Saturday, August 21, 2010

Creative destruction

The Pavlovsk experimental station outside St. Petersburg holds seeds from millions of varieties of fruits and berries. Most of the seeds there, which come from many countries, are not kept any place else in the world. They need to be planted in order to be preserved as they would not survive freezing. The station was established by an eminent biologist who died in a Stalinist camp in 1943. Now a Russian state agency has decided the land it occupies is not being used profitably. So they want to hand it over to developers who plan to construct luxury apartments on it. A court will rule on that decision on Monday, but is unlikely to find any legal grounds to overturn it. During World War II, twelve Soviet scientists starved to death rather than eat from the seeds which they felt a duty to preserve for future generations. With the benefit of hindsight, they should have known better. Though Putin may still ride in on a white horse and somehow save the plants. Which would cement further his reputation as a protector of ordinary Russians (and some sort of common good) from all sorts of greedy vultures – the only one on offer for some time to come.