A mysterious airborne illness plagued the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg in spring 1979.
People died in droves days after presenting with mysterious pneumonia at local hospitals. Then, the secret police stepped in.
Doctors, ordered to keep silent, had their patients’ records stripped from them and kept under wraps as the communist government searched for a “more mundane” explanation — a scapegoat — to feed the media.
The public could never know a Soviet military lab leaked deadly bacteria, so covering their tracks only seemed like a natural solution.
A pathogen had jumped from animals to humans from contaminated meat sources and caused these ailments — or so they said — but American spies picked up cues offering a different account.
You’re thinking this is another coronavirus story — only it’s somehow planted 42 years in the past, right? Not this time.
While the Soviet anthrax incident looked eerily like it could’ve been a rehearsal for communist China’s apparent COVID-19 release, the two were not planned to be similar.
But it was perhaps our first small-scale glimpse into what would take the world by storm four decades later … and it reiterates that history repeats itself.
About a month ago, The New York Times’ Moscow bureau chief picked up on the story that’s more relevant now than ever as we double our search into COVID-19’s origins.
It seems impossible that even the most authoritarian governments could mask, if you will, one of the deadliest lab leaks in history by reshaping the narrative into something far less damning. At least, it seems impossible until it actually happens.
Another even more damning resemblance between the two regime-touted origin stories is that U.S. officials believed their lies each time.
“Wild rumors do spread around every epidemic,” Nobel Prize-winning American biologist Joshua Lederberg wrote in a 1986 memo, according to the Times. “The current Soviet account is very likely to be true.”
But Lederberg’s opinion — and similar opinions from other top U.S. scientists — didn’t settle. In fact, we would continue searching to the point where the truth about the anthrax lab leak would be unearthed only a few years later.
But, let’s rewind to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when anyone entertaining the idea that the virus escaped a Wuhan lab was labeled a conspiracy theorist.
Numerous social media platforms unsurprisingly censored free discourse and refused to allow their platform users to come to their own conclusions surrounding the virus’ origins. They would continue censoring them until the lab leak theory seemed not-so-preposterous to everyone else.
It’s been 40 years — the Berlin Wall has fallen, the Soviet Union has collapsed, we’ve witnessed communism’s lies, corruption and collapse time and again … yet American scientists still believe them.
It’s unjust to the victims of these ailments, in the same way it is unjust to the poor subjects of any tyrannical government living today.
Now, the metal grave plates marking the victims of this “mysterious Soviet illness” are showing wear and the names of those who died are slowly becoming erased, according to the Times.
“They were buried in coffins with an agricultural disinfectant” in a cemetery on the outskirts of town (perhaps intentionally kept distant from everything else) — killed prematurely by a mistake their government refused to own.
American elites stupidly let the Soviets spread a deadly lie for over a decade.
Let’s make sure we don’t make the same mistake with China.
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