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Soviet Union demonstrated the first experiment in human history of the application of  science  and scientific  methods  for  building  socialism.    Planned scientific and technological research  had  contributed hugely to  successful   building  of socialism  in USSR, especially  during  the  first three plan periods after  October revolution. For the first time, science was liberated from the dictates  of  Private ‘Capital’ and  ‘profit’ and was put  to  the service of people . This  resulted in building a  self sufficient advanced industrial socialist society free from wars, hunger, disease and unemployment.  For  nearly  seven decades,  USSR  (till its collapse in early 90’s) was a major force to reckon with  in sectors such as  heavy industry, engineering,  atomic  energy, space research, public health and housing  and others.  A major   contribution  goes to the accomplished advanced research in  science and technology and the untiring efforts of  Soviet  scientists in making USSR , a backward agrarian  nation in just  two decades after October revolution in to a major power that defeated Nazi Fascism. With developed advanced industrial and engineering might it  victoriously fought  against  Nazi fascism and saved  the world. It all  largely became possible  due to   application of Marxism to  scientific planning of  science and its application for  development  of  society but not  for  individual  profits.

In  the beginning of 20th century soon after the  October revolution,  Russia was  primarily an agrarian state with a mere 20 percent literacy and few industries  located in major cities of Moscow, Kiev and Leningrad. Unemployment was prevalent widely with  limited health and educational opportunities  available.   Universities and Higher institutions of scientific research were few enrolling a few  thousand scientists. Till a decade after revolution the nation was  confronted with  inner civil wars, shortage of  food and other essentials.  The plan of scientific development in a socialist state must, of course, link up with the state economic plan. Accordingly, from that beginning   during the  three plan periods (from 1928- 41)  USSRR  grew in to a  self sufficient advanced  industrial state, capable to produce almost all goods, accomplishing electrification of  two thirds of  all villages, manufacture  tractors, automobiles, fertilizers, medicines, cloths and  almost all  machinery required for  domestic industry. It provided  free housing and  medical care to all its population.   Second World war was a test for Soviet science, a test of redoubled severity. When the  Nazi Germany invaded in 1941, USSR was  capable to  manufacture  all required  aeroplanes, tanks, arms and food for soldiers. At this juncture, on one hand, science was called upon to solve entirely new and often extremely intricate problems in every conceivable field, set before it urgently by the front, the war industries, and the national economy as a whole. On the other hand, it was compelled to work in unaccustomed conditions, often involving great hardships. Every new detail of military equipment and materials, every new drug and method of treatment during war time, bore the imprint of scientific thought and labour.

Science and technology were planned so scientifically so as to  meet the  requirements of industry and needs of population.  For  example,  in 1918, there were only 80 institutions of higher learning and scientific research enrolling  just 1,12,000 students. By 1941,  number of  scientific institutions went up to  800  spread over almost all  areas of science with 6,67,000 students.    Various  scientific laboratories   toiled and   came out with  new discoveries and much needed products. This was done in  in active linkage with   industry and agriculture. Often worker collectives were actively consulted  to know the needs of industry  and  improving the productivity and  production. The war torn  nation  having lost nearly 20 percent of its youth and active population  could  recoup and  emerge as a major world power soon after the World war. The fact that  science was able  to  make  discoveries and  generate  new technologies  to meet the   rapidly growing  domestic industry and rural electrification. The  Soviet scientists,  at that  period of time have made the idea of planning in science a natural and accustomed concept, an essential attribute to their work. Untiring efforts of legendary scientists like Lebedov, Lomonosov, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (the pioneer of Russian rocket science), Vavilov and Petrov  who  took  the task and organized scientific institutions, researching in  areas  beginning from geology, physics, chemistry and  medicine and succeeded  in  developing  technologies, and machinery  for manufacturing  new products. It should be noted that  all through this period USSR was under economic and scientific embargo imposed by  imperialist powers and with absolutely no  scientific communication with  scientists  from other nations.

During my long teaching tenure  with Universities in USA and Australia I found  many  in the scientific community  acknowledging (though  grudgingly some times) that  Soviet Union had been strongest in fundamental science, particularly in mathematics and theoretical physics (what some people call “blackboard science”). How ever they also  comment on its  weakness in applied sciences.  On the other hand I observed American strength on the other hand,  lies in the applied sciences and  cleverness in  delivering new products to fetch high profits.

Major achievements of science and Technology :

  • Resolutely following the slogan given by  Communist party-  ‘Science for needs of people’, teams of scientists led by  scientists like  Petrov, Tsiolkovsky, Vavilov, Archangelsk,  worked in  laboratories for 16 to 20 hours a day to  make scientific discoveries and   came out with much needed new technologies  for production of new products in the industry.
  • Electrification of almost all  villages  was completed by 1950  strictly following  Lenin’s popular slogan  “Electrification of  Russia is  Communism”.
  • Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was the pioneer of Russian rocket science. For the first time in human history in 1957, the Soviet Union introduced the satellite, ‘Sputnik’, into the space and launched the Space Age. In 1961, the first astronaut Yuri Gagarin, and  later  first woman astronaut Valentina Terezkova, would go into space. The Americans thought this was an insult. In 1969, Apollo was sent to the United States manned by the spacecraft to stand up to the competition.
  • Soviet Union demonstrated that space exploration could be used for peace and human development rather than for military needs. In this area, Soviet scientists have worked under the leadership of best scientists like Tsiolovsky, Karolov, Karchatov, Chelomie and Kajalov.
  • In areas of Space, Remote sensing and atomic energy assistance of USSR in laying the   foundation and successful development is remarkable and  well acknowledged by U.R. Rao, M.G. K. Menon, Abdul Kalam and other scientists.
  • Astronomer Lomonosov even in in the 1930s predicted  the atmosphere around the planet Venus. His name was given to a famous university in Moscow from which I took my  doctoral degree.
  • Iron, aluminum and crude oil sources are essential for quick industrial development. Renown geologists Archagelsk, Karchensky, John Jerky, Fyodor Tanning, Women scientist Maria Carnova and Andrewsv have  explored the wide arena from Kiev  to Siberia and  discovered valuable and much needed metals and formed the basis  for  establishment of  heavy infrastructure industries like steel and metallurgy.
  • Bhilai steel plant in India built  with  Soviet assistance  during 50’s has formed  the basis  for Indian  steel and  engineering industry in modern India.
  • Research in Physics especially in the areas of electro technical materials, photoelectricity, theoretical radio and mechanics led by Academy members L. I. Mandelstam, N. D. Papalexy, A. A. Andronov, and N. M. Krylov, and N. Bogolyubov   exceled   and  paved the way   for birth  of modern communication systems  especially in satellite communications.
  • Systematic investigations conducted   by Academy member A. F. Joffe  and  others in the semi-conductors, opened up new prospects in the fields of electrotechnical materials, photoelectricity in  heavy  industry and electronics.
  • In Chemistry  fundamental research conducted by  Academy members A. E. Favorsky, S. V. Lebedev, A. N. Nesmeyanov,  D. Zelinsky and A. A. Balandin paved the way for the establishment of the synthetic rubber industry in the U.S.S.R. The ground breaking investigations  during 50’s  in  fields of organometallics and petroleum compounds and their catalysis  formed the very basis for  development of  plastics and other synthetic products in the world.
  • Nikolai Lobachevskii, was the first person to develop non-Euclidean geometry.
  • Russian women were among the first in the world to receive doctorates in mathematics, physiology, zoology, chemistry, and other fields.
  • Soviet scientists have received 25 Nobel Awards. Soviet and other socialist countries had no scientific and technical relations with the rest of the world. However, Soviet scientists have researched with existing resources and equipment. Even though the Nobel Committee, known for its anti- communist bias had to recognize the contributions of Soviet

Every advance in science, every new scientific idea and invention, in  a capitalist society, is regarded as an item of private property. The state has no jurisdiction over it, and its development, consequently, cannot be planned. Soon after revolution science  was put to the service of the people and the state has made planning in science an absolute necessity and  allocated huge funds. Planning included not only scope institutions, personnel, equipment but also content, i.e., the themes of scientific research. The plan of scientific development was  linked up with the state economic plan. Scientific research was not patented and imprisoned to gain individual  profits  as the case with western multinational corporations.

However  not everything went smooth in USSR and there were  serious blunders commited ablations while  application of science in the name of social development. During Stalin’s regime  communist party  excessively started  dictating  science in what direction it should move  ahead. Up to some extent  science  especially basic sciences  possesses certain  independence and universality. It can not always  be subverted to the   ideologies or  regimes in power.  Imprisonment and later tragic death of renown  geneticist  Nikolai Vavilov  who  refused to  accept  distorted and non scientific  ideas dictated by  Lysenko and Beria during Stalin’s regime is clear case of too much encroachment in to  autonomy of science. This episode had left Soviet Genetics almost two centuries behind  compared to rest of the world. As a result  agriculture in USSR suffered for three decades to recoup.  In later years of Soviet development  basic science was exclusively  employed for meeting  military  objectives, neglecting   development of new and attractive products for  population. However,    arms race was a trap  lied by  United states to destroy Soviet economy. Eventually  for this USSR   finally collapsed and paid for its unequal application of science for meeting societal needs in last decades of its  existence.

In this context it is worth to remember Karl Marx where the whole crux of the question is exposed. Capitalism, in developing machine production, pursues the purpose not of developing the forces of production, but for increasing the profits. Therefore, capitalism introduces a new machine only when the difference between the price of this machine and the cost of labour-power that it replaces is sufficiently large to secure an average profit (Capital, Volume I, p. 961, Russian Edition, 1920). In Capitalism  advances in science are merely used  in military industry or for mass production of  luxury products such as  vanity  cars, iPhones or  medicines for consumption of  super rich. In India  we witness how  population is suffering  from lack of  drugs and  vaccines  for treatment of  major   vector borne diseases like Dengue, yellow fever where as the markets are flooded every month with a new model of a mobile phone, that fetches higher profits to multinational corporations.  While in USSR  by 1940,  a very advanced and modern  Metro and  rail net work spreading all over the country was laid out and   every citizen was provided with free housing. That is one of the chief distinguishing features of science! A  socialist state  demonstrated, how Marxist planning of science can be put to  development of society. The tempo of economic development in the Soviet Union is many times faster than in all the capitalist countries, including the United States of America especially during the first decades  after revolution. In the words of  the prominent British scientist JD Bernal there are two major reasons for the Soviet Union to achieve such a great deal of progress. First of all, to spend most of the national income to meet the needs of the population, the second is scientific planning based  Marxism and Leninsm to  develop an advanced socialist society.

Soviet scientists  worked hard  to  make  Soviet Socialism successful.

Dr. Soma Marla, is a Principal Scientist  ( Bioinformatics) with  ICAR.NBPGR, New Delhi.


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  2. K SHESHU Babu says:

    Socialist government in Russia enabled scientific progress by providing facilities in the otherwise archaic feudal Russia. It made rapid strides in astronomy as well as agriculture development