Sergei Chakhotin

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Chakhotin's image of the three arrows as used by the SDP in 1932

Sergei Stepanovich Chakhotin (13 September 1883, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire - 24 December 1973, Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union) was a German biologist, sociologist and social activist of Russian origin. He was one of the first thinkers to describe the effect of propaganda on the psychology of masses and warned against the techniques used by the Nazi Party.

Early life[edit]

Chakhotin was born in Istanbul, the son of Stepan Ivanovich Chakhotin.[1] His father had previously been a private secretary to Ivan Turgenev, before pursuing a diplomatic career which led to him becoming a consular interpreter in Istanbul.[1] His mother, Alexandra Motzo, was Greek and in 1893 he moved with her to Odessa.[1]

Chakhotin enrolled at the Moscow State University and participated in the occupation staged there in 1902.[1] This led to his arrest, imprisonment and a period of exile in Germany. He studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg, going on to getting a doctorate in zoology.[1] He developed the micropuncture microscope which enabled the ultraviolet examination of cells.[1] This helped enable him to return to Russia in 1912.[1] Here he worked at the Institute of Experimental Medicine under Ivan Pavlov in St Petersburg. In 1915 Chakhotin was involved with the Committee for Military-Technical Assistance (Komitet Voenno-Technicheskoi Pomoschi), which liaised with technical, industrial and scientific experts in order to mobilise them for the war effort.[1] His role here was general secretary of the Bureau for Organizing Morale, a section dedicated to propaganda.[1]

Involvement in the Russian Revolution and Civil War[edit]

Chakhotin was a lifelong socialist, an active Menshevik whilst in Russia and subsequently a member of the German Social Democratic Party.[1]

He was friends with Einstein and Pavlov, and based part of his work on the psychological theories of the latter. Chakhotin designed the Antifascist Circle, the symbol of the Iron Front.

Translated Works[edit]

The rape of the masses; the psychology of totalitarian political propaganda, translated by E. W. Dickes, New York, Alliance Book Corp., [1940].