The Soviet Garden (2019) - full transcript

A filmmaker from Moldova tries to discover the truth about Soviet experiments in atomic gardening.

My country is like a dream
Loveliest in the world

Written on flower buds
And in the songs we sing

Greetings are holly here
In this land of ours

The land where brotherhood
Blossoms eternally

I love your river Dniester
And your misty woods

We all sing your name
We all praise you!

You, my all, Moldova!

To you my deepest yearnings
Wherever I would go,

You'll be in my heart
I will cherish you always!

Everything I do
to you I will devote!

You, the luckiest
of all Soviet Daughters!

I love your river Dniester
And your misty woods

We all sing your name
We all praise you, Moldova!

We all praise you!

You, my all, Moldova!

The 1950s,
beginning of the Cold War.

After Stalin's death Nikita
Khrushchev becomes the leader

of the Soviet Communist Party

He aims for the Soviet
Union to become

first worldwide in scientific and
technical development.

The cosmos is declared
Soviet property.

A Soviet Spaceship defies gravity

and becomes the sun's
first artificial satellite,

the first man-made planet.

These kids were
the first to utter

the hitherto unknown
word: RAKETA.

Who knows, maybe they will also
be the first starship pilots?

After conquering the cosmos,
Khrushchev wants

to overcome the United States
here on Earth.

Following the party orders,
scientists take over agriculture.

Mathematics and physics
take over nature.

The future belonges to research
and scientific experiments.

- In the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory
of the Moldovan Academy of Sciences,

we asked professor Adlov
to explain how scholars

will meet this year's Congress.

- Soviet scientists were
tasked by the party

to take the lead in all
fields of science.

The small Moldovan republic

was part of the
Great Soviet Empire,

being 14th largest among
the 15 Soviet Republics.

Under the new economic policy

Moldova is ordered to exponentially grow
production in all branches of agriculture.

- Milk farm chief Maria Cazac,
has shown a burning ambition

to fight for even higher productivity
and do her best in outracing

the United States in dairy and
meat production per capita.

- So we can outrun the United States
as soon as possible.

Moldova and its lands passed through
an overnight industrial shock.

To meet party plans, even rivers
were forced to flow uphill.

When I was born, Moldova was
still part of the Soviet Union.

My family was big and united.

At the holidays all of us used
to gather at my grandparents'

I spent a good part of my childhood
at my grandma, Olimpiada's,

She was a biology teacher.

I remember her bringing a microscope
from school, during summer vacations

so I could study natural processes.

Next to the house, I had a small garden.
It was all my own.

There, I used to seed and nurture crops
till they were fully grown.

A few years ago, my grandmother
died of pancreatic cancer.

I've noticed that this terrible illness
spread significantly in recent decades.

I remember Grandma telling us about
strange secret experiments

in Moldova's collective farms
during Soviet times...

I wonder: is there a connection
between those experiments

and the exponential growth of
cancer illnesses in the past half century?

- Man is what he eats, breathes
and even thinks.

I love cats, I just adore them.

My cat will never eat
a store bought sausage,

which I might find tasty.

You know, a wurster!

She smells it but ignores it,
even though she is hungry.

That's some instinct!

Once I brought sprats
and shared some with my cat.

She didn't even smell them.
Some hedgehog came and ate them.

Doubtlessly, technical progress had
an amazing effect on the quality of life,

as well as diseases, causing a lot
of new illnesses to appear.

The main cause of progress is
the increase of population.

More population means more food.

For more food, we need to genetically
modify corn cobs to grow in size,

to a half meter, for instance.

Unfortunately, the human species ages,
just like any other.

Every genetic reproduction cycle works
like a software program.

If this "software" is attacked by
"viruses", just like with a computer,

be it food, radiation or magnetic fields,
then this program could malfunction.

Basically, that's how cancer acts.

A cell with a function, be it
of the liver, muscles, lungs

must, following reproduction,
specialise in the same function.

But if its program malfunctions, then it
switches back to its initial programming,

becomes a big cell, grows and destroys
surrounding cells thus generating Cancer.

- Good afternoon,
some tomatoes, please?

- Which ones?

- Pink, please.

- A kilo or two?

- Two, please.
- All right.

- Where are they from?

- Orhei.

- I wondered if you know anyone...

...who's growing them traditionally,
you know, seed to seed.

- No, currently hybrids rule the day.

Seed to seed ones are scarce.

- Maybe there are still folks
who grow them traditionally.

- Maybe some country granny
with a passion, you know...

- Hi, 2 kilos of onions, please!

- I wonder if you know anyone
growing tomatoes naturally.

- I do, myself,
from Dubasarii Vechi.

- Seed to seed, not hybrid.

- This is not done anymore,
no harvest.

- No harvest?

- None! My mother in law,
lost 20 years on that.

- No harvest.

- How did they grow them before?

- Before is past, you know.

- Pardon?

- Before, seeds were seeds,
tomatoes were tomatoes,

now everything is made from soy...
Hybrids, everywhere.

- We're looking for someone who still
practices traditional breeding.

- Nowadays seeds have
codes, not names.

No more variety names.

- Such is the specificity of man, that
he needs to control everything,

to have the feeling that nature
would be lost without him,

although nature evolves
very well without him.

- Could you tell us more on
biodiversity and its role?

- It is the diversity of everything alive.

If we look specifically at agriculture
and focus on the last hundred years,

we'll notice we lost three quarters
of our agricultural biodiversity.

That would equal 75%.

This means that if you used to buy tomatoes
from the farmers at the marketplace,

and you had 10 tomatoes, now you
only have 2, one red and maybe one pink.

Many disappeared or were
somehow erased... the Soviet block breed identity.

- Storms aren't solely to blame
for the death of this wheat crop.

Man created a variety,

man cultivated a heavy spike,

but failed to give
the straw strength.

The breeder's mission
begins again.

Again he must examine
millions of varieties

until he finds one or two
with the necessary properties.

Here's what
"Lenin" award laureate,

Nikolay Dubinin, has to say.

- Indeed, crops with useful
features for agriculture

are seldom met in nature.

Thus, in creating new varieties,
breeders face hereditary conservatism.

May this dependency
be decreased?

Modifying chromosomes
leads to Mutation,

thus creating new qualities in plants.

Mutations may be the result
of chromosomal changes,

both chemical and structural.

If breeders could willingly
cause gene mutations,

and change chromosome structures,

then they will control the plants'
hereditary change in nature.

So, how to enter the cell's
molecular structures?

Radioactivity can do that.

It is a wonderful molecular
surgical instrument.

It produces the finest operations
inside chromosomes,

modifies gene chemistry,
rebuilds their structure.

The cell gains new properties

that become stable features
of a radioactive mutant.

- Tell us about the beginnings
of radiobiology in Moldova.

- I remember radiobiology experiments
at my institute, back in 64-65.

In the beginning,
when I was still a student.

For obtaining various mutations,
we first used liquid mutagens

like radioactive phosphorus
and sulphur

mutants were further
used to get hybrids

which would be planted
on thousands of land hectares,

and that's how it began.

Then, in 67-68, they brought in
more powerful machinery.

- Currently everyone is concerned
with creating hi-tech robots.

We are creating "plant robots"
the very same way.

- Could you please tell us about
the history of radiobiology?

How did man come to the ability
to modify crops, specifically?

- After 1900, Genetics started developing
in a major way as a science.

Researches were also made
by Russian Scientists.

A massive contribution,
was that of Iosif Rapoport

and also an enormous
contribution of Dubinin.

Based on research on drosophila
melanogaster and other insects,

he noticed that under Gamma ray influence
eye colour and wing form may change

to a great extent, just
like all other features.

Thus they concluded that
Gamma rays produce mutations.

- After the war,
a big group of scientists

from across the Soviet Union,

were sent to Moldova.

I must mention that Moldova

was among the Soviet Union's
best equipped

radiobiology research centers.

- The beans that used to grow
in Moldova

were not suitable
for mechanised picking,

The beans layed on the ground
and it had big grains.

We needed to create a variety that
would grow straight up,

with smaller grains,

which could be cultivated by tractor
and harvested by combine.

We picked a Mexican
black bean variety,

and exposed them to Gamma rays.

The mutants obtained

stood up better.

We also changed the
colour of the seeds from black to white.

We then exposed the seeds again
to Caesium rays

and obtained a variety
with straight up branches.

And you could see fences of peas
on the fields where it was sown.

All in one size and shape!

That's what we did...

- We went to Moscow in '68

and brought the Kolos radioactive unit
to irradiating seeds before planting.

This was the first such equipment
and was mounted on

an old American built
Studebaker Truck.

This was our first unit.

We used to call her Marusia.

She was quite obedient.
Marusia, Marusia.

That's how the name
Marusia stuck.

We later got other machines.

We just called those Kolos,
left them nameless.

- Tell us what purpose did the
machine serve?

- It was sent here to prove that radiation
may be applied in agriculture.

- Which cultures did you
treat with radiation, specifically?

- Most often we
irradiated corn seeds.

To a smaller extent
Sunflower seeds.

Then oats, as well as
wheat grains.

We even treated pumpkin seeds
at the Tiraspol Institute.

Peas also.

Let me show you
a specific example.

They are clearly illustrating how radiation
quantitatively increased this culture's yield.

Look how satisfied they were!

Green the leaves of flower grow
I love how they sing in Kotovsk

Be they small kids or their grandads Be
they beautiful girls or their strong lads

Let this whole country of ours sing,
About this wealthy life we have!

- The main element of our machinery
is the ionising chamber.

Inside which there are tens of
Cobalt 60 isotopes

generating up to 1 million
Roentgens per hour.

Radio-stimulation usually applies
to seeds before plantation.

Imagine that seeds are sleeping.

And we must wake them so they
rise from the ground quickly.

Thus, exposing seeds to a small dose
of radiation will energize them.

For a person, it's the equivalent of a
strong coffee with a dash of Cognac.

By getting this stimulation,
plants grow quickly,

exceeding other plants'

Further, however,
plant development depends

on environmental conditions,
but an early start means faster growth.

This is the stimulatory
pre-planting dose.

- Moldova was in a way lucky
for having these people

leading the science of Radiobiology.

In case of corn, the pre-planting
irradiation of seeds

was practiced on half of Moldova's
agricultural fields.

I'm referring to the radioactive treatment
of seeds with stimulatory doses

that increased the yield of
agricultural crops by 30%.

- Can you tell us a bit
about the generations?

At which generation
can mutations occur?

Can mutations occur at the
third generation, for example?

- If mutation occurs, it is final.

If you cut off a finger...

it won't grow back.

No way out.

The same goes for mutation.

If it hits a chromosome,

it changes it forever.
No way back!

Thus mutation is stable.

- Once, my research advisor
and I radiated cotton,

and obtained green cotton fiber.

I asked him: what
do we gained from that?

He smiled, since he
knew I was still young.

The explanation was:

Army camouflage is green.

So, no need to paint it green.

By using mutating dosage, we got
phenomenal results with sunflower.

Upon extraction,
the sunflower oil taste

was similar to the
flavour of olive oil.

Stefania Rares is singing.

Mamma told me to dance with
Just the lad wearing the nice clothes

I’ll dance with the one I love,
And don’t care what mama says!

Whatever mamma says,
I will dance with whomever i want!

I will dance and party on,
Untill all my years have gone!

- Evolution is a continuous process.

It constantly creates
and modifies all living things.

Mutations are the main
factor of evolution.

However, the frequency of naturally
occurring mutations is quite small.

Yet, with the help of these radioactive
equipment, we can increase

mutation frequency hundreds and
even thousands of times.

Thus, we can accelerate the creation
of any variety we would need from nature.

- Tell us about this machinery, please.

How does it work?

What isotopes does it use?

- The Stebel 3A machine,

works with Caesium 137 sources,

generating 700-800
Roentgen units/minute,

and we use it to blast seeds
with radiation.

It took great effort to find out
the right dosage,

to obtain the mutants we needed.

- In Moscow they
didn't get to identify

radiation exposure durations
necessary for agricultural crops.

Later, here in Moldova
we were basically forced

to calculate the
necessary dosage,

be they 500 or 1000 Roentgen Units,
based on each separate crop variety.

Thus, by raising radiation exposure, we risked
decreasing yields instead of increasing them.

- I was transferred from
the horticulture institute,

to the botanical garden institute.

There, I fell in love with local
plants, especially flowers.

I got 12 varieties of Iris
with the help of radiation.

These Iris flowers
were of very high quality.

They were lovely,
drought and frost resistant,

I was the breeder who created these
flowers of unequal beauty in the world.

Their unique beauty
was even appreciated

by the Moldova
State Variety committee.

- Tell us about the portable
radiation units...

- Our laboratory also used
portable units for plant irradiation.

A bit earlier you saw our
RHM Gamma 20, a fixed type unit.

But if the plant had to be
irradiated in field conditions,

then we carried these units
in the field with a special stroller.

We mounted them on tripods and
proceeded to irradiate the plants.

For example, we would blast the plants'
reproductive organs, like the corn husk.

Therefore, we used them to irradiate
reproductive organs in field conditions,

Do you understand?

The corn cob may not
simply be picked and brought

to the laboratory for treatment
with RHM Gamma 20 and planted back...

The cob is the female
reproductive organ in corn

and we used this equipment
to irradiate the corn ovuli.

Thus not the matured cob, but
the barely incipient one was irradiated.

In its meiotic stage.

- You spoke about cases when
you radiated corn with the Kolos unit...

- Yes.

...with Marussia,
and the unit jammed.

Could you expand on that?

- We used to receive corn seeds
from the factory, in 25 kg bags.

There were 2 labels inside.

When we placed bags in
the irradiation container,

sometimes labels inside could
jam the ionising mechanism.

In such cases, I used to remove
labels with my bare hands.

From what I read, I was sure

that my hands could resist
up to 15 000 Roentgens,

since blood circulation
is low here.

However if radiation
were to hit your chest,

500 Roentgens would make you
a hopeless case for medicine.

- Did you have such cases?

- I can only say that...

some nasty warts would
often appear on my hands,

but they were
gone in a few months.

Then they would reappear.

This is what I clearly observed
about consequences on myself.

- If radiation affects
a person for a long time,

their body could suffer
fatal mutations

that would lead to
certain death.

Thus, if people get exposed
to excessive radiation they die.

We also generate crop mutations,

yet, we throw many
of the mutants away,

keeping only the ones we prefer.

You can't do the
same with the humans...

- Most of my colleagues
who worked in the biophysics lab

are gone now.

Almost no one left from
my team... All died young...

That's what working with
radiation does.

- The year is 1964.

A delegation of Japanese
scientists visits Moldova.

They are accompanied by
Moscow officials.

Together with the party leadership, they
visit a number of local collective farms.

They also visit Onitcani village,
in the Criuleni district.

- Is there a connection between that visit
and applying radioactive isotopes

in Moldovan agriculture?

- Who decided Moldova
is the place?

- Moldova was first
among Soviet Republics

in agricultural experiments.

It started with the testing
of various chemicals in the 50s-60s,

and soon after an agreement was
reached with Moscow

that Moldova would be centre of
radioactive breeding.

They begin by using radioactive
phosphorus and sulphur.

Then, the Moscow Nuclear Agency
began to heavily finance

atomic gardening in Moldova.

That's how radiation began to be
implemented in Moldova's Agriculture.

- Comrade Nikita Khrushchev's
arrives to decorate

the Republic with the
"Order of Lenin" Award,

He inspires the working people
of our towns and villages

to new heroic deeds in
the name of communism.

- Dear Comrades!

The Moldovan people,

with the brotherly help of all
the peoples of the Soviet Union

has achieved spectacular results
in developing economy and culture.

These results are highly prized by the
Communist Party and the Soviet Government.

For outstanding results in developing
horticultural breeding practices,

the increase of
agricultural production,

The Presidium of the Supreme
Soviet of the USSR

has honoured the Soviet
Socialist Republic of Moldova

with the "Order of Lenin" Award.

Allow me to once again
congratulate you, dear comrades

and the entire Moldovan people
whom you represent,

for your success
and the award received,

and to wish you further
success and new awards.

- Besides Kolos and other
radioactive installations,

a Gamma complex
was built in Moldova.

Rumour has it, that is the second
Gamma complex in the world.

There was another such
complex in Japan in the 1930s.

Imagine that! The Japanese working
with radiation back in those days!

Can you believe that?!

And now a second one in Moldova,
much more advanced and sophisticated.

An enormous circle with
an all-round wall

to prevent radioactivity
from breaching the perimeter.

- Tell us about the projects in
radiobiology held here, in Moldova.

- I don't remember them all.

The Gamma Field was the main one,
and various machines were made...

They believed radiation
could generate highly valuable mutants

that would right all wrongs.

And they also believed
that radiation could stimulate

certain processes in the plant.

- I am Valery Akimov.

I will be 72 next week.

In the mid-70s, the construction of a
unique Gamma Field began

under the direction of the
Chisinau Agricultural Institute.

This Gamma Field is
a 100 meter diameter circle,

Cobalt 60 Isotopes were used as
radioactive sources here.

In the center of the Gamma Field
there were two irradiating machines

one of them was called

and it irradiated the entire
experimental field simultaneously.

The other unit was called

It irradiated crops
in strictly defined sectors,

without affecting crops
in other sectors.

During the irradiation of crops,
no one was allowed to be present

in the experimental field perimeter.

Everyone was behind
the protective wall

and barbed wire fence.

- Hello!
- Hi!

- We're looking for
this Gamma Field circle.

Gamma Field or something...

- I don't know where it is.

- Old folks must know.

- We have no grandma or grandpa.

Mother doesen't know also...
No idea.

- Hello!
- Hi!

- We're looking for the...

Gamma Field...

The Gamma Field.
- We don't know.

- We aren't from around here.

- Thank you!

- Hello!

I'm looking for the Gamma Field.
The circle.

- Have you find it?

- Can't say that I have!

- See the bus station
over there?

Take that upper road.

Cross through the village,
and another kilometer straight

keep on driving forward

untill you see a hill.

- Do you know what
it was used for?

- It eliminated radiation

for experiments.

There was a bunker there,

with an atom inside.

It eliminated radiation...

They were making experiments
to see how plants would grow...

That's my understanding
of what was done there.

Moscow used to run the show.

Locals had no idea
of the consequences.

The thing is folks were
unaware of the harm done.

Radiation used to glow
all around the village and fields...

They were doing experiments...
to kinda see plant growth, you know...

- How do you know all this?
Did you work there?

- I didn't, but some of my peers did.

Among them many older than me.
Some died. Many were crippled.

But most of those who
worked in that field passed away.

- Any of those who used
to work there, left in the village?

- There's a woman around here...

She's still alive... I think...

- Hello!
- Hello!

- Do you know where the
Gamma Field is?

- Straight ahead.

- You know what it was used for?

- ...Agriculture stuff...

- Anyone working there
left around?

- I used to work there
as a driver.

- Where?

- At the Gamma Field.

- I used to drive
the boss around.

- Who was the boss?

- Akimov.

- Anyone else who worked
there left in the village?

- Yup. Tolya Grabovsky...


Most of them died, though.

- Why?

- Drinking, they say...

- Hello!

We're looking for Mrs. Veronica.

- What for?

- We wish to talk to her.

- Mrs. Veronica, we're
from Chisinau,

and we are here to make a film
about this science... radiobiology.

We heard there used
to be a Gamma Field here.

Is it true? Rumour has it
that you worked there.

- Here we had the barley...

Here we had peas...

Strawberries here...

You can see the vineyard there.

Here guards installed some
scarecrows to keep birds away.

You know, from
eating sunflower seeds.

- How were these plants
different from others?

- Well, they were very different.
You see...

Corn grew twice as big there,
reaching 2-3 meters.


No corn that tall now.

We used to go around
measuring crops.

We wrote down:
185 cm from end to end.

Corn was brown, black, blue, red...
Any colour you like.

Apple trees had more fruits
than leaves.


Grapes were so big...
I can't tell you in words...

Eating fruit was forbidden. Unless they
allowed us to. Because it was radiated.

If they radiated it all night, we weren't
allowed to eat any fruit until noon.

We waited for radiation to evaporate or something
and then they'd let us eat. No other way.

- Where's everybody else who
worked there?

- All of them died.

- They were dumb enough
to go in there and steal...

Watermelons there were
huge, enormous...

Akimov would number
them from 1 to 100...

When he went to check
he'd see there was no 90, no 70,

The biggest watermelons
were gone.

So, they're all dead, only
me and Iulia are alive now.

Since Iulia's left to work in Italy,
I'm the only one around here.

- What killed them, in your view?
Was it the Gamma Field?

- There was a guard with
horrible warts on his hands.

How can i put it...
Really nasty ones!

- What's up with you? I asked.
- Radiation, he said.

- Why would you go there?
- Why should Akimov eat it all? he replied.

I, myself didn't want to go there for
one strawberry and so I never entered.

- Hi, guys!
- Hi!

- We're looking
for the Gamma Field.

- It's over by that tree.

It's there!

- On the right side?

- Yes, there's a road there.

- Thank you!

- Hello!
- Hi!

- I'm Dragos.

- Alexandru.
- Nice to meet you.

- I wanted to ask you what's
up with this circle?

- All this wilderness here?
- Yes.

- I don't know. I've been here
for three days now.

- Ever wondered why
this circle is here?

- I was thinking they maybe wanted
to build a lake or something...

- Been here with the
cows for three days you say?

- Yes, since I came
from somewhere else.

- There was a radioactive
Gamma Garden here.

- I don't know anything.

- I want to measure
radiation levels here.

- You want to measure it, you say?

- Yeah, with these
two devices here.

Here, hold one!

- Which one?
- This one.

This one measures radioactivity.

And I thought we'd
measure it here.

This is another
piece of equipment.

Let's go closer to the centre.

- Those who started building
must know what the deal was.

- Right...

- I'll switch to another mode now...

Hold it and tell me
when this moves up.

You see this indicator arrow here?
It shows radiation levels around.

See, Alexandru these plants
are in a straight line.

You can see that it's man-made.

Only sage left,
on that hill there...

However other plants
used to grow here.

- Yeah.

- Folks in the village said there were
plenty of various plants here.

- Heard that?
- Yep, a beep.

- Apparently, the ground is
still contaminated.

- Does this mean
it still works or what?

- Radiation remains in the
ground for years to come.

So... it's not ok
to stay here for long.

- Really?
- Yeah.

- What is this radiation?
Heat or what?

- When man discovered radiation,

he created radioactive elements
with very strong energies.

Did you feel anything
while being here?

- No, nothing.

Maybe a bit light headed
when I got up, that's all.

- These trees were
abandoned by scientists,

probably when the circle was destroyed,
the trees remained like that,

cherry trees, apple trees.

That's what's left of the heaven on earth,
as Mrs. Veronica who worked here would say.

- As the only rational being on earth,
man was often arrogant.

By declaring himself King of nature, without
solid reason, he tried to tame nature.

Here's an example from life.

The King of nature tangoes with
the almost extinct King of animals.

Everybody's satisfied and happy.

- Tell us a bit about scale.

- Moldova enlarged this scale
to a pretty large extent.

In 3-4 years, Kolos was even transported
to Ukraine for seed radiation.

- From what I observed in archived footage,
people had this confidence about themselves.

People operating radioactive
equipment, I mean.

They were certain that this
science would never fail!

- They were in such a hurry to
implement radiobiology in agriculture...

I mean, first of all, that experiments should
have been initially tested in trial laboratories.

Starting on large scale fields,
from the onset,

unaware of the dosage for each
crop, was premature.

That's why I was not satisfied.

Because we started
on immense territories.

However, we had no
fundamental bases for that.

- Quality was ignored,
only quantity mattered.

This is why we have such
dire consequences now,

because, in my opinion,

most disasters we face today,

such as lack of intellect,
various ilnesses,

were caused by low
quality products.

They thought that if radiation gets you
a mutant, it'll solve all your problems.

Often, when large doses
were applied, entire batches perished.

Mutations occurred in a very
low percentage of cases - 0,02%.

But it was obvious that
upon rising radioactive exposure,

seeding material loses germination
and dies. Thus the organism dies.

The same can happen
to humans, animals,

mosquitos, bees,
and therefore to plants.

- You're saying they had
no time to think of their deeds?

Science should usually consider
the possible consequences.

- I don't know if they had
no time to think, in their hurry,

during the 4-5 years of implementing
these practices in Moldova,

or whether they dreamed of
getting the State Prize.

- I, myself was concerned about
certain issues that science overlooked.

Like what should we do
with the waste?

What can we observe, after 70 years
of radiobiology in Moldova?

In your opinion,
what is left behind?

- Hard to say...

They should have thought
about the present and future.

For example, nuclear power plant
management is handling such issues,

by disposing of radioactive
waste in specialised storage facilities.

In a hundred years
maybe they will reuse it,

science is not ready for
such recycling yet.

The same should've been done
with atomic gardening.

Not like we did. We hurried
with the Kolos machines,

and now we don't know
what to do with them.

- Famous geneticist, Soviet
Academy of Sciences member,

"Lenin" Award Laureate,
Nikolay Dubinin,

was willing to answer
our questions.

- The "Pravda"
newspaper just published

a very negative article
on breeding of soils,

showing how
well-wishing turns to harm.

Because people don't know
how to work the soils.

That is why our investment returns
are on a constant decrease

and are currently approaching
minimum values.

For this and other related reasons,
harvest yields don't actually increase.

Our aim is to finally
achieve party goals

of harvesting 250 million
tons per year.

Still, the plant itself is part of the task!
Aside from the the soil and fertilizers.

Therefore Moldova's experience is crucial
for the entire Soviet Union in this case!

- We are inside a
radiological objective.

Special objective 5101, 5102.

A codename
left since Soviet times.

It basically stores all machinery used
in Socialist Moldova's industry,

in agriculture and plant breeding research.

As you can see containers are stored
behind these physical protection barriers,

with Kolos machines
that used Caesium 137.

Over there, in the back
we have RHM Gamma 20 machines

with Cobalt 60 isotopes,

as well as a Stebel unit,

which was used in a plant
breeding research institute,

namely Selectia.

Now these machines, are
placed in a protective container.

Until 2003, were carelessly abandoned
under open skies.

I feel like I am inside
pyramid of Cheops.

A space full of old artifacts.

Relics that once served for a purpose

and have currently turned to waste
and not just waste but also problems.

- How many years will it take to
enter this place without risk?

How much time is needed untill all
isotopes fully disintegrate?

- If we talk about all the radioactive
source types stored here,

in some cases it would take
no less than tens of thousands of years

till it would be possible to enter here
without facing danger.

Such an approach is impossible
for radioactive waste management.

- In these capsules we have
C14 Radioactive Carbon,

with a 6000-year half-life.

- During inventory, the background
of radioactive isotopes is checked.

It is still active.

We notice the red colour
on that Geiger counter.

It means it has to be
further kept in the safe.

- Please explain
what "half-life" is?

A simple definition, please...

- In physics, "half-life" is called
"the law of radioactive decay".

- The period in which radioactive material
intensity drops by half.

For example, Cobalt 60
has a half-life of 5 years.

So in 5 years its
power will drop twice.

And so it happens every 5 years.

It will be 4 times
as weak in 10 years,

and 8 times as weak in 15 years.

- How about Carbon 14,
with a half-life of 6000 years,

how much will it take for it
to not be dangerous anymore?

- Sixty Thousand Years.
- That's ten half-lives.

- Theoretically, 10 half-lives
are enough

for radioactive material to
become non-hazardous.

- 60 thousand years.
- Yes, 60 thousand years.

- How would you see radiobiology
as a science.

Is it a failed science?
Is Moldova to blame for its failure?

- It was and still is an
important science,

though not for use in agriculture
to obtain large crop yields.

This was obvious from the beginning
and they should have admitted it.

- So, a proud scientist
can't admit he failed?

It is human nature
to make mistakes.

- Admitting failure is
difficult for an ordinary man,

but if he has a scientific title,
a high-level position,

then it's extremely hard,

- When I came to see the
results, I used to ask:

- How's the yield?
The answer was: Good yield!

- What are your results?
- Good results!

You'll get whatever
results you want.

In this case, science
was not quite scientific...

- Thus, the experiment did
not have the desired result?

Were the expectations
too big, or what?

- The Party wanted big results.

I repeatedly warned my bosses.

The answer was:
- Did you get the money?

Are you conducting experiments?
Are you working?! Carry on!

- It's 2018...

Radiation breeding is still applied
at the Genetics Institute,

using the same equipment
as half a century ago.

- Just like in the beginning,

today's atomic breeders, stayed with the
mindset that radiation can change things...

Yes, it does cause change...
So what?

- 50. That's one.

100. Do you also have 100?

You don't, I have 100.
Write that down.



150 in mine. In yours?

- No.

- 200.

- I really hope rabbits won't eat all my
chickpeas, like last year.

The jerks seem to distinguish
irradiated plants and eat them all.

It's like they choose
them specifically.

Only stems are left behind them.

- One day, we'll catch ourselves one
of these huge rabbits and make a stew.

- Do you think it's normal to still
use radiation in biology in 2018?

How much longer do you
plan to use this equipment?

Not for long, from what we know.

However, we hope our unit will
continue to be used.

So we, and our successors
could continue our work.

I believe that the methods
we use in our research,

will also be used in the future.

Why do you think man uses
radioactive mutagenesis?

What is the final goal?

- The goal is to eat well,
to live well.

Work less and have more.
That's it...

- Dorin, are you done
with the samples?

- Yes.
- Let's take them...

How long do you think
exposure will take?

- Usually about 3-4 hours.
It depends...

The unit is old and rusty,
it squeaks, here and there.

- Hopefully it will last
for another year or two,

while we still have
initial material to make.

- I wish rabbits wouldn't eat my chickpeas.
- You and your rabbits...

- Now, let's take them.

I'll take 4, you take the rest,
and we're off.

Take your phone,
I'll take my glasses.

- Let me get my diary...
- The record book,

so we could apply
the necessary dosage...

We're off.

- Let me start by saying
this is not my first interview,

so, I don't give a damn about your
camera and your microphone.

I am calm and I will
only speak what I must.

Put this on record, please.

Smile, please.

Yes, that's right.

I started the construction of
this Gamma Field, where we are now

and by the will of destiny,
I also dismantled it,

and sent the radioactive
sources into final disposal.

- What if radiobiology in Moldova
would have been a success story?

How'd Moldova, or even
the whole world, look today?

- You're asking a
philosophical question.

No one will answer it. To be honest,
I do not even know what to answer.

- Imagine that the Gamma Field
is still functional,

and you are still its
director nowadays?

- My opinion is that the
Gamma Field is one of a kind

and it is a pity that we
have what we have today.

If that had not happened,
the Gamma Field would still work,

plants would have been growing
and would have been irradiated here.

Improved crops
would be obtained,

and this would be a contribution
to the science of radiobiology.

- How would the world look like
without radiobiology? What would differ?

- Again with the
philosophical questions...

- Did the results justify the
sacrifices of scholars?

- This is a provocative question,
allow me to not answer it.

"Moldova must become the
Garden of the Soviet Union."
N.S. Khrushchev

A Communist Party meeting
was dedicated to this issue.

Referring to Comrade
Khrushchev's visit to Moldova,

Republican Communist Party
First Secretary, Zinovi Serdiuk

noted in his speech:

- I think, as Nikita
Sergeyevich said,

that Moldova should be focused on
one thing - becoming the Soviet Garden,

deliver delicacies to
the Soviet people:

grapes, wines, juices, fruit.

The Moldovan people embraced this task from
Comrade Khrushchev

as its honourable destiny, being firmly
committed to its accomplishment in reality.

To properly organize themselves for the
continuous development of horticulture,

and thus successfully follow
Comrade Khrushchev's instructions.

After all my attempts
to find the truth,

it seems it remains hidden
somewhere in the past.

I understood that the
decisions of politicians

can lead to human sacrifices

and can even influence
the growth of plants.

I wonder...

Where in the world will
the next Soviet Garden appear?