Indraja (indraja_rrt) wrote,

The man who defeated the System

Culturally, I got into some feast of plenitude. I’m reading books of people coming from my field of knowledge about people from my profession and all this is The No-Longer Secret Story of Soviet Biowarfare and Perversion of Science (they keep mentioning My Institute, which did Nothing Wrong). I’d like to pinpoint the most amazing things. To begin with, this is spectacular amount of information I had very little idea of. The second thing, I had no idea there was such a thrilling written chapter in the modern history of the microbiology, genetics and biotechnology, even if I knew there was ancient history, as Timofeev-Ressovsky etc. That’s not just some old creepy Cold War, there are significant events of 1989 or 1992. And very likely, this is an ongoing story. The third thing is, I am amazed by the people I meet as the authors and characters of the stories, coming from different countries, families, ethnic backgrounds and social strata. There are explorers, there are complicated actors and there are true heroes. I was always fascinated by the dystopian stories that have one person making their choice and changing their own fate, and that of the society. I knew this is art featuring the metaphoric exaggeration. I had no idea this type of story can get quite real if you only have the particular system. Imagine it is huge, complicated beyond comprehension and so clandestine that the secrecy gets into the way of it even functioning effectively. It stays secret because no one can see all the picture, and most see very little. Some are just doing their work, maybe quite happy if they have interesting tasks, or maybe already bored. Some are just keeping a warm place, or like to be in power. Some even believe their purpose is right and their path is true. And here comes a man who succumbed to the first temptation and then saw what lay behind, and finally came to loath the path, the method and the purpose. This one man making his choice was in fact enough to shake the system up to its foundations. The world learnt USSR was producing biological weapons despite all the conventions. There came the international inspections (the second man found his conscience in the process and defected telling even more). There was pressure to re-purpose the facilities, and the production surely was stopped and hindered, even if (very likely) reversibly and partially. The man never sought publicity, as he wished to be recognised as a scientist only. He was called Vladimir Pasechnik. Raymond A. Zilinskas and Milton Leitenberg dedicated their study ‘The Soviet Biological Weapons Program: a History’ to his memory, and the best thing I can do is to quote them. I just wonder how it came I never knew there was a true hero in the recent history of my profession.
“Vladimir A. Pasechnik, first and foremost a scientist, was also a highly moral person, as was made clear after he defected to Great Britain in October 1989. The reasons for Pasechnik’s defection were multiple, complex, and conflicted. One of those reasons unquestionably included a moral component. Pasechnik had over time come to deplore the work that he was doing to formulate biological weapon agents, perfect means for their dispersion, and develop delivery systems for them. If not for his defection, the Soviet offensive biological warfare program, codenamed Ferment, might not have been disclosed between 1990 and 1992, which coincided with the last years of President Gorbachev’s tenure. The world owes Pasechnik its thanks for having made it more secure.”

There is his story as told by his son (на русском).
Tags: archetipinis institutas, istorija, knygos

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