The Soviet "ape-man" was an attempt to create a "super soldier" or similar being in the early 1920s. The brainchild of dictator Joseph Stalin and a leading zoologist, the experiment involved the artificial insemination of chimpanzees with human donor sperm; the resulting failure of the experiment led Stalin to exile the scientist involved.
Bled by World War I, the Russian Civil War, and the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin sought to replenish his army with men who were "resistant to pain and indifferent to the food they eat." Aware of earlier experiments of cross-species hybrids, Stalin set the task to create these "ape-men" to a brilliant scientist, Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, a graduate and professor of Kharkov University.
Ivanov created a sensation in 1901 by perfecting and using the relatively new process of artificial insemination, which allowed him to increase herds (horses in his experiments) from a normal 30 foals per season by one stallion to 500 or more. He also was a pioneer in hybrid production, i.e. crossing domestic or wild animals with related wild species; one of his creations was the zeedonk, a cross between a zebra and Przewalski’s horse.
The first suggestion of a human-ape hybrid was given by Ivanov in 1910 at the World Congress of Zoologists in Graz, Austria. Believing in the concept of evolution, he theorized that humans and chimpanzees were so closely-related that a hybrid could be produced; in 1924 he secured permission from the Pasteur Institute in Paris to go to French Guinea and use the experimental primate station in Kindia, getting funding from the Soviet Academy of Sciences as well as the approval of Stalin. Due to the lack of sexually-mature chimpanzees, Ivanov was forced to continue his experiments in Conakry, as well as returning to the Soviet Union to continue his work there. In each experiment, the chimps failed to become pregnant.
Other than to create a race of dull, yet obedient, slaves and soldiers, both Stalin's and Ivanov's motives had been to confirm evolution as a fact, and a belief in a creation by God to have been fantasy. Ivanov may also have been tainted by racism; while in Africa, he used human sperm from the native population under the belief that Africans were closer to chimpanzees than himself, a Caucasian. A December 5, 1925 article in a Soviet newspaper from Leningrad stated:
- The task of the Ivanov expedition was simple. It was to go to the Congo and, if possible, induce the French Pasteur station working there under Professor Calmette to assist the Bolshevist scientists to catch a number of female chimpanzee apes. After this, Ivanov and his staff would endeavor to fertilize the apes by artificial methods and bring back the mothers with their little human apes to gladden the hearts of the anti-God Society in Soviet Russia and prove that "There is no God."
Ivanov's grand experiment proved an expensive and colossal failure, and Stalin quietly shelved the information obtained. In 1930, Ivanov became a victim in one of many purges, and he was sent off to exile in Kazhakstan, where he died a year later.