Risk and Reward: Cutting-Edge Eastern-Bloc Research in the Early 1960s

JPRS interface.JPGIt’s tempting to emphasize the geopolitical hazards of the Cold War at the expense of the sciences; after all, ICBMs will kill scientists and laymen alike, and their deployment is overtly political. The technical achievements of science can be seen simply as inert, rarefied means to political ends.

As we’ll see in this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, scientific research and development can be dramatic and dangerous in its own right. We’ll consider Soviet research into plague and anthrax, automated weapons, manned space exploration, and hypoxia as a limiting factor in mountain climbing. Note that all of these topics have military relevance.

Particularly Dangerous Infectious Diseases and Infectious Diseases with Natural Focalization

Osobo Opasnyye i Prirodnoochagovyye Infektsii, Moscow, 1962.

Most of this topical report focuses on the epidemiology of various forms of plague, with tangential investigations of anthrax, cholera and brucellosis. Ostensibly this research was undertaken by the USSR Ministry of Health, but it’s hardly a stretch to see the utility of such work both for and in defense against biological weapons.


Military Applications of Cybernetics

[Monograph] by Col. Heinz Raulien, Berlin, 1963.

Risk and Reward: Cutting-Edge Eastern-Bloc Research in the Early 1960s

Lifting the Bamboo Curtain: The Rise and Fall of “Guided Democracy” and the Indonesian Communist Party

Consider for a moment the plight of Indonesia’s leaders in 1945: how to establish a national identity in a country spread across more than 13,000 islands, featuring hundreds of languages and ethnic groups, all in a precarious balance between the military, Muslims, and communists?

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During Indonesia’s struggle to break free from over 300 years of Dutch colonial rule, and then from Japanese military occupation following World War II, early attempts to govern through parliamentary democracy became synonymous with corruption and bureaucratic paralysis. Between 1950 and 1959 there were seven attempts to build coalition governments, the last culminating in a period of martial law. Clearly a new approach was needed.

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That approach came to be known as “Guided Democracy” (Demokrasi Terpimpin). Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president and the leader of the 1945 revolution that finally established Indonesia as a sovereign state, exercised an increasingly prominent role in the nation’s politics until his downfall in 1967. His administration’s managed or “Guided” democracy became more than an empty slogan or a euphemism for one-man rule; we shall see that there was indeed a unique Indonesian variant of the socialist experiment.

Lifting the Bamboo Curtain: The Rise and Fall of “Guided Democracy” and the Indonesian Communist Party

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Sage and Scourge of Communism

“Write what you know,” goes the dictum. Thus from Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn we have among many other works the following:

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich—forced labor camps
  • First Circle (i.e., of Hell)forced labor camps for scientists
  • Cancer Ward—malady as social metaphor
  • August 1914—blunders in warfare
  • Gulag Archipelago—the definitive guide to Soviet forced labor camps.

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With such a pronounced critical voice, we can surmise that Solzhenitsyn’s writing was unlikely to win him lasting friends in the Soviet government. Before his first major work, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), could be published, none other than Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev needed to give his permission. The timing was right; Khrushchev was still intent on denouncing the excesses of Stalinism, and Solzhenitsyn’s writing gained his favor in that political climate. But the thaw didn’t last.

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When Khrushchev was deposed in 1964, Solzhenitsyn experienced a similar downturn in his fate. By 1970 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he didn’t dare leave the country and so had to wait until he was sent into exile in the West in 1974 before he could actually collect the prize.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Sage and Scourge of Communism

Class/Consciousness: Education in the Soviet Union from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

Just in time for the new school year, we’re taking a look at education in the former Soviet Union during the 1960s. We have two volumes of curriculum material for a correspondence course on Marxism-Leninism, an in-depth examination of the Soviet education system, and for extra credit, a serious study on sleep learning.

Contemporary International Communist, Workers, and National-Liberation Movement

Vol. I by Z.A. Zamyslova. Moscow, 1963

Vol. II by V.V. Aleksandrov, O.I. Bershadskaya, I.F. Gorin, and Z.A. Zamyslova. Moscow, 1965

Want to broaden your world view but too busy to take that graduate seminar on socialism? Then this two-volume correspondence course, “The Modern International Communist Worker and National-Liberation Movement” was made for you.

Before discounting this material in light of the collapse of the Soviet Union, bear in mind that there is value to be had in a socialist critique of capitalism despite that particular outcome. Utopian projects are not unknown in the West, and millions of Russians were not delusional in their adherence to socialism. They were rather courageous, and endured a great deal of political trial and error at a tremendous personal cost.

Workers in the West have benefited greatly from the labor movement in such matters as the eight-hour workday and laws prohibiting child labor. Just as learning a second language will improve one’s native language skills, an understanding of socialism will make the reader a better citizen in a democracy.

Much of the content of these volumes is historical rather than theoretical, so it’s a relatively easy read. The first volume covers socialism in the Soviet Union from 1917-1939, while the second volume covers 1939-1963 from a more international perspective.

The Administration of Public Education

By Galina Aleksandrovna Dorokhova. Moscow, 1965

Class/Consciousness: Education in the Soviet Union from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

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