Video Crash Course

Today is the 1st of November and we are exactly six days from the 100th Anniversary of the October Revolution. For this special occasion, we are officially launching the best part of the “History of Russia in 100 Minutes”  – a video course.


SmartHistories Youtube 2560x1440px_19

Check out also the rest of the website that just went through a complete redisign. And  don’t forget to subscribe to the Youtube channel!




Cross-Breeding Humans With Apes in the Soviet Union

In the summer of 1926, a sensational news made headlines internationally about a soviet scientist Ivanov experimenting the cross-breeding of humans with apes.

The experiment corresponded with the Soviet utopian beliefs in creating a new kind of Socialist mankind. It was both frightening and fascinating to the world. What was Stalin up to now?

Dr. Frankenstein

Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov (1870-1932), a professor at the Kharkov University, was a world’s leading specialist in artificial insemination (AI). He created cross-breeding techniques that were so successful that he was able to inseminate 500 mares with the semen of a single stallion. He had also created a zeedonk (a hybrid of zebra and donkey), a zubron (hybrid of European bison and cow) and several successful variations of rats, mice and guinea pigs.

In the 1910 World Congress of Zoologists in Graz, Austria he had already introduced his readiness to create a humanzee – a hybrid of human and chimpanzee. This idea found support by numerous internationally acclaimed scientists.

By 1924 his proposals to the Soviet government were approved and he received a grant of 10,000 dollars to conduct the hybrid ape-men experiments in West Africa. That was a colossal amount by today’s standards.

In February 1926 Ivanov set sail for French Guinea and on his way made a visit to the Paris Pasteur Institute where he was eagerly encouraged and granted access to the new primate centre in French Guinea.

The Chimpanzee Experiments

As none of the chimps was mature enough to breed, Ivanov returned to Paris in the summer of 1926 where he met Dr Serge Voronoff. Voronoff was the proponent of the controversial rejuvenation therapy. He implanted slices of ape testicles into those of rich and ageing men to restore their sexual function. It was very fashionable these days and made him a rich man.

With the help of Voronoff Dr. Ivanov transplanted a woman’s ovary into a female chimp named Nora and then inseminated her with a human sperm. That was a sensation.

In November 1926 Ivanov returned to Guinea to conduct three more inseminations of human sperm to chimpanzees. None of these experiments gave any positive results, mainly because he had too few test monkeys.

A change of strategy was inevitable. He then had the idea to transplant a chimpanzee sperm to a human. For that, he needed only one male ape donor and a volunteer woman. Local Guinea women would be just a perfect subjects of the experiment, but they would never say yes. Ivanov then proposed the idea to conduct the insemination experiment under the pretext of routine medical examination. He found no ethical problem there. Luckily he was turned down by the local authorities.


SmartHistories Youtube 2560x1440px_12


Back in the USSR

Ivanov then returned to the Soviet Union with 20 collected chimps and a plan to create a primate centre in Sukhumi, Georgia. Unfortunately only four chimps survived the voyage.

He was now facing a hard task of finding volunteer Soviet women who would sacrifice themselves for the sake of Soviet science and give birth to the human-ape hybrid baby. In 1928 Dr. Ivanov was approached by a woman from Leningrad. She (named just “G”. in the medical records) said that after a divorce she had nothing left to lose. Altogether five volunteers showed up.

The sperm donor was a 26-year old Orangutan male named Tarzan. Dr. Ivanov had all hopes on him, but in 1929 the was diagnosed brain haemorrhage and died.

While Dr. Ivanov was desperately looking for a replacement donor the political climate in Moscow had changed. Stalin’s purges had reached the circles of scientists and Ivanov was no exception.

He was arrested in 1930 and sentenced to five years of exile to Alma Ata. After release in 1932 he died of a stroke.

Big Announcement

The book “History of Russia in 100 Minutes” will be available for beta readers on 15 March 2017. As you all know, it is also the 100th Anniversary of Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication and the end of Russian Empire. The big book launch event will be held in May 2017.


The Spaceman Who Crashed into the Earth

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the October Revolution. Let’s go back in time to see how it was celebrated 50 years ago in the Soviet Union, in both its grandiosity and its horror.

The funeral of Vladimir Komarov. Unknown author (26 April 1967).

Space Victory

The year was 1967. To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution, the authorities of the Politburo were keen to hold up another victory that could make news headlines worldwide.

It was decided that two manned space missions – Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 2 – would be launched to achieve a space rendezvous and send greetings to the world. This would be capped by the pilots’ spacewalking to exchange places, and then return in triumph. The mission was set to take place on 1 May 1967, the National Day of Workers’ Solidarity.

Vladimir Komarov’s official portrait

But there was one big problem – most of the engineers knew that the mission was impossible to complete safely by that time. Recent test-launches had failed, as the technology had many errors that needed to be fixed. Proceeding in the face of this meant that the pilots would likely die on the mission.


Vladimir Komarov was the pilot who was summoned to this mission. He was the most experienced Soviet cosmonaut, a close friend of Yuri Gagarin, and an accomplished engineer.

SmartHistories Youtube 2560x1440px_12

Together with Gagarin, Komarov identified no less than 203 problems related to the Soyuz 1 spacecraft, detailed in a 10-page memo that demanded the mission be postponed. While it’s questionable as to whether this memo was sent, it’s beyond dispute that it never made it to the Kremlin.

“I’m not going to make it back from this flight”
-Vladimir Komarov

Just a few days prior to the launch, a KGB agent, Venyamin Russayev, claimed to have overheard Komarov say, “I’m not going to make it back from this flight”. Despite the fact that he had extreme misgivings about the mission, it was virtually impossible for him to refuse the honor, knowing that his friend, Yuri Gagarin was designated the backup pilot.

The Flight

Soyuz 1, piloted by Vladimir Komarov, was launched from Baikonur Space Centre on 23 April 1967 at 3:35 AM. Although the spaceship entered the satisfactory orbit of 220 km per hour, serious problems occurred soon after. One of the two solar panels did not deploy, meaning the craft lost half of its power and could not regain it. Backup telemetry antenna failed to open, so the navigation equipment could not properly function. The spacecraft started spinning as a result, making it hard to maintain control, even in Komarov’s experienced hands. Komarov’s only option was to attempt to orient the spacecraft manually, by referring to the earth’s horizon.


After five hours of struggle, the control center decided that Soyuz 2 would not be launched. The mission was adjusted to focus entirely on getting Komarov safely home.

On his 19th orbit, Komarov somehow managed to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Although it was a long-shot, there was still a chance that he could survive.

According to Russayev, during the brief window when communications functioned, Komarov was telephoned by the Prime Minister, Alexey Kosygin to say that he was a hero.

The remains of Soyuz 1 immediately after the crash. Unknown author (24 April 1967).

While the spacecraft was approaching the Earth – at the speed of 1,450 km per hour – its emergency parachutes failed to open. Soyuz 1 hit the ground with the force of a 2.8-ton meteorite.


Vladimir Komarov was honored in a state funeral that took place just three days after the accident.

Today another fifty years have passed and we no longer celebrate the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution with heroic space missions. Nor is there a sign of communism or Soviet Union anywhere to be found. But today we still do remember Vladimir Komarov’s space mission that was one of the most tragic in the history of mankind.


rarehistoricalphotos. com
wikimedia commons
wikimedia commons

Honorary Guest Editors

Two days before New Year’s Eve of 2016 I mailed several printed paragraphs of my book to a list of very very special people. I asked for honest opinion, comments and corrections. I urged them to be very rough on the text.

The people that I carefully selected, are the best of the very very best in research of Russian history. The utmost top experts of Russian history, whose own publications are landmarks in researching Russian history.

This week has been one of the best in my life because the first three letters have arrived and they offer some very valuable comments from those authors. The overall feedback has been positive and I am literally dancing and singing here right now!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!



The Women’s Battalion of Death

Female war heroes – from aviators to soldiers – line the pages of many Russian history books. Among them, Maria Bochkareva came to be known as “the Jeanne d’Arc of Russia” for her bravery during the First World War.

Equally known for founding the Women’s Battalion of Death and for her bravery during the First World War, Maria Bochkareva was revered until her death, by firing squad, in May 1920.

Despite her modest upbringing – coming from a family of peasants and being near illiterate – Bochkareva earned medals for personal bravery in battle, was adored internationally by prominent feminists, and was personally hosted in the White House by President Woodrow Wilson, and supported by King George V.

Maria Bochkareva. Photo by Boris Losin (22 November 1917).

Maria Bochkareva

Her childhood was rife with challenges. Born near Novgorod in 1889, Bochkareva’s early years were marked by physical abuse from her alcoholic father, Leonty. From the age of 8, her family moved to Tomsk, Siberia with the hope of securing land. There, Maria was expected to work hard to help support her family.

Years later, after a failed marriage with a violent alcoholic, Afanasy Bochkarev, Maria ended up working in a local brothel. She experienced major depression to the point where she planned to take her life. Determined to drink a bottle of vinegar after locking herself in a brothel room, Bochkareva was stopped at the last minute by Yakov Buk – who was known primarily as a “Jewish crook”.

SmartHistories Youtube 2560x1440px_12

Eventually, Bochkareva married Buk, who – subsequently – was involved in criminal activities and was arrested several times for trafficking, robbery, and even for an attempted murder. By the end of 1913, Bochkareva was at a personal crossroad: She was too poor to leave Yakov and too depressed to stay with him.

Women’s Death Battalion Petrograd Unit at Camp. Unknown author (summer of 1917).

In a twist of fate, World War I offered Bochkareva an opportunity to start a new life, with a renewed sense of purpose. Although it was unthinkable at the time, Bochkareva volunteered to become a soldier in the Russian army. Her persistence culminated in dictating a personal petition to the Tsar in 1914. To everyone’s surprise, Nicholas II replied to her petition, granting permission to fight in the Imperial Army.

Soon after, Bochkareva was recruited to the 25th Tomsk Reserve Battalion, where, at first, she had to endure ridicule and harassment by her fellow male soldiers.

“The news of a woman recruit had preceded me at the barracks and my arrival there precipitated a riot of fun. The men assumed that I was a loose-moraled woman who had made her way into the ranks for the sake of carrying on her illicit trade.

– Maria Bochkareva

Women’s Death Battalion. Unknown author (summer of 1917).

Proving her courage on the battlefield, Yashka – as she was called – received three orders for bravery. Through the course of rescuing approximately fifty wounded soldiers from the battlefield – despite her injuries – she refused to let doctors amputate her own flesh wounds to aid her recovery.

Women’s Battalion of Death

The February Revolution gave rise to new leaders who were keen to continue the war effort. Bochkareva made a strong and early impression on Mikhail Rodzianko, who saw great potential in her. When she revealed her dream to form the first women’s battalion under the Imperial Army, the War Minister, Alexander Kerensky immediately granted her permission and furthered her cause through funding.


It was an immediate success that saw more than 2,000 women turn up as volunteers. After a notoriously tough training regimen, nearly 300 of the most enthusiastic fighters remained in the Bochkareva battalion and were sent to the front lines. Near the town of Smarhon, they participated in a major battle as part of the Kerensky Offensive in the summer of 1917.

Imprisonment and Escape

Maria Botchkareva and her 300 female fighters were at the front line at the beginning of the October Revolution.

When Bochkareva returned to Tomsk, she was arrested by the Bolsheviks for attempting to cooperate with Lavr Kornilov, the general of the White Army. Though sentenced to public execution, Maria was, miraculously, saved by a fellow soldier. She then escaped to Vladivostok, where she persuaded the English ambassador to send her to the United States on a ferry in April 1918.

Maria Bochkareva. Unknown author, unknown date.

In the United States and Great Britain

Maria Bochkareva was welcomed to the United States as a celebrity. It was there that she published her biography, with the help of Florence Harriman, entitled “Yashka: My Life as Peasant, Exile, and Soldier As told to Isaac Don Levine”. Bochkareva also travelled the country, advocating for foreign military aid for the Russian Whites to help them overthrow the Bolsheviks. According to Bochkareva, President Woodrow Wilson allegedly shed a tear and promised to send help after hearing about the details of the miserable state Russia was in.

After receiving funds from King George V to return to Tomsk, Bochkareva attempted to establish a new women’s battalion under the command of Alexander Kolchak‘s White Army. During this time, she was captured by the troops of Mikhail Frunze, interrogated for four months, and eventually shot by the Soviet secret police, Cheka, in May 1920.



Pepsi Had Its Own Soviet War Fleet

It goes without saying that all the big things start small. The multi-billion-dollar deal that Pepsi Company had with the Soviet government (featuring Pepsi, vodka, and submarines), also started from that small sip of Pepsi that is captured here in this photo.

From left: Donald M. Kendall, Nikita Khrushchev, Richard Nixon, Kliment Voroshilov and Anastas Mikoyan near the Pepsi booth at the American National Exhibition. Unknown author (24 July 1959).

The American National Exhibition

In the midst of the Cold War, when the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had not yet visited the United States and Richard Nixon was only a Vice-President, there was an event called the American National Exhibition in Moscow. The American Government had organized this large-scale exhibition in Moscow Sokolniki Park to showcase the latest consumer products and capitalist achievements to the Soviet public. It was July the 24th, 1959.

The American National Exhibition Hall. Unknown author (July 1959).

First Skeptical Sip of Pepsi

The exhibition is primarily famous for the Kitchen Debate. But it also provided other historical moments of almost equal importance. One of them took place just moments before Khrushchev and Nixon entered the famous kitchen. Nixon steered the Soviet Premier, who was visibly hot and sweating, to the nearby Pepsi stand.

The booth was run by Donald M. Kendall, the head of Pepsi’s overseas operations and also a good friend of Richard Nixon. Kendall then served the Soviet leader Pepsi asking, whether he preferred a bottle of the drink as produced in New York or one made using local Moscow water.

SmartHistories Youtube 2560x1440px_12

Khrushchev, predictably, chose the local one and thereafter took his first  skeptical sip of Pepsi from the cup that Kendall offered. He then tried the foreign one and immediately urged everyone to “Drink the Pepsi-Cola made in Moscow. It is much better than the Pepsi made in the U.S.”

From left: Donald M. Kendall, Nikita Khrushchev, Richard Nixon, Kliment Voroshilov, Anastas Mikoyan. Unknown author (24 July 1959).

It was, of course, a perfect marketing opportunity for the company. “I had to get a Pepsi in Khrushchev’s hands, or I’m in the doghouse back home,” Kendall remembered. “I had to get a picture.” The photo that was quickly taken was later made a central piece at the marketing campaign, that used the slogan “The Sociables prefer Pepsi” at that time.

Official Soda of the Cold War

It took Kendall another thirteen years, and state-level help from President Nixon, to see the Khrushchev moment finally pay off. On November the 16th 1972, under Kendall, who was now a chief executive, Pepsi finally stroke a barter deal with the Soviet government, that was a dream come true for the company. The PepsiCo was to trade its cola syrup for Stolichnaya vodka. By that, Pepsi became the first capitalist consumer product to be entirely produced, marketed and sold in the Soviet Union.

Label of Soviet Pepsi

In 1974, the first Pepsi plant was opened in Novorossiysk and the mass distribution was ready to start in 1979. It was a massive deal and it gave Pepsi an important advantage over Coca-Cola in the global Cola Wars.

Pepsi Cans for Military Submarines

In 1989, the initial deal between the government of the Soviet Union and PepsiCo was about to expire and a new three-billion-dollar deal was made.

This time the vodka bottles were not enough to pay for the soda and Russia used what it had plenty of at that time – military equipment.

Altogether 17 submarines, a cruiser, a frigate and a destroyer were given to the Pepsi Company in return for the constant flow of sugary drink that the Soviet people had learned to love so much.

Pepsi Booth in the Soviet Union. Unknown author (1989).

The acquisition of those submarines made PepsiCo – at least for a few days – the 6th largest military power in the world by the number of its diesel submarines. These vessels were then quickly sold to a Swedish company for recycling.

The Cola Wars

Nevertheless, all this was not enough to beat Coca-Cola in the Cola Wars. The huge advantage in the Soviet Union turned into a disadvantage in only a few years as the Soviet system collapsed in Eastern Europe. People now welcomed genuinely western brands that had no connection with the Soviet past.

This, combined with many other flops, gave the Coca-Cola Company an advantage and PepsiCo, despite having invested over 19 billion dollars in Russia, is made to retreat on all fronts.

Pepsi ad beside an Ice cream booth in Zayeltsovsky Park, Novosibirsk. Unknown author (2016).



The Secret World of Richard Nixon

Wikimedia Commons