Production Hydrobiology in the USSR Under the Pressure of Lysenkoism: Vladimir I. Zhadin’s Forgotten Theory of Biological Productivity (1940)

  • Alexandra RizhinashviliEmail author
Original Research


The present study analyzes specific traits of Lysenkoism dogmas as they were reflected in Soviet hydrobiology. As a case study, I use the now-forgotten productivity theory of bodies of water developed in 1940 by the Soviet hydrobiologist Vladimir I. Zhadin (1896–1974). Zhadin’s views on production relied on his observations of changes in the communities of riverine faunas caused by the construction of water reservoirs. The theory is of particular interest because it attempts to address the unresolved problems of that period. Some of these unsettled problems provided the foundation for the ideological debates during the dialectization period in Soviet biology of the early 1920s to mid-1930s and were influenced by Lysenkoism. Zhadin’s theory thus serves as a suitable model for identifying cognitive and ideological components in science and for the analysis of the influence of ideology on science. The analysis of Zhadin’s works shows that an attempt to separate ideologically imposed perceptions and the author’s own scientific views presents a challenging task. This can be explained by a highly efficient behavioral pattern of “protective coloration” employed by the scientist and by Zhadin’s sincere acceptance of some Lysenkoist ideas. Furthermore, I argue that the system of Lysenkoist dogmas concerning the association between an organism and its environment are in fact entirely sensible scientific principles which were taken to an extreme. The results of the study suggest a need for more careful and deeper evaluation of scientific works published during the period of the personality cult in the USSR. The “Lysenko affair” in branches of biology other than genetics is more complicated and needs further examination.


History of hydrobiology Lysenkoism USSR Vladimir I. Zhadin Theory of biological productivity of bodies of water Ideological and cognitive aspects of scientific knowledge 



I express my sincere thanks to Elena P. Tikhonova (Zoological Institute of the RAS, St. Petersburg) for helping with my work in the archive fund of Vladimir I. Zhadin and to staff of the Scientific Library of the Zoological Institute of the RAS (especially to a head of the Library Dr. Evgenia S. Labina and to librarians Svetlana M. Pulkkinen, Anna A. Khalina, Yulia A. Dunaeva, Daria A. Gudkova). I am deeply grateful to Prof. Douglas R. Weiner (University of Arizona, Tucson, USA) for his comments on my manuscript and especially for his review of English text of the manuscript. I am indebted to translator Dr. Anatoliy A. Petrov (Zoological Institute of the RAS) for his great assistance. The work is supported by Russian Foundation for Basic Research (Project No. 17-33-01046-OГH).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St. Petersburg Branch of the S.I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology of the Russian Academy of SciencesSt. PetersburgRussia

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