Brian Benoit


About Author: 

Brian Benoit has indexed maps, newspapers, and government documents at Readex’s Chester, Vermont office since 2002. For five years he worked with rare performing arts material at Harvard College’s Houghton Library. He is author of the recently published Crustacean Vacation (Islandport Press, 2012).

Posts by this Author

Nixon Rising: The ‘Pumpkin Papers’ that Haunted Alger Hiss

You may have heard of the “Pentagon Papers” from the Vietnam War era. More recently, the “Panama Papers” exposed the use of that country’s legal and financial institutions for tax evasion. But what about the “Pumpkin Papers?” In the spirit of the season, we’ll shed some light on these documents that were used to keep the specter of communism at bay following World War II.

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In 1950, the admission of the “Pumpkin Papers” as evidence of espionage against Alger Hiss led to his conviction for perjury, resulting in a five-year federal prison sentence. But perhaps as significant, the conviction of Alger Hiss brought U.S. Representative Richard M. Nixon to national prominence, as seen in these clippings from the Readex digital edition of the Washington Evening Star.

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Nixon Rising: The ‘Pumpkin Papers’ that Haunted Alger Hiss

Taking the Measure of China: Highlights of Physical Geography in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1994

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In the Wu Xing—the Chinese conception of the phases or transformation of energy—there are five elemental states, symbolized by wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. In this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1994, we’re going to explore the physical geography of that vast land guided by those categories.

In keeping with feng shui principles, which the Wu Xing model also informs, we hope that our brief review will prove pleasing to the reader, and will manifest expansive characteristics of human understanding.


Articles on Natural Geography in South Communist China

Shanghai, 1957.

Earth and water here, with separate articles on the Han Kiang Delta, the Pearl River Delta, coastal geography, “red earth” (chiefly iron), and sandstone.

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The Economic Aggression of the Soviet Union in Sinkiang

Taiwan, November 1959.

Taking the Measure of China: Highlights of Physical Geography in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1994

Andrei Vlasov, the Russian Liberation Army, and Operation Keelhaul: A Tragic Diplomatic and Humanitarian Debacle

The aims of the Committee of Liberation of the Peoples of Russia are: the overthrow of Stalin’s tyranny, the liberation of the peoples of Russia from the Bolshevik system, and the restitution of those rights to the peoples of Russia which they fought for and won in the people’s revolution of 1917.

Andrei Vlasov, The Prague Manifesto, November 14, 1944

It’s November 14, 1944, and an armed uprising against Stalinist terror and Bolshevism is in progress. Its participants number well into the six figures and have been formed into an actual army. Its leader is Andrei Vlasov, a former general in the Red Army who had fought the Germans at the Battle of Moscow in 1941. Now he is allied with them, but only just.

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Vlasov makes his way to the microphone in a crowded ballroom in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and declaims a manifesto excoriating Soviet communist oppression. He speaks as a pragmatic man of firm convictions and steady purpose, and he gives a bravura performance, a definitive example of speaking truth to power. But he is also a man divided in his loyalties.

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Andrei Vlasov, the Russian Liberation Army, and Operation Keelhaul: A Tragic Diplomatic and Humanitarian Debacle

Assignment in Dystopia: Revisiting Eugene Lyons’ Critique of Russia’s October Revolution on the Occasion of Its Centenary

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In 1967 author and journalist Eugene Lyons published an article in the Washington Evening Star under the headline, “Freedom Came to Russians on this Day 50 Years Ago.” A bit of math would place that momentous event in 1917; surely he’s referring to the “Great October” revolution?

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No, his dateline is March 12, and the revolution he’s commemorating is the one that actually resulted in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the collapse of the Romanov dynasty. By Lyons’ reckoning, the true Russian revolution occurred in February (following the Russian Orthodox Julian calendar, which would place it in March according to the Gregorian calendar used in the West).

In his article, Lyons took severe issue with the Soviet mythology surrounding the October (Bolshevik) revolution that literally wiped out the most liberal government Russia had ever known, writing:

The successful grab for power by Lenin, Trotsky, and their small following was a deed plotted in secrecy, a private cabal, with the masses so much raw stuff to be terrorized and processed.

 

Assignment in Dystopia: Revisiting Eugene Lyons’ Critique of Russia’s October Revolution on the Occasion of Its Centenary

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

Game of Zones: How Austria Unraveled the Iron Curtain

Austria 1.pngI’m thinking of a city, the glittering capital of a German-speaking people. It was the seat of monarchs and dictators before being bombed into submission during World War II. It was divided into four administrative districts by the victorious Allied powers following that war, and so came late to democracy. It was an island of independence and intrigue deep within territory under Soviet control. Adolf Hitler haunted its streets and harangued the crowds from its balconies. Perhaps you've heard of it? Berlin? No, I'm thinking of Vienna, Austria.

At the end of World War II all the pieces were in place for Vienna to suffer the fate of Berlin: a prestigious urban capital; strategic and economic importance; symbolic significance as an exclamation point marking the end of the Nazi program of German reunification. Yet Vienna and Austria were granted independence in 1955, while Berlin and East Germany labored under communism until 1990. Why such different outcomes?

 

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Game of Zones: How Austria Unraveled the Iron Curtain

Han Sorya: North Korea’s Literary Lion

North_Korea-Pyongyang-Grand_People's_Study_House-Books-01 sm.jpgIf you could choose a single novelist to represent the legacy and aspirations of twentieth century America, who would it be? F. Scott Fitzgerald? William Faulkner? Toni Morrison? John Steinbeck? Admittedly, the choice is artificial; there are no wrong answers here, only degrees of emphasis.

For a North Korean confronting a similar question, one name would readily spring to mind: Han Sorya (1900-1976). And further, there is one particular work, a short story, with which Han is especially identified: Sungynangi [Jackals] (1951), one of the few North Korean works of literature available in English translation.

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Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, includes two reports of literary criticism of Han Sorya’s work: Modern Korean Literature and Han Sor-ya (JPRS 5745); and Han Sol-ya and his Literature (JPRS 5874). Translated directly from original North Korean sources, they convey a sense of how Han’s work is viewed in his native cultural context.

Han Sorya: North Korea’s Literary Lion

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