How Soviet scientists and pseudoscientists pursued telepathic research, cybernetic simulations, and mass hypnotism over television to control the minds of citizens.
In October 1989, as the Cold War was ending and the Berlin Wall about to crumble, television viewers in the Soviet Union tuned in to the first of a series of unusual broadcasts. “Relax, let your thoughts wander free...” intoned the host, the physician and clinical psychotherapist Anatoly Mikhailovich Kashpirovsky. Moscow's Channel One was attempting mass hypnosis over television, a therapeutic session aimed at reassuring citizens panicked over the ongoing political upheaval—and aimed at taking control of their responses to it. Incredibly enough, this last-ditch effort to rally the citizenry was the culmination of decades of official telepathic research, cybernetic simulations, and coded messages undertaken to reinforce ideological conformity. In Homo Sovieticus, the art and media scholar Wladimir Velminski explores these scientific and pseudoscientific efforts at mind control.
In a fascinating series of anecdotes, Velminski describes such phenomena as the conflation of mental energy and electromagnetism; the investigation of aura fields through the “Aurathron”; a laboratory that practiced mind control methods on dogs; and attempts to calibrate the thought processes of laborers. “Scientific” diagrams from the period accompany the text. In all of the experimental methods for implanting thoughts into a brain, Velminski finds political and metaphorical contaminations. These apparently technological experiments in telepathy and telekinesis were deployed for purely political purposes.
Wladimir Velminski is a Head of the Project History and Theory of Media Regimes in Eastern Europe in the Department of Media Studies at the Bauhaus University Weimar. Previously, Velminski worked at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, at the Universität Zürich, and at ETH Zürich.
Homo Sovieticus analyzes the convergence between culture and experimental science, the point at which mental energy becomes art through a series of relays from the laboratory to the studio. The book demonstrates that the Soviet 'New Man' was missing a crucial limb: the brain. Its conditioning by scientists, politicians, and writers is the focus of Velminski's study.
Sven Spieker, University of California, Santa Barbara
Wladimir Velminski illuminates an obscure but deeply influential stratum in the history of social control. By examining a series of Soviet patents, concepts, fictions, and events he demonstrates the deep-set cultural and scientific belief that minds, souls, and ultimately entire nations might be manipulated through the combined applications of technology and telepathy.