September 16, 2004 by AK
Back in the 1970, Dmitry Galkovsky penned a collection of notes, somewhat in Vassily Rozanov’s style, which he entitled The Endless Dead End. Naturally, it could not be published at the time except by the Samizdat, and had to wait until the late 1980s to appear in print. Galkovsky later supplied the original text with numerous, copious notes and comments, turning the book into a hypertext.
On the face of it, The Endless Dead End is not only controversial and occasionally insane, but terribly intolerant, racist and anti-Semitic. But I entreat you, gentle reader, to check once again the definition of yurodstvo in your dictionary before you unleash your righteous wrath on the author or myself.
I confess that I introduced you to Galkovsky for the immediate purpose of quoting one characteristically semi-sane passage.
In his Vologda exile, the Marxist philosopher Bogdanov, a phychiatrist by training, kept questioning Berdyaev [a major Russian religious philosopher] about his health. Bogdanov thought one’s disposition for idealistic philosophy was a symptom of a mental disorder. An Englishman or Frenchman might have gotten away with such naivety. Russia, though, is a country where everything becomes true, everything gets said to the end and gets an absurdly simplistic closing. Later on, Bogdanov went insane and found himself in a mental asylum. But the story does not end there. To the extent that Russia is a place where everything comes true with an upside-down Schadenfreude, Bogdanov managed to put into practice the schizophrenic ravings of his imagination. Under the Soviets, he headed the Blood Transfusion Institute, whose strategic task was to [literally] revive all humanity (for a start, as stage one, the great dead leaders [of the Proletariat]). To that end, the Institute held sadistic experiments involving direct transfusions of children’s blood. According to the sources available, Bogdanov died of one such transfusion.
Well, not exactly so, of course, but pretty close. The Institute indeed existed in the 1920s, but its goal was to rejuvenate and prolong the lives of prominent revolutionaries and Bolshevik leaders deemed particularly valuable to the Party and its cause. Bogdanov seemed to believe in the power of direct transfusion and had his blood replaced 11 or 12 times; the last time it went wrong, and he died. I supposed the transfusion madness was somehow related to the worldwide passion for rejuvenation and eugenics in that decade, and both contributed to the plot of Bulgakov’s The Heart of a Dog.
There also lived (1829–1903) a science-worshipping Russian philosopher, Nikolay Fyodorov, who believed, among other things, that scientific progress would eventually make possible to resurrect all humans who had ever lived on the Earth — and send them out to other planets, for want of Lebensraum. Weird as it sounds, his ideas inspired such bright minds as Tsiolkovsky, Vernadsky, Khlebnikov and Zabolotsky.