A Book of Psychological Readings In Russian By the Father of Igor Sikorsky
Проф. И. А. Сикорский. Книга Жизни: Психологическая Христоматия. Southbury, CT: Alatas, 1931.
Prof. I. A. Sikorsky. The Book of Life: A Psychological Reader. Southbury, CT: Alatas, 1931.
Post contributed by Dan Bowen.
Ivan Alekseevich Sikorsky (1842-1919), a Russian psychiatrist and professor at the University of St. Vladimir in Kiev, was the founder of the journal Questions of Neuropsychic Medicine and Psychology, the Medical Institute for Mentally Retarded Childres and the Institute for Child Psychopathology. He was also the father of the Russian-American aircraft designer Igor I. Sikorsky. He rose to the rank of Active State Counselor, a position that carried with it inclusion in the hereditary nobility of the Russian Empire.
A supporter of White Supremacy, he put forth his ideas in a paper on the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, whose great-grandfather had been born in Africa. However, his main work was in the field of child psychology, especially children with learning disabilities. He was a Russian nationalist who considered language, poetry, artistic creation, school, press, religion as attributes of the national soul. During his lifetime he acquired a large library of technical literature which he bequeathed to the University of Kiev.
In 1913, Sikorsky appeared as an expert witness testifying for the prosecution in the infamous Beilis case in which a middle-aged Jewish clerk, named Mendel Beilis, who worked in a local factory, was accused in Kiev of the “ritual murder” of a 13 year old Christian boy.
According to a reporter at the time, “Professor Sikorsky, instead of a psychiatric examination, began to read from his notebook a collection of savage stories that had nothing to do with science.” The citizens of Kiev were so incensed by Sikorsky’s testimony that there was a fear of physical reprisals against the Jewish community in the area. He also testified that the crime “does not seem to me to be an accidental or simple” delusion, but “a complex, qualified crime, which was carefully thought out and systematically executed.” The Journal of Neuropathology and Psychiatry asserted that “the venerable Russian scientist compromised Russian science and covered his gray head with shame.” A fellow psychiatrist noted at the time that “never have psychiatrists been so unanimous and principled in manifesting their disgust for the use of psychiatry for political purposes.” One of the lawyers for the defense in the Beilis case was Alexander Kerensky, later to be Prime Minister of the Provisional Government in the days after the February Revolution in 1917. In spite of the immense pressure from the Tsar, the Russian Orthodox Church and the civil authorities in Kiev to find Beilis guilty, he was acquitted by the jury. This verdict did not stop the Synod of the Church from constructing a church to honor the victim. The young boy’s death had nothing to do with religion. He had simply seen a trove a stolen goods at the home of one of his school mates. The mother of his friend, who was the leader of the gang of thieves, saw that the boy paid for his “crime” by stabbing him 47 times. Sikorsky appealed to the police to get people to stop criticizing him, and a number of Russian medical societies were closed for this reason. It was said the criticizing Sikorsky had almost risen to the level of a crime against the state.
Sikorsky was not deterred. He offered an opinion on another case of Jewish ritual murder, the Fastov case. But, there it turned out the victim was Jewish and the murderer a common Russian criminal.
The book contains 365 excerpts from psychological and literary texts.
Sources: Russian Wikipedia. Orlando Figes. A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution. New York: Viking 1996. Richard Pipes. The Russian Revolution. New York: Alfred A. Knopt, 1990. Photo of Mendel Beilis: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Morris Rosen.