This is the story of the giant robot dog that never was. According to recently unearthed – and completely fake – scientific papers posted in Russian forum Stepashka, the Soviets took over where the Nazis and Dr Frankenstein left it: During the 1950s, a team of communist scientists from Moscow University and the Soviet Academy of Sciences lead by Dr Vladimir Demikhov worked on the creation of a giant robot controlled by a dog head in secret facilities created by Joseph Stalin.
Of course, these documents are not real, but they are very well done and, like all good lies, there’s a some truth in this story.
The real story of Demikhov
Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov was a real Soviet scientist. And he did the weirdest experiments with dog heads, keeping them alive separated from their bodies and transplanting them to other dog bodies.
Born in 1916, Demikhov became famous for his experiments in organ transplants during the ’30s and ’50s, after his run as a surgeon in Red Army hospitals during World War II. During his battle days, sewing injuries and amputating appendages, he had a really crazy idea: Perhaps it could be possible to transplant human heart and lungs.
Nobody believed in him. Even at the time, organ transplantation was a mad concept. So mad that only a madman would support it: Stalin established secret medical facilities after the war to experiment with organ transplantantion and the search for prolonging life.
At his laboratory, Demikhov successfully transplanted hearts and lungs between animals. In 1960 he published the first scientific monograph on transplantology, titled “Experimental transplantation of vital organs.” It was a seminal work that lead to transplant science as we know it today. In fact, Dr. Christiaan Neethling Barnard – the first surgeon to perform a successful human heart transplant—thought of Demikhov as his mentor.
But Demikhov became even more famous for another crazy transplant experiment: Dog head transplants.
Following a first successful transplant by his colleague Professor A. G. Konevskiy at the Volgograd State Medical University, Demikhov started to regularly exchange heads of dogs.
He also attached heads and other parts to different dogs, resulting in weird hybrids that only survived for a few months. This research inspired the american doctor Robert White, another WW2 surgeon who followed the Soviet lead performing the same experiments with rhesus monkeys.
Demikhov’s work lead to a race between the Soviet Union and the United States, with White leading the way here. White had crazy ideas on his own, like transplanting consciousness from body to body using brain transplants. This was something that was never accomplished – although I have the feeling that it may have been tried in some secret underground facility funded by DARPA.
For all his amazing work, which started the science that has saved millions of lives so far, Vladimir Petrovich didn’t receive much recognition. He died in 1998, anonymous, ignored in his own country and by the entire world, and hated by dogs all over the planet.