Every few years when I was younger there was a story. At least once it made it on the Associated Press. I considered it silly and tawdry. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t true; the number of insane and cruel acts in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was staggering. They mostly don’t get the news because they were overshadowed by the truly shocking murder of tens of millions. And after discussing the more important actions, one is too tired to discuss the merely bizarre.
It has been reported that Stalin hired Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov to create Human-Ape hybrids. Russian generals dreamt of workers and soldiers who were impervious to hunger, sleep deprivation, and cold. They also hoped for greater strength and ferocity. Dictators often wish to replace their people with a population that would be better for them. So far this is cheap, tawdry, failed, and pointless. It is also alleged that Ivanov may not have done this at all but just taken the money and played along.
But Stalin did not believe in Darwinian Evolution and Mendelian genetics. Stalin was a Lysenkoist. He believed in acquired characteristics. If a Kenyan couple is moved to Finland then their children will be more resistant to the cold than children brought straight to Finland from Kenya. If I put my seed packets in the freezer, then my plants will be less damaged by frosts. Absolute nonsense. But when the dictator believes nonsense prudent people play along. It is safer and remunerative. Ivanov is evidence that Stalin held these goals for workers inured to cold and hunger. But how would Stalin have met his goals in a manner in which he believed?
Many people were made to work to death by cold and hunger in the Gulags. Important people such as Sergei Korolev did work under such conditions. Many such people were obviously innocent. Mere innocence was not a defense. Also the death rate was low for death-camps. If penitentiaries, they made few penitent. And the output of wealth was too low for work-camps.
What I have never heard anyone suggest is that they may not have been so much a punishment as a Lysenkoist genetic experiment. Innocence didn’t matter and there were simplified rules to send people to the gulag because the gulag was not a punishment. Very few actually died because the former inmates were expected to have offspring. I believe this was the true way that Stalin sought to create the New Soviet Man.
I have no evidence for my idea. I have no expert to whom I can point. But it makes sense to me and explains the apparent gross stupidity of the Gulag.