Cover Osteuropa 10/2009

In Osteuropa 10/2009

A Dream of Becoming Something Different
Lysenkoism and the Political Semantics of Heredity

Igor J. Polianski

Deutsche Fassung


The Cold War did not spare biology. The Soviet Union claimed Western genetics was a continuation of National Socialist eugenics. For the West, the teachings on the inheritability of acquired features and on the breeding of a New Man – what became known as Lysenkoism – were also considered a totalitarian, Communist counterpart to National Socialist racial selection. This obstructed the view as to why Lysenkoism was accepted in the German Democratic Republic. It has to be placed in the context of the historical antithesis of emancipationist leftwing and conservative, ethno-national biologisms. Both had the rug pulled out from under them with the discovery of DNA. In the GDR, however, it took until the 1970s before genetics lost its surplus value as an ideological object of fascination.

(Osteuropa 10/2009, pp. 69–88)