Technological and scientific advances rose rapidly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, prompting a worldwide interest in all the new – and sometimes very strange – possibilities science had to offer. Humanzees – man ape hybrid soldiers – presented one such possibility.
This was the age of steel, of the railroad, the factory system. And eugenics. But before Europe fully hopped on the sick bandwagon of extreme nationalism and surprising figures campaigned for breeding a master race, a lone Russian scientist who had successfully cross bred a variety of mammals – including zebras and donkeys – got the idea to try and breed humans with apes. His name was not Josef Stalin; it was Ilya Ivanov, and he was exploring the human-ape hybrid possibility long before Stalin ever succeeded in politics.
However, over the years, and thanks to articles published by creationist organizations, Ivanov's weird experiments were conflated with Stalin, who supposedly asked scientists to breed a race of man-ape hybrid soldiers who would be super strong and serve in an enormous Soviet army. Such plans were never on Stalin's radar; indeed, such a fighting force was never even of interest to Ivanov. All he wanted to do was to prove that the creation of a humanzee was actually possible. The real story of how Ivanov managed to secure a small amount of funding from the Soviet government to conduct artificial insemination experiments on both humans and chimpzees is far more intriguing – and just as despicable.
Was Stalin Really Involved In The Man-Ape Project?
Josef Stalin is an easy mark upon which to place blame for a multitude of evils because – in many cases – he actually was guilty. But the suggestion that he encouraged, funded, or otherwise directed a project to create a hybrid race of human-ape people who would serve as super warriors in the Soviet Army is not only patently absurd, but it is also false.
Certainly, the scientific advances of the 19th and early 20th centuries proved fertile ground for even the wildest, most unethical experiments and programs. One only has to consider the popularity of eugenics to understand that the scientifically learned and the politically and financially powerful people of the world were keen to use "science" to further subjugate and control most of the population. However, the creation of ape-men wasn't even on the Soviet radar. It was 20th-century creationists who began promoting the false story as a means of strengthening their arguments against evolution.
According to researcher Eric Michael Johnson, the creationist publications were basing their claims on a single journal article written by Russian scientist, Kirill Rossiianov. Since academic journals are typically peer-reviewed, the source seemed legitimate, until one read the original article and realized that Rossiianov was writing about the earlier Russian scientist, Ilya Ivanov, who had indeed conducted or attempted to conduct some experiments on artificially inseminating female chimpanzees with human sperm, as well as inseminating human females with chimpanzee sperm. Stalin's name, influence, or approval are nowhere to be found in the Ivanov case or the Rossiianov article. It is quite likely that Stalin either knew nothing about it or read about it in the newspapers, just like everyone else.
If It Wasn't Stalin, Who Led The Man-Ape Hybrid Crusade?
Ilya Ivanov was a highly respected scientist with a keen dedication to the wild and wonderful new world of scientific possibilities brought on at the turn of the 20th century. Despite – or maybe because of – his passion, Ivanov didn't necessarily ask if something should be done, even if it was technically possible. So, he had a bit of a problem with ethics. However, most of his career was spent working with livestock, improving horse breeding, and he became known across the world for his studies and successes with artificial insemination. Indeed, he was able to produce hybrids in livestock, including a zebra/donkey mix known as the "zeedonk."
Moreover, anyone who thinks that Soviet leadership convinced Ivanov to explore the possibilities of human-ape hybrids needs to look further back in Ivanov's past, since he was talking, writing, and lecturing about a possible human-ape crossbreed as early as 1910.
During the heady years following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Ivanov thought the time might be right to approach the new regime for funding. This was not to develop super warriors, but to conduct general artificial insemination procedures similar to those he had already done; though, of course, this time it would be far more controversial since humans were involved. He didn't get much support, and none of it came from Stalin. In 1926, the Soviet government, specifically the Soviet Financial Commission, along with the approval of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, awarded him the equivalent of $10,000 to explore the human-ape hybrid possibilities. So prestigious was the event that famed scientist Ivan Pavlov was present for the occasion.
Ilya Ivanov First Inseminated Female Chimps With Human Sperm
Armed with his newfound grant money, Ivanov and his team arrived at a research station in French Guinea in March 1926. At the research station, local hunters would poach chimpanzees in the wild and bring them back to scientists in order for them to perform their experiments. Eventually, Ivanov wound up with three juvenile female chimpanzees, which were soon inseminated with human sperm. After this failed – determined to use his funding and the limited time that he had – Ivanov decided to inseminate unknowing African women with chimpanzee sperm. However, his plan was rejected by the General Governor of French Guinea, Paul Poiret, and Ivanov was forced to return to Russia. No matter, he had another plan in mind.
Back In Russia, Five Women Volunteered For Insemination With Chimpanzee Sperm
Back home in Russia, Ivanov went about implementing his newest scheme in creating a human-ape hybrid.
To that end, he had sent over from Africa 20 female and male chimpanzees. The idea was to form a Soviet chimp nursery. Unfortunately, all but four of the animals died before arriving in Russia, mainly due to the cold European winter. He brought the remaining four to a warmer region of the USSR. Then, Ivanov managed to convince five local women to agree to artificial insemination with chimpanzee sperm. However, he was – yet again – unable to carry out the experiment since the final four chimpanzees died shortly after arriving.