Russian & Soviet Science and Technology


Although the Soviet Union currently has more geologists than any other country in the world, very little exists in English on the history of Russian and Soviet geology. One notewonhy work is the biography of Academician Vladimir Vernadsky by Kendall Bailes, entitled Science and Russian Culture in an Age of Revolution: Vemadsky and His Scientific School 1863-1945 (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1989).

The Soviet Union was slow in adapting to the revolution in geology brought about by plate tectonics. Robert M. Wood gives some of the reasons for this lag in his “Geology vs. Dogma: The Russian Rift,” The New Scientist, 12 June 1980, pp. 234- 237.


Relatively little has been written in the West on the history of technology in Russia and the Soviet Union, but interest in the subject is beginning to grow. A study of the early metallurgy industry is Arcadius Kahan, “Entrepreneurship in the Early Development of Iron Manufacturing in Russia,” Economic Development and Cultural Change, 1962, 10:395-412. The casting of bells was an important technology related to the casting of cannons; its history in Russia is explored in Edward V. Williams, The Bells of Russia: History and Technology (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1985). William Blackwell provides an introduction to Russian industrialization in The Beginnings of Russian Industrialization 1800-1860 (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1968). The early history of railroads in Russia is explored in Richard M. Haywood, The Beginnings of Railway Development in Russia and the Reign of Nicholas I; 1835-1842 (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1969). Jonathan Coopersmith is working on a study of the history of electrification in prerevolutionary Russia and has already published “The Role of the Military in the Electrification of Russia, 1870-1890,” in Science, Technology and the Military, edited by E. Mendelsohn, M. R. Smith, and P. Weingart (Dordrecht/Boston: D. Reidel,1988), pp. 291-305.

Engineering has also proved a fruitful area of research. Harley Baiter has written a valuable study of prerevolutionary technical education: “Educating Engineers: Economic Politics and Technical Training in Tsarist Russia” (Ph.D. diss., Univ. Pennsylvania, 1980). Baiter is currently preparing a volume on engineers in Russian and Soviet culture. An outstanding history of the role of technology and engineers in the political and social development of the Soviet Union is Kendall Bailes, Technology and Society under Lenin and Stalin: Origins of the Soviet Technical Intelligentsia, 1917-41 (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1978), a study for which Bailes received a prize for scholarly excellence from the American Historical Association. Studies of Taylorism in Soviet Russia include Bailes, “Alexei Gastev and the Soviet Controversy over Taylorism, 1918-1924,” Soviet Studies 1977, 29(3):373-394 and Zenovia Sochor, “Soviet Taylorism Revisited,” Soviet Studies 1981, 33(2):246- 264. Another useful work is Nicholas Lampert, The Technical Intelligentsia and the Soviet State (New York: Macmillan, 1979).

Several works, particularly in the area of political science, treat the history of technology less directly. Bruce Parrott is a political scientist, but his book Politics and Technology in the Soviet Union (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1983) provides much historical material. Additional themes are treated in Robert Lewis, Science and Industrialization in the USSR (New York: Macmillan, 1979); Lewis A. Siegelbaum, Stakhanovism and the Politics of Productivity in the USSR 1935-1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988); and Hiroaki Kuromiya, Stalin’s Industrial Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988).

The influence of Western technology is the focus of two works. A massive work whose author is unwilling to grant independent industrial achievements to the Soviet Union is Antony Sutton, Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development; 3 vols. (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 1968-1973). Mark Kuchment has written an article detailing the birth of the Soviet microelectronics industry and the role played in it by two American engineers: “Active Technology Transfer and the Development of Soviet Microelectronics,” in Selling the Rope to Hang Capitalism? edited by Charles Ferry and Robert Pfaltz- graff, Jr. (Washington, D.C.: Pergamon-B’assey, 1987), pp. 60-69.

Forward and Introduction
General Histories
Special Subjects

Biological Science
Biomedical Sciences
Astronomy and Space Exploration
Geology and Technology
Policy Studies