Stranger Than Fiction: The Soviet Union Tried to Create an Army of Hybrid Ape-Men
03.21.13 by BJSprecher
The Cold War was one of the most frightening periods of American history, a roughly 44-year period marked by tense relations with the Soviet Union and the constant threat of mutually assured destruction. During the 13-day Cuban missile crisis, the standoff between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. brought the world closer to the brink of global nuclear war than ever before or since, with President Kennedy and Soviet Premiere Khrushchev "eyeball to eyeball" until Khruschev "blinked" and war was averted.
By the '80s, economic stagnation and the rise of strong nationalist and separatist moviements combined to tear the Soviet Union apart, finally putting an end to the Cold War. But, would Khrushchev have blinked at all if he had had an army of obedient, tireless, super-strong soldiers at his command? The world we live in today would be a very different place indeed had the Soviet Union's experiments in breeding humans with non-human apes come to fruition. Think Red Dawn meets Planet of the Apes, but for real!
The Strange Truth
We now know that humans and chimpanzees are very closely related, with 99% of our DNA in common, but the obvious physical similarities between our two species were enough for Russian biologist Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov to propopse that the two species could be cross-bred to create a hybrid creature through artificial insemination as early as 1910. In 1924, while working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Ivanov petitioned the Soviet government for funding for planned experiments in human-ape hybridization at a primate station in Kindia, French Guinea. Ivanov's petition was granted by Nikolai Petrovich Gorbunov, the head of the Department of Scientific Institutions, who helped allocate $10,000 to his experiments.
Ivanov supervised the capture of sexually mature chimpanzees and conducted his first experiment on February 28, 1927, inseminating two female chimpanzees with his own sperm. Four months later, Ivanov's son inseminated a third chimpanzee his sperm. When none of the chimpanzees conceived, Ivanov moved on to his next experiment: inseminating human women with non-human ape sperm. Ivanov sent more than a dozen apes to an ape nursery in the Soviet republic of Abkhazia, but only four survived the trip. By the time Ivanov had recruited women to volunteer for the experiment, the last ape — an orangutan, which have 97% of DNA in common with humans — had died and the experiments never took place.
Had Ivanov's experiments been successful, the Soviet Union planned to use the humanzees (human fathers, chimpanzee mothers), chumans (chimpanzee fathers, human mothers) and other hybrids to build an unstoppable army of super-strong, super-fast, super-vicious soldiers. Not only would the ape-men army dominate any human army it faced, its very existence would be used as a proof that Darwin was right about evolution, which would help the Bolsheviks stamp out religion in the republic.
Planet of the Apes
(1969), Rise of the Planet of the Apes
(2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
In the 1969 movie The Planet of the Apes, we never learn how or why the apes developed the ability to read, write, talk and shoot guns, while we humans lost the ability to speak and were forced from our cities and into the wild. But, in the 2011 prequel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we discover that we humans are to blame for our own eventual domination by the apes. Though quite accidentally (and with none of the icky artificial insemination of Ivanov's experiments), scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) helps to create the first post-human ape army by granting increased intelligence to a chimpanzee named Caesar (Andy Serkis) that is a test subject for a possible cure for Alzheimer's disease. Caesar eventually rises up against his human tormentors and grants intelligence to the other apes being held at the test facility and they [SPOILER ALERT!] manage to outwit the police and escape into the woods of Northern California. The sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, will pick up the story 15 years later, with Caesar struggling to govern his ape society, while humanity struggles to survive against the stronger, more ferocious and equally intelligent apes.