Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in Russia and in the USSR: some aspects of translation and publication

Authors

  • Mikhail B. Konashev St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of the History of Science and Technology named after S.I. Vavilov Saint-Petersburg, Russia

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.4467/2543702XSHS.21.011.14042

Keywords:

Charles Darwin, translation and publication of On the Origin of Species in Russia and the USSR, socio-political context

Abstract

The translation of Ch. Darwin’s main and most well-known book, On the Origin of Species, had great significance for the reception and development of his evolution theory in Russia and later in the USSR, and for many reasons. The history of the book’s publication in Russian in tsarist Russia and in the Soviet Union is analyzed in detail.

The first Russian translation of On the Origin of Species was made by Sergey A. Rachinsky in 1864. Till 1917 On the Origin of Species had been published more than ten times, including the publication in Darwin’s collected works. The edition of 1907– –1909 with Timiryazev as editor had the best quality of translation and scientific editing. This translation was used in all subsequent Soviet and post-Soviet editions. During Soviet time, On the Origin of Species was published seven times in total, and three times as a part of Darwin’s collected works.

From 1940 to 1987, as a result of the domination of Lysenkoism in Soviet biology, On the Origin of Species was not published in the USSR.

During the post-Soviet period, the book was published only two times, and it happened already in the 21st century. The small number of editions of Darwin’s main book in post-Soviet time is one of the consequences of the discredit of the evolutionary theory in mass media and by the Russian Orthodox Church as well as the rise of neo-Lysenkoism.

The general circulation of nine pre-revolutionary editions of On the Origin of Species was about 30,000–35,000 copies. Only four editions which had been released in the USSR from 1926 to 1937 had the total circulation in 79,200 copies. Two post-Soviet editions published in 2001 and in 2003 had already a circulation of only 1,000 copies. Subsequent editions in each period of Russian history was thus some kind of an answer to the scientific, political and social requirements of the Russian society and the Russian state.

Author Biography

Mikhail B. Konashev, St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of the History of Science and Technology named after S.I. Vavilov Saint-Petersburg, Russia

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Published

13-09-2021

How to Cite

Konashev, M. B. (2021). Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in Russia and in the USSR: some aspects of translation and publication. Studia Historiae Scientiarum, 20, 285–315. https://doi.org/10.4467/2543702XSHS.21.011.14042

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SCIENCE IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE