In 1928, Soviet scientists Sergey Brukhonenko and Sergey Chechulin revitalized a cut-off dog’s head, which lived, connected to a pump engine imitating the contraction of the heart, fusing the blood vessels with blood enriched with oxygen. As a journalist of the regional newspaper “Angarskaya Pravda” wrote in 1959, “The cut-off head exhibited all the features of live: it swallowed food, it blinked with its eyes, moved its ears, and smacked its muzzle.” (Salnikov, 1959)
“In our times, (Salnikov continues) Moscow scientist V.P. Demikhov succeeded in transplanting a new heart to the dog, and to transpose the head of the puppy to the neck of adult dog.” (Salnikhov, 1959).
The goal of these Frankensteinian experiments, was to exceed the known limits of longevity, and to build a new resilient breed of fighters for the Communism.
With a provisional force of a genius, Mikhail Bulgakov wrote the novel “Heart of a Dog” in 1925, known to the late Soviet general public mostly by the film of the same title, directed by Vladimir Bortko (released in 1988).
In the process of bioengineering, akin to the social-engineering process of creation of the new Soviet man, professor Preobrazhensky transplanted a part of the brain of some drunkard to the ill-bred dog, and the dog became a man: with no manners, no education, no heart, and no brain (as these qualities so often go together).
Endowed with his practical knowledge of eugenics, racial ideas of blood purity, nobility, and aristocratism, Professor Preobrazhensky represent the former, pre-Revolutionary Russia. He is a mediumic medic, a member of intelligentsia, compelled to conduct such an experiment and afflutter with the possible result. He is the symbol of the old world, the best part of it–the one that had a chance of survival and even career in the new Soviet state.
However, Sharikh, his creature, barely speaks or conducts himself as a human being; despite and because of it, he is actively socializing and with excitement discovered that the new world is ideal for him. He starts building himself as a less-than-human being would, and at one point even appears at the Professor’s doorframe drunk and, what is worse, with a gun and in a leather coat, famous attributes of the ChK officer.
The Professor admits the failure of his experiment, and makes another surgery, this time transplanting the dog’s brain back into the skull (which by now is a human skull, strictly speaking). The transformative power of science is not omnipotent for Bulgakov, even armed with devilish tools of eugenics and racial theory, and the social experiment is doomed to failure.
Far beyond the novel, in the Soviet society, the idea of the classless future, of the new man and manlike woman, as well as the not unakin to the USA’s resurfacing popular trope of “melting pot,” idea of the “brotherhood of the nations,” in which national differences in the long run should be erased, live.
Salnikov, E.T. “Kak nauka i religiya obiasnyayut zhizn i smert’.” Angarskaya Pravda, N23 (1943), 1959