Károly László Háy (Socialist Realist graphic artist and set-designer)
Ernő Berda (anti-fascist and progressive graphic artist)

Socialist Realist visual artists in the Hungarian People’s Republic besides the above mentioned, include the likes of painter Iván Szilárd the famous Sándor Ék and poster artists István Czeglédi, Tibor Bánhegyi and György Konecsni.

Other established painters also took up the new style. For example, still-life painter Anni Gáspár Felekiné received a second degree Munkácsy Award for socialist realist paintings in 1946 and Jenő Benedek and Bernáth Aurél were awarded the Kossuth Prize for their works.

In January 1945 a big exhibition called “The 1st Exhibition of the Union of Artists from Nagybánya” was held to show the works of many of the most skilled painters of the recent past in Hungary, which also showed some works of Socialist Realism.

Many big art exhibitions were held in the following years and they made visual art much more popular then it had ever been in the past. Particularly exhibitions of the work of the Realist Munkacsy, the greatest painter in Hungarian history, drew big crowds. There was also a big exhibition specifically dedicated to Socialist Realism, called “The Road to Communism”.

In 1952 Rakosi stated proudly that: “The Munkacsy Exhibition was visited by 430,000 people and the exhibition entitled “The Road to Communism” attracted over 200,000 spectators in a month” (Rakosi, Speech at the Introduction of the Budget for 1953 in the National Assembly)


In pre-revolutionary Hungary sculptor Ö. Fülöp Beck followed the bourgeois Art Nouveau trend but produced some realistic works, mainly his bust of Zsigmond Móricz.

Leftist sculptor György Goldmann was the leader of the Socialist Artists’ Group. He died tragically in a Nazi concentration camp.

The important Socialist Realist sculptor László Mészáros also belonged to the Socialist Artists’ Group. Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl was perhaps the most talented Socialist Realist sculptor in Hungary. Sándor Mikus and Pál Pátzay also produced extremely skillful works.


Hungary became famous for its ceramics. The three most important artists in this field were István Gádor, Géza Gorka and Margit Kovács. They helped develop modern ceramics into an art form. Especially Gádor and Gorka were originally influenced by bourgeois styles, but became more and more interested in folk-art, the art of the people. In 1934 Gádor joined the Socialist Artists’ Group and tried to create a united anti-fascist front of artists. The realistic and folk-inspired tendency of these artists only increased over time, but they still worked under considerable economic difficulties. Only when Hungary became a People’s Democracy their art was given full freedom to blossom.


FERENC HONT (1907-1979)

“Ferenc Hont —Born in 1907, he is a stage producer and theatre director. After the Liberation he became director of the Academy of Dramatic Art. and of the Madach Theatre.” (biographical note in Jozsef Revai, “Lukacs and Socialist Realism”)

He received the 2nd grade Kossuth Prize in 1949.

Béla Balázs should also be mentioned because he was a well known early Hungarian Communist aesthetic thinker, critic and writer who also worked with Bartok and Kodaly. However, he made serious theoretical mistakes.


Film reached a high level in Hungary only during the Socialist government. Before that, there barely was a film industry in the country at all. Cinema going doubled from previous figures during the first Five-Year Plan (1950-54) and many collective farms built their own cinemas. Movies were originally produced in beautiful vibrant color but unfortunately the original film prints were later damaged and color degraded over time. They could be restored to their original beauty but naturally the capitalists don’t want to do that.

Socialist Realist films in Hungary were democratic in character: they depicted the lives, challenges and successes of ordinary people. For example, Civil a pályán is a film about football, one of the favorite past times in Socialist Hungary. These films (while not perfect) are both entertaining and democratic, without losing intellectual, political and artistic quality.

Many films were made about Hungarian history. Instead of advocating chauvinism, national hatred or oppression, these films demonstrated the best progressive traditions in the nation’s history. The motto of Socialist Realism is “socialist in content, national in form”. Each country has their own history of heroic class struggle against oppression and exploitation. The film Föltámadott a tenger depicts the 1848 revolution for democracy and national sovereignty of Lajos Kossuth, Rákóczi hadnagya is about Ferenc Rákóczi’s 1703–11 peasant war against the Hapsburg monarchy’s domination of Hungary.

Other Socialist Realist movies include Első fecskék, Ütközet békében, Tűzkeresztség, Teljes gőzzel, Becsület és dicsőség.

Musical and comedy elements were used to create a positive outlook on life and hope in the future. Films also utilized suspense elements to warn about the dangers which the class enemy still poses in the form of criminal sabotage and foreign intervention.


The most important bourgeois architect in Hungary is Miklós Ybl (1814-1891) who worked in the renaissance style. The Ybl Miklós Award for architects was created in 1953.

“Ybl, Miklós Born Apr. 6, 1814, in Székesfehérvár; died Jan. 22, 1891, in Budapest. Hungarian architect.

Ybl studied at the Polytechnical Institute in Vienna in 1831 and at the Academy of Arts in Munich during the early 1840’s. His works in Budapest include the Karolyi Palace (1863), a customhouse (1870-74), the Opera House (1875-84), St. Stephen’s Basilica (1867-91), and the west wing of the Royal Palace (1880-91). From 1845 to 1855 he built a church, a priest’s house, and a school in Fót. To a large extent, the unique appearance of the center of Budapest was determined by Ybl’s imposing buildings designed in Renaissance and baroque revival styles.

Ybl, E. Ybl Miklós. Budapest, 1956.”
(The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1979)

In capitalist Hungary, architect Máté Major had belonged to the Socialist Artists’ Group. However, he had received a purely bourgeois education and advocated bourgeois views. His work was completely superseded by the newly arising Socialist Realist architects like Emil Zöldy and Tibor Weiner.

Tibor Weiner had studied and later taught architecture in Hungary. He had been a member of the secret Communist Party of Hungary. Due to persecution he lost his academic position in 1931 and emigrated to the USSR. There he joined a group of socialist designers called “The Red Front”. He designed a vocational school for the silk industry in Baku in 1931 and a college of commerce in Tashkent in 1931-32. He began teaching in the Moscow College of Architecture and was a city planner for the new city of Orsk. After liberation he returned to Hungary.

During socialist construction, talented architects of pre-revolutionary Hungary like Lajos Gádoros, István Janáky, Antal Károlyi, Oszkár Winkler and Gyula Rimanóczy now adopted a Socialist Realist method of work.

The new socialist industrial city of Sztálinváros was built following the principles of Socialist Realism in architecture. This means it was designed to serve the people, following a visual style rooted in the national traditions.

Buildings in Sztálinváros were inspired by largely by Hungarian classicism and decorated by beautiful ornaments. frescoes and mosaics. Particulary Jenő Percz created magnificent mosaic art for the city. Painter Endre Domanovszky designed frescoes. György Szrogh designed the Dózsa Cinema and many nice buildings were designed by István Zilahy. Tibor Weiner was the lead architect and city planner.

Unfortunately this style which represented the peak of Hungarian architecture was entirely abandoned during the revisionist period (the name of the city was also changed to Dunaújváros).



Appendix 1. (On Bartók)

List of Bartók works which were broadcast on the radio since 1950 and considered not formalist:

-From Ten Easy Pieces: “Evening with the Széklers” (Este a Székelyeknél), “Bear Dance” (Medvetánc), Slovak Boys’ Dance
(Tóth legények tánca), Hungarian Folksong (Gödollei piactéren, listed erroneously as GödWllei vásárterem)
-Selections from Romanian Colinda Melodies (Román kolindadallamok)
-From Three Burlesques: “A Bit Drunk” (Kicsit ázottan)
-From Two Romanian Dances (Két román tánc), no. 1
-From Mikrokosmos: March (Induló), “Jack-in-the-Box” (Paprika Jancsi), Theme and Inversion (Téma és fordítása), Peasant Dance
(Dobbantos tánc), plus a group of six unspecified pieces (possibly selected from the collection “Seven Pieces from Mikrokosmos”)
-From For Children (Gyermekeknek): Slovak Folk Songs and Dances (Slovák népi dalok és táncok), “Stars” (Csillagok), “Joke” (Tréfa),
“Outlaw’s Song” (Betyár nóta), Dance Tune (Táncdal ), “My Dear Daughter” (Kiskece lányom)
-From Fourteen Bagatelles: Rubato, two unspecified movements, and possibly “Elle est morte” (listed as Valaki meghalt)
-From Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs (Tizenöt magyar parasztdal ): Old Dance Tunes (Régi táncdalok, listed as Régi magyar táncok), nos. 7–15
-From Nine Little Piano Pieces: Air (Dal)
-Waltz (which one is unspecified; possibly from Bagatelles, no. 14)
-From Two Elegies, no. 2 only
-One of the Three Rondos

-Romanian Folk Dances (Román népi táncok) (arrangement for violin and piano)
-Two Romanian Dances (op. 8a) (arrangement for violin and piano)
-First String Quartet
-Sixth String Quartet
-Sonatina (arrangement for violin and piano)
-Excerpts from For Children (Gyermekeknek) in two different arrangements for violin and piano
-Hungarian Folk Songs (arrangement for violin and piano)

-From Twenty-seven Two- and Three-Part Choruses: “Don’t Leave Me!” (Ne menj el!), “Play Song” (Játék), “Bread Baking” (Cipósütés), “Loafer’s Song” (Resteknek nótája), “Boys’ Teasing Song” (Legénycsúfoló), “Lonely Wandering” (Bolyongás), “Pillow Dance” (Párnás táncdal ) , “Enchanting Song” (Jószágígézo), “Suitor” (LeánykérW ), “Hussar” (Huszárnóta), “Don’t Leave Here!” (Ne hagyj itt!), “Girls’ Teasing Song” (Leánycsúfoló), “Had I Not Seen You” (Ne láttalak volna!), “Jeering” (Csujogató)
-Four Slovak Folk Songs, including one performance in a new orchestration by Szervánszky]; also Wedding Song (Lányát úgy adta) as an excerpt
-Székely Songs (Székely dalok)

-Hungarian Folk Songs
-From Eight Hungarian Folk Songs (Nyolc magyar népdal ): “Black Is the Earth” (Fekete fod), “My God, My God” (Istenem, Istenem), “Wives, Let Me Be One of Your Company” (Asszonyok, Asszonyok), “If I Climb” (Ha kimegyek)
-From Twenty Hungarian Folk Songs: Slow Dance (Székely lassú), Fast Dance (Székely friss), Dialogue Song (Pár-ének), New-Style Songs (Új dalok)
-From Village Scenes: Lullaby (Bölcso dal)

-Violin Concerto
-Two Portraits (Két portré)
-Two Pictures (Két kép)
-Concerto for Orchestra
-Dance Suite
-Third Piano Concerto
-Hungarian Peasant Songs (Magyar parasztdalok)
-Hungarian Sketches (Magyar képek): complete and, as an excerpt, Melody (Melódia) and Swineherds’ Dance from Ürög (Ürögi

List of Bartók works which were seriously condemned: (Of course, there are a number of works which were neither condemned nor praised, and many works which were simply not significant or popular enough to be played)

-The Miraculous Mandarin

-Piano Concerto no. 1
-Concerto for two pianos, percussion, and orchestra
-Piano Concerto no. 2

-String Quartet no. 3
-String Quartet no. 4
-String Quartet no. 5
-Violin-piano sonata no. 1
-Violin-piano sonata no. 2
-Piano sonata

-3 Études op. 18
-Out of Doors

-5 songs on poems by Endre Ady” (Music divided, p. 54)

About Bartók’s work “Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs for Piano” (1920)
“[Music critic] Asztalos… defended the Improvisations on these grounds:

“Let us take the “Improvisations” as an example and compare them to the Six Little Piano Pieces by Schoenberg written around the same time. . . . In the “Improvisations” there are undeniably peculiar harmonic experiments. Bartók is seeking a new path: this is what we are addressing. But in every piece of the “Improvisations” there is the broadly and flexibly developed melodic material of the folk song, in many cases even left in its original purity. In Bartók’s music the human message, the deep and honest human content, seeks the form for its expression, and in the seeking, in the struggle for expression, individual constructive elements come into shocking contradiction with the basic material. At the same time, Schoenberg does not express anything for anybody; he makes inhuman, antisocial music.”

Even though Bartók’s accompaniment remains generally dissonant and achieves no clear harmonic resolution even at the end of the movement, the folk song dominates the texture throughout because it is clearly distinguished from the accompaniment by its tessitura and manner of articulation. Thus, despite the presence of “difficult” features, the folk song provides the listener with a connecting thread to follow.” (Music divided, p. 61)

About Bartók’s work “Out of Doors”

“In “Music of the Night” from Out of Doors, the melodic thread is much more tenuous. Rather than immediately introducing a melody, Bartók sets another layer of sporadic and irregular activity against the pulsating accompaniment, creating the oft-noted evocation of the sounds of the night that became so important a part of his style. Asztalos reported that the evocations of natural sounds in Bartók’s night-music style presented no difficulties in theory, since even Beethoven had engaged in this kind of mimesis. “The trouble begins,” Asztalos explained, when the listener arrives in a mysterious shadow world that is pregnant with complaints and with oppressive, fearsome signs. Here we meet a musical composition of human speech where we do not understand the words, but only the general features, and we feel their grave emotional content. . . . In many ways this world is like the symbolic world of folk poetry or Ady’s symbolism filled with phantoms—expressing the alienation of the spirit that finds no rest in society. This is even more harrowing with Bartók, because here as a consequence of the nature of the musical language itself, the true sound hallucinations become even more shadowy, reality becomes even more ambiguous, more dreadfully featureless: they become a monstrous document of imperialism.” (Music divided, p. 61)

Révai about Bartók’s “The Miraculous Mandarin” and “Bluebeard’s castle”

“In connection with the Bartók ballets, about which there was the big ruckus (to put it plainly) when they accused us of being against Bartók in general, here we turned against Menyhért Lengyel and Béla Balázs, and not primarily against Bartók. But Bartók too was accountable for whom he took up with. The subject of The Miraculous Mandarin is garbage. Bartók wanted to express something great, that love is greater than death, but Menyhért Lengyel cannot express something like that. And therefore we are not in favor of its being performed very often. Bluebeard is a pseudo–folk tale. In this period Bartók was mystical. This is not a folk tale, because if it were nobody would have anything against it. We are in favor of new operas being performed, which afterward must be judged. But even liberalism has a limit.” (Music divided, p. 135)

Appendix 2. (On Szabó and Szervánszky)

Criticism of Szabó’s “Homecoming concerto”

“Soviet composer Zakharov “criticized Szabó’s Homecoming concerto as too “individualistic,” but he said that since Szabó had more recently written better film music, at least he was progressing in the right direction. Szabó did not fare as well in Novikov’s essay about Hungarian music, first published in the main Soviet music journal, Sovetskaya muzyka, and later reprinted in Free Folk. Novikov stated that “Ferenc Szabó is one of the most talented of contemporary Hungarian composers. Unfortunately, he still clings to his less successful work, such as the symphonic poem entitled ‘Homecoming,’ which is a formalist work… The sooner he gives up toying with antiquated modernist ‘relics,’ the greater the contribution he will make to Hungarian musical life.” The reliance on Bartók in Szabó’s work may well have contributed to Novikov’s accusation of formalism… Szabó [realized the problem and] published several articles denouncing it as “pessimistic” and claiming that it reflected “every oppression, horror, and inhumanity of the time of imperialism.” (Music divided, pp. 25-26)

[For context: “Homecoming concerto” is a work inspired by Bartók’s “The Concerto for Orchestra”. This is one of Bartók’s better symphonic works, but suffers somewhat from formalistic tropes and in particular strong pessimism. This is not a bad work at all, and neither is Szabó’s “Homecoming concerto”, but it was flawed and it was known Szabó could do much better in the future. “Homecoming” (1948) was written in an earlier style suited for the broad anti-fascist struggle of 1944-48, it was not written in the style of the future Socialist society, which began to be formulated in Hungary only in 1948-49 and took shape in 1950. As such, “Homecoming” obviously seemed like a relic of an earlier era and would be considered flawed as the bar for the best composers was set higher.]

Analysis of Szervánszky‘s Honvéd kantáta

“Endre Szervánszky’s Home Guard Cantata (Honvéd kantáta), composed in 1949, and Ferenc Szabó’s Song Singing (Nótaszó), composed in 1950.These were among the first pieces on folk song themes to have been composed entirely after the 1948 resolution on music, and they were lauded at the time of their appearance as the fulfillment of great expectations in the field of socialist music.

Szervánszky’s Home Guard Cantata, a four-movement work for male chorus and orchestra, is a generic hybrid of sorts. Though choral settings of folk songs were nothing new in the Hungarian tradition, the scale of this work (both in its instrumentation and in its formal conception) indicates that it was intended as an impressive symphonic piece for the larger concert hall rather than as a project a community chorus could successfully undertake. The four movements of the piece are analogous in tempo to the movements of a symphony: the first and last movements are fast and rousing, the second movement is a scherzo, and the third is a slow ballad. Even the accompanimental styles demonstrate a complexity that surpasses the mere presentation of the folk song. In the second movement, for instance, Stravinskian ostinato patterns in the high woodwinds add textural interest without obscuring the presentation of melodies below. The grandiosity of the conception is offset somewhat by the relatively straightforward treatment of the simple melodies on which the work is based. Folk tunes are prominent in the texture and provide the basis for the cantata’s formal organization. The use of the cimbalom, a Hungarian instrument that had been employed since the nineteenth century to evoke national themes in orchestral music, enhances the folksy atmosphere.

The cantata uses soldiers’ songs to present four scenes from military life. The most obvious Hungarian musical topic of this kind is the tradition of military recruiting music, or verbunkos. In the fourth movement of the cantata, for instance, the text exclaims, “Come be soldiers!” and the instrumental interludes sound the “gypsy fiddling” topos typical of the faster style of verbunkos performance. This topos is featured prominently in the first movement as well. The piece also includes a lyrical love song and a dance song with a pastoral interlude. A possible model for the use of the military subject was Soldiers’ Songs, a 1947 work by the Soviet composer Anatoly Novikov, who had served as the Kremlin’s cultural emissary to Hungary… Musically, however, the works bear few similarities.

In three of the four movements of his cantata, Szervánszky uses folk songs as building blocks to create large-scale formal units. For example, the first movement is a rondo (ABACA) in which each episode consists of a contrasting folk tune in a different key. Within each section, the tunes are almost always repeated two, three, or even four times. Between the sections—and therefore between the folk songs themselves—Szervánszky inserts short, modulatory orchestral interludes so that the voice parts never have to modulate; they enter after the arrival of the new key. This technique not only makes the vocal parts easier for the chorus; it also ensures that each folk song presentation remains in the same key throughout, which allows the songs to keep their original shapes despite the harmonization that has been added by the composer.
Bartók made a distinction in his typology of folk songs among “oldstyle,” “new-style,” and “mixed-type” songs. Each type distinguished by Bartók is associated with particular patterns of phrase structure: the older songs feature open-ended, nonarchitectonic formal patterns (for example, AAAA, ABAB, or ABCD), whereas the newer songs are often constructed on principles of return found in Western art music (for example, ABBA or AABA)… The songs used in the Home Guard Cantata all fit into either the new-style or the mixed-style categories. Some have architectonic designs suggestive of art-music influence (such as the AABA design of example 6b, which was published by Bartók in 1924), while others have phrase structures reminiscent of the old-style folk song (ABAB, AAAA) but have other stylistic features associated with the newer style, such as the verbunkos topos. This might be interpreted as a turn away from the emphasis on “authentic” models that featured the old-style song as the bearer of Hungarian identity, toward a preference for folk songs that were more likely to be in common use and therefore recognizable to audiences.

The style of Szervánszky’s first and fourth movements is highly evocative of Kodály’s use of the verbunkos style in his own instrumental works, particularly of the Intermezzo from Háry János. Szervánszky’s sequential use of folk songs to build a larger and more genuinely symphonic work also recalls some of Kodály’s most famous pieces: both the opera Háry János, made of many songs strung together, and the Peacock Variations, a set of variations on a single folk song, are constructed on this “chain” model. This technique ensures that the folk tunes remain audible and comprehensible at every moment of the performance, even though they are presented in the context of a longer piece” (Music divided, pp. 99-104)

Analysis of Szabó‘s “Song singing”

“The six-movement work is scored for chamber orchestra and chorus, a considerably smaller and simpler ensemble than that required by Szervánszky’s cantata. In addition, Szabó included in the score a part for a single solo voice to be used if a chorus was not available, thus making the work more accessible to performing groups with limited resources. Although the accompaniments are carefully and artfully constructed, they tend to be simple and repetitive and to remain in the background. This music is much less elaborate than that of Szervánszky’s cantata.

Like Szervánszky’s, Szabó’s piece uses lyrical folk texts; the overriding themes are flirtation and love, and the movements are arranged in such a way that they can be construed as telling the story of a couple from their first meeting to their wedding celebration. The narrative, however, is not made explicit in the work through dialogue, characterization, or other means; this places the piece in the genre of cantata and differentiates it from the Soviet genre of “song opera” as well as from its Hungarian antecedents, such as Kodály’s folk song opera Háry János. Among the Hungarian precursors, it is perhaps most similar to Kodály’s stage work The Spinning Room (Székely fonó), in which the words and music of the plot are derived entirely from folk song texts and melodies; but here, too, Kodály’s work was designed to be acted out on stage, whereas the drama remains implicit in Szabó’s modest cantata.

The folk songs Szabó chose for the work are mostly new-style melodies, again suggesting an emphasis on living tradition. Indeed, the title, Nótaszó, can be understood as a polemical position against the fetishization of peasant music. Nóta is the Hungarian term for a genre of popular art song widespread in Hungary since the nineteenth century… By entitling his piece Nótaszó, conversely, Szabó invited the listener into an experience of “song singing” that might include several different Hungarian song traditions, not only authentic peasant song.

Szabó’s methods of setting folk songs in Song Singing differ somewhat from Szervánszky’s in the Home Guard Cantata. Most prominent, perhaps, is Szabó’s flexible treatment of the preexisting folk melodies: he sometimes altered them by extending phrases to effect transitions or smooth over the boundaries between phrases. The folk melody used in the sixth movement, entitled “Wedding” (Lakodalmas), originally consisted of two four-bar phrases in an antecedent-consequent pattern. In his setting Szabó extends the second phrase through repetition and alteration of motives (and, necessarily, of verbal text), so that the consequent phrase cannot close but ends again on a dominant pedal, over which the orchestra jauntily reiterates the tune. The orchestra’s version, too, remains unfinished; it is not extended but is instead interrupted by a modulation to a new key for another statement of the tune. This extension of the tune’s boundaries by elementary compositional techniques breaks down the four-square shape of the tune and allows it to be used more flexibly in constructing the piece.

Szervánszky had chosen in three of the four movements of the Home Guard Cantata to include several songs as a means of differentiating sections and achieving a large-scale formal scheme. He provided modulatory passages only in the orchestral transitions; he never changed key within the vocal presentation of a particular folk tune. Szabó, on the other hand, used one folk song per movement in Song Singing, and he moved from key to key within the presentation of a single folk song. This procedure sometimes distorts the original profile of a song somewhat in the service of tonal contrast within the movement. The musical comprehensibility of the piece is not impaired in the least, for the art-music element of tonal contrast Szabó provides is usually of the sort a city-bred industrial worker might find familiar from nóta or other popular art music.

One example of this technique occurs in the fifth movement of Song Singing, entitled “Late Evening” (Késo este). This movement sets a variant of the same folk song that Szervánszky used in “Evening’s Rest,” the third movement of the Home Guard Cantata. Rather than setting the version Bartók collected, Szabó chose a variant that provided a good opportunity for tonal contrast: the third, contrasting phrase of Szabó’s tune (unlike that collected by Bartók) rises above the octave compass of the preceding phrases by one note. Szabó’s harmonization of this melody highlights the contrast implicit in his chosen variant of the tune. Taking advantage of the close commonality between the C mixolydian and F major scales, Szabó sets the first two phrases of the melody with harmonies that accentuate F major. Then, in a short orchestral interlude, Szabó effects a modulation that leads to an arrival on a D major triad (sounding as the dominant of G minor) at the beginning of the third phrase. In addition to the sense of “elevation” provided by the modulation, the phrase is also distinguished by a thickening of the texture from the pointillistic accompaniment pattern that had characterized the first two phrases to a much denser treatment with tutti scoring, including divisi string parts moving in parallel motion and a heavy walking bass pattern. This heightened phrase lasts only five measures; by the end of the vocal phrase the transition back to the original tonality has already begun.

By choosing a variant of the tune that reached outside the rigid octave compass, Szabó made it easier to integrate the tune into a musical structure that derives not exclusively from the folk song, but also from departure-and-return principles characteristic of the European concert music tradition. In other words, the composer had taken a small step toward the “synthesis” of the folk song into another tradition… This process of synthesis bespeaks an attitude toward the folk material that emphasizes not its authenticity but its utility. Szabó did not treat the folk song setting as “the mounting of a jewel”; he freely changed the substance of the song to suit the musical need of the moment. Szabó’s synthesis is not thoroughgoing, for the work is organized on the principle of a series of folk songs, and therefore strongly resembles the “chain” model used by Szervánszky. In this respect the construction of Szabó’s piece is even simpler than that of Szervánszky’s, for he does not build larger forms out of the folk songs. Still, in its fusing of folk song with formal characteristics more typical of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century art music, Szabó’s Song Singing can be said to be one step closer to the synthesis end of the spectrum than Szervánszky’s Home Guard Cantata.

During his visit to Hungary in March 1950, the Soviet composer Vladimir Zakharov had encouraged composers to take just these sorts of liberties with folk song. Zakharov expressed dismay in a lecture to the Hungarian Musicians’ Association that Hungarians were much too focused on the authenticity or purity of their folk song tradition, and not enough on what the folk song could do for socialist culture. Through an interpreter (and hence in the third person) he recounted to the Hungarians:

“Much was said during his visit about the Hungarian folk song. He himself has worked much with various areas of the Russian folk song; he understands the problems of the folk song, and he still must say that he doesn’t understand what the question is here. Many times he heard that Hungarian music, pure [tiszta] Hungarian music was finished one hundred years ago and that what has happened since then is music full of foreign influences, which must be thrown out. In his opinion this debate is unnecessary. . . . It does not matter when the melody came into being, and what influences are present in it, if this melody is needed. The essence is how the composer uses the melody. . . . It is in his opinion totally incorrect to debate about the extent to which the style of a folk song is pure.”

Here Zakharov was addressing in part the choice of folk songs to set: his dismissal of “purity” was a critique of composers’ continued respect for Bartók’s categories of old and new styles, in which the older songs were regarded as the more authentically Hungarian. As we have seen, though, some composers had already set new-style songs before Zakharov’s critique, so it is difficult to ascertain the relevance of his remarks to recent compositional practice. Zakharov’s emphasis on the utility of a given melody, on the other hand, most likely applied to issues of how the folk song is set. Rather than leaving the melodies unchanged, composers were to transform them and fit them with new contexts, as Szabó began to do in Song Singing. Among other purposes, this formal recasting of folk songs would in theory distance them from their original peasant context, thus decreasing the danger of sentimental populism and increasing their relevance to city dwellers.” (Music divided, pp. 105-109)

Criticism of Honvéd kantáta and Song singing

“István Szirmai, the director of Hungarian Radio, criticized Szervánszky’s Home Guard Cantata and Szabó’s Song Singing for failing to synthesize folk song into art music in a new way. In Szirmai’s words,

“These new works are not of high enough quality. . . . [They are just] a somewhat primitive type of arrangement. Essentially the comrades just took folk songs and tied them into a bouquet, presenting the folk songs again in their purely original form. What aspect of this work can be considered creative work? They orchestrated [the songs] for larger orchestra, they created some kind of connecting music for them. In essence, however, there was no message, they gave them back to the people in the same form in which they received them from the people. That is not much, and it is not what we expect from our composers.”

Although, as we have seen, there are some important differences between Szabó’s and Szervánszky’s treatment of folk songs, Szirmai felt that both reflected too closely the Kodályan “chain” model. From his comment it is evident that, in his view, creative work should still ideally involve some substantial personal achievement on the part of the composer; simplicity of style should not be equated with the accomplishment of a simple task. Szirmai’s comments reflect two distinct objections: the “giving back to the people” of the folk songs “in the same form in which they [were] received,” which raised once again the specter of sentimental populism; and the creative failure of the composers to transform the songs. Révai, undoubtedly the most influential voice in Hungarian cultural politics, agreed with Szirmai in the main about the quality of recent works based on folk songs. Révai did not condemn Szabó’s and Szervánszky’s works outright, but he criticized their simplicity and closeness to the original folk melodies.” (Music divided, pp. 110-111)

Appendix 3. (On Attila József’s Freudist idealist deviation)

Attila József couldn’t explain why the level of class consciousness was so low in Hungary. It seems he expected class consciousness would arise almost automatically, or at least pretty easily among the population of extremely poor workers and peasants. However, in reality (as Lenin explains in What is to be done?) class consciousness can only arise as a result of organization, struggle and study. The Communist Party must organize the people and provide them with understanding – class consciousness never arises automatically. However, because Attila József couldn’t understand this, he looked for answers in Freudism (he had received Freudian psychoanalytical treatment for his mental problems before).

Freudism masquerades as science but is really an idealist doctrine based entirely on speculations about subconscious “urges” and “drives” which cannot be measured or detected. These urges supposedly determine a person’s actions. Reactionary followers of Freud have “explained” fascism and imperialism, not as inevitable results of capitalism, but as merely the result of man’s “subconscious desire for death”. Capitalist crisis has also been “explained” merely as the result of the subconscious drives of the investors, not as the inevitable outcome of capitalism. The answers to all questions are found in metaphysical speculations about the minds of individuals, and not in material reality.

Because Attila József did not understand the cause of the low level of class consciousness in Hungary, he believed that perhaps subconscious drives of the people are hindering their class consciousness.

Books on the topic:

Franz Liszt, artist and man. 1811-1840 vol. 1 & vol. 2 by Lina Ramann (Earliest thorough bourgeois biography of Liszt. Not bad, but sadly it doesn’t cover his whole life)

Chao Feng (Bartók and Chinese Music Culture)

Béla Bartók; his life in pictures and documents by Ferenc Bónis (the book has a lot of information but for a communist book it suffers from lack of marxism)

The Life and Music of Béla Bartók by Halsey Stevens (Not bad for a bourgeois book)

Bela Bartok Documentary

Zoltán Kodály: his life and work by László Eősze

English translation of Arany’s Toldi-trilogy: Epics of the Hungarian plain from János Arany, trans. A. N. Nyerges

Selected poems of Endre Ady

Poems of Endre Ady translated by Anton N. Nyerges. (Big collection of poems. See my criticism of the introduction of this book in the Ady section of the article)

Hungarian drawings and watercolours by Dénes Pataky (Good book with a lot of information, but is a bit non-political)

Modern Hungarian ceramics by Ilona Pataky Brestyánszky (Very informative, but is too soft on bourgeois art and near the end of the book tries to make excuses why sculpture and ceramics was suffering and becoming bourgeois under revisionism)

Renaissance architecture in Hungary by Feuer-Tóth, Rózsa; Kónya, Kálmán (Lots of information, very non-political)

A Thousand years of Hungarian masterpieces by Dezso Keresztury (Big collection of pictures of art works, non-political)

The art of the Hungarian furriers by Mária Kresz (Book about traditional folk clothing and textiles of Hungary, non-political)

Old musical instruments by György Gábry (book with pictures and information about musical instruments, mostly in the collection of the Hungarian National Museum, non-political)

Old textiles by Maria Varju-Ember (book with pictures and information about textile works of art, mostly in the collection of the Hungarian National Museum, non-political)

See also:

The artwork of Bertalan Pór
The artwork of Béla Uitz
The artwork of Gyula Derkovits
Hungarian Socialist Realist Artworks


Ék Sándor, “Comrade Rákosi in 1919 on the Salgótarján front“. Socialist Realism
Sugar Andor, “Builders“. Depicts construction workers at their job.
Endre A. Fenyő, “The Young Stalin”. Socialist Realism depicting the young Stalin reading a book of georgian poetry.
László Mészáros, “Worker-Peasant Alliance”
A vase by István Gádor. Influenced by peasant folk art.
The rationally planned city of Sztálinváros being built
The Sztálinváros “Peace Building”
Communist Youth camping in tents. Sztálinváros being built in the background.