Nikolai Krementsov

Published On


Page Range

pp. 183-236

Print Length

53 pages

4. The Hereafter: Words and Deeds

The fourth chapter chronicles the events that followed the appearance of Florinskii’s treatise in Russian Word. Surprising as it might seem, almost immediately after its publication, Florinskii completely withdrew from any further collaboration with Blagosvetlov. He never returned to the subject of this treatise in any of his later works and did absolutely nothing to promote it among his colleagues or the general public. But his publisher did. Just one month after the publication of Florinskii’s essays Russian Word was shut down by the order of the Imperial authorities. Blagosvetlov, however, soon established a new journal, evocatively titled Deed, through which he continued his campaign to popularize the role that the natural sciences (especially, Darwinism) could play in the understanding and curing of ‘social ills.’ In late August 1866, Blagosvetlov released Florinskii’s essays as a book. He kept the book in print for more than a decade, regularly advertising it on the pages of Deed. Furthermore, he continued to publish in his new journal numerous articles and printed several books, including a translation of Darwin’s Descent of Man, which explored further various issues raised by and in Florinskii’s treatise. Yet despite all of these efforts, much as happened to Galton’s early eugenic works, Florinskii’s book and its main ideas went virtually unnoticed. Similar to Galton’s first publications on ‘hereditary talents,’ Florinskii’s concept of human perfection and degeneration held the promise of generating a viable research program, stirring public opinion, and, perhaps, even initiating policy change. But it proved impotent in arousing the interest of either the Russian scholarly community, or the general public, to say nothing of the Imperial bureaucracy. This chapter examines numerous personal, social, political, and intellectual factors that might have contributed to the sudden end of what at first had seemed a very productive collaboration, to Florinskii’s abandonment of a promising line of inquiry, and to its general neglect by its intended audiences.


Nikolai Krementsov