Irina Sirotkina

AdMarginem: The controversial history of Nikolai Bernstein’s [unpublished] book, Contemporary Inquiries into the Physiology of the Nervous Process

Jahrbuch 2012 der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Sportwissenschaft e. V.: N. A. Bernstein versus I. P. Pavlov — “‘bedingte Reflexe’ revisited”. Hr. Jürgen Court, Eberhard Loosch, Arno Müller (Studien zur Geschichte des Sports. Ban 15) Münster: Lit Verlag Dr W. Hopf Berlin, 2014. P. 29–44.
The author hesitated: he introduced an epigraph from Stalin but later circled it in red and scribbled on the margins, “Do not print!” He did the same with the last phrase of the book, which expressed gratitude to “the person whose words begin the book” – that is, to Stalin. On the yellow pages with broken edge-line there are numerous marks in red, blue and black pencil or in light-blue and violet ink: the editor, proof readers, the author and, perhaps, his critically minded friends, all left their notes on the margins. The editing developed into a long and painful process of doubt and reflection; the author kept altering the manuscript substantially even at the proof stage. Allegedly, finally, he decided not to publish the book and ordered the press to destroy the typeset. The only copy that ever existed is the proofs now lying in front of me.

The book, Contemporary Inquiries into the Physiology of the Nervous Process, by Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bernstein, remained unpublished for almost seventy years. Bernstein’s student, Iosif Moiseevich (Josef) Feigenberg, preserved the manuscript and, in the new century, initiated its publication. There were rumours that several people read Bernstein’s book: someone had photographed all the pages with a camera (in the Soviet Union, it was the pre-Xerox era), and the copy passed from hand to hand. The majority of scientists, however, did not know that the book survived, and its publication in the twenty-first century appeared almost a miracle. The mystery of the book was all the greater because it dared to criticise Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, the first Russian Nobel Prize winner. Judging by the book’s title, it contained an up-to-date overview of theories of nervous control. Yet, throughout the book, the author criticised the theory of conditional reflexes as erroneous and passé. In the Soviet Union after the Great Break, this was a risky affair. Just before the book was due to appear, Pavlov was praised at the International Physiology Congress which, in 1935, took place in Moscow and Leningrad. Any critique of the figurehead of Russian science inevitably became a political action. Moreover, the death of the “alderman of world physiology”, in February 1936, made the book an ethical deed: De mortuis aut bene aut nihil.

According to Bernstein’s sister-in-law, medical researcher and close assistant, Tatiana Sergeevna Popova, Nikolai Aleksandrovich wished not to insult Pavlov’s memory and therefore cancelled the publication. Her words were passed down, creating a legend to which the author of this paper has also contributed. In addition, for a long time it was not known when exactly Bernstein took his dramatic decision (let us assume that he did it): immediately after Pavlov’s death or some time later. When Josef Feigenberg made the copy available to the public, it became clear that at least in April 1936, two months after Pavlov’s death, Bernstein still wanted to publish the book and worked on the proofs. Indeed, in the concluding part (p. 425), he referred to “the deceased academician Pavlov”. Nevertheless, for some reason, the publication kept being delayed, it was rescheduled to 1937 and finally did not happen at all. To understand the reasons, let us reconstruct the chronology of events and examine briefly the relationship between the younger scientist and the “alderman of physiology”.
My task is facilitated by the fact that several researchers have written on the subject. Josef Feigenberg told the story of the book both in his preface to its 2003 edition and in his excellent biography of Bernstein. Yet the biographers did not pay sufficient attention to the moment – which happened to stretch in time – when Pavlov was already dead, and Bernstein still wanted to publish the book. I believe that this moment of indecision or delay could throw additional light on the story – a pause is sometimes more eloquent than words. And, in this particular pause, a lot of things happened both in Bernstein’s life and in the country’s history.

We do not know when Bernstein and Pavlov met, and there is no direct evidence that they met at all. According to Feigenberg (who does not quote any particular source), the Muscovite Bernstein went to Leningrad to see Pavlov’s laboratory in 1924. At this time the young scientist worked in the Central Institute of Labour where he studied biomechanics of movements. He registered and examined in particular two worker’s operations, the hammer stroke and chiselling. Already during his second year in the Institute, the results of his research had led him to some hypothesis about motor control. These hypotheses differed from what the theory of the conditional reflex could offer. Bernstein therefore started questioning Pavlov’s concept as inadequate for explaining the way movements are organised or, in Bernstein’s own terms, “constructed” or “built”. By contrast, the Institute director, Aleksei Gastev, tended to accept the theory of conditional reflexes as the basis for movement studies within the Institute’s walls. A gifted person – poet, metal worker, and utopian thinker – Gastev was not confident as a scientist. In opposition to Pavlov, Bernstein argued that a theory made to explain salivation in dogs was not relevant to wilful and pursposeful human movements. On 9 May 1924, he gave a talk, “Work training and conditional reflexes”, at the Institute’s seminar. There he warned to use cautiously “the theory of salivary reflexes for interpreting the mechanisms of work training”. By contrast with classical conditioning in dogs, in which the conditional reaction is identical with the unconditional one, when a person acquires a skill, unconditional reflexes play a much lesser role. All in all, human movement is much more complex than any of the conditional reflexes the Pavlovians studied, and motor activity could become an “excellent, promising indicator for studying the processes in the central nervous system”, much better than the salivary glands.

As a result of his disagreement with Gastev, soon afterwards Bernstein left the Central Institute of Labour. Yet he found there a subject for life-long research: from now on, he examined the co-ordination and regulation of movements on the basis of nervous commands, feedback from the moving organs, and the sensory corrections to them. During the next fifteen years, Bernstein changed employers several times: the Institute of Experimental Psychology (1925-1927), the Institute for the Protection of Labour (1927-1933), the Institute for Music Studies (1926-1940), and the Central Institute of Handicapped Work (1932-1941). In November 1933, he was invited to join the All-Union Institute for Experimental Medicine (AIEM) where he headed the laboratory for movement physiology. When the laboratory expanded into a larger unit – a section, with two laboratories, one for the physiology of movements and the other for the pathophysiology of movements – he headed the latter and passed the former laboratory over to Tatiana Popova. At that particular period, and giving the opportunities the Institute of Experimental Medicine provided, Bernstein intended to analyse pathological gaits in order to reveal the laws of normal walking. Unfortunately, we do not know how the invitation to the AIEM came about, but we can suggest that Bernstein’s reputation as an innovative physiologist and a pioneer of biomechanics in Russia had played a role. And, in the early 1930s, his resistance to Pavlov’s ideas was neither well known nor as compromising as it became a few years later.

Pavlov’s role in the history of the Institute for Experimental Medicine is well established: in 1891, he was appointed head of its Physiology Department, in 1904 he received the Nobel Prize for the work on digestion carried out in the Institute, and by 1913 he was elected its Honorary Director. He continued to work at the Institute through its re-organisation under to Soviets, the most drastic of which took place in 1932. In that year, on 7 October, the writer, Maxim Gorky, hosted at his house the legendary meeting of Stalin, Molotov and Voroshilov with the scientists who wanted substantially to refurbish the Institute. Henceforth, the All-Union Institute of Experimental Medicine (AIEM) no longer expanded from Leningrad to several other cities, and its administration moved to Moscow (it was now administered directly by the SovNarKom, the cabinet of Soviet ministers). The new objective of the Institute was to “set up wide and comprehensive research of ... human organism … in concrete social environment”. The reformers envisaged strengthening its academic and theoretical sides, using the latest achievements of chemistry and physics, and modernising its equipment and research methodology. Already in his eighties, Pavlov could hardly be seen as the leader of such a large-scale reorganisation. Besides, he let the authorities know how he despised the official philosophy, dialectical materialism, and the ambitions of Party ideologists to prescribe the scientists what to do. In all other respects, Pavlov had no reason to complain: since 1926, he had been comfortably installed in Koltushi, with everything necessary for his life and work.

When the AIEM headquarters opened in Moscow in 1934, there was a talk about organising a public debate between Pavlov and Bernstein. We do not know why this did not happen. And then it was too late: on 1 December, Sergei Kirov, the charismatic Party leader, was murdered in Leningrad. The repression was immediate and terrifying: in only two months, nine hundred persons were arrested, and later in 1935 thousands of intelligentsia were imprisoned or exiled. Leningrad was the most affected, and the AIEM received its share of repression. On 21 December Pavlov wrote in a protest letter to Molotov: “…I see great resemblance between our life and Asiatic despotisms… Those who wickedly condemn masses of people to death and realise the sentence with satisfaction, can hardly remain human beings… Those who are tranformed into cowed animals can hardly keep their human dignity… Have mercy for our motherland and us!” Yet the arrests of intelligentsia continued. In January 1935, at the AIEM, the Section for Folk (Oriental) Medicine was closed down; eventually, its head, N.N. Badmaev and his colleagues, specialists in Tibetan medicine, were arrested and shot dead. In February and March there were the first arrests in the AIEM: of A.I. Kuznetsov, head of the Vaccination and Serum Section, and I.A. Remezov, head of the Physical Chemistry and Electrochemisty Section. On 17 March Pavlov sent his second letter to Molotov in which he continued to defend Leningradian intelligentsia, including his daughter-in-law’s family, the Miklashevky. And on 12 July he wrote another letter, in support of I.M. Sechenov’s niece, Maria Lemnitskaya who was repressed as a widow of a tsarist army general. In response to his protests, there was some mitigation. Pavlov knew what the game was about: the authorities set out a role for him at the International Physiology Congress which was to take place in Moscow and Leningrad in August 1935. He agreed to be cheered and praised at the congress receiving the title of “the first physiologist of the world”. Internationally know physiologists, including D. Barcroft, W. Gantt, L. Lapique, W.B. Cannon, O. Frank, A.V. Hill and others visited Pavlov’s laboratories in Koltushi and named it “the capital of conditional reflexes”.

Bernstein also took part in the Congress, co-chairing the Section on Work Physiology with the Nobel Prize winner, Archibald Vivian Hill,at the time the secretary of the Royal Society of London, and the French physiologist and psychologist, Henri Piéron. The Section opened with Bernstein’s talk on the physiology and pathology of movements and continued with two more papers by the AIEM employees, K. Kekcheev («Proprioception and its role in motor action») and D. Shatenshtein («The analysis of the impact of the central nervous system on physiological processes during work»).

The medical doctor and researcher, Lev Lazarevich Shik – then a very young man – also assisted at the Congress. Many years later he recalled how he accompanied Bernstein home after the gala-concert at the Bolshoi Theatre in honour of the congress participants. It was a warm August night; both men were under impressions from the concert of arias, folk songs and ballet pieces. Bernstein shared with his young colleague his thoughts about brain localisation. Although phrenology had been declared a pseudo-science, he said, its founder, Franz Gall, was basically correct. He made only one mistake -- choosing which functions to locate and claiming that for each function there should be a special bump of the skull. Gall believed there was a bump of mathematics or a bump of stinginess. What was needed, Bernstein commented, was to modernise our views of the functions. Pavlov failed to do this: as in the old days, he conceived of a one-to-one correspondence between a function and a neurone in the brain; in this way, he did not differ much from Gall. By contrast, Bernstein envisaged brain organisation as much more complex and sophisticated. He had in mind a new theoretical framework, the outlines of which he drew in his book.

The Physiological Congress came and went. In November 1935 there was the First All-Soviet Meeting of Stakhanovites; it was clear that it would give another pretext for repression. Stalin opened the meeting with his speech, a passage from which Bernstein first chose as an epigraph to his book and then deleted. At the meeting the workers “criticised” specialists in psychotechnics who, fixing the norms for the length of work intervals, made the intervals too long. One head of a railway station, N.A. Pichugin, claimed that “the idle scientists who found themselves comfortable hide-outs in academic institutes and management departments of the NKPS (the Railway Ministry), to our shame, diminished our capabilities by exaggerating rest norms. At the moment, Comrade Kaganovich has unmasked these idle scientists”. The leader of psychotechnics, Isaak Spil’rein, has been “unmasked” and arrested earlier in that year. Repression against the scientific community continued. On 8 December 1935 Pavlov wrote his last letter to Molotov asking to “return to their home just a few persons from a large group who suffer innocently”. Protesting against repression, Pavlov rejected the authorities’ request to him to speak at the General Meeting of the Academy of Sciences. And, a few weeks later, on 27 February 1936, he died.

In March 1936, an obituary by Pavlov’s former student and close colleague, P.K. Denisov, was published in the Herald of the Academy of Sciences. Titled, “A great materialist, scientist, and citizen”, it became one of the first landmarks in Pavlov’s canonisation. For Bernstein, Pavlov’s death presented a trial. His book, the result of long and thorough labour, had been typeset. Both he and professional proof-readers checked the proofs against the manuscript after Pavlov’s death, and the editor made his final remarks. Hardly surprisingly, the editor now questioned Bernstein’s critique of Pavlov. In response to the editorial comments, Bernstein rephrased some of his most critical and ironic statements while keeping his arguments.

Bernstein’s objections to Pavlov were made from the point of view of a mathematician rather than a physiologist. (Although very knowledgeable about what had been done in his own area of physiology, Bernstein himself never made vivisection experiments; he studied nervous control indirectly, through movements.) Thinking as a mathematician was to think in models, and Bernstein’s models of control surpassed many existing physiological ones. One of his models was called the “principle of equal simplicity”. Bernstein illustrated it thus: let us take a round mirror, a pair of compasses and an ellipsograph (an instrument for drawing ellipses). Using the round mirror, we can draw a circle of one particular radius, which coincides with the radius of the mirror; by contrast, the pair of compasses can draw a circle of any radius. Like the mirror, the ellipsograph can draw a circle of only one radius but of any eccentricity. And if we want to draw an ellipse, we can make it with the same simplicity with which we drew a circle; by contrast, working with the pair of compasses and the mirror will not achieve this. Thus, we can draw a circle with the radius of the mirror with any of these devices, yet the simplicity with which we draw circles of various radii or various eccentricities differs in each case. In other words, each device has its “line of equal simplicity” where the passage from one element of the executed variety to the next does not alter the simplicity of manipulation. The line corresponds to the device configuration. Bernstein mentioned a story by Leonid Andreev, where a village dean faces the “principle of equal simplicity” when he sees a gramophone. The dean was not able to believe that a gramophone could reproduce with equal simplicity both a chansonette and the voice of the Son of Man (ibid, p. 291-292).

The theory of conditional reflexes, Bernstein argued, explained how connections are made in one particular case: when the conditional stimulus coincides in time or slightly precedes the unconditional one, and when the shape of the conditional response coincides with the shape of the unconditional one. In all other cases the theory faces difficulties and requires amendments. In the introduction to his book, Bernstein described the evolution of scientific theories precisely in these terms. When the theory cannot accommodate a new fact, it, so to say, builds an “attic under the roof” (p. 8). The attic temporarily rescues the building from destruction yet it makes the construction look ugly. This is what happened to the theory of conditional reflexes when it came to explain speech: it had to postulate “the second signal system” on top of the “first one”. Bernstein found Pavlov’s models more than just clumsy – they insulted his aesthetic sense as a mathematician. In particular, he criticised two models central for Pavlov: the first. the reflex in the shape of an open arch (when the impulse passes from the receptor up to the centre and from there down to the effector), and the second, the so-called “cell localisation” (finding for each function a single neurone and the only one centre – a cell – in the brain hemispheres). Bernstein wrote: “I have a funny example [for the second model] in mind. If one of my partners in the imagined conversation [with Pavlov and his pupils, beginning with A.G. Ivanov-Smolensky] had got his own brain hemispheres organised as a one-layer somatotopic projection, and if he acquired the conditional reflex for saying tender words in response to the visual stimulus of his fiancée, he would express his love the more passionately, the brighter she were lit up” (p. 437). Later he crossed out this exceedingly ironic phrase. Similarly, on the editor’s suggestion, Bernstein either deleted or softened his other attacks on Pavlov, replacing the words, «false» with «erroneous» (p. 109), «vice» with «insufficiency», and “absurdity” with “contradiction” (p. 435). Yet, disregarding editorial question marks, he stopped here and would not go any further. Thus, he continued to call Pavlov’s ambitions to explain all nervous activity in terms of conditional reflexes a “great misunderstanding”. «It is a great misunderstanding to interpret the theory of conditional reflexes as a general theory of higher nervous activity and not a doctrine about a group of specific pathophysiological phenomena» (ibid.). With all the reservations and provisos added while correcting the proofs in Spring 1936, he made it unambiguously clear that the theory of conditional reflexes was simply out of date. Throughout his book, Bernstein quoted Pavlov in parallel with Theodor Meynert, the German neurologist of the preceding generation, in order to show that Pavlov repeated Meynert without adding anything new (p. 114-129). Further, by calling the theory of conditional reflexes “associationist”, Bernstein located it in prehistoric times and therefore totally dismissed it.

In the long run, Bernstein was right. In the second half of the twentieth century, his models of control gained him a reputation as the most innovative movement researcher. Alongside a few other physiologists, he transformed the “reflex arc” into the “reflex circle”, and the model became widely accepted. And other features of movement control that he suggested -- co-ordinating degrees of freedom and making adaptive synergies, spreading control into several levels, some of which lead and others serve as a background -- were enthusiastically received. These ideas became classics of motor control studies. At the end of the book, Bernstein suggested his own model of how physiological functions correspond to particular structures: “qualities of the nervous process are not a sum of qualities of various bits of the underlying structure; by contrast, they emerge out of their united, system organisation” (p. 448). This is one of the first attempts to formulate the systems principle that eventually became a new paradigm in the life sciences.

In the politicised circumstances, it certainly played against Bernstein that in his critique of Pavlov he chose “wrong” allies. In the book, he often refers to Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Goldstein, Jacob von Uexküll, and Frederik Buytendijk. Firstly, they were foreigners, and referring to them was not patriotic. Secondly, Pavlov made them his target – for instance, in order to undermine Köhler’s views about Gestalt phenomena, Pavlov started working with primates. The neurologist, Goldstein, and the phenomenologically oriented psychologist, Buytendijk, in their own turn, criticised the conditional reflex for artificiality and called it a laboratory artefact. Bernstein sympathetically quoted both scientists. “It appears – as Goldstein has already noticed – that experimentalists found what they were looking for: to isolated stimuli, they received responses which, providing some tolerance to detail, can be seen as isolated reactions” (p. 246); in Buytendijk’s elegant expression, ‘the reflex is not an element of action, but its extreme case’” (p. 247). These scientists – including Uexküll, who coined the term Umwelt -- believed that the conditional reflex could not describe the organism’s functioning in vivo, in real life, as opposed to in the lab. The “holists” opposed mechanicism, and not materialism; yet the narrow-minded Soviet ideologists labelled them “vitalists” and “idealists”. Although Bernstein drew a boundary between himself and these scientists, were the book to have come out, he would have joined their company. The editor had already marked out his expression, “more dynamic interpretation of phenomena”, as “a touch of idealism” (p. 405).

It appears that Bernstein made the very last corrections when he added a preface (not preserved) and erased the epigraph and the last phrase of the book with thanks to Stalin. In the speech to the Stakhanovites meeting, Stalin said: “Science is called science because it does not recognise fetishes, is not afraid of raising its hand at the old and outliving, and is keen to hear the voice of experience and practice. If things were otherwise, we would have no science at all, would have no, let us say, astronomy and would still have to make do with Ptolemy’s decrepit system; we would have no biology and would have to make do with the legend of Creationism; we would have no chemistry and would have to make do with alchemists’ foretelling” (p. 7). Speaking about scientific theories, Bernstein, however, used the metaphor of becoming old and dying: “each theory goes in its life through three ages. In its youth, the theory brings together and summarises facts accumulated by the time of its birth… Then the mature age comes, the age of predictions and prognoses… And later, after maturity, the inevitable old age arrives” (ibid.). The implication was that the theory of conditional reflexes would die by a “natural death”, therefore opening the way for new conceptions.

The metaphor of dying stood up while Pavlov was alive. But now he could not argue back. And, in his last year – perhaps more than ever in his life – Pavlov had become a moral model, showing integrity, courage and resistance and simply saving people’s lives. At the same time, Stalin’s speech, which Bernstein quoted, served to justify expanding repression. Clearly, Bernstein had nothing to do with it, so he deleted both the quote and the concluding thanks. At the same time, he could not renounce his critical argument against Pavlov’s theory. There was only one way out: not to publish the book. Yet, perhaps, nursing a slight hope for changes, the publication was postponed to 1937. Helas, in July 1936, the infamous “Pedological Decree”, a Party instruction, brought about repression in pedology and child psychology. Several of Bernstein’s colleagues, including Lev Vygotsky, suffered as a result. (Vygotsky was already dead, but his pedological works were taken out of libraries and destroyed.) Repression in the AIEM also continued: in September 1936, the head of the laboratory of experimental psychophysiology, N.N. Nikitin, killed himself and his lab was closed. A few years earlier, he had attacked Pavlov in connection with the notion of the “freedom reflex” and criticised him for understanding “freedom as freedom to slander the Soviet authorities, our Party, all our building of socialism”. There were rumours that Nikitin was mentally disturbed. And in November 1936 there was a direct assault on Bernstein. Polina Spilberg worked in the Movement Physiology Section, which he headed; she wrote an open letter to the Institute’s newspaper accusing her colleague, Dr Farfel, and therefore Bernstein, of mismanagment. Bernstein had to account to the Institute’s director, the Party Bureau and to the newsletter, and to resolve the controversy, a commission of senior members of the Institute was assembled. On 28 March 1937, the newspaper published another article against Bernstein, this time anonymous, and he yet again had to write a long letter to acquit himself and his colleagues of the accusations. Finally, a month later, the newspaper published an article, “On the fight with wrecking and on watchfulness”, a signal of the true devastation of the AIEM. In the summer several leading researchers, including Denisov, Pavlov’s close colleague and the author of his obituary mentioned earlier, was arrested on the accusation of political terrorism. In Leningrad, following mass arrests in the AIEM, whole departments were shut down – of general biology, of developmental pathology, and of X-Ray-and-structural analysis. Bernstein left the Institute in July. By that time no one, including the author himself, could think of resuming the publication of the book.
Thus, the time span between Pavlov’s death and Bernstein’s definitive decision not to publish the book was indeed rich with disasters. The disciplines of psychotechnics and pedology no longer existed, and the life sciences were devastated by arrests of researchers and institutional closure. Although Bernstein could not help respecting Pavlov as a person, his death by itself would not have made him stop the publication. We have seen that Bernstein worked on the proofs well into the spring of 1936, when Pavlov had already passed away. Yet, in the circumstances in which the “alderman of physiologists” became subject to political canonisation, the editor (or editors) required Bernstein either to soften his criticism or to remove it completely. This was against the whole point of the book which the author conceived as overtly polemical, a critical comment to the theory of conditional reflexes, a debate if not with a living scientist than with his ideas (indeed, ideas do not die). But in the historical circumstances the theory of conditional reflexes epitomised the materialist approach to human beings, and any critical comment signalled to the Soviet ideologists and their academic supporters an “idealist” deviation.

To be fair, in 1936, Pavlov had not yet become the scare-crow which he was made into by the organisers of the infamous “Pavlovian” Joint Session of the Academy of Sciences and the Academy of the Medical Sciences in 1950, and he even had a reputation as an opponent to the Bolsheviks. Yet Pavlov was represented as a true materialist, and anyone who criticised him was an enemy. Besides, Bernstein did not hide his sympathy with the alternatives to Pavlov’s approaches, including Gestalttheory, phenomenology and “holism”. In 1936, the press, where Bernstein’s book was to be published, anxiously required the removal of this kind of reference. In the atmosphere of Stalinist terror which started after Kirov’s murder and continued like a snow-ball during following years, editorial notes on the margins were more than comments – they were conditions on which the publication was to be allowed. In these circumstances, Bernstein took the only possible decision for himself: not to publish the book.

Prof. N. Bernstein, Sovremennye iskaniia v fiziologii nervnogo protsessa (Moscow and Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo biologicheskoi i meditsinskoi literatury, 1936), p. 7; 444. The date on the title page is 1936, yet the book was not published at that time, and only the one copy of the proofs exists. I quote here and further on from the proof copy.

N.A. Bernstein, Sovremennye iskaniia v fiziologii nervnogo protsessa. Edited by Josef Feigenberg and Irina Sirotkina (Moscow: Smysl, 2003). I would like to thank Professor Feigenberg for the opportunity to use the proof copy and for his guidance in my early studies of Nikolai Bernstein. I also thank Elena Biryukova and Roger Smith for their comments and constant support.

My interview with Bernstein’s former student, Prof. Viktor Semenovich Gyrfinkel, 21 May 2012, Portland, USA.

«In the early 1930s, Bernstein met Pavlov. Their conversation lasted over three hours, yet they did not come to an understanding. In response to their colleagues’ questions, each of them talked abruptly about the other. Bernstein made his objections to Pavlov explicit in his book, Contempopary Inquiries into the Physiology of the Nervous Process. A discussion was planned at the All-Union Institute for Experimental Medicine. Yet Pavlov did not live to take part in it. When Nikolai Aleksandrovich learned that his opponent would no longer be able to respond, he ordered the press to destroy the type-set». V. Levin, “The Man Who Solved the Puzzle of Living Movement”, Nauka i Zhizn’ 10 (2005)

Irina Sirotkina, “Nikolai Bernstein: the years before and after ‘Pavlovian Session’”, Russian Studies in History, vol. 34, no 2 (1995): 24-36. Quite recently, Josef Feigenberg confirmed the opinion: “I heard the story of Bernstein finally refusing to publish Contemporary Inquires from Tatiana Sergeevna Popova. I remember the pencil marks on the margins. It seems to me they were made by a person who was thinking like N.A. [Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bernstein] but believed that harsh criticism of the late Pavlov was in those circumstances untimely. And N.A. would not allow misrepresentation in public of what he thought was in fact right. Your suggestion that his refusal to publish in that situation resulted from the discussion with the reviewer, unknown to us but friendly with the author, appears very likely. As to the “danger” of the criticism, I do not think so. The canonisation of “Pavlov’s doctrine” and the real threat to his critics did not begin before late 1940s – early 1950s. I am sure that ethical reasons and not fear made Bernstein stop publication. And the discussion with the friendly opponent (or opponents) naturally took time” (in a letter to the author, April 2012).

Elena Biryukova, “Movement mechanics as a key for understanding nervous control: a historical retrospective”, History of the neurosciences in France and Russia: From Charcot and Sechenov to IBRO. Ed. by J.-G. Barbara, J.-C. Dupont, I. Sirotkina (Paris: Hermann, 2011), p. 195-224; Alex Kozulin, Psychology in Utopia : Toward a Social History of Soviet Psychology (Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press, 1984), p. 62-82; Luciano Mecacci, Brain and History: The Relationship Between Neurophysiology and Psychology in Soviet Research (New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1979), p. 89-93; Onno G. Meijer, S. Bruijn, “The Loyal dissident: N. A. Bernstein and the double-edged sword of Stalinism”, Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, vol. 16, no. 1 (2007): 206-224; Onno G. Meijer, “Bernstein versus Pavlovianism. An Interpretation”, in Mark L. Latash, Progress in Motor Control. Vol. 2 (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2002), p. 229-250; V.P. Zinchenko, “Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bernstein: psychological physiology”, Stil’ myshleniia: problema istoricheskogo edinstva nauchnogo znaniiz. К 80-letiiu Vladimira Petrovicha Zinchenko (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2011), p. 300-319.

I.M. Feigenberg, Nikolai Bernstein: From the Reflex to the Model of the Future (Moscow: Smysl, 2004).

Ibid, p. 70.

N. Bernstein, “Issledovaniia po biomekhanike udara s pomoshchiiu svetovoi zapisi”, Issledovaniia Tsentral’nogo instituta truda. Vol. 1, no. 1 (1924): 78.

N. Bernstein, “Trudovye trenirovki i uslovnye refleksy. Avtoreferat doklada na seminarii po trudovym ustanovkam TsIT”, Organizatsiia truda, no 4 (1924): 34.

N. Bernstein, Osnovy obshchei fiziologii truda (Moscow, 1940), quoted in Feigenberg, op.cit., p. 70.

T.I. Grekova, K.A. Lange, “Tragicheskie stranitsy istorii Instituta eksperimental’noi meditsiny (20-30-е gody)”, in Repressirovannaia nauka. Ed. by M.G. Yaroshevky. Vol. 2 (Saint-Petersburg: Nauka, 1994), p. 9-23.

Pavlov in a letter to Nikolai Bukharin: “Dialectical materialism is the greatest violation of scientific thought… In its contemporary formulation, dialectical materialism is not a grain different from theology, cosmology and the Inquisition” (1931), quoted in: V.O. Samoilov, “O patriotizme i dissidentsve Pavlova”, Priroda, no. 8 (1999)

Feigenberg, op.cit., p. 92.

N. Kovaleva, S. Mel’chin, A. Stepanov, “’Poshchadite zhe rodinu i nas’. Protesty akademika I.P. Pavlova protiv bol’shevistskikh nasilii”, Istochnik, no 1 (1995): 138–144.

Grekova, Lange, op.cit., p. 15.

Irina Sirotkina, “Vydaiushchiisia fiziolog. Klassik psikhologii? (K 100-letiiu N.A. Bernsteina)”, Psikhologicheskii zhurnal, no. 5 (1996): 116-127.

Pervoe Vsesoiuznoe soveshchanie rabochikh i rabotnits stakhanovtsev. 14—17 noiabria 1935. Stenograficheskii otchet (Moscow: Partizdat, 1935), p. 63.

V.A. Kol’tsova, O.G. Noskova, Yu.N. Oleinik, “I.N. Spil’rein i sovetskaia psikhotekhnika”, Psikhologicheskii zhurnal, vol. 11, no 2 (1990): 111-133.

P.K. Denisov, “Velikii materialist, uchenyi, grazhdanin”, Vestnik AN SSSR, no. 3 (1936): 37-43.

The idea was suggested to me by L.L. Shik in a personal conversation (Moscow, 1987).

N.A. Bernstein, “Problema otnoshenii koordinatsii i lokalizatsii” [1935], in Fiziologiia dvizhenii i aktivnost’. Ed. by O.G. Gazenko, I.M. Feigenberg (Moscow: Nauka, 1966): 266-296.

The International Society of Motor Control awards the Bernstein Prize and publishes the series, Progress in Motor Control, which began with the issue: Vol. 1: Bernstein's Traditions in Movement Studies. Ed. by M.L.Latash (Urbana, IL: Human Kinetics, 1998).

One of the first statements he made in 1935, in “Problema otnoshenii koordinatsii i lokalizatsii”.

“Neither atomism nor holism are able to express the struggle between the primary integrity and the higher structure, which is the core of the nervous process” (p. 444, italics in the original).

А.V. Petrovsky, “Zapret na kompleksnoe issledovanie detstva”, in Repressiropannaia nauka. Ed. by M.G. Yaroshevky. Vol. 1 (Leningrad: Nauka, 1991), p. 126-135.

Irina Sirotkina, Roger Smith, “Russian Federation”, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Psychology. Ed. by David B. Baker (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 412-441.

Quoted in Grekova, Lange, op.cit., p. 17.

Quoted in Feigenberg, op.cit., p. 57-58.

Grekova, Lange, op.cit., p. 17.

For a detailed and balanced examination of Pavlov’s relationships with the Bolsheviks, see: Daniel P. Todes, "Pavlov and the Bolsheviks," History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 17 (1995): 384-386, and Samoilov, op. cit.