Pushing Limits

Anne Finger: Soviet Eugenics

photo-and-quote-anne-fingerModern genetics offers parents the dream of choosing the characteristics of their children and aborting those who don’t fit their ideal.  As scientists move in this direction, disabled people are understandably critical.  They cite, for instance, the strong historical link between genetics and eugenics.

In this program, Oakland writer Anne Finger explores these issues with Eddie Ytuarte through the lens of eugenics in the Soviet Union.

Ms. Finger tells stories of a variety of unusual characters seeking real or supposed scientific truth amid the maelstrom of gigantic changes occurring in Russia before, during, and following the October 1917 Revolution.  Her essay, “The Left Hand of Stalin: Eugenics in the Soviet Union,” appears in the volume, “Disability Politics in a Global Economy: Essays in Honour of Marta Russell.”

In Nazi Germany the theory of eugenics brought the world the ideal of the perfect Aryan race.  This led to the round up and death of 275 thousand people with disabilities and, eventually, the death chambers of the holocaust.

Eugenic theory took a different tack in the Soviet Union where the goal was, not the perfection of a specific race, but the perfection of humanity as a whole.   There was early USSR resistance to the Darwinian theory of “survival of the fittest,” Finger says, citing early scientists who found that, in the harsh Siberian climate “sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle.”

Join us for an in-depth look at eugenic-genetic questions.

Produced and hosted by Eddie Ytuarte.

  • Justin Waters

    The motivation for the Nazi murder of thousands of disabled people (Aktion T4) was, disputably, not entirely eugenics. Eugenics was a defense the German scientist made during the Nuremberg trials. Eugenics was also practiced in the U.S. and U.K at that time, so they thought it would make a good defense. Reducing the cost of caring for the disabled seems to be a bigger reason for the murder of the disabled because if eugenics was the only goal then sterilization would have also been sufficient to prevent reproduction.
    I am not familiar with eugenics in the USSR, so it’s an interesting subject.

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