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With and Without Galton

Nikolai Krementsov

I. “Hygienic” and “Rational” marriage

3. The Book: Darwinism and Social Hygiene

Texte intégral

“She married (I forget the pedigree)
With an hidalgo, who transmitted down
His blood less noble than such blood should be;
At such alliances his sires would frown,
In that point so precise in each degree
That they bred in and in, as might be shown,
Marrying their cousins, nay, their aunts, and nieces,
Which always spoils the breed, if it increases.
This heathenish cross restored the breed again,
Ruined its blood, but much improved its flesh;
For from a root the ugliest in Old Spain
Sprung up a branch as beautiful and fresh.
The sons no more were short, the daughters plain.
But there’s a rumour which I fain would hush;
‘ Tis said that Donna Julia’s grandmamma
Produced her Don more heirs at love than law.
However this might be, the race went on
Improving still through every generation...”
Lord Byron, Don Juan, 1819

  • 1 See D. Bairon, “Don Zhuan. Roman v stikhakh. Per. D. Minaev,” Sovremennik, 1865, 1: 5-72; 2: 447-5 (...)

1The excerpt from Lord Byron’s famous poem used as the epigraph to this chapter exemplifies the popular notions of human reproduction, heredity, degeneration, and improvement, as well as the role of marriage in these processes, current among the British educated public in the first half of the nineteenth century. One could surmise that the Russian educated public subscribed to the same notions. A complete Russian translation of Byron’s poem by Dmitrii Minaev, one of Russian Word’s regular contributors, had begun to appear in The Contemporary just a few months before Florinskii started to work on his treatise.1 The “First Canto,” from which this epigraph is taken, was published in Russian in January 1865, and its translator did not think it was necessary to explain its references to the role of “blood” in passing certain features, such as beauty or stature, from parents to offspring. Nor did he explain the role of “breeding in and in” — marrying cousins, aunts, and nieces — in “spoiling the breed” and of bringing “fresh blood” through a “heathenish cross” in “restoring” and “improving” the breed. Minaev apparently counted on his readers’ understanding of the poem’s “biological” references.

2Florinskii, however, did not. He set out to provide his readers with a detailed overview of the latest scientific views on human reproduction, heredity, variability, and development. This overview laid a foundation for his thorough analysis of the role Charles Darwin’s evolutionary ideas — combined with the precepts of fledgling social hygiene — could play in preventing the degeneration, and advancing the perfection, of the human species.

The Variability and Heredity of the Human Species

  • 2 See V. Florinskii, 1865, 8(I): 1-57. The exact citations from this essay are indicated in the text (...)

3The first, nearly sixty-page-long essay appeared in the August 1865 issue of Russian Word, which came out only on 4 October due to censor’s delays.2 Florinskii opens his treatise with a simple statement that defines the thrust of his entire work:

  • 3 Unless noted otherwise, the emphasis in all quotations is Florinskii’s.

Hardly anyone will doubt that the wellbeing of the population increases with the development of hygiene and the growing application of its rules to social life. Every educated nation understands this very well and strives to apply the results of this science to public health (narodnoe zdravie). The people and the government endeavor to eliminate miasmas, better the quality of food supply, improve the salubrity of housing, and so on, but, surprisingly, they pay very little attention to the root of public health — marriage hygiene [1].3

4He laments that in this respect domesticated animals fare much better than humans. Farmers and animal breeders pay special attention to, and develop “whole doctrines” about, perfecting “the stock of cattle, sheep, horses, dogs, [and] even chickens and pigeons.” As a result, they indeed produce “wonderful perfections.” But humans, in their successive generations, breed diseases and physical weakness rather than perfection. “Historical evidence shows us,” he claims, “how the stocks of privileged estates (sosloviia) and even of entire nations degenerate and diminish physically and morally.” Even when certain perfections do occur, according to Florinskii, they happen by accident, and not as a result of deliberate efforts. “However,” he states, “science has already obtained so much data that, by applying it to life, [we] could count on the conscious perfection of the [human] breed (porody).” Since “the goal of a marriage from the physiological and civic points of view is the production of the progeny,” the main instrument of such perfection should be “arranging marriages not according to the unconscious attraction of the sexes, [and] even less according to mercantile considerations, but more or less according to the goal of producing better progeny” [2]. Florinskii emphasizes that “physical beauty, health, and, partially, moral qualities depend not so much on the upbringing and nurture of a new individual as on heredity” [4]. He notes that “poorly-matched parents often complain that God did not grant them good children, without realizing that their reproductive failure stems not from a [bad] fate but from a badly thought-through marriage” [4].

5On the first four pages of his treatise, Florinskii sketches his main lines of inquiry and his two-pronged approach. The first half is to focus on “human variability and perfection in general,” with special sections on “heredity as the main cause of human variability and perfection” and on “conditions conducive to stock perfection,” including “taste and demand for certain qualities, influence of external conditions of life, rational marriage, and sex life.” The second half is to discuss “the degeneration of the human stock in general” and “conditions facilitating such degeneration,” among which Florinskii lists “incest and lack of stock renewal, inequality [of partners] in marriage, [and] the influence of drunkenness, debauchery, diseases, poverty, and slavery” [4].


  • 4 Florinskii actually used the word “izmeniaemost’,” which is more accurately translated as “changea (...)

6The first section, titled the “variability of humankind,”4 begins with a clear allusion to Darwin’s Origin:

Before we speak about the betterment of the human stock by means of the natural, or rational, matching of kin, it is necessary to demonstrate that human anatomical and physiological characteristics are to a certain degree variable, volatile; hence, under the influence of heredity and the physical conditions of external environment, they could either be perfected, or degenerate [4-5].

7Florinskii warns his readers that he is not going to engage in “anthropological debates about human origins.” Nor is he interested in “the question of the origin of human races and tribes.” His main concern is human variability. On the next twenty pages, he discusses the forms, causes, and limits of such variability. He illustrates his arguments with both paleontological data and the anthropological/ethnographic descriptions of various groupings (races, tribes, nations, families, types, etc.) among “the peoples inhabiting the globe,” and, particularly, among the population of the Russian Empire.

  • 5 In his discussion of variability, Florinskii borrowed his main analytical category “type” (tip) di (...)

8Florinskii notes that humans vary in all of their features: anatomical, physiological, mental, and moral. But at first he focuses almost exclusively on the variability of anatomical characteristics, for the paleontological evidence he brings to his discussion is based on anatomy. He uses the notion of “type” in such expressions as the “Slavic-Russian type” and the “Italian type” as shorthand to describe certain patterns of anatomical organization that differentiate various human groups.5 He discerns two main causes of variability: heredity and environment. In his opinion, the “intermixing” (pomesi) of individuals, tribes, breeds, nations, and races, each one of which is characterized by a particular combination of hereditary features, is the most important cause of human variability. Certain conditions could either increase, or diminish such “intermixing,” especially the isolation and migration of particular groups, thus contributing to considerable differences in their heredity.

9Florinskii begins by demonstrating that some anatomical characteristics are more variable than others. Thus, in his opinion, the characteristics of the “soft parts,” such as the color of eyes, hair, and skin, the size and form of mouth and ears, the form of women’s breasts, and the quantity of skin fat, are all easily changeable. Other, skeletal characteristics, such as the size and form of the skull, the relative (to the skull) size of the face, the form, direction, and degree of the development of facial bones, and so on — “those features, which give a particular shape and expression to the face and actually characterize every race and nation, are more stable and, if they change, this is only as a result of blood mixing and, for the most part, not suddenly, but gradually, over the course of several generations” [5]. He explains in a footnote that the expression “blood mixing” is actually incorrect, for “the blood, in the exact meaning of the word, does not play any role in the transmission of anatomical characteristics from parents to children.” But since the expression is commonly used and understood, he will occasionally use it “in the sense of mixing of races and tribes,” and, in the same sense, he will use such expressions as “pure-blooded, half-blooded (polukrovnyi), and such” [5, fn. 1]. He asserts that although the limits of skeletal variability are unknown, for his purposes it is sufficient to demonstrate that “tribes and races are able to transform one into another and that the skeletal form can change [and] acquire a different type, becoming [in the process] perfected or degenerated.”

  • 6 Although Florinskii did not refer directly to Lyell’s and/or Vogt’s books, it is clear that he bor (...)

10Florinskii proceeds to show that such transformations had indeed occurred in the course of human history. He takes as a starting point available paleontological/archeological evidence: “those primary forms [of the human skeleton] which we know through the fossilized remnants of human bones from the most remote epoch.” Following closely Charles Lyell’s and Carl Vogt’s works on the subject, he lists numerous recent discoveries of human fossils in France, Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland.6 He compares them to “the forms of the contemporary inhabitants of the same countries” and correlates “the forms of present-day wild and semi-wild peoples with the forms of civilized peoples.” These comparisons convince him “that humans had made a huge step towards progressive physical development.” It is a historical fact, he concludes, that “the form of the human body improved gradually and is still being improved, even though up to this time people took no efforts, no conscious actions, which could speed up and strengthen such perfection” [6]. This, however, does not mean that “human physical perfection reached its final limit.” To the contrary, he argues, such development will continue into the future: “We can expect [that] humans [will attain] a new, better form… by means of changes in races and tribes, their transformation one into another, [and] the development of new types from combinations of existing [types]” [6-7]. The result of these processes could be “progressive or regressive,” he concedes, but “the general, imperceptible movement tends, in the end, towards the perfection of the human type.”

  • 7 For a voluminous biography of von Baer, see B. E. Raikov, Karl Ber, ego zhizn’i trudy (M.-L.: AN S (...)
  • 8 See K. Ber [Karl von Baer], Chelovek v estestvenno-istoricheskom otnoshenii (SPb.: K. Vingeber, 18 (...)
  • 9 The three sons of Noah: Shem (Asia), Ham (Africa), and Japheth (Europe); plus the native Americans (...)
  • 10 One of his principal sources for this section was an extensive treatise by Augustin Weisbach, “Bei (...)

11After the analysis of human “historical” variability, Florinskii turns to the present. He claims that this “movement towards perfection” in human physical development to a certain degree “also exists in our epoch, [unfolding] before our eyes,” illustrating its existence through anthropological/ethnographic data. He surveys the general principles and specific measurements that anthropologists use to classify different human groupings. Referring to an extensive treatise on “Man in Natural-Historical Relations” by Karl von Baer, Russia’s foremost anthropologist of the time,7 Florinskii notes that anthropologists disagree on how exactly and into how many major groups humanity might be divided.8 Some recognize six main groups, others four, and still others eight or nine. He follows the simplest classification, derived in part from the biblical tradition,9 and identifies four “main human tribes”: “white or Caucasian,” “yellow or Mongolian,” “red or American,” and “black or African.” He also describes various “branches” into which these main tribes are subdivided by ethnologists, referring to the studies of the “national particularities of many European tribes,” based largely on cranial measurements of Gypsies, Hungarians, Italians, Bohemians, Slovenians, Ruthenians, Poles, Croats, and others.10

  • 11 Florinskii did not give an exact reference and thus it is impossible to ascertain to which particu (...)
  • 12 Florinskii cites a Russian translation of Edwards’s treatise by T. N. Granovskii, “O fiziologiches (...)

12Florinskii claims that though the four major human “tribes” are easily identified, they are changeable and the boundaries between them are quite fluid. He refers to the observations of Pierre Trémaux, a prolific French traveler, photographer, and amateur ethnographer, that “under the influence of hot climate, the white type could transform into the black one, while in moderate and cold climates, the black type softens and even completely disappears in several generations” [7].11 Florinskii states that the influence of climate on certain human characteristics, such as the color of skin and hair, or height, is indisputable. But variations of a human type due to “mixing” (pomesi) are much more significant. He cites the “father” of French ethnology William Frédéric Edwards: “All tribes, whose history is known, have more or less experienced such mixing. This cause [of the variability of the type] is all the more important since it affects internal organization. If this cause were acting without limitation, it might have eliminated all tribal differences” [10].12 “Any tribe that is left to itself, whose blood is not refreshed and renewed, usually diminishes physically and morally,” Florinskii states, “sooner or later, a pure type degenerates” [13].

  • 13 Florinskii here borrows data from and refers to a voluminous investigation by Shchapov on “the his (...)

13It is common knowledge, Florinskii claims (directly refuting Zaitsev’s statements to the contrary), that “all races, as well as nations and families, could interbreed and produce the progeny of an intermediary type.” He illustrates this statement with the gradual “whitening” of the descendants of mixing between black and white races, identified in the then current classification as mulattos, quadroons, and octoroons. The same process occurs with other “racial mixes,” such as between Mongolians and Caucasians. Florinskii demonstrates this phenomenon on the population of Siberia, referring to his own observations, as well as reports of other travelers: “Crossing the Urals, every traveler could see how the Slavic-Russian type of inhabitants begins to change and vary, acquiring Finnish and Tatar-Kalmyk features, in south-eastern Siberia — Mongol-Buryat ones, and in Yakutia — Yakut ones” [10].13 He takes a historical excursion into the times of the Mongol yoke and describes its effects on the “Slavic-Russian type,” which, he emphasizes, could easily be seen in all of the social estates of the empire. In the same vein, he discusses the historical origins of the Cossacks, and depicts their current “type” as the direct result of intermixing with various tribes they had encountered in their settlements on the borders of the empire.

14Furthermore, in Florinskii’s opinion, “in the present time, due to her geographical and ethnological situation, Russia, perhaps more than any other country, provides conditions for the variability of her inhabitants” [14]. He offers numerous examples of “mixing” among the various “tribes” inhabiting the empire, including, “Poles, Jews, Gypsies, and tribes of the Caucasus and the Baltic,” as well as the intermixing of imperial subjects with foreign nationals, such as Germans, English, French, Italians, and so on. The results of such intermixing are particularly visible in the capitals, large trading centers, and seaports, as well as in the border regions, he observes. “Encountering beautiful Russian brunets and brunettes with an elongated face, a wide forehead, and a straight, narrow nose, reminding one of the Italian type,” he writes, clearly portraying his wife and her family (see fig. 1-6, 4-3, and 4-7), “we, if possible, sought to analyze their genealogy.” Such analyses demonstrated that “for the most part, … in the line of their ancestors, sometimes several generations prior, there had been such invading elements as Jewish, Armenian, Georgian or Italian” [20]. Florinskii continues his depiction of intermixing among various human groups with the examples of the mixed populations of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, as well as the inhabitants of northern and southern Italy, which he had himself observed during his European tour. “These examples,” he concludes, “prove sufficiently that tribal and national types are variable. … The variation of a type as a result of intermixing among nations could fluctuate greatly, depending on the elements participating in the mixing”[19].

15Florinskii notes that a “lack of intermixing” helps maintain stability of certain “types.” He points out that such “isolation” could result from different causes, geographical and social. He demonstrates the existence of geographical barriers to intermixing by referring to the visible geographic variability in the populations inhabiting different regions of the Russian Empire. Thus, he claims, if one were to compare the peasants of the Moscow province with the inhabitants of other provinces, “with sufficient experience, one could even determine quite accurately from which particular province a peasant comes” [21]. To illustrate the influence of social barriers, he refers to the enclaves of the “old believers” (for instance, in the St. Petersburg province) who married only within their faith, and thus did not mix with their neighbors, preserving their own “type.”

16If geographical and social isolation prevents the intermixing of different types, Florinskii observes, the fracture of such isolation could facilitate it. Therefore, regular or occasional migrations of certain groups, in his opinion, could influence the variation of “the type.” As examples of such influences, he discusses seasonal relocations of peasants to the cities and billeting of military regimens (especially the Guardsmen, whose members have been specially selected for their physical features, such as height and strength) in various garrisons all over the empire. In both cases, he claims, one can see clear marks of the “invading blood” in the physique of local inhabitants.

17Florinskii concludes his treatment of human variability with a forceful statement: “The aforementioned facts and discussions, I hope, prove clearly that human types are variable and changeable [and] that they are affected to a very considerable degree by intermixing and partially by external environment. These ideas must serve as the cornerstone of our further arguments” [24-25].


18Florinskii’s “further arguments” focus on heredity (nasledstvennost’). “We have to establish the causes and conditions of the variability of the type, therefore, [we have] to begin with heredity,” he declares, “because without the knowledge of its laws, it is impossible to understand how exactly the human type improves or degenerates” [24-25].

  • 14 As an illustration, see Google Ngram for the word nasledstvennost’in Russian publications from 180 (...)
  • 15 See the entry “nasledit’” in Dal’s dictionary at
  • 16 See F. Toll’, Nastol’nyi slovar’dlia spravok po vsem otrasliam znaniia, 3 vols. (SPb.: F. Toll’, 1 (...)

19This was a bold statement, for the notion of heredity at the time was quite ambiguous. As in other European languages, in Russian the very noun “heredity” was relatively new and not yet widely used.14 Indeed, it is absent from contemporary dictionaries. Vladimir Dal’s massive Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Russian Language (1863-66) has an entry for the verb nasledovat’ (to inherit), which also explained the meanings of its derivatives, the adjective nasledstvennyi (hereditary) and the noun nasledie (inheritance), but not nasledstvennost’ (heredity).15 Similarly, the monumental, three-volume (each more than 1,000 pages long) Table Dictionary for Inquiries in All Fields of Knowledge compiled and published in 1863-66 by one of Russian Word’s authors, Feliks G. Toll’, has an entry only for the adjective “hereditary.”16

  • 17 For a detailed analysis of the emergence of the notions of “heredity” in French medicine, see C. L (...)

20As both Dal’s and Toll’s dictionaries make clear, all of these words were used almost exclusively in two areas: in jurisprudence they denoted inheriting property or title; in medicine — inheriting a particular ailment (such as gout, insanity, or hemophilia). Florinskii was obviously familiar with all of these Russian words and their popular meanings. But as a trained physician, he also certainly knew the word hérédité that in the prior few decades had acquired terminological status in French medicine and had begun to make inroads in specialized medical vocabularies elsewhere, as the contemporary usage of Heredität in German, heredity in English, eredità in Italian, and nasledstvennost’in Russian readily indicates.17 Thanks to his specialization in gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics, Florinskii was well versed in ongoing debates regarding nasledsvennost’(heredity) and set out to explain its meanings to his readers in considerable detail.

  • 18 See Prosper Lucas, Traite philosophique et physiologique de l’Hérédité naturelle (Paris: J. B. Bài (...)

21Florinskii uses the word “heredity” and its various derivatives in two related but separate meanings, both of which had been articulated in the contemporary literature. The first refers to the process of inheritance. The second denotes what is being inherited. Yet he does not simply follow the common views, as expressed, for instance, in Prosper Lucas’s popular 1847 Traite philosophique et physiologique de l’Hérédité naturelle, which Darwin had used in his Origin.18 For Florinskii, heredity as a process means exclusively the transmission of the “hidden potentials (zachatki)” of all traits — anatomical, physiological, mental, and moral — from parents to children. And it is the sum of such “hidden potentials” that, according to Florinskii, constitutes the heredity of an organism. But, he argues, even though these “hidden potentials” are transmitted from one generation to the next, their actual realization in offspring depends on a variety of environmental conditions.

22Unlike his numerous predecessors, including Darwin, Florinskii provides a detailed analysis of “heredity as the main cause of human variability and perfection.” A common understanding of heredity, according to Florinskii, is limited to the well-known phenomena of familial resemblance between parents and children, expressed in a popular belief that “like produces like.” However, he insists, we need to understand the causes, mechanisms, and conditions, which produce not only similarities, but also dissimilarities between parents and offspring. He provides a succinct thirty-page overview of the contemporary understanding of three interconnected but different sets of phenomena: reproduction, development, and heredity, clearly delineating their different roles in generating both familial resemblance and divergence.

  • 19 Florinskii does not cite Virchow’s work, but there is no doubt that he knew it well. Delivered in (...)

23Obviously building upon certain parts of his course on theoretical gynecology, Florinskii begins with a general outline of human reproduction, providing thorough descriptions of the microscopic, anatomical, and physiological features of the ovum and the sperm, the main stages of ovo- and spermatogenesis, the menstrual cycle, fertilization, and the first stages of embryonic development in the mother’s womb. He is clearly expanding on the recent developments in the newborn science of cytology, especially Rudolf Virchow’s Cellular Pathology (1858) that had popularized the notion of omnis cellula e cellula (every cell comes from another cell).19 Florinskii stresses that without such detailed knowledge “the reader will not be able to follow subsequent discussions.” Both the ovum and the sperm carry “the hidden potentials (zadatki) of all the individual particularities of a person they belong to,” he emphasizes, “this is what the phenomena of heredity and the resemblance between parents and children are based upon” [26]. On the other hand, he asserts, the process of individual development, and hence the realization of these “hidden potentials” is affected by the environment — the conditions of nourishment, growth, and organ use — in such a way that “inherited features” could “acquire a different direction, and, as a result, the resemblance between children and parents might get either less or more pronounced, especially in the course of several generations” [26-27].

24Florinskii briefly describes the well-known facts of familial resemblance, pointing out that a new individuum could carry the features of only one parent or a mix of features from both parents. In turn, this new individuum could transfer to his/her children the features inherited from both parents or from only one of them, which accounts for the resemblance between grandparents and grandchildren. We still do not know exactly, he states, why in certain cases the progeny resembles more the father than the mother and, in other cases, the other way around. He surveys several current hypotheses that explained such cases as resulting from the “age, mobility, and strength” of sperms and ova, or from the time of fertilization in relation to the menstrual cycle, but emphasizes that “this regularity is still far from being fully investigated and substantiated in either humans or animals, which creates significant difficulties for the rational perfection of stocks” [27].

25Unlike many of his contemporaries, Florinskii emphasizes a principal difference between heredity and development. He limits the phenomena of heredity exclusively to the transmission of the “hidden potentials” of parents’ characteristics to the offspring. He goes to considerable length to dispel a popular belief that, since an embryo develops inside the mother’s organism, “maternal influence” must play a larger role in heredity than paternal one. He explains that in this respect, the maternal organism provides only the necessary environment (“as the soil does for a plant seed”) for the development of forms and features, which lay hidden in the reproductive elements (i. e. sperms and ova). Thus the maternal organism “plays no role in the replication (vosproizvodstve) of the features in the new individuum,” and affects not the heredity, which is determined at the moment of fertilization, but the development of a new organism.

26Florinskii next discusses the oft-observed phenomena of the “stability and constancy of the breed (porody)” [30]. He postulates that the degree of a “breed’s” stability is in inverse relation to “intermixing”: “the longer over the generations a breed has not mixed with other tribes and races, the more stable it is and the truer it transmits its qualities to the offspring of mixed marriages.” He recounts well-known facts from animal husbandry about the constancy of certain breeds of cattle and sheep and about their “degeneration” that results from mixing with other breeds or wild forms of the same animals. Similarly, he notes, human stocks could also be quite stable. He states that different nations exhibit different degrees of stability and even provides a hierarchical list of nations according to their decreasing ability to preserve their features in mixed marriages: Jews, Armenians, Georgians, French, English, Germans, Slavic-Russians, Tatars, and Finns.

  • 20 The story is found in Genesis, Leviticus 30: 25-43: While shepherding for his uncle Laban, Jacob n (...)

27Florinskii then turns to an analysis of the causes of dissimilarities between parents and children. He derides a popular belief in the so-called “zagliad,” according to which children could resemble not the husband but a relative or an “ami de famille,” whom the mother saw frequently during the pregnancy. Noting that the roots of this belief could be found in the biblical story of Jacob and Laban,20 Florinskii dismisses it as “absurd fables, created and perpetuated either by ignorance, or by the trickery aimed at hiding marital sins and digressions” [32]. He reiterates that “the type is transmitted to the offspring exclusively through the sperm and the ovum,” and “if we see in a child a feature different from the ones that both of the parents possess, such an exemplar would force us to doubt the actuality of a lawful parent rather than the general laws of heredity” [32]. He treats a popular theory, known at the time as “telegony,” with similar disdain: it was believed that a child born in a second marriage could still resemble in certain features the mother’s first husband. “A child can never carry features of two fathers” [33], he asserts, since only one sperm and one ovum take part in the fertilization process.

28Florinskii discusses another popular belief — “a return to the ancestral type” — that was often used to explain dissimilarity between parents and children. He admits that “the transmission of characteristics not directly from parents to children, but by jumps over one or two generations” does not contradict available scientific evidence and constitutes “a very interesting but poorly studied physiological fact.” He assesses available data on familial “diseases and developmental defects,” which have been observed to skip a generation or two, but calls for caution in interpreting such data as evidence of hereditary transmission, “since such diseases and defects could reappear in different generations due to accidental causes, independent of heredity.” He offers his own interpretation of such cases. There are no “jumps in the exact meaning of the word.” What we perceive as a jump is “actually the reappearance in the second or the third generation of those characteristics of the grandparents, which in the first generation were expressed unclearly, [were] concealed, but nevertheless existed.” Florinskii refers to several genealogical studies he had conducted, which supported “the possibility of the transmission of certain characteristics over generations, with the complete absence of such characteristics in the intermediary generations.” He insists, however, that such transmission is only possible through a direct line of inheritance, and not, as popularly believed, in “a sideline or a spiritual relation,” such as uncles and aunts or Godfathers and Godmothers.

  • 21 See J. M. Boudin, “De l’influence de l’âge relatif des parents sur le sexe des enfants,” Comptes r (...)

29As a part of his discussion of heredity, Florinskii also touches upon the question of the determination of sexes. Using as his major source an 1863 report delivered to the French Academy of Sciences by Jean-Marc Boudin, eminent physician and the president of the Anthropological Society of Paris, Florinskii presents several existing hypotheses and focuses in particular on the alleged influence of the age of a parent on the sex of his or her child.21 In his opinion, “the sex of an embryo, as well as its hereditary features and characteristics, depends on the predominant influence of one parent, or to be exact, on the predominant influence and strength of one of the elements of reproduction [the sperm or the ovum]” [40].

  • 22 Florinskii clearly avoided using the word “material” since “materialism” was a red flag for the ce (...)

30Along with the majority of his contemporaries, Florinskii to a certain degree subscribes to the notion of “blended heredity,” according to which many characteristics of the progeny represent a blend of parental features. Such blending is most clearly manifested in a “mixed” skin color in the offspring of parents with different colors of the skin. He admits that the exact mechanisms of such blending are unknown, noting: “The mixing of types, as the mixing of colors, has its own laws and limits, which [one] might expect, will be defined precisely only in future investigations.” But he is thoroughly convinced that “the foundation of such laws, that is, of the mixing of colors and forms, must be purely physical and mechanical” [33].22 Following the then widely held view that acquired characteristics could be inherited, he contends that “not only natural but also artificially developed features could be transmitted” from parents to offspring, and provides examples of such transmission in domesticated animals and humans.

  • 23 For instance, he cites examples of exceptional fecundity described in the memoirs of V. A. Nashcho (...)

31After outlining his general views on heredity, Florinskii moves to discuss the hereditary transmission of particular traits. He states that “parents could transmit to their offspring all [of their own] anatomical, physiological, and even partially, mental qualities” [40]. He draws heavily from Darwin’s Origin in illustrating this statement with numerous instances of breeding various domesticated animals “by means of a rational selection, according to a preconceived plan with known-in-advance stripes and color spots” [41]. He then provides examples of the hereditary transmission of particular anatomical features in humans, including obesity, the size and shape of women’s breasts, and the density and color of men’s beards. Referring to anecdotal evidence he found in the literature23 and personal observations from his own clinical practice, Florinskii demonstrates that “physiological” characteristics, such as the speed and easiness of child delivery, exceptional fecundity, and longevity, could also be transmitted to progeny: “physiological qualities and particularities are transmitted to the offspring in exactly the same way as anatomical ones” [45].

32Florinskii next discusses the inheritance of “mental” (what we would call behavioral) characteristics. He again follows Darwin’s views on the inheritance of such “mental qualities” as habits and instincts in animals, stating that “the majority of animal instincts are nothing but habits, which had been developed by exercise and strengthened by heredity.” He borrows from Darwin various examples of such “inherited habits” in animals and provides a number of his own observations. He notes that human habits could also be transmitted by heredity: “who haven’t seen that sometimes children reflect not only the basic features of their parents, but also [their] particular gaits, habitual postures, manners of speech, and many other small particularities.” In many cases, “this is a result of imitation during upbringing,” he cautions, “but it is very likely that heredity exerts here some influence as well.”

33The inheritance of specifically human “moral qualities and mental abilities” holds Florinskii’s particular attention. He admits that “the issue has not been resolved yet. Some say that these qualities develop only under the influence of upbringing and regular exercise of organs, [and] that by means of upbringing one can make anything of a human being.” But, according to Florinskii, “facts convince us otherwise” [46]. He rejects the usual objections against the heritability of “special talents,” namely that “smart families give their children better upbringing, thus, no wonder, that [in such families] the children get smarter, while particular inclinations to, and abilities for, this or that science or art occur as a result of accidents, preferential training of such abilities, and hence, their more prominent development” [47]. According to Florinskii,

Since moral and mental abilities must be considered exclusively as the result of a particular structure and development of the brain, it is clear that the material particularities of the brain’s anatomy, and hence, the potentials for certain mental qualities, could, in fact, must be heritable, in the same way as all other human anatomical and physiological characteristics are heritable [47].

34One cannot deny, he claims, the inherited abilities to mathematics, painting, poetry, and so on. If one accepts that the sperm or the ovum could transmit to the child certain physical features that appear many years after the birth, “there is no basis not to allow that the potentials of mental growth are also transmitted to the offspring” [47]. He clarifies his arguments: “It is self-evident that what is transmitted hereditarily is not mental qualities in their full development, but only the potentials for such qualities, i. e. the ability to attain a better development [of such qualities] with determined training” [48]. He gives an example, “a colt of a trotter (rysak) does not have the particular trot [of its breed], but it is very easy to develop it by exercise, while a colt of a draft horse cannot be trained to trot, no matter the efforts.”

35Florinskii takes special issue with the elitist interpretation of the inheritance of mental qualities. Many of his contemporaries, including Galton in his 1865 article, claimed that only elites were the bearers of “hereditary talents.” But for Florinskii, “a genius could be born to a peasant, and a fool to a nobleman.” In fact, he declares, “we see very often that the best members of our society came from an undeveloped or underdeveloped [social] milieu (sreda), for instance, from the peasantry, the town-folk, or the provincial clergy.” He insists that this fact “in no way contradicts our above statements about the hereditability of mental qualities in general. It is self-evident, that in this [underdeveloped] milieu too, if not in larger numbers, one could find persons talented by nature, with a healthy and strong, if little developed, mind.” He calls for distinguishing “an inherited, so to say, natural mind” from “a mind shaped by upbringing, in the same way as we distinguish a natural beauty of the body from an artificial beauty achieved by [physical] culture and manners and sustained by cosmetic potions and various accessories of refined care” [49].

36Florinskii does not deny the role of upbringing in the development of “natural” talents. Quite the contrary. But he rejects the idea that the upper strata of society — “the blue bloods” — are more capable of such development than people from the lower strata. “It is enough to compare the level of learning at different educational institutions where people from the upper, middle, and lower strata of society are educated and to notice a relative percentage of capable, talented, and inadequate students,” he states (perhaps referring to his own experience at the Medical-Surgical Academy), “to discover on whose side the advantage is,” implying, of course, that it is on the side of the lower strata [51]. “We can only regret,” he observes, “that not all societal groups have the same opportunity for the development of their natural mind, [and] that many excellent, talented individuals remain hidden in the mass of the people as wasted, unproductive capital that has neither purpose, nor use” [49].

37From the inheritance and development of individual mental and moral qualities, Florinskii moves to the discussion of such qualities in “social organisms,” — families, nations, and tribes. “Considering the general mental development of an entire nation, we must reach the same conclusion we have reached considering national anatomical types,” he declares, “namely, that the mental form of a nation is developing, improving, and strengthening gradually, through its own training and favorable intermixing” [49-50]. Florinskii discusses how “mental types” develop in various tribes, nations, and civilizations. He again emphasizes the anatomical basis of mental capacities, noting that individual changes in the brain (whether attained through exercise or inherited from parents) are, in turn, transmitted to the next generation, thus facilitating a further increase in the “level of mental development” and, as a result, “the moral and mental level of a [national] type increases little by little” [49-50].

38Florinskii provides three examples of this process by analyzing the historical development of the North American, Slavic-Russian, and Jewish “mental types.” The “rapid progress of civilization” in the northern United States, in his opinion, had resulted from the transatlantic transfer of not only European books and learning, but also of the “European brain” that has been “multiplied and dispersed throughout the country by the best breeding stock (proizvoditeli) — the talented, smart, and energetic people of European ancestry.” Similarly, he explains the stagnation of “Russian civilization” in the pre-Petrine time as a result of unfavorable intermixing with “less civilized nations,” meaning the Tatar-Mongol tribes that had conquered and ruled the Russian lands for nearly 300 years from the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries. After Peter the Great had re-established contacts with Europe, according to Florinskii, “the Slavic-Russian brain began not only to receive more fodder for its development and began to develop faster, but, on top of that, by means of physiological mixing with Europeans, it began to directly receive from them the already developed fruits of modern civilization.”

39The development of the Jewish “mental type” offers a different example. According to Florinskii, the brains of Jews had developed and strengthened in the course of millennia and the “race” became extremely stable in the transmission of its hereditary qualities. “Despite all the vicissitudes of life, all the repression and disadvantages of their social standing,” he asserts, “the Jews not only preserve their national type, but also maintain its relatively high intellectual level.” Even though they are dispersed all over the globe, unlike other “physiologically less stable” nationalities, they remain unabsorbed by surrounding tribes, and “have their own enviable representatives among scientists, diplomats, artists, capitalists, and so on” in their adoptive countries. “If one could calculate the percentage of exceptional personalities among the Jews relative to their general population and compare it with the percentage of similar personalities among other, younger nations,” he suggests, “in all likelihood, a huge difference would be found in favor of the Jews.” He concludes that “the mind of every nation is developing over time and every step towards development taken by the brain is imprinted [on it] as an indelible footprint that enters into the totality of national hereditary characteristics” [51].

40Florinskii, once again, rejects the notion that elites constitute the best of a nation and thus could be taken as the embodiment and representatives of national development: “Not for nothing, the public opined that the moral and mental strengths of a nation could be expected not from privileged groups, but from the ordinary people (narod).” This is not a matter of simple numbers, he claims, the people are not just numerically larger than the elites, they “are mentally and morally stronger” [52]. He promises to discuss in detail the reasons for such a disparity in the subsequent sections dealing with the degeneration of races and families. Here he just notes that the main reason resides in the different ways of life. As any other organ, he declares, the brain atrophies if it does not engage in a regular work. Since the upper classes “live by exploiting the mental and physical labors of others and turn into parasites,” their way of life involves very little, if any, mental work, which leads to diminished mental capacity among aristocratic families and even entire nations. The people, on the other hand, due to their oppressed existence, face numerous challenges and, thus, have to exercise their mental abilities on a daily basis. He acknowledges that “poverty sometimes represses human beings, kills their intellectual labor, but sometimes it also stimulates such labor.”

41The last issue Florinskii discusses in relation to the inheritance of moral and mental qualities is the question of “the mental development of women” [53]. In his opinion, there is no need to reiterate the fact that, with the exception of reproductive organs, a woman has exactly the same anatomical organization as a man, and hence she is “capable of exactly the same physiological functions” [54]. The question he wants to examine is “at what level of progressive mental development our woman stands, or better, to what degree her brain has been affected by intellectual exercise and strengthened by heredity to make her capable of original and fruitful intellectual labor.” To answer this question Florinskii applies the same principles he has used in his discussion of national and class differences in mental and moral qualities. He states that historically, “in the course of centuries and millennia,” the situation of women “as regards their intellectual development had been most unfavorable,” because men’s domination denied them participation in any important intellectual work. “Under the influence of such historical circumstances, women’s brains, due to lack of exercise, developed differently from men’s brains,” he posits, and as a result, “women are less receptive to and less productive in intellectual labor” [55].

42Florinskii admits that this line of reasoning might seem faulty: since every child receives his/her hereditary features from both parents, the female offspring should be endowed with the same capabilities as the male offspring. But, he states, we know that certain traits are transmitted only along the female, and others only along the male, lines of descent (what today we call sex-linked heredity). It is clear, he claims, that many differences — including mental ones — between males and females in both animals and humans are hereditary. This is further supported by the facts of “pathological heredity,” namely that certain parental diseases are transmitted exclusively to female and others exclusively to male children. The exact causes of these phenomena are unknown, he admits, but they do suggest that in the distribution of parental — especially moral and mental — hereditary features between sons and daughters, such features tend to cluster in the progeny according to their sex, which allows him to suppose that a “women’s brain type is also transmitted along the female line”[56].

43According to Florinskii, this is the only possible explanation of “such minuscule percentage of women’s mental capital that we have so far seen manifested in literature, sciences, and the arts.” He refuses to accept that this is a result of exclusively social conditions. He reiterates that “habits for this or that way of life and for this or that kind of work are strengthened by heredity if they are repeated continuously in the course of many generations.” But, he states, this is not to say that women are “inherently incapable” of intellectual work: “under different circumstances, women’s brains will make a rapid move ahead and will in time become as receptive and productive as men’s brains” [57]. “We can already notice a step in this direction,” he observes optimistically, “a modern generation of women has among its ranks many representatives of this gratifying movement; we can only wish that the conditions of life did not hinder it [and] did not obstruct women’s striving for this noble goal that makes humans the kings of existence.” “Knowledge, says Bacon — only correctly organized [knowledge], we should add — becomes power,” he concludes demurely.

Conditions Conducive to the Changing of the Human Breed

  • 24 V. Florinskii, 1865, 10(I): 1-43. The exact citations from this essay are indicated in the text by (...)

44The second essay appeared in the October issue of Russian Word, with the subtitle “Conditions Conducive to the Changing of the Human Breed.”24 Florinskii opens with a simple statement that in “seeking to perfect the human breed” one must consider three essential necessities: 1) the need to improve health; 2) the need to improve beauty; and 3) the need to improve the mind (“mental and moral qualities,” in Florinskii’s exact words) [1]. This troika of needs is so fundamental, he claims, that “every parent, consciously or unconsciously, strives for their fulfillment in the offspring.” But, he observes, not every parent wants to, and is capable of, using “the rules of science, which could make such a fulfilment possible.” He proceeds to outline those “rules of science,” which, in his opinion, should define the ideals of health, beauty, and mind and, thus, guide human perfection.

  • 25 Pisarev, “Razrushenie estetiki,” p. 3.

45Even though he listed health as the first component of his troika on the previous page, Florinskii begins with a discussion of beauty, emphasizing that every nation and even every social group has their own ideals of beauty, which not only differ widely, but also change over time. “There is no arguing about taste, the saying goes,” yet he is convinced that there must be some common ground to these varying ideals. Answering Pisarev’s call for the meaning of beauty “independent of the limitless variability of personal tastes,”25 he finds such common ground in close association between the notions of health (both physical and moral) and the perceptions of beauty: “true beauty is inseparable from health.” He refers to the statues of Greek and Roman antiquity as prominent examples of such true beauty. “Everyone,” he claims, sees in the Apollo Belvedere or the Venus de Milo “a full harmony of physiological life,” not only a complete harmony of the physique, but also the perfect development of each separate organ.

  • 26 See the discussion of “utilitarian aesthetics” in the previous chapter.

46Florinskii clearly follows the utilitarian aesthetics of Dobroliubov and Chernyshevskii, much admired and popularized by Russian Word’s contributors including Blagosvetlov, Pisarev, and Zaitsev in their discussions of Russian literature.26 “Beauty that goes against the physiological functions of an organism or an organ should not be considered a true beauty,” he asserts, “as the notion of the beauty of a dress should be related to its utility” [2]. He castigates certain popular notions of beauty, which are based on admiring the pathological, as opposed to the healthy: “A consumptive woman, despite all the loveliness of her luminous eyes and her flushed face [well-known symptoms of tuberculosis], cannot be considered representative of women’s beauty, as a rotting grouse cannot serve as the example of this bird’s flavor, even though there are numerous admirers of both.” Similarly, he claims, “too small and narrow a head, despite all the graciousness that some want to see in it, cannot be beautiful, since it contains too little of the brain.”

47All the divergence of individual tastes notwithstanding, Florinskii insists, our attractions to and repulsions of particular persons are not mere whims: “they only seem such, because the process of appraisal based on various features of a person unfolds too fast, imperceptibly.” As regards beauty, the words “like” and “dislike,” which we often utter without thinking, always have a foundation. This foundation, according to Florinskii, is sexual instinct, “a very powerful and very important instinct” that ensures the propagation of every kind of animal, as well as humans. It is sexual instinct, whether “camouflaged by pink colors as heart relations,” or “adorned by the halo of love and morality,” that underlies the notion of human beauty. In its essence, then, the notion of beauty is based on “the ability or inability of an individual to reproduce” [4], he declares, which cannot possibly exist without health, “without the normal organization and functioning of all bodily organs” [5]. Florinskii does not dwell much on the last member of his “troika,” merely asserting that “the need to improve mental and moral qualities is as characteristic of humans as the need to improve beauty and health.”

48Florinskii next defines three sets of conditions conducive to changing of the human breed, which thus could affect perfections in health, beauty, and mind: a) “taste and demand for certain qualities”; b) “external circumstances of life”; and c) “rational marriage.”

Taste and Demand

49“Everyone,” declares Florinskii, “consciously or unconsciously, strives for seeing in oneself and in one’s offspring better qualities, be it external features or moral qualities.” And this is exactly what guides the choice of marital partners, leading, as a result, to the perfection of humans, in the same way as “methodical and unconscious selection” described by Darwin had led to the perfection of domesticated animals. “Love, in a physiological sense, is the manifestation of not merely sexual attraction,” he reiterates, “but also of aesthetic attraction, that is, not merely the need to reproduce, but a barely conscious or completely unconscious need to produce better progeny” [5-6]. He cites Darwin’s description of sexual selection (polovoi podbor) among animals to illustrate the universality of the process by which “brides and grooms” choose each other, according to the preference for the better over the worse. “This is natural selection (estestvennyi podbor) by means of which better breeds reproduce,” he asserts, “but worse and weak ones became rare and disappear.” The awakening of sexual instincts, he claims, leads to the development of the feeling of love, “that is the preference for a better (according to personal tastes) individual to a worse one and the drive to enter into marital sexual relations with this [better] individual.”

  • 27 The book was reissued more than ten times from the second half of the eighteenth to the mid-ninete (...)

50If we accept that “love is a sexual aesthetic choice (vybor) with the goal of producing more perfect offspring,” we must recognize, Florinskii states, that “the principles, upon which this choice is made, differ among different individuals, different estates, and different nations” [7]. These principles, according to Florinskii, are largely defined by “demand and personal taste for various qualities.” He illustrates this statement by examining preferences for a particular physique in different social estates in Russia. The peasant, for whom a wife is first of all a laborer, “in choosing a bride looks most of all for physical strength, health, and a well-built [body].” “In the olden days,” this was an all-Russian ideal, shared by all social groups, Florinskii claims, citing as evidence a lengthy description of an “ideal woman” taken from the eighteenth-century Pis’movnik, arguably the most popular and widely read Russian book.27 This old ideal, Florinskii notes, now is preserved almost exclusively among the “lower class” and it is among this class that a corresponding type of women could still be found. He observes that a similar ideal, emphasizing physical strength, height, and a thickset body, was applied to men. As evidence, he refers to the image of a mighty Russian knight (bogatyr’) perpetuated in numerous folktales.

51If we look at the current ideals, Florinskii asserts, we could see that “among the middle and the upper classes notions of beauty, and hence taste [for particular features] have changed completely.” According to Florinskii, this change occurred to a large degree under the influence of “romantic” belles-lettres, which propagated the image of pale, thin, unearthly men and women [8]. “What kind of offspring this type of men and women can produce,” he exclaims: “The constitution of a child is the result of heredity; upbringing could only maintain and preserve it, from a weak seed cannot spring strong progeny, no matter how much effort we put into its nurture” [9]. Florinskii does not claim to know which ideal of beauty is better or more natural, “the readers could decide for themselves.” But, he warns his readers, “taste and demand are reflected in human generations in exactly the same way they are reflected in the perfection of domesticated animals according to a certain set goal (fine-fleece sheep, trotter horses, and so on) by means of artificial selection (iskusstvennyi podbor)” [10].

52Florinskii continues along the same line of reasoning in assessing the influence of demand on the changing of human minds: “Along with the demand for physical beauty, naturally, there must exist a demand for moral and mental strength.” He claims that until the early eighteenth century such demand was largely applied to men: “all that was required of women was not mind, but kindness and beauty, slavish submissiveness and modesty” [10]. “Only in very recent times, when women came to be seen as equal to men in their mental prowess,” he observes, “did [we] begin to expect and demand [from women] more serious education and more serious mental activity.” Consequently, he states, “there began to emerge among women persons who more or less satisfy such demand” [11]. According to Florinskii, “There is no need to dwell on the influence of demand for mental development in men — it is self-evident.” Nevertheless, he observes, we can notice a differential application of such demand to various national and social groups within a particular society, and the effect of such differential application is profound.

53“There was a time when in Russia the largest portion of mental labor, at least in certain specialties, was given to foreigners,” Florinskii notes, “since native Russians were considered incapable of this [kind of] labor, in the same way women are still considered incapable.” As a consequence, he claims, the country has fallen behind in the development of such specialties: “until quite recently, it was thought that only a German [man] could be a mechanic, an apothecary, a physician, a professor, and so on, but that a Russian [man] lacks both patience and the mind for this kind of work.” However, he insists, this attitude has changed and “now the public is convinced that a Russian [man] too could be a good doctor or a mechanic,” which, according to Florinskii, “guarantees that these specialties will be developed on our native soil.” But, he continues, “the public is still unconvinced that women could work in certain professions as successfully as men do and that not only a German [man] could be an apothecary.” And as a result, “we still do not have either women professionals, or Russian apothecaries, since there is no demand for either” [12-13]. He believes that demand for “mental labor” will necessarily drive “everyone capable of such labor” to “aiming their life activity in this direction” [13], thus ensuring the further mental development of his compatriots.

Conditions of Life

54Florinskii devotes the next section to “the external circumstances of life” which could influence “the changing of the human breed.” He discusses very different factors such as climate, food, “life comforts,” and “material wellbeing.” In many ways, this section runs contrary to his previous arguments, since heredity rarely, if at all, enters his discussion. In assessing the influence of the “external circumstances of life” Florinskii merely lists numerous instances of human variation observed when such circumstances differ for different groups. He does not address the question of how, or even whether, such variations are hereditary and could be transmitted to the next generations. One could perhaps construe this omission as a reflection of his implicit belief in the inheritance of the characteristics acquired under the influence of all these factors, yet he never addresses this issue directly in his text.

55“The influence of climate on the structure and external features of humans and animals,” Florinskii reiterates, “is indubitable.” A walk through a zoology museum, he says, perhaps remembering his own visits to the Natural History Museums in Paris and London, affords an easy comparison of animals of the same kind (bears, for instance) inhabiting polar and tropical regions. Such comparison clearly shows the influence of climate on fur color and height. The same observations hold true for humans: “travelling through Russia from north to south, one cannot fail to notice that a blond and short population gradually changes into a taller and more pigmented one” [14]. However, according to Florinskii, “the influence of climate, though reflected in the height [and] the color of skin and hair, does not extend to the bones of the skeleton.” Climate does not change typical tribal characteristics, he asserts, for they “depend only on blood mixing.”

  • 28 See Adolphe Quételet, Sur l’homme et le développement de ses facultés, ou Essai de physique social (...)

56As an illustration, Florinskii refers to the preservation of the “European type” in various settlements around the world. In several centuries since the beginning of colonial expansion, he claims, Europeans “did not undergo any substantial changes” whether they settled in Asia, Australia, Africa, or the Americas. If we look at English, French or Spanish settlers, we could easily see that they all “preserve the characteristic features of their ancestors” [15]. Similarly, he asserts, the Jews “constantly preserve the same characteristic forms and proportions, which constitute their national type,” no matter whether they live in northern or southern Europe, even though such secondary traits as the color of eyes and hair do vary. If structural features are little influenced by climate, Florinskii states, the same cannot be said about physiological characteristics, for instance, longevity and fecundity. Apparently drawing from the Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet’s monumental, two-volume “treatise on social physics,” he notes that in hot climates life expectancy is considerably shorter than in the cold ones, while fecundity is noticeably higher.28

57In a similar fashion, Florinskii describes numerous variations, which could be observed in both animals and humans, under different conditions of feeding (frequency as well as the quality and quantity of food), a sedentary or an active way of life, the quality of housing and clothing, use and disuse of certain muscles, and so on. In discussing such variations in humans, Florinskii particularly emphasizes the role of “material wellbeing,” by which he means a combination of political, social, and economic factors. “There is no doubt,” he asserts, “that material wellbeing exerts enormous influence on the perfection of the physical and moral qualities of an entire nation, as well as separate individuals, and that such perfection goes hand in hand with the success of a true civilization.” Perhaps relying on his own observations in Siberia and Central Russia, he notes that it is enough to compare a village of free peasants (in Siberia) with a village of serfs (in Central Russia) to notice marked differences between their inhabitants: “An oppressed, degraded, impoverished population strikes one at the very first glance by its physical and moral underdevelopment.” But, he contends, “place the same population under more favorable conditions of material life, and they will quickly catch up with the development of their more fortunate neighbors.” “Impoverishment and slavery are the first steps to the degeneration of a nation,” he insists, “therefore, those countries and those institutions, which grant the population more freedom and wealth, could expect to succeed better in the progressive development of the human breed” [19-20]. He promises to return to “the influence of poverty and slavery” on human perfection and degeneration in the later sections of his treatise.

Rational Marriage

58More than half of the second essay addresses “the most important condition for the perfection of the human breed”: “the selection of spouses.” Florinskii states categorically: “the qualities of offspring depend directly on the qualities of spouses” [20]. People have long recognized this truth, he claims, which is reflected in a number of proverbs and folk sayings, such as “an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and “you reap what you sow.”

59But before he goes any further in his examination of what he terms a “rational marriage,” Florinskii writes a long explanatory “aside” addressed to his “female readers.” In fact, this aside looks more like a ploy designed (probably with Blagosvetlov’s assistance) to divert the attention of the censor from the subversive nature of the subsequent discussions. Florinskii slyly presents “a torrent of admonitions and objections” that “the beautiful sex” might unleash upon him:

How could [he], they would say, look so materially at marriage — the most sacred of life mysteries; so harshly and coldly view love, subordinating it — this whimsical and capricious child — to the laws of science and reason. Finally, how is it possible to see marriage in the same way as the breeding of domesticated animals with the goal of improving the stock! This is beyond even the vagaries of materialism, this is cynicism! [20]

60He claims that he understands this sort of indignation, but sees “its source in a series of misapprehensions,” which he wants to clarify. “There is neither cynicism, nor materialism” in his views, he insists: “I respect the sanctity of marriage and love and do not deny the latter its enchantments.” But, Florinskii warns his “female reader,” “an unnaturally developed sexual love could have very bad consequences for the progeny.” “Love, as any other need,” he asserts, “must submit to limitations, to the control of reason, because this feeling could develop abnormally and irrationally” [21]. He does not in the least deny the necessity of love in marriage, but insists that “not every love is natural, rational” and that sometimes love could lead to a “positively harmful” marriage, not to mention “those marriages that go against science and reason.” He maintains that a correct choice of spouses depends on “knowledge of those conditions under which it could be accomplished more easily (what’s cynical about that?).” He admits that “some could say that the issue of marriage cannot be considered from a purely hygienic viewpoint, that moral and societal conditions are equally important.” But focusing on the physiological and hygienic sides of marriage, he does not reject other sides, “as the physiologist, examining functions of the human organism and ignoring human social and other relations, in no way denies the existence of such relations and undermines their importance” [22].

61Florinskii reminds his “female readers” that “we need to remember that marriage must be seen not as a matter of personal gratification, but as a very important act of civic life, as a mystery of reproducing the human breed.” Therefore, the issues of marriage “must interest not only the two people [entering the marriage], but the entire society, science, and the law.” He is convinced that if people would “understand that a marriage between an old man and a young girl, or between a TB sufferer and an epileptic, is not merely a folly, but a crime,” they would avoid such irrational marriages, while “understanding the [necessary] conditions of a normal marriage” would help “develop a true, rational taste” and thus lead to “rational marriage. ”

62The professor calls on his “female readers” not to “take offence” at his regular comparisons of “human sexual reproduction with the similar phenomena in animals.” Such comparisons, he states, “would seem improper” only to those who are “accustomed to thinking of themselves as the kings of nature, [who] imbibed with mother’s milk a conviction that there is nothing in common between them and animals.” But “a thoughtful reader” must recognize, Florinskii insists, that “the organic life of humans and animals is so close to one another that the majority of their physiological processes are nearly identical.” Therefore, while investigating these processes in humans, it is not only necessary, but very important “to use facts taken from animals, because they are much more accessible to experimental investigations and because in animals we could not only observe physiological processes, but also deliberately expose and direct them according to a particular purpose” [23]. The results of such experiments, he continues, could with full confidence be transferred to humans, thus we should not take offence, but instead value them. After this detailed exposition, he expects that his “female readers” “will not be horrified by the thought of the perfection of the human breed, of the rational matching of spouses, and such.”

63Florinskii proposes to look at three sets of conditions that should be taken into account in “considering the issue of spousal choice (vybor suprugov)”: 1) the age of people entering marriage; 2) their moral and physical qualities, and 3) blood mixing. He states that “the question of at what age people should marry is as important as it is difficult to answer” [23]. Nevertheless he is ready to offer some guidelines. Generally speaking, his advice is that people should enter marriage only after the organism’s development is completed. He suggests a median age for completing this process as 25 years for men, and twenty for women. He claims that these figures do not mean that neither men, nor women are incapable of sexual life before that age. He provides numerous examples, many from his own clinical practice, of much earlier sexual maturity in both men and women. But is it sexual capacity (manifested by the onset of menstruation in females and nighttime ejaculations in males), he asks rhetorically, that is the real sign of their readiness to reproduce?

  • 29 See A. Veidengammer, “Sel’sko-khoziaistvennoe skotovodstvo kak argument darvinovskoi teorii,” Zapi (...)

64Florinskii presents evidence in support of two opposing viewpoints, first by those advocating for early marriage, and then by those arguing against it. Many observers have noted, he states, that “children of very young parents (not completely formed and strengthened) are distinguished by slow growth, weakness, and strong predisposition to disease.” Citing a voluminous article on “Animal husbandry as an argument for Darwin’s theory,” Florinskii notes that animal breeders have reported similar observations for a variety of domesticated animals, from dogs to chickens, and have also described various harmful consequences for the progenitors bred at too young an age.29 His personal observations of pregnancy and birthing in young women of around 16-17 years of age, however, do not fully support these views; by all clinical indications, pregnancy, fetal development, and delivery were completely normal in this age group. Furthermore, he claims, “all obstetricians know that the younger the woman who gives birth for the first time, the easier the delivery,” while “a woman who gives birth for the first time after the age of twenty-five rarely escapes needing some surgical obstetrics assistance” [25]. He suggests that, if we look at marriage only from a physiological point of view, “that is as sanctified by the law means of producing offspring,” and consider only the ability or the inability to reproduce, “then nothing would preclude marriage at the age of 17-18 for men, and 15-16 for women.” But, he cautions, we must also take into account “the moral side of marriage and the social conditions of family and society.” “Aside from sexual capability,” he states, people entering marriage “must have abilities and strengths for civic life, a certain amount of education, [and] a certain maturity of reason” [26]. Russian law allows marriage for women at sixteen and for men at eighteen, which, he contends, is not contrary to the physiological requirements, but not entirely corresponding to the social ones.

  • 30 Much of the evidence Florinskii cited in this section comes from a popular manual on hygiene and m (...)

65Many observers, Florinskii notes, argue that late marriages are often harmful to offspring, “despite the stable material conditions” that usually accompany such marriages: “Children born to the parents of advanced age… almost always have inborn (vrozhdennye) deficiencies of constitution — the result of the weakness of the parental organisms.”30 He then discusses the influence of “the age difference between husband and wife” on the quality of their offspring. He notes that “in the lower classes this difference usually ranges from two to three years, and in the educated class — from five to ten.” He considers these ranges to represent a physiological norm, since women age faster than men. “The ability to have children in women lasts till 40-45 years,” he states, “in men the exact limit is unknown, but in any case it lasts much longer than in women.” Therefore, he concludes, a marriage between spouses of the same age is not ideal, while a marriage between an older woman and a younger man is positively unfavorable.

66But he saves most of his indignation for marriages between old men and very young women: “Everywhere in our society we see the sad facts of men of advanced age, even greybeards, marrying youngish girls,” which, he states, “in equal measure defile the sanctity of matrimony and undermine public health”[31]. Florinskii’s indignation resonated with and perhaps was further amplified by the societal response to a painting by Vasilii Pukirev, titled The Unequal Marriage, that created a furor in the fall of 1863 in St. Petersburg (see fig. 3-1).

67The next set of conditions to be taken into account in a “rational marriage” is the morbidity (both physical and moral) of potential spouses. Since moral and physical characteristics are inherited, Florinskii posits, marriage should be arranged in such a way that relative deficiencies of spouses do not strengthen but weaken each other, “thus neutralizing the morbid (boleznennaia) heredity of both spouses” [32]. He declares forcefully that “from a medical viewpoint, marriages between two sickly, cachectic individuals must be forbidden. Otherwise, the weakening and degeneration of the stock will be unavoidable” [32]. At least one of the spouses, according to Florinskii, should have “a healthy constitution,” thus “suppressing the morbid heredity of the weaker element.” He is convinced that the growing number of people afflicted with “syphilis, tuberculosis, and scrofula, which weaken our population, speak volumes as a vivid reminder of our neglect of the rules of hygiene in marriage.”

  • 31 Florinskii did not identify which particular work of Becquerel he quotes here. The quote actually (...)
  • 32 For a detailed analysis of the notion of hereditary diseases in contemporary British medicine, see (...)

68Florinskii gives a long list of practical advice to prospective brides and grooms aimed at balancing out the weak and strong elements in their constitutions, temperaments, functioning of particular organs, heights, talents and moral characters, and hereditary predispositions to certain diseases. This lengthy list basically comes down to the suggestion that everyone should “strive to marry a person with contrary qualities” and that “spouses’ physical deficiencies should not be identical with one another.” To support his views he cites the recommendation of the eminent French gynecologist and social hygienist Louis Alfred Becquerel: “a strong, stout man, with dark skin and well-developed musculature should marry a blond [woman] with blue eyes, white and fine skin, and a lymphatic temperament.”31 Florinskii particularly emphasizes the importance of anatomical and physiological capability to producing progeny, stating sternly that women with “a wrong form of pelvis that prevents normal birth should not get married” [33]. He is equally stern on the issue of hereditary disease: “Individuals suffering from serious hereditary diseases, such as, for instance, hereditary insanity, epilepsy, and so on, should abstain from the pleasures of married life” [33].32 All in all, he advises prospective spouses to choose “strong over weak, beautiful over ugly, smart over stupid, not sacrificing these significant qualities to petty benefits and calculations” [34].

Fig. 3-1. Vasilii Pukirev’s painting, The Unequal Marriage, 1862, oil on canvas, 173 x 136.5 cm. The painting was first presented at the 1863 annual exhibition by the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of the Fine Arts, which opened shortly after Florinskii’s return from his European tour. It earned Pukirev both professional (he was granted the title of the academy’s full member) and public acclaim. From​wiki/​File:Pukirev_ner_brak.jpg. The original is in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

69“The rules of hygiene exist to distinguish the organism’s actual need from false and perverse ones,” Florinskii states categorically: “Following these hygienic rules could be very beneficial to individuals, families, and society at large.” Alas, he laments, “physicians are not invited to participate in discussions of marriage, or in creating laws pertaining to this subject.” Except for forbidding marriage among close relatives, he observes, “our laws do not prescribe any measures for the perfection of the physical status of humanity.” He calls on the public to take notice of this important issue: “society should proscribe, as it does in the cases of serious crimes, those anomalies of marriage which bring about deadly consequences for the next generation.” Public opinion, in Florinskii’s views, should be unequivocal: “why can’t we call a murderer a fifty-year-old man marrying a sixteen-year-old girl, or a parent suffering from TB or syphilis, as we call a person who takes somebody’s life or health for his personal gain.” He admonishes parents who are not concerned with passing on to the next generations their own afflictions and diseases, and promises to discuss in more detail “the consequences of irrational marriages in the essay on the degeneration of human stocks” [35].

  • 33 Florinskii took this example from S. A. Usov, “Zubr,” Zapiski Imperatorskogo Russkogo obshchestva (...)

70Another set of considerations Florinskii offers as important for “rational marriage” concerns “blood mixing” (pomes’krovi). Generally speaking, he contends, “the inbred stocks of both animals and humans diminish.” He cites Darwin’s opinion that breeding close relatives decreases both the strength and the fecundity of a breed. He offers an example of the European aurochs, whose current population in Russia were descendants of just 500 animals that had remained alive in 1824. In the last forty years, due to interbreeding, the weight and height of the animals significantly decreased, attesting to their visible degeneration.33 Similar facts could be observed in human stocks, he maintains, when the lack of blood mixing leads to the degeneration and extinction of families and nations. “There is no doubt that in general a blood mixing has very favorable effects,” he states. “Isolate any estate,” and, as a result, “in its midst soon there will be accumulated so many physical and moral deficiencies that it will diminish, degenerate, burn out, and go extinct, as every organic body burns out” [36].

71We do not know exactly how the blood mixing works, Florinskii concedes, but we can discern certain conditions that could facilitate or hinder it. The main among them is isolation. When isolation is absent, a “continuous exchange of physical and moral features” between different groups of people leads to the renewal of national strengths and to the leveling off of their particular deficiencies. Revisiting his earlier discussion of human variability, he identifies two main kinds of barriers that could affect blood mixing, which could work separately or in combination: geographical and social. He observes that the variety of climates, landscapes, and other environmental conditions in the Russian empire were conducive to the variable development of inhabitants in different locales. Until recently, he states, “the lack of roads and the close attachment of our people to a concrete locale” — he is obliquely referring to the serfdom here — worked against blood mixing among them, preserving these local varieties. “The way of life of our people (agriculture), insufficient entrepreneurship, and the lack of [investment] capital and freedom (as a consequence of the serfdom),” he states, “were the causes of a far rarer mixing than there could have been” [38]. He hopes that “with the improvement of the transportation system and the increase in wealth, development, and freedom, the interactions among the inhabitants [of different locales] will improve, and then blood mixing and the renewal of provincial types will be much more noticeable.” He is convinced that the Russian people are in no danger of degeneration, for “the diminution and degeneration of the type is possible in the future only under a very unfortunate political organization, namely, if the people’s initiative were suppressed completely, the interactions among separate provinces stopped, the existing disjunction of the masses increased even more, and separate locales became even more isolated,” which, he states optimistically, “of course could not happen” [39].

72Florinskii next considers various social barriers to blood mixing, stating that “social (soslovnye) prejudices” of particular groups could hinder blood mixing among them. He observes that, motivated by “true or false notions of their own worth,” these groups “think it improper to mix their own noble blood with a less noble, plebeian blood.” According to Florinskii, nothing could be farther from the truth, for “in the mixing of different estates (mezhsoslovnye pomesi), the better qualities of combining elements would dominate over worse ones, and therefore the more mixing occurs the more an estate’s deficiencies will be purified.” Under opposite conditions, naturally, the consequences will too be opposite: “the mass of physical and moral defects will accumulate more and more, and in the end will lead to the diminution and degeneration of the estate.” This is why, he maintains, many aristocratic stocks have disappeared and continue to disappear. But, he states, “the fewer the prejudices against the plebeian origins, the better the chances for the moral and physical perfection of the stock” [41].

73Political rights and freedoms, according to Florinskii, profoundly influence the success of mixing between different estates: “During serfdom one could not have expected the people to mix with the nobles.” He is convinced that “the spread of literacy, the granting of the right to enter secondary and higher educational institutions, and the bestowing of a certain level of wealth and equal rights will serve as the Archimedes lever” in both promoting intercourse between different estates and stimulating the growth of the nation’s productive forces. As an example, he considers the fate of the social estate he himself had come from, the rural clergy. He notes that the majority of the clergy had come from the people (narod) and their way of life had been (and in many instances still is) not much different from that of the people. But since the clergy had access to education and the right to enter universities, they became much more important to the life of the country: “They occupy a prominent place in the ranks of scientists, litterateurs, artists, civil servants, and so on.” “But numerically the clergy is just a fraction of the people!” — he exclaims: “If the latter had the same access to education and civic activity, it goes without saying that a hundred-fold quantity of fresh and energetic forces would have entered our educated society,” which, he implies, would tremendously benefit the entire nation.

74Florinskii notes that religious prejudices are also very powerful in preventing blood mixing. As a rule, each confession allows marriages only within its own faith. Thus, the Orthodox marry only the Orthodox, not the Catholics, the Lutherans, the Muslims, or the Jews. As a result, he observes, despite the fact that Russian peasants and “alien nations” (inorodtsy) often live side by side in the same village, each remains totally isolated. For this same reason, he states, the German colonists who settled in various parts of the Russian Empire do not “disappear” within the surrounding populations. “Religion serves as a shield against absorption by a stronger tribe,” he states, but at the same time, it prevents “borrowing from ‘aliens’ the particularities of their physical stature and ways of life by means of mixing.” When religious barriers are removed, he observes, “aliens” disappear in the general population. To illustrate this point, Florinskii refers to the story of a military (male) choir, which Emperor Alexander I had given as a present to his Prussian counterpart king Frederick Wilhelm III after the end of the Napoleonic wars. The members of the choir had been settled in a village (named after the emperor, Aleksandrovka), on land near Potsdam, and had been allowed to marry local (Lutheran) women. Florinskii had visited the village during his stay in Berlin in 1861 and observed that “in the second generation [of the descendants of the original settlers], a Russian element remains visible only in appearance, but even there just barely” [43]. “The same could happen to an entire nation,” he concludes.

The Degeneration of the Human Breed

  • 34 The November issue came out in late December, and the December issue only in late January 1866. Se (...)
  • 35 V. Florinskii, 1865, 11(I): 1-25; 12(I): 27-43. The exact citations from this essay are indicated (...)

75For some reason, the third essay was split between the November and December issues and, unlike the second essay, it did not have a subtitle.34 The two parts, however, have continuous pagination, and their contents make clear that, as Florinskii indicated in the introduction to his treatise, the essay should have been titled “the degeneration of the human breed.”35 Echoing Shelgunov’s analogy between a “physiological individuum” and a “social organism,” it opens with a simple statement:

Through all times, the history of mankind has shown endless examples of progressive as well as regressive movement. Whether we observe the human life en masse — in entire nations, or in separate groups — estates and families, everywhere we notice the same fact of the [initial] gradual increase, then the gradual or quick decrease, and, finally, the complete disappearance of life. The life of a nation, an estate, and a family has its own periods and limits, as does the life of an individual. Everywhere there are periods of youth, maturity, and old age. The duration of these periods for different nations and estates differs, as it differs for every individual human being, [and] depends on the supply of organic forces, on the strength of the physical and moral constitution of a nation, and on accidental disorders of state and social life [1].

76But, Florinskii continues, “the degeneration of peoples (narodov), to which history bears witness, occurs in the same way, though on a smaller scale, during our own epoch, before our own eyes” [2]. He describes two major ways in which such degeneration takes place: first, “ by means of the fusion with, or the transformation into, another nation,” and second, “by means of diminution, weakening, and extinction (vymiranie)” [2]. In the first case, “a tribe or a nation does not disappear in the direct sense of the word, but only changes into a different, usually better, form.” Florinskii sees this not as regressive, but to the contrary, as progressive movement, which allows a less developed tribe “to catch up with” the more developed ones. In direct opposition to both Royer’s and Zaitsev’s views, he considers this a much more humane and just outcome of the contact between tribes of different degrees of development than the alternative: “slavery and inescapable extinction.” The second path of the degeneration of the human breed, according to Florinskii, has its main causes in “deplorable tyranny, enslavement, poverty, and moral failings.” He backs this statement with mortality statistics among slaves of African descent. According to numerous observations, he states, whether in New York, or in French, English, or other colonies, slaves have twice the mortality rate of free people, while “the emancipation of slaves in Saint-Domingue led to the doubling of their numbers” in a very short time [4].

  • 36 He took his numbers from Thomas Willis, Facts Connected with the Social and Sanitary Condition of (...)
  • 37 Florinskii borrowed much of his statistical data on the Germanic lands from Johann Ludwig Casper, (...)

77But it is not only colonialism and slavery that drive extinction. According to Florinskii, poverty in general is a leading cause of degeneration. A comparison of mortality among different classes and social groups in European countries shows vast disparities: “In England the [median] life expectancy of the upper and educated classes is fifty-eight years, while among the working and poor classes it is only thirty.” “Poverty and misery act most deadly on children,” he asserts, providing statistical evidence for his claim. In London, child mortality before the age of ten constitutes among the gentry only 2% of all mortality, among merchants and retailers — 6%, and among the poor — 28%. In Dublin, among the children of the working class up to 33-36% die before the age of two, and in bad housing this number rises to more than 50%.36 These examples are sufficient, he argues, to show that “the health and longevity of the people closely depend on all conditions of life, and especially their material wellbeing.”37 “In an oppressed race,” he postulates, “the number of deaths will be higher than the number of births” [5].

78Florinskii likens the extinction of human tribes to the displacement and extinction of “weak animals and plants” in competition with animals and plants that are “more advanced and endowed with better means for the self-preservation and dispersion of its kind.” So, it is the competition with the strong (in the case of humans, exploitation by the strong) that is the real cause of extinction. “The more equal is the distribution of wealth and estate’s rights and privileges, and the fewer exploiting parasites there are in a society,” he reasons, “the greater the harmony and success in the development of people’s forces and the more protected the [poorer] estates will be against weakening and degeneration” [6].

79Florinskii is not attempting to solve “the issue whether such harmony is possible in complex human societies.” For him, it is enough to point out the link between degeneration and poverty — this “social sore that threatens the life of entire estates and even races (colored).” “How to prevent or diminish this threat is not a question for natural history,” he admits, “but a social question.” Nevertheless, he insists, a rational society must recognize that the oppressed classes need “not [our] laments regarding their helpless situation, but such social institutions that would support them and prevent their impending degeneration.” “If we merely state, even on the basis of historical facts, that a lower race is destined by nature to die out and just rest the case,” he remarks in a clear allusion to Zaitsev’s statements about the “destiny” of the black race, “we would have sinned both against the truth and against humanity.” If all we have seen so far is that the white race had enslaved and displaced the colored ones everywhere and that the serfs had suffered under their masters, he maintains, “this is not the fault of Nature and Fate, but the bloodthirsty inclinations of humans themselves.” “It is not completely impossible to reign in such inclinations, to protect the weak against the strong, and to equalize the rights and means of existence,” he declares forcefully, “to the contrary, trying to do so is the sacred duty of everyone who can help by word or deed.”

80The process of degeneration, according to Florinskii, affects not only races and tribes, but smaller groups, as well: “The alternate rise and fall of families, the flourishing and declining of privileged estates represents a common and commonly known phenomenon” [7]. To support this statement, he cites Don Quixote (in French!):

  • 38 The quotation came from Part I, Chapter 21, which in John Ormsby’s 1885 English translation reads: (...)

Il y a dans le monde deux sortes de races; l’une tire son origine des rois et des princes, mais peu à peu le temps et la mauvaise fortune l’ont fait déchoir, et elle finit en pointes, comme les pyramides; l’autre, partie de bas, а toujours été en montant, jusqu’a faire naitre de très grands seigneurs de manière que la différence qui existe entre elles, c’est que l’une а été ce qu’elle n’est plus, et que l’autre est ce qu’elle n’était pas.38

81Already Aristotle had noticed the degeneration of old aristocratic families, he claims. History is full of similar stories about the Egyptian and Syrian kings, the Venetian patricians, and the French aristocracy. “The examples of such degeneration of aristocratic families and privileged classes more generally could be seen wherever these classes formed closed circles” [8], he explains echoing Byron’s poem, since in making spousal choices they value the “noble origins” over the intellectual and physical qualities of a spouse. The inbreeding amplifies progressively all possible defects and gives “to a whole estate a particular stamp of moral impotence and emptiness.” “This atrophy, this racial suicide,” he observes, “happens gradually and therefore the individuals involved do not notice their [own] self-destruction” [8].

82Extending his previous discussion of the ideals of health, beauty, and mind, Florinskii rejects the popular notion that the aristocracy represents the best examples of beauty in particular nations. The aristocratic beauty, he states, “only concerns the external features and largely does not harmonize with the [natural] physiological functioning of organs.” “In the same way as English racing horses, merino sheep, Berkshire pigs, miniscule dogs, and so on, cannot be considered the [natural] zoological examples of these animals,” he elaborates, “so too, the aristocratic type, perfected exclusively in terms of external beauty and gentility, cannot be considered the example of human physical perfection.” Various breeds of animals were produced for special purposes, he observes, but to the detriment of “the physiological functioning and harmonious development of more important organs,” and thus represent “degeneration, not perfection.”

Consanguineous or Kin Marriages

  • 39 Florinskii used the adjectives “consanguineous” (krovnye) and “kin” (rodstvennye) synonymously.

83The next section of this essay deals with “conditions conducive to the degeneration of the human stock.” In the treatise’s introduction, Florinskii promised to discuss under this heading such phenomena as “incest and lack of stock renewal, inequality [of partners] in marriage, [and] the influence of drunkenness, debauchery, diseases, poverty, and slavery” [4]. But, almost the entire essay dealt with only one, according to its author, the most important, condition: “kin marriages (rodstvennye braki)” [10].39 Florinskii states that people had long recognized the danger of marriages between close relatives, supporting this statement with a long quote from the Bible that prohibits sexual relations among kin (Leviticus 18: 6-18). “Humanity has a kind of instinct against incest in close degrees of kinship,” he claims: “Whether we consider this instinct as natural or as a consequence of centuries-old traditions, it nevertheless exists” [11]. He notes that in recent years, “particularly from 1859” (that is from the publication of Darwin’s Origin), the question of consanguineous marriages (krovnye braki) has attracted scientists’ serious attention: “science has already collected so many facts that this issue could now be seen not from a religious or a philosophical, but from a purely scientific point of view.” Yet, scientists strongly disagree on the subject. Some argue heatedly against such marriages. But some advocate for them. Florinskii details the debate on the subject, providing lengthy description of the pro and contra arguments.

  • 40 For a historical assessment of the French debate, see Mauro Sebastián Vallejo, “El problema de la (...)
  • 41 See K. T [olstoi], “O krovnykh brakakh,” MV, 1865 (26 June): 233-35; (3 July): 249-53; (10 July): (...)

84What he did not tell his readers, however, was that the debate had largely unfolded in the Anthropological Society of Paris, between its President Jean-Marc Boudin (1806-1867) and its Secretary Eugène Dally (1833-1887), exactly at the time he was in Paris in 1862 and 1863, and that this debate was reflected in various Russian periodicals.40 Furthermore, Konstantin Tolstoi (1842-1913), one of Florinskii’s students who had graduated from the Imperial Medical-Surgical Academy the previous year, published in Medical Herald a lengthy article about the debate just before Florinskii’s first essay appeared in Russian Word. Indeed, from 26 June to 31 July, under the general title “On Consanguineous Marriages,” the newspaper carried six weekly installments of Tolstoi’s article, which probably prompted Florinskii to devote such a disproportionate attention to the subject in his last essay.41

  • 42 For an English language account of the long history of the studies of this condition, see H. Werne (...)
  • 43 See J.-Ch.-M. Boudin, Dangers des unions consanguines et nécessité des croisements dans l’espèce h (...)
  • 44 See Francis Devay, Du Danger des Mariages consanguins au point de vue sanitaire (Paris: Labé, 1857 (...)
  • 45 P. Meniere, “Recherches sur l’origine de la surdi-mutité,” Gazette Médicale de Paris, 1846, 3: 223 (...)
  • 46 All of these periodicals were available in St. Petersburg’s libraries.

85On the next fifteen pages Florinskii recounts the arguments of the opponents of consanguineous marriages. Both individual observations and statistical data show, he states, that the offspring of such marriages often exhibit the increased appearance of various deficiencies and diseases, including “deaf-mutism, idiocy, albinism, anatomical defects, weakness of development, decrease in fecundity, predisposition to miscarriages, and so on.” He begins his discussion with deaf-mutism. Since the condition was easy to detect, it had commanded attention of the medical profession since ancient times, and became a popular subject of research in the nineteenth century.42 Florinskii summarizes numerous studies of deaf-mutism conducted by eminent French physicians, including Boudin,43 Francis Devay,44 and Prosper Ménière,45 which appeared in such influential periodicals as Annales d’hygiène publique et de médecine légale, Gazette médicale de Paris, and Journal de la Société de Statistique.46 He also cites similar findings by British, German, Swiss, and North American doctors. All of these studies, he states, have found a much higher proportion of deaf-mutism among the progeny of consanguineous marriages than among the offspring of “normal” marriages.

  • 47 In addition to the authors mentioned above, Florinskii cited a special report on idiocy by the dir (...)
  • 48 R. Liebreich, “Abkunft aus Ehen unter Blutsverwandten als Grund von Retinitis pigmentosa,” Deutsch (...)
  • 49 In addition to the works by Devay and Boudin mentioned above, Florinskii also cited many observati (...)

86Many authors, Florinskii maintains, have reported various psychiatric disorders, such as hereditary insanity, low intelligence, and epilepsy, to be directly associated with kin marriages: “It has been noted for a long time, that people, who marry only within one closed circle and carefully protect their blood from any external impurities, engender in this way the degradation of mental abilities in the subsequent generations. Such degeneration is not at once manifested in idiotism or insanity, but gradually develops into these [afflictions]” [18-19].47 Florinskii further recounts the discovery of the association between consanguineous marriages and certain diseases of the eyes (retinitis pigmentosa) by the German ophthalmologist Richard Liebreich.48 He also provides numerous examples of albinism observed as a result of inbreeding in both humans and animals.49

  • 50 Here he referred to the second edition of Devay’s book, Du Danger des Mariages consanguins (Paris: (...)
  • 51 Here Florinskii referred to Devay’s earlier monumental, two-volume study of “the physical and mora (...)

87Among other morbid conditions “indicating the degeneration of the stock,” Florinskii lists decreased fecundity, anatomical deformities, and weakened physique. He recounts reports on various anatomical deformities in the offspring of kin marriages, which had been observed in fetuses and newborns, including extra or missing digits and late teething, citing Devay’s finding that in 121 consanguineous marriages, seventeen had offspring with extra digits.50 Florinskii provides numerous examples demonstrating that “consanguineous marriages not only weaken and disfigure the progeny, but, by diminishing their numbers, lead to the complete disappearance of entire families” [22]. He relates Devay’s observations that out of 39 kin marriages, eight were completely sterile and among the rest pregnancies were often accompanied by miscarriage.51 He sums up the findings of numerous authors: “The decrease in fecundity is a constant phenomenon in consanguineous marriages” [24]. “The fatal, weakening influence of consanguineous marriages on the offspring,” he concludes, “is proven by many positive facts” [25].

Consanguineous Marriages

  • 52 V. Florinskii, 1865, 12(I): 27-43.

88The final part of the third essay, and thus, the conclusion of the entire treatise, appeared in the December issue, but unlike the previous installments, it did not open the issue.52 Subtitled “The Influence of Consanguineous Marriages,” it continued the discussion of the subject began in the previous part. Here Florinskii surveyed the arguments of the advocates of consanguineous marriages and presented his own views on the subject. He concluded the treatise with a discussion of the role of the law in regulating marriages in order to forestall the degeneration and to promote the perfection of the human type.

89Florinskii recapitulates the conclusions of the previous installment, that those scientists who argue against consanguineous marriages present numerous facts demonstrating the “harmful influences of incest on the progeny.” Yet, many equally reputed scientists maintain that consanguinity in and of itself is not the cause of those various diseases and deformities people ascribe to it. These scientists claim that this issue is much more complex than it seems at first glance and that the harmfulness of consanguineous marriages should be considered a result of “morbid heredity.”

  • 53 Florinskii here actually gave the English phrase “breeding in and in” without translation.

90The proponents of consanguineous marriages offer three types of evidence in support of their views: observations of inbreeding in animals, observations of individual families that for many generations inbred, and observations on the populations of certain very isolated geographical locales. According to Florinskii, evidence gathered from animal breeding provides the main foundation for the support of consanguineous marriages. Many veterinarians and agriculturalists insist that crossing (skreshchivanie) of pure-blooded animals, despite their close kinship, not only produces good results but actually improves the breed. By crossing very close relatives — fathers and daughters, sons and mothers, brothers and sisters — what English breeders named “breeding in and in,”53 they have created a number of very good breeds of horses, cattle, sheep, dogs, and other domesticated animals, developing them to near “perfection” [28]. This led many breeders to adopt a rule of breeding a stock “ in itself,” following the idea that “the best qualities of progeny will be not only preserved but even improved in the course of generations.”

  • 54 Here Florinskii summarized Sanson’s presentation at the Society’s meeting. See A. Sanson, “Unions (...)

91If one accepts these facts for animal stocks, some scientists argued, there was no reason not to apply them by analogy to human stocks. Based on these facts, the advocates of consanguineous marriages formulated a special law: “consanguinity strengthens heredity to its highest power.” Thus consanguinity is favorable, if the procreators-relatives are healthy, but harmful if they have defects and deficiencies that could be transmitted and thus “strengthened” by heredity. Florinskii relates the opinion of André Sanson, an eminent French veterinarian and member of the Anthropological Society of Paris: “The better every deficiency, as well as every good quality, is transmitted to the progeny, the closer the relation among the progenitors (proizvoditeli).”54

  • 55 He cited works by Jean Magne (1804-1885), professor at l’École impériale vétérinaire d’Alfort; Jea (...)
  • 56 Robert Bakewell (1725– 1795), British agriculturalist, now recognized as one of the most important (...)

92Florinskii states that this view contradicts many observations made by agriculturalists, naturalists, and physicians, including Boudin, Devay, Darwin, and many others.55 He relates their shared opinion that the methods of producing purebred stocks by means of crossing close relatives pioneered by British breeder Robert Bakewell56 are useful only when the goal is to preserve a certain feature of the stock that is valuable to the owner, “but not for the perfection of a race in a zoological sense” [28]. Florinskii presents the view that, for the most part, what is considered the perfection of stock in many domesticated animals is at the same time a physiological defect: “these animals are nothing but physiological monsters” [29]. He sums up the objections against evidence from animal breeding: “If the breeding of relatives will continue for many generations, then the race will necessarily weaken and degenerate. This is a general law for both animals and humans.” “Every pure breed, without renewal of blood, in the course of time, not only loses its qualities, but becomes sterile,” he continues. “A temporary usefulness of consanguinity (in a few generations), which is manifested in the increased development of certain qualities to the detriment of the organism’s general perfection, could only be applied to domesticated animals and only for special purposes,” he asserts forcefully, “but not to humans” [30].

  • 57 He cited articles by Alfred Bourgeois, “Sur les Résultats attribues aux Alliances Consanguines,” C (...)
  • 58 Eugène Dally, “Recherches sur les Mariages consanguins et sur les races pures,” Bulletins de la So (...)
  • 59 J.-Ch.-M. Boudin, “Du Croisement des Familles et des Races, et Réponse a M. Dally,” Bulletins de l (...)

93Florinskii then proceeds to consider certain observations on humans made by the numerous proponents of consanguineous marriages,57 which were summarized in a special report by the Secretary of the Anthropological Society of Paris Eugène Dally.58 All of these authors claimed that such marriages were not always accompanied by harmful consequences. Each of them reported cases in which marriages between close relatives, even continuing in the same family for several generations, not only were fertile, but did not cause any of the diseases and deformities described by their opponents. Florinskii finds Dally’s examples not entirely convincing, since “to clarify the issue it is necessary to investigate the comparative frequency of appearing diseases and deformities in kin and non-kin marriages. Only such comparative statistics will allow a sound conclusion” [30]. He recounts Boudin’s objections to Dally’s arguments,59 and finds them much more convincing, since Boudin used such “comparative statistics.” According to Florinskii, all the examples collected by the proponents of consanguineous marriages “in a scientific sense, prove neither usefulness nor harmfulness” [32] of such marriages, since they do not provide enough comparisons and enough statistics.

  • 60 In arguing this point, both the proponents and opponents of kin marriages mostly relied on data pr (...)

94Florinskii then examines the third type of evidence offered by the advocates of consanguineous marriages, namely the absence of harmful consequences in the interbreeding of inhabitants of isolated locales, summarized in Dally’s report [33]. Florinskii notes that the opponents of human inbreeding such as Devay used the materials from the same locales to prove exactly the opposite conclusion, namely that consanguineous marriages are harmful. Both opponents and proponents use the same materials, mostly related to the so-called accursed races (le races maudites) in France and Spain, such as “the Pyrenees Cagots,” “the Vaqueros of Asturias,” and “the Alpine cretins.”60 Florinskii states that “all these facts… do not offer anything concrete and conclusive. So many different conditions influence the development of the inhabitants of isolated locales that, even with the most precise analysis, it is impossible to say what is the result of consanguineous marriages and what depends on climatic conditions, hereditary diseases, material and moral ways of life, and so on” [33-34]. He comes to the same conclusions regarding the facts related to the consanguineous marriages among another two groups — the aristocracy and the Jews — often cited by both sides of the debate: “to isolate the influence of consanguinity from numerous physical and moral conditions not only difficult, but completely impossible.”

95Despite all the uncertainties, Florinskii feels that the advocates of consanguineous marriages did not present statistical proof of their views, while their opponents did. He offers a thorough discussion of statistics as a method of investigation. The method is not perfect, he admits, in the process of collecting statistical data, certain facts are sometimes grouped incorrectly, making it difficult to discern all the external influences, and thus sometimes statistics generate “imprecise and flimsy” results [36]. But, he insists, statistics are absolutely necessary and very convenient in addressing many issues that could not be solved by any other method. He agrees with many observers that collected statistical evidence demonstrates convincingly that kin marriages produce unfavorable consequences with much greater frequency than non-kin marriages. Yet, according to Florinskii, this evidence does not answer the most important question of why this is so: “Is this unfavorable influence a result of consanguinity, ipso facto, even if the spouses-relatives do not have any physiological and pathological potentials (zadatki) for the weakening of the stock? Or is it a result of the doubling of their morbid heredity?” [36]. He notes that the advocates of kin marriages accentuate a difference between “healthy and morbid consanguineous marriages,” arguing that, if the procreators are healthy, such marriages would be beneficial, and, if they are not, “hereditary diseases [would] grow and perpetuate in the descending generations.” In their opinion, the bad consequences are not the results of consanguineous marriages per se, but of hereditary diseases.

  • 61 Meniere, “Recherches sur l’origine de la surdi-mutité,” 1846; and idem, “Du mariage entre parents (...)
  • 62 Boudin, 1862, p. 21. The original reads: “A notre sens, les mariages consanguins, loin de militer (...)

96Florinskii deduces that this line of reasoning does not explain all the facts. Whether morbid or normal, for him, heredity is a replication of parental characteristics in the progeny. But, the defects of development and diseases, which are observed under the conditions of consanguinity, often appear only in progeny and, moreover, many of these deficiencies are not hereditary. For instance, deaf-mutism is “almost never hereditary.” Florinskii refers to the expert on deaf-mutism French physician Prosper Menière, who demonstrated that “in the overwhelming majority of cases, a marriage of two deaf-mute parents gives birth to children who speak and hear.”61 He approvingly cites the opinion of Boudin, that to invoke heredity to explain the unfortunate consequences of consanguineous marriages is to completely distort the notion of heredity: “Consanguineous individuals, who are full of strength and health [and] do not have any deformities and deficiencies, transmit to their children not something they have, but something they themselves do not have, and this is called heredity!” [37].62

  • 63 On Morel and his concept, see Daniel Pick, The Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c.1848- (...)

97According to Florinskii, this rebuttal forced the proponents of consanguineous marriages to consider questions about heredity in general and, particularly, “about the transformation of hereditary diseases during their transmission from one generation to the next.” They came up with the idea that a particular disease in one generation could produce “a completely different, separate disease in the next.” The foundation of this view on “hereditary diseases,” Florinskii asserts, is a “theory of the gradual degeneration of the human type and the formation of morbid races” recently proposed by French physician Bénédict Augustin Morel.63

  • 64 Florinskii probably read Morel’s magnum opus: B. A Morel, Traite des Dégénérescences physiques, in (...)

98Florinskii gives a brief summary of Morel’s theory.64 Morel allows the possibility of the transformation of “nervous diseases” into “mental disorders” and of the latter into “physical disorders,” and so on, up to “the complete extinction of a race” [37]. “Hereditary morbidity,” according to Morel, not only causes infertility in parents and early mortality in their progeny, but also “arrests the physical and mental development of apparently healthy children, leading to the appearance of brain diseases, which, in turn, lead to idiocy or epilepsy.” Morel postulates that various “harmful influences, having generated in ancestors a nervous disease, in the progeny that is still exposed to such influences produce, sequentially, hysteria, epilepsy, hypochondria, idiocy, or insanity.” In such a way “any disease, strengthening and changing with every generation, could produce the diminution of height, scrofula or English disease, an arrest in the development of certain organs, the inborn deformities of the scull, nearsightedness, strabismus, Saint Vitus Dance, and so on” [38].

99Florinskii finds Morel’s theory “ambiguous and jumbled” and not very useful in explaining the “unfortunate consequences of consanguineous marriages,” especially the statistically proven more frequent appearance of such consequences in kin marriages as compared to non-kin ones. Even if we accept Morel’s scheme of “hereditary morbidity,” he contends, it should work the same way in all marriages, and the number of affected progeny should be “roughly equal” in both kinds of marriages. “As we saw, however, the facts show something completely different,” he states. In his opinion, no theory could overturn statistical evidence: “the fact that consanguineous marriages very often result in infertility, various serious diseases, and deformities remains indisputable” [39].

100In the end, Florinskii admits, whether one explains this fact exclusively by heredity or exclusively by consanguinity, all physicians would advise a society “to avoid kin breeding and to renew the stock with a new, alien blood in order to prevent the weakening and degeneration of the stock.” “Since there is hardly a family in our society,” he continues, “that does not have some hereditary diseases, because similar diseases and deficiencies predominantly cluster in the same social class, then hygienic advice to mix different social strata and different families by means of marital ties in order to renew the stock with stronger and healthier elements or to paralyze and equalize morbid heredity with the heredity of an opposite quality [i.e. healthy heredity] is in any case sound.”

  • 65 Although Florinskii did not cite this work in his treatise, his text strongly suggests that he had (...)

101This long discussion of consanguineous marriages serves as a basis for Florinskii’s “glance at our civic laws on marriage from a hygienic point of view.”65 He explains that, in Russian law, the question of whether a marriage between related individuals is allowable or forbidden is decided according to the rules of the individual’s religion.

  • 66 For a contemporary overview of the Orthodox Church regulations of marriage, see “Obzor tserkovnykh (...)

102He goes on to explain that the Orthodox Christians cannot marry a relative in “the fourth degree of relationship inclusive,”66 while Jewish law is much more permissive and allows not only a marriage between an uncle and a niece, but also between an aunt and a nephew, forbidding only marriages between brothers and sisters (see fig. 3-2). Although Christian doctrine generally forbids marriages between relatives, in “Lutheran and Catholic countries, civic laws allow marriages between the first cousins, and sometimes even between uncles and nieces or between aunts and nephews.” Thus, what is allowable for Jews, Lutherans, and Catholics, is forbidden to the Orthodox. These differences, he declares, derive from historical or purely theological views of various faiths. “But everyone knows that physiological laws are absolutely the same for all religious confessions,” he insists, “hence everything that is harmless for a Lutheran is harmless for a Catholic, and vice versa” [40]. On the other hand, he asserts, everyone should agree that every law, whatever issue it addresses, “could remain strong and unshakeable only when it is based on an actual need and aims at the positive guarantee of the moral and material wellbeing of the people.” Therefore, Florinskii surmises, “a law on marriage must justly be based on physiological and hygienic data and must limit only what is, in whatever way, harmful.” All other restrictions that are “based not on scientific, positive principles, but on conscience and conviction, and whose obeying or disobeying is not injurious to the people’s wellbeing, should be left to the good will of citizens themselves.” He is convinced that “beliefs should be free and voluntary” [40].

Fig. 3-2. A table illustrating the degrees of kinship according to the Russian Orthodox Church regulations. Circles represent male and squares female members of the families. First row (left to right): my brother, myself, my wife, brother of my wife, his wife. Second row: my nephew (son of my brother). The kinship “distance” between my brother and the wife of my wife’s brother is four degrees (therefore, a marriage between them would be prohibited). The kinship “distance” between my nephew and the wife of my wife’s brother is five degrees (therefore, a marriage between them would be permitted). From S. P. Grigorovskii, O rodstve i svoistve (SPb.: Trud, 1903), 6th ed., p. 25. Courtesy of RNB.

  • 67 See Grigorovskii, O rodstve i svoistve.

103While defending the freedom of religious beliefs and civic convictions, Florinskii does not condone absolute freedom of actions. Every civic law, he argues, is created with the purpose of balancing personal benefits and life comforts of all citizens, and hence must, to a degree, limit their freedom. To be effective, a law must derive from a strong and rational foundation and its restrictions should be rationally recognized by all members of a society as a necessary condition of their personal wellbeing. Therefore, laws on marriage must put forward only those restrictions that are necessary to preserve public health. This position makes clear, he states, that a law prohibiting marriage between consanguineous individuals is well founded. But it should regulate only direct bloodlines, i. e. marriages between brothers and sisters, first cousins, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews. Marriages among sideline relatives — “relations of the wife of my brother or of the husband of my aunt” — he asserts, should be excluded from the law, to say nothing of “spiritual relations” such as Godmother and Godfather, which were actually forbidden by the current Russian law.67 “Free action of every person, based on freely-held convictions,” would be “the best formula for a happy marriage of this kind,” he states. Florinskii is adamant that civic laws should be the same for all citizens, hence, the Russian law on marriage for Lutherans and Catholics should be extended to forbid consanguineous marriages in the direct lines of relations.

104If we recognize the right of the law to regulate consanguineous marriages, Florinskii continues, we should allow the legislation “to intervene into other hygienic aspects of marriage.” For instance, he declares, we know that “many hereditary diseases (TB, epilepsy, hereditary insanity, and so on) are transmitted from parents to children,” therefore, “legislation could take certain measures against the weakening and degeneration of the stock in this way.” He foresees, however, that the implementation and enforcement of such laws would be quite difficult. Indeed, it is nearly impossible, he admits, “to establish the exact limits and concrete regulations regarding hereditary diseases: in which cases morbid heredity is detrimental to marriage and in which it is not.” But this difficulty cannot be used as “an argument against the legislative regulation of consanguineous marriages.” The blood relations of a bride and a groom, as well as the age of prospective spouses, can be determined before marriage; therefore, Florinskii argues, in these two instances, certain rules could be established, which would not infringe on individual freedom. But “regarding the questions of health and hereditary predisposition, those questions to which at the present time it is difficult to give a judicially positive answer,” he insists, “the legislation so far cannot intervene without the burdensome limitations of the free choice of families and individuals” [41]. He suggests that “in such doubtful cases” prospective spouses should seek a doctor’s opinion, which “without limiting personal freedom could do more good than any law.”

  • 68 According to the Russian law, the children of such mixed marriages would be by law Orthodox.

105Florinskii concludes his expose with a discussion of the prohibition of marriages of Orthodox Russians with Jews and Muslims as per both church rules and state laws. He finds such prohibitions “to be too strict.” “We have already demonstrated,” he declares, “that nothing brings peoples closer together than marital relations [and] nothing facilitates the perfection of the stock so noticeably as various mixes.” He is convinced “that the freedom [for orthodox men] to marry Muslim, Jewish, and heathen women could bring substantial benefits, even from political viewpoints.”68 Such freedom, he asserts, would facilitate to a substantial degree “the fusion of Russians with peoples of ‘alien’ confessions” and “the absorption of ‘alien’ peoples by the mass of the Russian tribe.” This would be beneficial to both Russians and “aliens,” for, according to Florinskii, “marital ties are the best path to the initiation and diffusion of civilization.” “Everywhere and everyone is set upon this path,” he concludes, “except perhaps for the Chinese who fear that the freedom of marriage with the Europeans could deliver a fatal blow to their immobility” [43].

106Thus ended Florinskii’s treatise.

A “Russian” Eugenics?

107The contents of Florinskii’s essays demonstrate that he forged a particular amalgam combining the contemporary ideas about human reproduction, heredity, variability, development, and evolution with his personal beliefs, values, and ideals, along with a specific set of measures that addressed certain perceived social concerns and which, he thought, could avert possible degeneration and lead to perfection of humankind. In short, he created his own version of what Galton would perhaps have little trouble recognizing as “eugenics.”

108Florinskii’s treatise was a “thought piece.” Although he claimed that to support his ideas he had traced a “few genealogies” (most likely the ones of his wife and her family), unlike in Galton’s 1865 article, these genealogies did not provide a foundation for his arguments. He used them merely to illustrate certain points of his thinking. Unlike Galton, he did not describe these studies in any detail, presenting only his conclusions, and thus did not offer a template other researchers could follow. His treatise focused on the “political” significance of the natural sciences and, more specifically, on the possible implications of Darwin’s concept for “social issues,” a subject of intense interest to the editor and writers of Russian Word. Florinskii did not emulate Royer’s or Zaitsev’s simplistic, “mechanical” transfer of Darwin’s ideas about varieties, species, and speciation to the current political discussions of racial and/or class inequality. Rather, he sought to apply Darwin’s key notions of variability, heredity, and selection as the fundamental principles of species evolution to the understanding of the past history, the present state, and the possible future of humanity.

109Darwin’s book presented a monumental synthesis of numerous facts in the anatomy, embryology, reproduction, behavior, geography, paleontology, heredity, physiology, breeding, and taxonomy of animals and plants. Florinskii extended this synthesis by applying Darwin’s analytical scheme to similar facts about the human species. Furthermore, he supplemented these facts with the new knowledge regarding differential morbidity, mortality, and fecundity of particular well-defined (by age, sex, class, ethnicity, location, and occupation) human groups furnished by rapidly developing social hygiene. Darwin identified three basic phenomena that could occur in the course of the existence of any species: divergence, extinction, and preservation (“survival with improvement,” in Darwin’s own understanding, and “progress,” in the understanding of his numerous followers). He considered them to be the inevitable outcomes of various forms of selection (natural, artificial, and sexual) driven by the struggle for existence or by the deliberate goals of plant and animal breeders. In his own synthesis Florinskii set out to examine how Darwin’s “laws of selection” would play out when applied to humans.

110There was clearly no doubt in Florinskii’s mind that humans had evolved and were continuing to evolve, which meant that they had to face the possibility of outcomes “predicted” by Darwin’s theory. The possibility of divergence in the human species was undeniably manifested in its existing “racial” variations, which travelers, ethnographers, and anthropologists had described in numerous accounts. The possibility of its extinction was also clearly visible in various signs of “moral and physical degeneration” in individuals, families, tribes, nations, and civilizations, which had been “documented” by historians and were currently “observed” by contemporary commentators, from physicians to litterateurs and from anthropologists to theologians. Following Darwin’s logic, both of these phenomena must have resulted from some form of selection that had been and was still acting upon human beings; left unchecked, this selection would inevitably lead to either the divergence, or the extinction of the human species.

111Yet, according to the numerous publications of Russian Word’s authors, unlike other living creatures, humans were no longer helpless subjects to “nature’s inescapable laws.” They had developed a powerful instrument that could allow them not only to escape but also to subjugate these laws to their own will — science. To forestall the extinction/degeneration and to assure the survival/perfection/progress of the human species, then, scientists only needed to identify and halt those particular forms of selection that had produced, and were still producing, divergence and degeneration. They needed somehow to counteract this “negative” selection with some “positive” measures that would “improve” the species and thus assure its preservation and progress. And this is exactly what Florinskii sought to accomplish in his work: to identify the sources and causes of degeneration/extinction and to discover the principles of perfection/progress of humankind. Florinskii personally did not consider the divergence of the human species to be a problem. Quite the contrary, he saw human variability as an advantage, for the “mixing” of different families, tribes, races, nationalities, nations, etc., in his opinion, actually advanced the perfection of the human type as a whole.

  • 69 Since the essays appeared in a “literary-political” journal addressed to the general reader and la (...)

112In preparation for writing his treatise, Florinskii likely read everything published in Russian Word and other “thick” journals on the interrelations of the natural and social sciences, as well as on the more specific topic of Darwin’s theory and its possible “social” applications. His essays contain numerous direct and veiled references to, hidden quotations from, and open dialogues with these publications. Judging by the content of his essays, he cast his net wide and read nearly everything then available on the topic: the amount of literature he had consulted and cited in his essays is massive.69 Seen through the lens of Russian Word’s publications and discussions, Florinskii’s treatise offered an entirely new approach to this topic and its key issues. It indicated that, combined with the principles of social hygiene, Darwin’s theory could not only shape the understanding of certain social issues, but also uncover effective tools for solving them. Among such social issues, he addressed the ubiquitous “women’s question,” the empire’s perceived backwardness, the exploitation of one social group by another, and the impact of the law on “human perfection and degeneration.”

  • 70 For the intricacies of correct translations of Florinskii’s vocabulary see the last chapter, “Apol (...)
  • 71 In Origin, Darwin used this expression in various forms more than 200 times.

113Much like Galton’s, Florinskii’s major idea was based on obvious analogies/association among the three forms of selection identified by Darwin: natural, sexual, and artificial (in both its “unconscious” and “methodical” varieties). This association was likely facilitated and amplified by Rachinskii’s translation of Darwin’s term “selection” as “matching of kin” (podbor rodichei), as well as by Pisarev’s consistent use of the word “choice” (vybor) as a synonym of “selection” and his equation of the origin of species with “progress.”70 Furthermore, Florinskii’s own choice of the word “usovershenstvovanie” (perfection) for the treatise’s title was perhaps prompted by Rachinskii’s use of the same word (in adjective form) in his translation of the phrase “favoured races” (usovershenstvovannykh porod) in the subtitle of Darwin’s Origin. In this “collective” translation, Darwin’s theory in its Russian version amounted to “matching” — by various forms of selection — those animals and plants that possessed any favorable characteristics, thus ensuring their survival, avoiding their extinction, and producing new (“modified and improved,” in Darwin’s favorite expression)71 individuals, varieties, breeds, subspecies, species, and ultimately, in Pisarev’s interpretation, “progress.”

114Florinskii proposed to “combine” artificial and sexual selection by matching spouses who possessed certain favorable characteristics to advance perfection and stave off degeneration of humankind. He suggested replacing “unconscious selection,” which, according to Darwin, had led to the initial improvement of domesticated animals and, which, according to Florinskii, had so far directed — in the guise of love — marital choices among humans, with “rational marriage,” paralleling what Darwin had named the “methodical selection” of animal and plant breeders. Florinskii identified those “favorable” characteristics — the ideals of human health, beauty, and mind — which together should guide a “rational” selection of spouses. Since he equated beauty with health and mind with the brain, “physical and moral health” emerged as the key criteria of spousal choice in his posited “hygienic marriage.” Furthermore, he identified certain “wrong choices,” such as, for instance, consanguineous marriages, which were based not on the ideals he described, but on social (financial, national, racial, religious, class, etc.) biases, and which, therefore, led to degeneration instead of perfection. The prevention of such wrong choices and the propagation of correct, rational choices constituted the essence of his concept of “marriage hygiene,” while changing existing laws and social mores around marriage served as the main instrument for its actual implementation in his Fatherland.

115Given the differences between their life trajectories and personal experiences, coupled with the profound dissimilarities in nearly every feature of their respective homelands (from political organization to laws and from economy to social structures), it comes as no surprise that Florinskii’s version of “eugenics” differs substantially from Galton’s. Although both had common roots in Darwin’s Origin and its detailed analysis of artificial, sexual, and natural selection, domestication and speciation, heredity and variability, Florinskii’s medical background profoundly shaped his vision. To give but one example, if Galton’s “extraordinary gifted race” is defined exclusively by its “hereditary talents” and “hereditary genius,” Florinskii’s “perfection of the human type” hinges on the trinity of “beauty, health, and mind” and ultimately translates into the perfection of “physical and moral health.”

116Furthermore, Florinskii’s specialization in gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics gave him a much deeper and much more elaborate understanding of human reproduction, heredity, and development than that expressed in either Darwin’s Origin or Galton’s early writings. His expertise and experiences allowed the young professor to disentangle the customary notion of heredity as “like begets like” into three interconnected, but separate processes: the transmission of hereditary potentials (zadatki) for particular physical, mental, and moral traits from parents to offspring through the fusion of such parental potentials contained in ova and sperms during fertilization, and the subsequent realization of these potentials in the course of individual development. This pioneering view of heredity — as both a process of transmission and a set of certain potentials being thus transmitted, but realized under and according to the particular circumstances of the organism’s development — directed the professor’s attention to various factors that could influence one, or another, or all three of these fundamental processes. This in turn allowed him to discern possible individual and collective actions that could direct such influences to his desired outcome: the elimination of degeneration and the perfection of humankind.

117At the same time, Florinskii’s roots in the clergy, combined with his early theological education, made him quite sensitive to the traditional attitudes towards marriage embodied in the Orthodox Church’s regulations and rules. In fact, his concept sought to explain and modify these attitudes in light of the contemporary knowledge about human reproduction, heredity, variability, and evolution. Thus, to a degree, Florinskii endorsed the church’s prohibition of “kin” marriages, presenting them as an important source of degeneration. But he vehemently opposed the prohibition of “mixed,” especially inter-confessional, marriages that he saw as a major instrument of perfection.

118In certain respects, Galton’s and Florinskii’s programmes of action look quite similar. Both, for instance, are attentive to issues of individual liberty and choice and emphasize the need for educating the public about “correct views” on human reproduction, heredity, variability, and development. Both stress the necessity of state intervention in certain aspects of human reproductive decisions and propose legislative regulation of marriage. But, as evidenced by their respective goals, the norms, values, and ideals underpinning the two programmes differ substantially, reflecting the social origins and positions of their authors.

  • 72 On raznochintsy, see the classic work by Christopher Becker, “Raznochintsy: The Development of the (...)

119Aimed at the creation of “an extraordinary gifted race” and “men of a high type,” Galton’s programme embodies his bourgeois, atheist, imperialist, individualist, elitist, racist, and sexist views, which were well-entrenched among the British upper-middle class and were largely supportive and protective of established social stratifications, hierarchies, and roles under Queen Victoria. In contrast, directed more generally at “the human breed,” Florinskii’s programme is imbued with norms, ideals, and values highly critical and subversive of the social arrangements of the Romanov Empire under Nicholas I. This set of beliefs and values was advanced by a relatively new, small, well-educated, and very vocal social group, to which Florinskii himself belonged, the raznochintsy — literally, persons of various ranks.72

  • 73 For an analysis of the early articulations of the raznochintsy’s ideology, see G. V. Zykova, Zhurn (...)
  • 74 See, for instance, N. G. O. Pereira, “Challenging the Principle of Authority: The Polemic between (...)

120As the very name of this group makes clear, the raznochintsy came from a variety of low-level social backgrounds (the clergy, the peasantry, petty civil servants and military officers, impoverished gentry, merchants, town folks, etc.). They filled a social space between the empire’s two major social estates — the landed gentry (dvorianstvo) and the people (narod) — and most of them identified with the latter. A defining feature of their value system was vocal opposition to existing social stratifications, hierarchies, and roles, first of all, serfdom, absolutist monarchy, hereditary nobility, and the tight grip of the Orthodox Church on many aspects of social life, from education to marriage. The Contemporary and Russian Word served as the major venues for the articulation and propagation of the raznochintsy’s beliefs, norms, ideals, and values,73 while the journals’ major contributors — Chernyshevskii and Dobroliubov in The Contemporary and Pisarev in Russian Word — became the apostles of this new faith.74

  • 75 On this motto and its role, see a classic study by Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, Nicholas I and Officia (...)

121Grounded in the famous triad of “ liberté, fraternité, et égalité” of the French revolution and the deliberate opposition to the Russian Empire’s official motto — Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality (Pravoslavie, Samoderzhavie, Narodnost′)75 — this value system included the raznochintsy’s strong commitment to advancing the interests of the people. It embodied their particular notion of patriotism that equated the Fatherland not with the monarchy, and even less with the person of the emperor, and least of all with the Orthodox Church, but with its people. A key element of this value system was the raznochintsy’s firm belief in the tremendous potential that could be unlocked by granting civil liberties, economic independence, and, especially, access to education traditionally enjoyed by the nobility to the people. Belief in education, and its pinnacle — nauka — as the motive force of human progress and a means to make real the ideals of liberté, fraternité, et égalité in Russia became firmly embedded in this value system. It is easy to see all of these values expressed in one form or another in Florinskii’s treatise.

  • 76 For an excellent analysis of the formation of the “middle class” and its values in Britain, see Ha (...)

122A comparison of the perceived social concerns and the measures they advocated for addressing these concerns brings into sharp relief the contrast between the value systems underpinning Galton’s and Florinskii’s concepts. For Galton, the upper stratum of British educated society — exemplified by the “hundred illustrious men” (but no women) of science, the law, the state, the arts, the military, and the cloth he studied in Hereditary Genius — represents the “hereditary wealth” of the nation.76 The “lower classes,” on the other hand, represent both the source and the locus of “hereditary degeneration” manifested in crime, pauperism, insanity, and so on. Accordingly, Galton focuses on a set of social measures that would increase the reproduction of the upper classes and decrease that of the lower ones, and thus assure both the arrest of degeneration in the British nation and the creation of “men of a high type.”

123In Florinskii’s concept, the situation is almost in complete reverse. It is the upper stratum of society, the aristocracy and the nobility, that is both the major source and the major locus of “hereditary degeneration.” According to his views, such degeneration derives in large part from breaking the principles of “rational” or “hygienic” marriage in obeisance to social mores, economic interests, confessional biases, and perverted tastes “inherent” to the upper classes. It is the people that constitute the “hereditary wealth” of the nation by safeguarding the “hygienic” ideals, tastes, and customs guiding their marital choices. The fact that this “capital,” as he calls it, “remains hidden” and “wasted” is not a sign or result of degeneration, but the direct consequence of the social, political, and economic order that denies the people the possibility for expressing and developing their “hereditary talents,” especially by blocking their access to education. Unlike Galton who treats the “hereditary degeneration” of the lower classes as a leading cause of poverty, Florinskii instead considers poverty an important condition conducive to such degeneration and, thus, for him, eliminating poverty offers a way to forestall and prevent degeneration. The same logic and the same values undergird Florinskii’s discussions of “women’s mental capital” and the “hereditary mental types” of various nations. Not surprisingly, for him, the political, economic, and social equality of all people is the necessary foundation for human perfection, while “mixed” marriages between nobles and commoners, and between individuals of different confessions and ethnicities provide a powerful instrument to avoid degeneration and promote perfection.

124The subsequent fate of Florinskii’s treatise would be determined not only by the ideas articulated in his essays and the programme of actions he offered to address the perceived social concerns and anxieties, but also by the particular value system providing the scaffolding for his views.


1 See D. Bairon, “Don Zhuan. Roman v stikhakh. Per. D. Minaev,” Sovremennik, 1865, 1: 5-72; 2: 447-512; 3: 169-208; 4: 245-74; 5: 163-203; 7: 207-37; 8: 453-76; 10: 433-68; 1866, 1: 259-74; 4: 385-406.

2 See V. Florinskii, 1865, 8(I): 1-57. The exact citations from this essay are indicated in the text by specific page numbers in square brackets. For the announcement of the release of the August issue, see Golos, 7 October 1865, p. 4.

3 Unless noted otherwise, the emphasis in all quotations is Florinskii’s.

4 Florinskii actually used the word “izmeniaemost’,” which is more accurately translated as “changeability,” although the contents of the section make clear that he followed closely Darwin’s notion of variability. Tellingly, Rachinskii in his translation used the word “izmenchivost’,” which is much closer to Darwin’s meaning of variability. Of course, neither word had a defined terminological status in any language yet.

5 In his discussion of variability, Florinskii borrowed his main analytical category “type” (tip) directly from comparative anatomy, where it was employed to denote a particular pattern of organization that distinguishes one “type” from another. On the emergence of the notion of “type” and its uses, see F. J. Cole, A History of Comparative Anatomy, from Aristotle to the Eighteenth Century (New York: Dover, 1975); on the historical development of this notion in zoology before and after Darwin, see I. I. Kanaev, Ocherki iz istorii sravnitel’noi anatomii do Darvina: Razvitie problemy morfologicheskogo tipa v zoologii (M.-L.: Izd-vo AN SSSR, 1963); and idem, Ocherki iz istorii problemy morfologicheskogo tipa ot Darvina do nashikh dnei (M.-L.: Nauka, 1966).

6 Although Florinskii did not refer directly to Lyell’s and/or Vogt’s books, it is clear that he borrowed much data from their works. As we saw, both Lyell’s and Vogt’s books were translated into Russian almost immediately after their publications in the original English and German, respectively, see Charl’z Liaiel, Drevnost’cheloveka. Geologicheskie dokazatel’stva drevnosti cheloveka s nekotorymi zamechaniiami o teoriiakh proiskhozhdeniia vidov (SPb.: O. I. Bakst, 1864); for the English original, see Charles Lyell, Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man (London: John Murray, 1863); and Karl Fogt, Chelovek. Mesto ego v mirozdanii i v istorii zemli (SPb.: M. O. Volf, 1865); and idem, Chelovek i mesto ego v prirode (SPb.: P. A. Gaideburov, 1863-65), vols. 1-2; for the German original, see Carl Vogt, Vorlesungen über den Menschen, seine Stellung in der Schöpfung und in der Geschichte der Erde (Giessen: Ricker, 1863).

7 For a voluminous biography of von Baer, see B. E. Raikov, Karl Ber, ego zhizn’i trudy (M.-L.: AN SSSR, 1961); on his anthropological works, see pp. 393-453.

8 See K. Ber [Karl von Baer], Chelovek v estestvenno-istoricheskom otnoshenii (SPb.: K. Vingeber, 1851).

9 The three sons of Noah: Shem (Asia), Ham (Africa), and Japheth (Europe); plus the native Americans, a group that was unknown in biblical times.

10 One of his principal sources for this section was an extensive treatise by Augustin Weisbach, “Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Schädelformen Österreicher Volker,” Wienese Medizinische Jahrbuch, 1864, 1: 49-127.

11 Florinskii did not give an exact reference and thus it is impossible to ascertain to which particular work of Trémaux’s he refers. As far as I was able to determine, none of Trémaux’s works had been translated into Russian. Florinskii must have read some of his works in French. It could have been one of Tremaux’s numerous publications on his travels and research in Africa. But it is also possible that it was his monumental treatise on “the origin and transformations of humans and other beings,” that has been published in Paris at the beginning of 1865. See Pierre Trémaux, Origine et transformations de l’homme et des autres êtres (Paris: L. Hachette, 1865). Although neither the Russian State Library, nor the IMSA Library has the book, the Library of the Academy of Sciences (BAN) does have a copy.

12 Florinskii cites a Russian translation of Edwards’s treatise by T. N. Granovskii, “O fiziologicheskikh priznakakh chelovecheskikh porod i ikh otnoshenii k istorii. Pis’ma V. F. Edvardsona i A. T’erri,” in idem, Sochineniia (M.: V. Got’e, 1856), vol. 1, p. 33. For the original, see William Frédéric Edwards, Des caractères physiologiques des races humaines considérés dans leurs rapports avec l’histoire (Paris: Mondey-Dupre, 1841).

13 Florinskii here borrows data from and refers to a voluminous investigation by Shchapov on “the historical-geographical organization of the Russian population” serialized in Russian Word, see A. P. Shchapov, “Istorikogeograficheskoe raspredelenie russkogo narodonaseleniia,” RS, 1864, 8 (I): 1-54; 9 (I): 95-130; 10(I): 179-211; and idem, “Istoriko-geograficheskoe raspredelenie narodonaseleniia,” RS, 1865, 6 (I): 1-30; 7 (I): 1-36; 8 (I): 1-44; 9 (I): 1-41.

14 As an illustration, see Google Ngram for the word nasledstvennost’in Russian publications from 1800 to 1900, at

15 See the entry “nasledit’” in Dal’s dictionary at

16 See F. Toll’, Nastol’nyi slovar’dlia spravok po vsem otrasliam znaniia, 3 vols. (SPb.: F. Toll’, 1863-66). See the entry for “hereditary bleeding” in vol. 2, p. 974.

17 For a detailed analysis of the emergence of the notions of “heredity” in French medicine, see C. López-Beltrán, “Forging Heredity: From Metaphor to Cause, a Reification Story,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 1994, 25(2): 211-35; and idem, “In the Cradle of Heredity: French Physicians and L’Hérédité Naturelle in the Early 19th Century,” JHB, 2004, 37: 39– 72; for its uses in British medicine, see John Waller, “Ideas of Heredity, Reproduction, and Eugenics in Britain, 1800-1875,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 2001, 32(3): 457-89; on the development of the notions of heredity in Germany, see Frederick B. Churchill, “From Heredity to Vererbung: The Transmission Problem, 1850-1915,” Isis, 1987, 78: 337-64; for general overviews, see S. Müller-Wille and H. J. Rheinberger, eds., Heredity Produced: At the Crossroads of Biology, Politics, and Culture, 1500-1870 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007); and S. Müller-Wille and Christina Brandt, eds., Heredity Explored: Between Public Domain and Experimental Science (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016).

18 See Prosper Lucas, Traite philosophique et physiologique de l’Hérédité naturelle (Paris: J. B. Bàillière, 1847). For Darwin’s references to Lucas’s views, see Origin, pp. 12, 275.

19 Florinskii does not cite Virchow’s work, but there is no doubt that he knew it well. Delivered in Berlin during the spring of 1858, Virchow’s famous lectures were translated into Russian almost instantaneously. An abridged version appeared as an appendix to the November-December issue of the Moscow Physicians’Journal (see Moskovskii vrachebnyi zhurnal, 1858, 5-6). A full version (in a different translation) came out in book format a few months later, see R. Virkhov, Patologiia, osnovannaia na teorii iacheek (tselularnaia patologiia), transl. Ia. Rozenblat and I. Chatskin (M.: Moskovskaia vrachebnaia gazeta, 1859). For the German original, see R. Virchow, Die Cellularpathologie in ihrer Begründung auf physiologische und pathologische Gewebelehre: Zwanzig Vorlesungen (Berlin: Hirschwald, 1858). For a historical analysis of the Russian reception of Virchow’s ideas, see Larisa Shumeiko, Die Rezeption Der Zellularpathologie Rudolf Virchows (1821-1902) in Der Medizin Russlands und Der Sowjetunion (Marburg: Tectum Verlag, 2002).

20 The story is found in Genesis, Leviticus 30: 25-43: While shepherding for his uncle Laban, Jacob noted that when sheep in heat looked at, and mated in front of, striped branches, they gave birth to speckled and spotted young. So he convinced his uncle to grant him all the speckled and spotted sheep born to Laban’s flock as payment for his work. Jacob then placed striped branches in watering pools, so that sheep will always have to look at them when they come to drink. And as a result, more and more speckled sheep were born to Laban’s flocks, which Jacob could claim for himself.

21 See J. M. Boudin, “De l’influence de l’âge relatif des parents sur le sexe des enfants,” Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des Sciences, 1863, 56: 353. A detailed account of Boudin’s report appeared in the Gazette Médicale de Paris, 28 February 1863, 9: 137-39. In October, Medical Herald published a Russian translation of the report, see Buden [Boudin], “O vliianii sravnitel’nogo vozrasta roditelei na pol detei,” MV, 1863 (12 October): 387-88.

22 Florinskii clearly avoided using the word “material” since “materialism” was a red flag for the censors, but that is exactly what he means here.

23 For instance, he cites examples of exceptional fecundity described in the memoirs of V. A. Nashchokin, Zapiski (SPb.: Akademiia nauk, 1842), p. 148; and in J. Lewis Brittain, “Repeated Twin Births,” Edinburgh Medical Journal, 1862, 8 (2): 468.

24 V. Florinskii, 1865, 10(I): 1-43. The exact citations from this essay are indicated in the text by specific page number in square brackets. The issue came out in early December. See Golos, 12 December 1865, p. 4.

25 Pisarev, “Razrushenie estetiki,” p. 3.

26 See the discussion of “utilitarian aesthetics” in the previous chapter.

27 The book was reissued more than ten times from the second half of the eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Florinskii cites its fifth edition, N. G. Kurganov, Pis’movnik (SPb.: Imperatorskaia akademiia nauk, 1793), Part 1, p. 283.

28 See Adolphe Quételet, Sur l’homme et le développement de ses facultés, ou Essai de physique sociale, 2 vols (Paris: Bachelier, 1835). St. Petersburg libraries have numerous copies and the book was well known in Russia (see, for instance, extensive citations from and references to this work in Shchapov’s articles cited above). Furthermore, its first volume appeared in Russian translation exactly at the time Florinskii was working on his treatise in the spring of 1865, see A. Ketle, Chelovek i razvitie ego sposobnostei, ili Opyt obshchestvennoi fiziki (SPb.: O. I. Bakst, 1865).

29 See A. Veidengammer, “Sel’sko-khoziaistvennoe skotovodstvo kak argument darvinovskoi teorii,” Zapiski Imperatorskogo russkogo obshchestva akklimatizatsii, 1865: 143-81.

30 Much of the evidence Florinskii cited in this section comes from a popular manual on hygiene and medical police compiled from several German publications, which he had apparently used in preparation for his doctoral examination. See L. Pappenheim, Rukovodstvo k gigiene i meditsinskoi politsii, 2 vols. (SPb.: Biblioteka med. nauk d-ra M. Khana, 1860-61). For the German sources of this compilation, see Louis Pappenheim, Handbuch der Sanitäts-Polizei: nach eigenen Untersuchungen (Berlin: Hirschwald, 1858); and Friedrich Oesterlen, Der Mensch und seine physische Erhaltung. Hygienische Briefe für weitere Leserkreise (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1859). The latter book also appeared in a separate Russian translation, see F. Esterlen, Chelovek i sokhranenie ego zdorov’ia (SPb.: O. I. Bakst, 1863).

31 Florinskii did not identify which particular work of Becquerel he quotes here. The quote actually comes from a highly popular “treatise on private and public hygiene,” which since its first appearance in 1851 went through numerous editions and translations. See Louis Alfred Becquerel, Traité élémentaire d’hygiène, privée et publique (Paris: Labé, 1851), Indeed, already in 1852, Iakov Chistovich, the IMSA professor of hygiene and medical police, published a Russian translation and used it as a textbook in his course on hygiene, which Florinskii had to take. See A. Bekkerel’, Elementarnoe nachertanie chastnoi i obshchestvennoi gigieny (nauki o sokhranenii chelovecheskogo zdorov’ia) (SPb.: Med. Departament, 1852). The quote comes from p. 82 of the Russian edition.

32 For a detailed analysis of the notion of hereditary diseases in contemporary British medicine, see John C. Waller, “‘The Illusion of an Explanation’: The Concept of Hereditary Disease, 1770-1870,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 2002, 57: 410-48; in the US, Rosenberg, “The Bitter Fruit.”

33 Florinskii took this example from S. A. Usov, “Zubr,” Zapiski Imperatorskogo Russkogo obshchestva akklimatizatsii, 1865: 1-64.

34 The November issue came out in late December, and the December issue only in late January 1866. See Golos, 24 December 1865, p. 4; and ibid., 29 January 1866, p. 4.

35 V. Florinskii, 1865, 11(I): 1-25; 12(I): 27-43. The exact citations from this essay are indicated in square brackets in the text.

36 He took his numbers from Thomas Willis, Facts Connected with the Social and Sanitary Condition of the Working Classes in the City of Dublin: With Tables of Sickness, Medical Attendance, Deaths, Expectation of Life, & c., & c; Together with Some Gleanings from the Census Returns of 1841 (Dublin: T. O’Gorman, 1845).

37 Florinskii borrowed much of his statistical data on the Germanic lands from Johann Ludwig Casper, Ueber die wahrscheinliche Lebensdauer des Menschen (Berlin: F. Dümmler, 1843).

38 The quotation came from Part I, Chapter 21, which in John Ormsby’s 1885 English translation reads: “…there are two kinds of lineages in the world; some there be tracing and deriving their descent from kings and princes, whom time has reduced little by little until they end in a point like a pyramid upside down; and others who spring from the common herd and go on rising step by step until they come to be great lords; so that the difference is that the ones were what they no longer are, and the others are what they formerly were not.”

39 Florinskii used the adjectives “consanguineous” (krovnye) and “kin” (rodstvennye) synonymously.

40 For a historical assessment of the French debate, see Mauro Sebastián Vallejo, “El problema de la consanguinidad en la medicina francesa (1850-1880): cuando heredar demasiado era un riesgo y un deseo,” Asclepio. Revista de Historia de la Medicina y de la Ciencia, 2012, 64(2): 517-40; for analyses of the debate in the English speaking countries, see A. H. Bittles, “The Bases of Western Attitudes to Consanguineous Marriage,” Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 2003, 45: 135-38; and, especially, Diane B. Paul and Hamish G. Spencer, “Eugenics without Eugenists?: Anglo-American Critiques of Cousin Marriage in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” in Müller-Wille and Brandt, eds., Heredity Explored, pp. 49-79.

41 See K. T [olstoi], “O krovnykh brakakh,” MV, 1865 (26 June): 233-35; (3 July): 249-53; (10 July): 257-59; (17 July): 269-72; (24 July): 277-80; (31 July): 285-88.

42 For an English language account of the long history of the studies of this condition, see H. Werner, History of the Problem of Deaf-mutism until the 17th Century (Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1932); for summaries of nineteenth-century studies, see Henry W. Hubbard, Deaf-mutism: A Brief Account of the Deaf and Dumb Human Race, from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time (London: Leisure Hour, 1894); and Holger P. T. Mygind, Deaf Mutism (London: F. J. Rebman, 1894).

43 See J.-Ch.-M. Boudin, Dangers des unions consanguines et nécessité des croisements dans l’espèce humaine et parmi les animaux (Paris: J.-B. Baillière et Fils, 1862), originally published in Annales d’hygiène publique et de médicine légale, 1862, 18: 5-82; idem, “De la Nécessité des Croisements, et du Danger des Unions Consanguines dans l’Espèce Humaine et parmi les Animaux,” Recueil de mémoires de médecine, de chirurgie et de pharmacie militaires, 1862 (3rd series), 8: 193-241; and idem, “Etudes statistiques sur les Dangers des Unions Consanguines dans l’Espèce Humaine et parmi les Animaux,” Journal de la Société de Statistique, 1862, 3: 69-84; 103-20. Florinskii also cited a dissertation by L. T. Chazarain, Du mariage entre consanguins considéré comme cause de dégénériscence organique, et plus particulièrement de surdi-mutité congéniale (Collection des Thèses de l’Ecole de Médecine de Montpellier, No. 63, 1859). The dissertation is absent in the IMSA Library.

44 See Francis Devay, Du Danger des Mariages consanguins au point de vue sanitaire (Paris: Labé, 1857); and its much expanded second edition, idem, Du Danger des Mariages consanguins sous le rapport sanitaire (Paris: V. Masson et fils, 1862); the IMSA Library holds only the second volume, which Florinskii probably used. The anti-consanguinists argued that exogamous marriage replenished “hereditary blood” with fortifying traits. They cited the degeneration of the Ancien Régime to argue their case against consanguinity and thus called for the “regeneration of the French race” through cross-breeding.

45 P. Meniere, “Recherches sur l’origine de la surdi-mutité,” Gazette Médicale de Paris, 1846, 3: 223-26; 243-46; idem, “Du mariage entre parents considéré comme cause de la surdi-mutité congénitale,” ibid., 1856: 303-06.

46 All of these periodicals were available in St. Petersburg’s libraries.

47 In addition to the authors mentioned above, Florinskii cited a special report on idiocy by the director of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum in Boston: S. G. (Samuel Gridley) Howe, Report Made to the Legislature of Massachusetts, Upon Idiocy by Howe, S. G. (Boston, MA: Coolidge and Wiley, 1848); and the monograph by Swiss physician Johann Jakob Guggenbühl, Die Heilung und Verhütung des Cretinismus und ihre neuesten Fortschritte (Bern: Huber, 1853); the last book had earned Guggenbühl an honorary membership in the IMSA, see RGVIA, f. 316, op. 28, d. 35, ll. 1-16.

48 R. Liebreich, “Abkunft aus Ehen unter Blutsverwandten als Grund von Retinitis pigmentosa,” Deutsche Klinik (Berlin), 1861 (9 February), 13: 53-55.

49 In addition to the works by Devay and Boudin mentioned above, Florinskii also cited many observations of animals collected by French entomologist Charles Nicolas Aubé, “Notes sur les inconvénients qui peuvent résulter du défaut de croisement dans la propagation des espèces animales,” Bulletin de la Société impériale zoologique d’acclimatation, 1857, 4: 509-18; and in humans reported by American physician Samuel M. Bemiss, “On the Evil Effects of Marriages of Consanguinity,” North American Medico-Chirurgical Review, 1857, 1: 97-108 (which also was republished as “On Marriages of Consanguinity” in the London-based Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology, 1857, 10(6): 368-79); and idem, “Report on Influence of Marriages of Consanguinity upon Offspring,” Transactions of the American Medical Association, 1858, 11: 319-425. Since none of these journals was available at the IMSA Library, most likely, Florinskii cited these studies from Boudin’s and Devay’s publications.

50 Here he referred to the second edition of Devay’s book, Du Danger des Mariages consanguins (Paris: V. Masson et fils, 1862), which was available at the IMSA Library.

51 Here Florinskii referred to Devay’s earlier monumental, two-volume study of “the physical and moral perfection of man,” which was also available at the IMSA Library, see Francis Devay, Hygiène des familles, ou Du perfectionnement physique et moral de l’homme: considéré particulièrement dans ses rapports avec l’éducation et les besoins de la civilisation moderne, 2 vols. (Paris: Labé; Lyon: Dorier, 1846),

52 V. Florinskii, 1865, 12(I): 27-43.

53 Florinskii here actually gave the English phrase “breeding in and in” without translation.

54 Here Florinskii summarized Sanson’s presentation at the Society’s meeting. See A. Sanson, “Unions Consanguines chez les Animaux,” Bulletins de la Société d’Anthropologie, 1862, 1 (3): 254-64.

55 He cited works by Jean Magne (1804-1885), professor at l’École impériale vétérinaire d’Alfort; Jean Gourdon (1824-1876), professor at l’École vétérinaire de Toulouse; and Antoine Richard “du Cantal” (1802-1891), French doctor, veterinarian, agronomist, and politician. All of these references apparently came from J. -Ch. -M. Boudin, Du croisement des familles et des races et réponse a M. Dally (Paris: Louis Guerin, 1863).

56 Robert Bakewell (1725– 1795), British agriculturalist, now recognized as one of the most important figures in the British Agricultural Revolution, was one of the first to implement systematic selective breeding of livestock.

57 He cited articles by Alfred Bourgeois, “Sur les Résultats attribues aux Alliances Consanguines,” Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des Séances de l’Académie des Sciences, 1863, 56: 177-81; J. A. N. Perier, “Essai sur les Croisements Ethniques,” Mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie, 1863, 1: 69-92; 2: 187-236; and 1865, 2: 261-374; August Voisin, “Contribution a l’Histoire des mariages entre consanguins,” Mémoires de la société d’anthropologie, 1863, 2: 433-59, which also came out in book format a few years later, see August Voisin, Contribution a l’Histoire des mariages entre consanguins (Paris: Bailliere et fils, 1866); and M. Seguin, “Sur les Mariages Consanguins,” Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des Séances de l’Académie des Sciences, 1863, 57: 253-54.

58 Eugène Dally, “Recherches sur les Mariages consanguins et sur les races pures,” Bulletins de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris, 1863, 4: 515-75. Dally presented this long report to the Anthropological Society on 5 November 1863, i. e. after Florinskii had left Paris. But the journal that carried it was available at the IMSA Library. The next year the report was also issued as a booklet under the same title, see Eugène Dally, Recherchés sur les Mariages consanguins et sur les races pures (Paris: V. Masson, 1864). An English translation of this report by H. J. C. Beavan appeared in the London Anthropological Review, 1864 (May): 65-108.

59 J.-Ch.-M. Boudin, “Du Croisement des Familles et des Races, et Réponse a M. Dally,” Bulletins de la Société d’Anthropologie, 1862, 6: 662-94.

60 In arguing this point, both the proponents and opponents of kin marriages mostly relied on data provided in Francisque-Michel, Histoire des races maudites de la France et de l’Espagne (Paris: A. Franck, 1847).

61 Meniere, “Recherches sur l’origine de la surdi-mutité,” 1846; and idem, “Du mariage entre parents considéré comme cause de la surdi-mutité congénitale,” 1856.

62 Boudin, 1862, p. 21. The original reads: “A notre sens, les mariages consanguins, loin de militer en faveur d’une hérédité toute imaginaire, constituent la protestation la plus flagrante contre les lois mêmes de l’hérédité. Comment, voilà des parents consanguins, pleins de force et de santé, exempts de toute infirmité appréciable, incapables de donner à leurs enfants ce qu’ils ont, et leur donnant au contraire ce qu’ils n’ont pas, ce qu’ils n’ont jamais eu, et c’est en présence de tels faits que l’on ose prononcer le mot hérédité (3)! Nous croyons inutile de prolonger cette discussion; citons quelques faits.” Emphasis in original.

63 On Morel and his concept, see Daniel Pick, The Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c.1848-c.1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); and Kelly Hurley, “Hereditary Taint and Cultural Contagion: The Social Etiology of Fin-de-Siècle Degeneration Theory,” Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 1990, 14(2): 193-214.

64 Florinskii probably read Morel’s magnum opus: B. A Morel, Traite des Dégénérescences physiques, intellectuelles, et morales de l’espèce humaine; et des causes qui produisent ces variétés maladives (Paris: J. B. Baillières, 1857). It was certainly available, along with Morel’s other works, at the IMSA Library. With the exception of Perier, none of the participants in the French debate had cited Morel’s work, though Tolstoi in his overview of the debate did recount very briefly some of Morel’s ideas.

65 Although Florinskii did not cite this work in his treatise, his text strongly suggests that he had borrowed much of the analysis of the existing Russian laws on marriage from their extensive discussion in The Contemporary, see M. A. Filippov, “Vzgliad na russkie grazhdanskie zakony,” Sovremennik, 1861, 2: 523-62; 3: 217-66.

66 For a contemporary overview of the Orthodox Church regulations of marriage, see “Obzor tserkovnykh postanovlenii o brake v pravoslavnoi tserkvi,” Pravoslavnyi sobesednik, 1859, 2: 369-413; 3: 1-45; 119-52; 217-34; 325-51. For detailed instructions on determining the degree of kinship, see Sergei Grigorovskii, O rodstve i svoistve (SPb.: Trud, 1903).

67 See Grigorovskii, O rodstve i svoistve.

68 According to the Russian law, the children of such mixed marriages would be by law Orthodox.

69 Since the essays appeared in a “literary-political” journal addressed to the general reader and largely followed the then acceptable reference style in scientific/medical periodicals, Florinskii did not give the exact reference for every source he had consulted. Quite often he simply mentioned the last name of a scientist or a physician whose work he had used (giving foreign names in Russian transliteration or transcription). Equally often, he did not bother to give even a name. But the contents of his treatise allow one to identify even those publications (such as Lyell’s and Huxley’s books on the origins of man) that do not appear in his references.

70 For the intricacies of correct translations of Florinskii’s vocabulary see the last chapter, “Apologia.”

71 In Origin, Darwin used this expression in various forms more than 200 times.

72 On raznochintsy, see the classic work by Christopher Becker, “Raznochintsy: The Development of the Word and of the Concept,” American Slavic and East European Review, 1959, 18(1): 63-74; for a more recent and much more detailed analysis, see Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter, Social Identity in Imperial Russia (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1997), pp. 66-99.

73 For an analysis of the early articulations of the raznochintsy’s ideology, see G. V. Zykova, Zhurnal Moskovskogo universiteta “Vestnik Evropy” (1805-1830 gg.): Raznochintsy v epokhu dvorianskoi kul’tury (M.: Dialog-MGU, 1998).

74 See, for instance, N. G. O. Pereira, “Challenging the Principle of Authority: The Polemic between Sovremennik and Russkoe Slovo, 1863-65,” Russian Review, 1975, 34(2): 137-50.

75 On this motto and its role, see a classic study by Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia, 1825-1855 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1959).

76 For an excellent analysis of the formation of the “middle class” and its values in Britain, see Harold J. Perkin, The Origins of Modern English Society 1780-1880 (London: Routledge, 1969) and idem, The Rise of Professional Society: England Since 1880 (London: Routledge, 1989).

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 3-1. Vasilii Pukirev’s painting, The Unequal Marriage, 1862, oil on canvas, 173 x 136.5 cm. The painting was first presented at the 1863 annual exhibition by the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of the Fine Arts, which opened shortly after Florinskii’s return from his European tour. It earned Pukirev both professional (he was granted the title of the academy’s full member) and public acclaim. From​wiki/​File:Pukirev_ner_brak.jpg. The original is in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
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Légende Fig. 3-2. A table illustrating the degrees of kinship according to the Russian Orthodox Church regulations. Circles represent male and squares female members of the families. First row (left to right): my brother, myself, my wife, brother of my wife, his wife. Second row: my nephew (son of my brother). The kinship “distance” between my brother and the wife of my wife’s brother is four degrees (therefore, a marriage between them would be prohibited). The kinship “distance” between my nephew and the wife of my wife’s brother is five degrees (therefore, a marriage between them would be permitted). From S. P. Grigorovskii, O rodstve i svoistve (SPb.: Trud, 1903), 6th ed., p. 25. Courtesy of RNB.
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