Eugene Kuchinov
Oil for the Hungry Masses? Behemoth vs. Leviathan

Eugene Kuchinov compares various nutritional utopias and investigates a Soviet scientist’s fascinating plan to feed hundreds of millions of people with petroleum.

1. Injection 
A Brief Apology for Vulgar Materialism

In so-called vulgar or naïve materialism there is an elusive, almost psychedelic shift we might easily suspect of being a gross oversimplification, thus letting it slip through our fingers. Such typical aphorisms as “you are what you eat” and “the brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile” fall victim to their paralyzing seriousness, which prevents us from sinking into that hallucinatory world where idealism can be seen as a bodily ailment, a disease requiring medical treatment, where the brain is tinted a colour visible to the eye, where excessive coffee consumption leads to revolts and revolutions. It is commonly thought that vulgar materialism simplifies the relationship between mind and matter by combining them, by rejecting the special nature of mind, mixing materialism with idealism. The accusation of oversimplification is itself an oversimplification, however. First, the “psychedelic shift” performed by vulgar materialism is itself simplified. For example, in the claim that “thought is the product of the brain’s digestion, “thinking is reduced to digestion, and the brain (or, rather, the soul) is demoted to the level of the stomach. This unidirectional emphasis misses the contrary thesis — that digestion is the thinking (the soul) of the stomach. We could call this reverse movement “panpsychic.” The complete picture of vulgar materialism thus consists of mutually complementary movements: the materialization of the soul and the animation of matter. The second simplification is the conviction that vulgar materialism cannot be complicated and still remain itself without forfeiting its original psychedelic shift. This is not true. Modern materialism, which is quite complex, can allow itself to make statements worthy of its allegedly vulgar predecessor: “There is something that my mind does that isn’t that different from what a pencil does when it rests on a table.” Besides, in the light of the current speculative turn, we could say that panpsychism (naïve materialism’s not-readily-apparent fellow traveller) has been fully vindicated.

2. Injection
The Metamorphoses of Gastronomic Utopianism

Nutrition is a key subject for vulgar materialism and for secular thought in general. “Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3): in the modern age, medieval gastronomic wisdom not only yielded to its opposite (man lives by bread alone and God does not exist), but also, having undergone its psychedelic shift, prompted the question of what hunger actually was and what exactly it was that we wanted. The answer shaped two utopian extremes — Leviathan (the state, order) and Behemoth (rebellion), vying for the retired transcendental God’s old job. Hobbes quickly chose a “mortal god”—the state: it alone could provide plenty (“plenty dependeth, next to God’s favour, merely on the labour and industry of men”) and organize its distribution (“the constitution of mine, and thine, and his; that is to say, in one word, propriety”). The commonwealth’s nutrition consists in plenty and distribution: man does not live by his own bread alone, but by the bread handed out by the state. According to Hobbes, man’s essential hunger is the hunger for order (as provided by the state), because randomly satisfied hunger inevitably leads to man perishing in the crucible of the war of all against all. In other words, man cannot satisfy his hunger directly—he receives food only from the state’s abundance and distribution; the state does not let anyone starve. Perhaps this is the key gastronomic dictum in Leviathan’s utopia. The monstrous visage of Behemoth, the image of “the people” as cannibal that crystallized during the revolutions of the late eighteenth century can be glimpsed in the inverse of this dictum: the state believes that people would be doomed to eat one another were the state absent.

As Adorno observes, the stricture that no one should starve is the lowest possible starting point for utopia, but it is also a trap for the utopian imagination, paralyzed by the status quo’s need for self-preservation. In other terms, as Hobbes puts it, this requirement is tantamount to saying “commonwealths can endure no diet.” Aspiring beyond the zero point, the utopian impulse inevitably turns against self-preservation — and against the state.

More anarchically and “vulgarly” minded gastro-utopians have concluded that humankind’s gastro-intestinal destiny is much more radical. Fourier assumed that, as a mere nutritional means to (merely) avert starvation, bread was extremely boring and abstract; it should be replaced by a smorgasbord of pleasure-providing sweets. As principle for distributing food among stomachs, gastronomy must yield to gastrosophy, the art of the wise stomach, in which gourmandism (not to be confused with gluttony) and taste are what bind all arts and occupations. Gourmandism is the opposite of satisfying hunger (while gluttony is only an intemperate way of satisfying it); it involves not merely filling the stomach, but inventing new “stomachs, ” for man’s essential hunger concerns pleasure (in the strict culinary sense of the word) and happiness: man does not live by bread alone, but by the copious sweets produced in the phalanstery. If the new social order is a war of all against all, it will be a culinary war in which the warring parties wield cream cakes, for example, marshalling the flesh of collective pleasure in the midst of their hostilities.

Max Stirner goes further, outlining an anti-state dietetics in which the “unique one” (the enemy of the state) becomes himself through a double-fold diet, both salvational and affirmational. On the one hand, the “unique one” devours abstractions (gods, the sacred, language — in short, all the phantoms that lay claim to his body). On the other hand, he feeds upon himself. Importantly, both types of nutrition aspire to food being digested irrevocably, obliterating the dialectic of alienation. Subsequently, Stirner’s abstract culinary dictums were transformed and concretized in vulgar calls to eat the rich and a series of quite bizarre, utopian gastro-anarchic projects. Thus, in the 1910s and 1920s, anything but a time of culinary excess, the Russian anarchist Gordin Brothers (Wolf and Aba) developed a continuous, all-body, non-secretory nutritional model that boiled down to eating inventively. Consuming oneself would mean consuming things we ourselves invented—totally artificial food that would not only cease to be a gift (from God, nature or the state) but that would also be completely absorbed without producing waste. Among the anarchists of the 1920s, technical innovation took the place of the Holy Ghost (which they imagined as food that would, among other things, supply immortality): man does not live by bread, but by technical innovation.

Thus, Behemoth’s gastronomical utopia — threatening not so much the war of all against all as the war of all against the state—is not a place where no one starves, but a place where no one eats (rather than simply eating, people savour; rather than ingesting nourishment, they innovate).

3. Behemoth’s Diet: The Utopia of Artificial Food

The early 1920s in Russia were marked by battles with bread and, later, protein (meat) famines. They gave rise to two utopian images of how the post-revolutionary Soviet man would be fed. The first image, Leviathan utopia, involved the gradual strengthening of the regime’s “feeding functions.” It reached its apogee in the late 1930s, as symbolized by publication of the first edition of the renowned Book of Tasty and Healthy Food (1939). Its first chapter, “Towards Socialist Abundance!”, features a conceptualization of state-sponsored nutrition worthy of Hobbes: “Only in the Soviet Union, the country of victorious socialism, has the problem of nutrition, like all other problems of human culture, been successfully resolved. There are no hungry people in our motherland. There is no malnutrition or poverty. Citizens of the Land of the Soviets have no worries about the future.” From the vulgar materialist viewpoint, “tasty and healthy food” was supposed to generate a collective flesh untroubled by worries about the future and thus not prone to wild fits of fancy. The second image, the Behemoth utopia, suggested much more radical solutions to hunger. Besides the inventive nutrition of the anarchists, there was the utopia of “electrical bread, ” as imagined by Platonov in his Technical Novel, as well as various vegetarian utopias. Roughly put, all these utopias boiled down to the most radical utopia of all, the utopia of artificial food. Mayakovsky rung the poetic changes on it in the poem “The Flying Proletarian” (1925):

“Artificial sour cream
and milk
are distilled
from silky clouds.
the word “cow”
will not be uttered.
Could you
squeeze so much
from a cow’s udders?”

Such famous chemists as Marcellin Berthelot and Dmitri Mendeleev were already contemplating the idea of artificial food in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In a futuristic speech delivered at the banquet of the Chambre Syndicale in 1894, published soon after as “In the Year 2000,” Berthelot painted a world in which “there would be no more agriculture, no more shepherds, no more ploughmen; the problem of making a living by tilling the soil would have been abolished by chemistry, ” and nutrition would involve small nitrogen tablets, pellets of fat and starch, and aromatic vials. 1905 saw the publication of his work “The Chemical Synthesis of Food, ” in which Berthelot, while rejecting the notion of “tablet nutrition, ” reasserted that soon, via artificial organic synthetics, whose capacities were only partly manifested in living nature, we would obtain food “more delicious, more flavourful, easier to digest and assimilate than natural products.” The same year, Mendeleev proposed a similar idea in his book Cherished Thoughts, stipulating, however, that it was a matter for the indefinitely distant future.

As a chemist, I am convinced it is possible to obtain nutrients by combining the elements of air, water, and earth, in addition to ordinary cultivation, that is, at special factories and plants, but the need for it is still very far from the present, because there is still so much vacant land everywhere. […] And I would surmise that, under conditions of extreme overpopulation, rather than resorting to the artificial production of nutrients in factories, people would be able to employ the huge mass of seawater for obtaining large amounts of nutrients, and for this purpose they would establish the first facilities for cultivating lower organisms like yeast, using air, water, minerals, and the warmth of the sun. But all of this seems too remote from the concerns of the present day.

In 1922, Alexander Nesmeyanov (1899 — 1980), who would go on to become rector of Moscow State University and president of the USSR Academy of Sciences, graduated from the university’s physics and mathematics faculty with a degree in physical chemistry. At the suggestion of Academician Nicholas Zelinsky, the young graduate was given a position at the university to prepare for a professorship in the department of organic chemistry, where he was assigned the research topic of cyclopropane derivatives. Although the work proceeded well enough, and Nesmeyanov had pioneered a whole new direction in organic chemistry (the production of metallo-organic compounds) by the late 1920s, he had initially wanted to research protein compounds and hatched the idea of using chemicals to synthesize food. A utopian passion for attaining a world without murder, without “bloodstains, ” and a particular attitude to science, which Nesmeyanov saw as a means of enshrining one’s own order and laws in nature, converged in his plan. In his autobiography, he described the “zealous vegetarian sensibility” that informed his utopian impulse. It had formed in him quite early, when he was still a child — he had given up meat at the age of nine. When he was around thirteen, he gave up fish; it was a particularly difficult decision, because, during the Russian Civil War, herring and Caspian roach were among the main sources of nourishment. The fundamental stance of utopia is negativity: rather than affirming anything in particular, it attacks the root of present-day evils. For Nesmeyanov, this was the “bloody law by which some trample others, ” passing itself off as an eternal law of nature. The radicalism of his utopian aggression is borne out by the following recollection.

I was a child with a penchant for fantasy, and in my fantasies I used to kill all the butchers I happened upon. Upon encountering a caravan of skinned carcasses or riding by a meat market or seeing a drayman tormenting a horse, I would mentally execute everyone complicit in these bloody affairs. Although these were fantasies, they did diminish my nightmarish sense of helplessness.

To an even greater extent, however, Nesmeyanov’s determination was indicated by the fact that he saw chemistry as a means of abolishing of violenceentirely — not only violence against domesticated and wild animals, but also violence against malarial mosquitoes, bedbugs, insect pests, and plants. He thought the ban on killing should be extended to the very bottom of the food chain.

4. Sinking to the Bottom: Turning Milk into Caviar and Petroleum into Food

Starting in the late 1930s, Nesmeyanov confidently climbed the academic ladder. From 1939 to 1945, he was director of the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1939, he was elected a corresponding member of the Academy; in 1945, he was made an academician in the faculty [WU9] of chemical sciences. At Moscow State University, he was chair of the organic chemistry faculty from 1944 to 1958, and dean of chemistry from 1948 to 1951; in 1951, he was elected president of the Academy of Sciences. In 1961, he ceded the post to M.V. Keldysh. In part, this was due to tense relations between Nesmeyanov and Khrushchev: among other things, they had disagreements over food policy.

In 1954, the Institute of Organic Chemistry was transformed into the Institute of Organoelement Compounds (INEOS), which was also headed by Nesmeyanov. INEOS conducted most of the Soviet experiments on creating artificial food. Aside from ethical considerations, they were driven by military strategy concerns: artificial food could be produced in the post-apocalyptic conditions that obtained after a nuclear war, when fertile soil and the harvests it produced would be contaminated by radioactive fallout, so that, without artificial food, nuclear weapons would not guarantee victory in a nuclear war.

Initially, Nesmeyanov considered taste, smell, and texture — the “Fourierist element of food”—insignificant, focusing primarily on “bread alone, ” the issue of hunger. He would later give the pleasure of food its due: “We chemists are often asked whether we plan to feed humanity with synthetic tablets, something you can swallow, wash down with water, and be recharged until the next day. No, it is not that simple, unfortunately. Nor that boring, thankfully.” It was thus no accident that the first finished product produced by INEOS was artificial caviar. When Nesmeyanov was asked why caviar had been chosen, he replied, somewhat discomfited: “Caviar is. . . like an advertisement, I guess. It was important to show that chemistry could combine with biochemistry to produce such an exotic food.”

And although the production of artificial caviar entailed solving a number of delicate theoretical and technical problems — developing membranes for the roe from petroleum jelly; obtaining the right colour by injecting trivalent iron into the solution; obtaining the correct smell and flavour by using an extract of herring and fish oil, etc.—the most significant was the “Fourierist” factor of an enjoyment and pleasure made available to everyone. Besides, Nesmeyanov and his team “had to start with something that would astound people and make it possible to penetrate the wall of distrust towards artificial food.” And while that wall of distrust may have remained impenetrable—few of those who tried Nesmeyanov’s caviar did not have funny stories to tell about how it went mushy in sunlight, how the membranes of the roe stuck to the teeth, and so on—it was the first step in the process of creating artificial food—in this case, using a by-product of animal husbandry and dairy production: skim milk. Nesmeyanov hypothesized that one could obtain the necessary ingredients from grains or legumes and thus exclude animals from the food chain altogether.

The second method for producing artificial food, which would also remove plants from the food chain, involved using fossil fuels. Nesmeyanov wrote, “Food is our fuel. When it is oxidized, food provides us with energy. Our bodies are low-temperature ovens, and food is the firewood in those ovens. Fuel’s energy-producing value is measured in calories. A kilogram of petroleum, for example, yields around ten thousand kilocalories.” But how do we convert petroleum into fuel for the human body? In other words, to invoke Stirner’s terminology, how do we appropriate petroleum? In 1962, Time published a short article about growing yeast fed by petroleum-derived hydrocarbons and the possibility of using them to produce dietary protein. It is yeast that converts or “translates” petroleum for the human body. Nesmeyanov describes it in the manner of H.P. Lovecraft, neutralizing the horror with a heavy helping of utopian optimism.

More ancient than plants, yeast emerged at a time when there was no oxygen in the atmosphere. In any case, it has also not learned how to oxidize food. It can only use readymade substances [such as] glucose, for example, or feed on garbage, the waste products of paper and sugar production, as well as alcohol, acetic acid, and hydrocarbons, including paraffins. We should recall that paraffins are hydrocarbon polymers with sixteen to twenty-six atoms in the chain. They are obtained from pure ligroin in the form of petroleum jelly. Yeast can also be fed, therefore, with petroleum products.

However, although the way that yeast grows at enormous speeds and accumulates protein makes it possible to produce artificial food from hydrocarbons at an ultra-industrial pace, yeast contains too many nucleic acids, making it harmful to humans. Due to the fact that the chemistry of yeast differs markedly from that of plants and animals, removing nucleotides and other undesirable impurities, and separating out the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates for the subsequent production of human food are problematic.

Nesmeyanov argued that, sooner or later, the difficulties entailed in turning petroleum into raw material for food production would be resolved. To achieve that, we must consistently heed the utopian impulse informed by the “zealous vegetarian sensibility.” In 1969, he wrote about the prospects for processing microbial proteins grown from paraffins.

To use proteins derived from microbiological raw materials in food production, we must eliminate yeast’s undesirable properties — its unpleasant colour and smell, and its strange taste. In terms of their biological value, such proteins can be raised to the level of the best animal-based proteins. […] The isolated total protein found in Micrococcus glutamicus does not differ in amino acid composition from the whites of chicken eggs.

At the same time, Nesmeyanov not only expressed confidence that a petroleum-based medium could be grown that could be used in the production of artificial meat, butter and cheese, but also predicted that their net cost would be two to three times lower than their natural equivalents.

This utopian impulse stopped halfway — on animals. Yeast and microbial protein were used extensively in animal husbandry in the Soviet Union from the mid-1970s on. On July 1, 1973, the first pilot plant for the production of protein-vitamin concentrates was launched in the town of Kstovo in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. The town’s Novogorkovsky Oil Refinery supplied the raw material: liquid purified parrafins, which were turned into a protein mass for feeding livestock. By 1982, the plant was producing seventy thousand tons of protein-vitamin concentrates a year, a portion of which was exported. (The plant ceased operations in 2010.) Nesmeyanov envisioned petroleum-based yeast protein grown as feed for animals as a stage in the process of converting oil into raw material for all kinds of food, but this was not the living end, washed clean of bloodstains, to which he aspired.

Nesmeyanov believed that chemical synthesis was the ultimate, “purest” way to produce artificial food. The prototypes for this kind of food were the medical supplements and nutritional packs used during long manned space flights in the 1960s and 1970s. Making arguments that were reminiscent of the ideas proposed earlier by Berthelot (tablet nutrition) and the Gordin Brothers (all-body nutrition implemented through special clothing, as well as special rooms and devices that nourish the entire body), Nesmeyanov was ready to problematize the very need for the digestive system, since such food could be injected directly into the bloodstream.

Most of Nesmeyanov’s projects were confined to the laboratory. After his death in 1980, they were not forgotten, although they were trivialized and mothballed in their incipient stages, reduced to the status of exhibits in an imaginary museum of food utopias and curiosities of Soviet gastronomy. Leviathan’s mocking attitude to Nesmeyanov’s experiments is clearly visible in Sergei Khrushchev’s description of how his father tasted artificial caviar while drinking cheap Cuban rum that smelled of gasoline. The Soviet leader spat out the artificial egg sacs, reminiscent of tiny cellophane bags, and complained that the dyes had turned his lips black.

In the 1960s, the newspapers made a song and dance about artificial caviar, and popular science magazines devoted extensive articles to the topic. As my friends who understood chemistry explained to me, in the absence of polymers and a polymer industry, producing a microscopically thin, edible egg sac qualified as a serious scientific achievement. It was a scientific achievement — but not a gastronomic one.

We would probably be right to assume that the highest-ranking Soviet officials fear that artificial caviar implied that the weakness of the socialist state, that it was incapable of feeding its citizens. Utopia alone won’t fill your belly.

5. “Vulgar” Materialism Revisited

What kind of collective flesh is suggested by Nesmeyanov’s artificial food utopia? If a person is what she eats, then what is she if she eats petroleum? (Let’s put aside the issue of whose oil it is.) The apophatic answer might be that, when a human being completely eradicates from himself all accumulated “bloodstains, ” he ceases to be a cannibal. (If we were to follow the hallucinatory rationale of vulgar materialism, it could also mean he ceases to be a human being.) When they cease to be cannibals (and people), such beings form a collective flesh that weakens the state. (Wolf Gordin called these collectives “ektarchic” or “non-state.”) The state’s petro-cannibalism shines through, for example, in something Lenin wrote in 1920, which later formed the basis for nationalizing the oil industry in the Soviet Union: “We desperately need oil. Think up a proclamation to the populace to the effect that we will slaughter everyone if they burn and spoil the oil and the oil fields and that, on the contrary, we will spare everyone’s lives if Maikop and especially Grozny are handed over intact.” “We will slaughter everyone” who treats oil inappropriately, in a way contrary to the state’s pursuit and redistribution of abundance: this could be the slogan of any modern petro-state. Whereas petrophagy could be the watchword of the resistance to this politics.

Finally, the artificial food utopia tends toward unwastefulness — towards total appropriation, as Stirner would have put it, and non-secretory nutrition, as the Gordins called it. “Food made from waste, food made from sawdust, food made from oil!” exclaimed Nesmeyanov.

An affirmative, cataphatic response would be difficult. And, as we have already said, affirmations and positive programs are not utopia’s strong suit. Not so negativity.

Translated, from the Russian, by Thomas H. Campbell


[1] Ludwig Feuerbach, Sämmtliche Werke (Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1846 — 1866), vol. 10, p. 5.

[2] Karl Vogt, Physiologische Briefe für gebildete aller Stände (2nd edition; Giessen: Ricker, 1854), 323; Pierre Cabanis, Rapports du Physique et du Moral de l’Homme, in Œuvres complètes de Cabanis (Paris: Bossange, 1823), III, 159.

[3] For example, Lenin writes, “But to say that thought is material is to make a false step, a step towards confusing materialism and idealism.” V.I. Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, trans. Abraham Fineberg, in Collected Works, vol. 14 (1908), (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), p. 244.

[4] Maximilian Voloshin, “The Ways of Cain: [The] Tragedy of Material Culture, ” trans. Viktor Postnikov;

[5] In the final analysis, vulgar materialism does not so much suggest that we describe thought as a substance as it encourages us to think in terms of substance. Moleschott describes the daunting task of his renowned book as follows: “Perhaps I have succeeded in inspiring enthusiasm for the material side of life, the reverence for which used to lead to an accusation.” Jacob Moleschott, Lehre der Nahrungsmittel. Für das Volk (3rd edition; Erlangen: Ferdinand Ente, 1858), p. 3.

[6] Timothy Morton, “AI, Anti-Ai vs OOO, Enaction, ” Ecology Without Nature, May 31, 2011;

[7] See Steven Shaviro, The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), chapters 3 — 5; David Skrbina, ed., Mind That Abides. Panpsychism in the New Millennium (Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2009).

[8] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1914), p. 130.

[9] Michel Foucault, Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France, 1975-1976, trans. Graham Burchell (London & New York: Verso, 2003), pp. 98 — 99.

[10] “He who asks what is the goal of an emancipated society is given answers such as the fulfilment of human possibilities or the richness of life. Just as the inevitable question is illegitimate, so the repellent assurance of the answer is [as] inevitable [as it is ideologically dated]. . . There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry anymore. Every other seeks to apply to a condition that ought to be determined by human needs, a mode of human conduct adapted to production as an end in itself.” Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, trans. Edmund Jephcott (London: Verso, 1974), pp. 155 — 156.

[11] “Now that self-preservation has finally been automated, reason is dismissed by those who, as controllers of production, have taken over its inheritance and fear it in the disinherited.” Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 24 — 25.

[12] Hobbes, p. 132.

[13] Although Fourier did not directly advocate for the state’s violent overthrow, he believed in a crazed proliferation and fragmentation of Leviathans under which states and their governments would turn into “essentially powerless appendages to the self-governing productive and consumer phalanxes of the new social order.” A. Dvortsov, “Velikii sotsialist-utopist, ” in [Charles Fourier], Izbrannye sochineniia v trekh tomakh, vol. 1 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe sotsial’no-ekonomicheskoe izdatel’stvo, 1938), p. 24.

[14] Charles Fourier, Le nouveau monde industriel ou Invention du procédé d’industrie attrayante et naturelle distribuée en séries passionnées (1829) (Paris: Flammarion, 1973), chapter XXVII.

[15] “If you devour the sacred, you have made it your own! Digest the sacramental wafer, and you are rid of it!” Max Stirner, The Ego and His Own, trans. Steven T. Byington (London: A.C. Fifield, 1912), p. 127.

[16] “[B]ut this, that I consume myself, means only that I am.” Stirner, p. 200.

[17] See Strana Anarkhiia. Utopii brat’ev Gordinykh (Moscow: Common Place, 2019), pp. 124 — 126; and Beobi, Izobret-pitanie (kak vykhod iz vsekh sovremennykh tupikov-razrukh i kak put’ k bessmertiiu. Opyt populiarnogo ocherka zhizneizobretatel’stva (Moscow: Vseizobretal’nia, 1921).

[18] The project was not a “mere” utopia. Given that non-secretory nutrition could be made possible by “peptonizing” food (peptones — derivatives of protein hydrolysis—were the subject of fundamental groundbreaking research by the Russian biochemist A.Ya. Danilevsky), the pan-anarchists-cum-omni-inventors, inspired by Wolf Gordin (aka Beobi) did experiments on inventing and producing peptone pills, which they consumed as food (often at great risk to their health) in their so-called club at Tverskaya 68 in Moscow, which also housed a vegetarian cafeteria.

[19] See E. Kabo, Pitanie russkogo rabochego do i posle voiny. Po staticheskim materialiam 1908 — 1924 gg. (Moscow: Voprosy truda, 1926), pp. 125–126.

[20] See I.V. Sokhan, Totalitarnyi proekt gastronomicheskoi kultury (na primere stalinskoi epokhi 1920 — 1930-kh godov (Tomsk: Tomsk University Press, 2011), p. 48.

[21] Kniga o vkusnoi i zdorovoi pishche (Moscow: Pishchepromizdat, 1939). On the book’s utopian nature, see I.V. Glushchenko, Obshchepit. Mikoian i sovetskaia kukhnia (Moscow: Vysshaia shkola ekonomiki, 2010), p. 13.

[22] Andrei Platonov, Teknicheskii roman (Moscow: Biblioteka “Ogonek”, 1991).

[23] Vladimir Maiakovskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1955 — 1961), vol. 6, p. 346.

[24] Marcellin Вerthelоt, Science et morale (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1897), pp. 510, 513.

[25] Marcellin Вerthelоt, Science et libre pensée (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1905), p. 190.

[26] D.I. Mendeleev, Zavetnye mysli (Moscow: Mysl’, 1995), p. 147.

[27] E.V. Il’chenko and V.I. Il’chenko, Akademik Nesmianov — rektor Moskovskogo universiteta i prezident Akademii nauk SSSR (Moscow: Moscow University Press, 2013), p. 93.

[28] A.N. Nesmianov, Na kacheliakh XX veka (Moscow: Nauka, 1999).

[29] Nesmianov, p. 71.

[30] Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future. The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fiction (London & New York: Verso, 2005), p. 12.

[31] Nesmianov, p. 69.

[32] [Resolution of the general assembly of the USSR Academy of Sciences, dated 27 September 1943, on the election of A.N. Nesmeyanov as full member.] ARAN, f. 411, op. 3, d. 403, l. 17.

[33] [Resolution of the general assembly of the USSR Academy of Sciences, dated 16 February 1951, on the election of A.N. Nesmeyanov as president.] ARAN, f. 411, op. 3, d. 403, l. 236.

[34] [Declaration by A.N. Nesmeyanov to the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences, dated 4 May 1961, recommending that Academician M.V. Keldysh, vice-president of the academy, be elected president.] ARAN, f. 411, op. 3, d. 403, l. 284 — 284 (reverse).

[35] Nesmeyanov’s views on the matter can be found in his autobiography, while Khrushchev’s viewpoint can be found in S.N. Khrushchev, Nikita Khrushchev. Reformator (Moscow: Vremia, 2010), pp. 669 — 675.

[36] Il’chenko and Il’chenko, pp. 94 — 95.

[37] Ibid., p. 102.

[38] A.N. Nesmeianov and V.M. Belikov, Pishcha budushchego (Moscow: Pedagogika, 1985), p. 19.

[39] Il’chenko and Il’chenko, p. 101.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Nesmeianov and Belikov, p. 17.

[42] “The Oil Eaters, ” Time, December 21, 1962.,9171,940163,00.html.

[43] Ibid, p. 100.

[44] A.N. Nesmeianov, “Iskusstvennaia i sinteticheskaia pishcha, ” Vestnik AN SSSR 1 (1969): 32 — 33.

[45] N.A. Venitiadi and A.A. Osadcheva, “Biotekhnologicheskie metody polucheniia kormovogo belka iz uglevodov prirodnogo gaza, nefti i nefteproduktov, ” in Nasledie I.M. Gubkina (Saratov: Amirit, 2018), p. 76.

[46] Khrushchev, p. 679.

[47] Reza Negarestani’s 2008 theoretical-fiction novel Cyclonopedia suggests that petroleum is an independent player in the history of the earth, a “Nether Blob” waging its own space war against the sun. In this war, nation states are helpless Leviathans waging wars over possession of oil field. They are imagined as petroleum’s puppets: thinking they are waging a war on terrorism, they steer the “Earth’s body toward the Tellurian Omega — the utter degradation of the Earth as a Whole.” Reza Negarestani, Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anomalous Materials (Melbourne: Re.Press, 2008), p. 17. I wonder what place in this war Negarestani would assign to Nesmeyanov’s utopia, which is simultaneously directed against the sun (identified as a space capitalist that owns the earth and sows hunger on it, and from which the earth must be wrested) and against petroleum as an evil ancient deity (which must be eaten, if we follow Stirner’s theophagic logic literally).

[48] V.I. Lenin, Letter to I.T. Smilge and G.K. Ordzhonikidze, February 28, 1920. Central Party Archive of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, f. 2, op. 1, d. 13067.

[49] Nesmeianov and Belikov, p. 100.

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