Center for History of Organization of Science and Science Studies at S.I. Vavilov Institute for Science and Technology History at the Russian Academy of Sciences

Nauka naukozn. 2020, 1(107): 108-120

Section: Science and Technology History
Language: Russian
Abstract: Numerous studies of Russian science scholars and historians of science have been devoted to the topic of state policy in the USSR Science and its well-known achievements. However, not enough attention has been paid to the negative, repressive aspects of the Soviet policy of managing science. Repressions became one of the main components of the scientific and personnel policy of the state in the Stalin era. Of course, being of national and total nature, Soviet repressions as a special social phenomenon affected not only the sphere of science, but also many other social structures of the Soviet society. A system analysis of the Soviet science development, limited by its undeniably outstanding achievements, without understanding the origins, causes, and mechanisms of the repressions carried out by the state apparatus of that time, sharply reduces the overall reliability of a comprehensive study of the soviet science system. The purpose of our study is to continue rethinking the unprecedented practice of official repressions within the soviet science system, started by domestic researchers mainly at the turn of 1980/1990. The analysis is based on published and archival documents related both to repressive actions conducted towards the Soviet society as a whole, and the specifics of their manifestation in the scientific community, affecting, in particular, the fate of Academician P.L. Kapitsa, one of the three repressed Soviet Nobel laureates in physics. The scales of repressions against outstanding soviet scientists representing natural, technical, social and humanitarian disciplines are demonstrated; the peculiarities of repression mechanisms operated in prewar and postwar period are highlighted. It is argued that while in 1930s scientists tended to be arrested or put to death, after the war the science system was made subject to total party control implemented mainly through summoning the so called scientific “sessions” taking the decisions on the science system, expected by the top party offices, which would be conveyed as compulsory ones to research institutions and universities. To sum up, extensive stimuli to researcher’s work used to be combined with repressions of researchers, although the intensity of repression practices was different in various periods of formation and operation of the soviet science system.

Keywords: repressions, terror, science, scientists, academician.


  1. Graham, L.R. (1998). Is science resistant to stress? Studies in the History of Science and Technology, 4, 3—17 [in Russian].
  2. Werth, N., Mironenko, S.V. (Eds.) (2004). The history of the Stalinist Gulag. The end of the 1920s — the first half of the 1950s. (Vols. 1—7). Mass repressions in the USSR. Moscow: ROSSPEN, vol. 1, 728 [in Russian].
  3. (1994) Modern dictionary of foreign words. St. Petersburg: Duet, 752 [in Russian].
  4. Likhachev, S.D (1991). Preface to the monograph “Repressed Science” (pp. 5—6). Yaroshevsky M.G.(Ed.). Leningrad: Science[in Russian].
  5. Baturin, Y.M., Kuznetsova, N.I. (2018). Methodology of historical research of social turbulence. Vortex dynamics of the development of science and technology. Russia/USSR. The first half of the twentieth century. (vols. 1—2). The turbulent history of science and technology. (vol. 1) (pp. 40—69). Saratov: Amirit [in Russian].
  6. Mochalov, I.I. (2010). Repressive science: the formation of the phenomenon. Science under control. Science and Soviet power. Neretina, S.S. Cucumbers, A.P. (Eds.). (pp. 189—226). Moscow: Golos [in Russian].
  7. Tomilin, K.A. (2010). Physics and the fight against cosmopolitanism. Science under control. Science and Soviet power. Neretina, S.S. Cucumbers, A.P. (Eds.). (pp. 468—546). Moscow: Golos [in Russian].
  8. Shnol, S. E. (2010). Heroes, villains, conformists of domestic science. Moscow: Book House “LIBRICOM”, 720 [in Russian].
  9. Soifer, V.N. ( 2012). Stalin and scammers in science. Moscow: Dobrosvet, 504 [in Russian].
  10. Borovik-Romanov, A.S. (1977). Preface to the book “Kapitsa P.L. Experiment. Theory. Practice”. (pp. 5—10). Moscow: Nauka [in Russian].
  11. Rubin, P.E. (1989). Preface to the book “P.L. Kapitsa. Letters about science. 1930—1980”. (pp. 3—14). Moscow: Moskovskiy rabochiy [in Russian].
  12. Esakov, V.D., Rubin, P.E. (2003). Kapitsa, Kremlin and science. Creation of the Institute of Physical Problems. 1934—1938. Moscow: Nauka, 655 [in Russian].
  13. Melua, A.I. (1994). Article of the editor-compiler to the book “Repressed Science”. Yaroshevsky M.G. (Ed.). (pp. 5—6). St. Petersburg: Nauka [in Russian].

Full Text (PDF)