JPRS


Volatile Hydrocarbons, Volatile Politics: The Historical Context of Venezuela’s Economic and Social Crisis

Bandera_de_Venezuela_en_el_Waraira_Repano 2.jpgVenezuela wasn't always burning out of control. Even before the rise of Hugo Chavez nearly twenty years ago and the tangible abundance brought about through his social welfare initiatives, Venezuela had a reasonable claim as a model of economic success in Latin America. Further, it was blessed with an abundance of a key natural resource, petroleum, as can be seen below in maps found in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

Detail from Map 24. Hydrocarbon mineral products (petroleum, natural gas, etc.). [Resources and the Caribbean region. January 1, 1905]

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Special map showing producing [oil] fields, Venezuela, 1930.

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Volatile Hydrocarbons, Volatile Politics: The Historical Context of Venezuela’s Economic and Social Crisis

Social Issues, Socialist Countries: Highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

The propaganda from socialist countries during the Cold War would have the reader believe in fairy tale endings. Revolutions were necessarily unpleasant, but the outcome of full employment, efficient central planning, and a reaffirmation of the dignity of man was held to be worth all the drama. Stalinist purges and peasant starvation were presented as aberrations on the path to an economy and social order that was neither too hot nor too cold, but just right.

However, the reality on the ground often differed from the official narrative. How was the quality of life for the mentally ill? For racial minorities? For religious persons? In this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we'll consider the social challenges that persisted in socialist countries.


On the Composition and Disposition of Patients in USSR Psychiatric Institutions

Zhurnal Nevropatologii i Psikhiatrii imeni S.S. Korsakova (Journal of Neuropathology and Psychiatry imeni S.S. Korsakov) Moscow, Vol. 57 No. 1, 1957.

This report relates the status of nearly 100,000 psychiatric patients across 193 institutions in the Soviet Union. Character of debility, morbidity, demographics, and general forms of treatment are given.


Moslems in the Soviet Union and in China

The Country of Iman al-Bukhari: Its Past and Present

[pamphlet] Tehran, 1960.

Social Issues, Socialist Countries: Highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

‘Paper Tigers’ and the Hair of the Dog that Bit You: Highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

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In this month's release of newly digitized JPRS Reports, we have sympathetic American and Yiddish-language commentaries on Chinese communism—including a first-hand account of the origin of the term “paper tiger.” We have a pointedly anti-communist pamphlet penned by Russian émigrés. And we have an extensive exploration of the often-discounted problem of alcoholism in the Soviet Union, with one report discussing specifically the phenomenon of curing a hangover by having yet another drink.


A Great Truth of the Present Era

Shih-chieh Chih-shih (World Knowledge), Peiping, No. 22, 22 November 1960. 18 pages

American journalist, author and progressive activist Anna Louise Strong certainly lived up to her surname. Born in Nebraska in 1885 and educated at Bryn Mawr, Oberlin and the University of Chicago, Strong travelled the world, met many world leaders of the day, and wrote a number of books. Here we have her interviewing and dining with Mao Zedong at his home in Yenan in the summer of 1946. During the course of their conversation Mao used the term “paper tiger” to describe the impermanent nature of imperialism:

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This fascinating report is but one chapter in the legacy of this remarkable woman.

‘Paper Tigers’ and the Hair of the Dog that Bit You: Highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

Mishin Control: The Political Turbulence that Grounded the Soviet Manned Lunar Program

Lunar 9.jpgThe conspiracy theory that the United States falsified the Apollo moon landings in order to score points on the Russians is well-known. What is less well-known is that following America’s realization of President Kennedy’s vision for a human presence on the Moon, the Soviet Union officially disavowed any research or intention to effect their own manned lunar landings. This attitude may have contributed to the persistent notion that the Apollo program was a hoax since at the time there was nothing to which it could be compared, and the Soviets diminished the practicality and purpose of the Apollo program at every turn. On the American side, reconnaissance information about the Soviet effort couldn’t be released without compromising national security. So the true nature of Soviet ambitions in space were not revealed until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In two complementary reports from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995“Mishin Monograph on Failure of Soviet Manned Lunar Program”by V.P. Mishin (JPRS-USP-91-006, 11/12/1991, 21 pages), and “Development of Soviet Spacecraft for Manned Missions” by I.B. Afanasyev (JPRS-USP-92-003, 5/27/1992, 29 pages), we discover that not only were the Soviets working feverishly on a lunar landingthey were designing spacecraft for a manned orbital rendezvous with Mars. It’s no coincidence that these monographs only came to light during the “glasnost/perestroika” (openness/restructuring) period in the early 1990s.

Mishin Control: The Political Turbulence that Grounded the Soviet Manned Lunar Program

Iran Finds Its Revolutionary: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Law and Politics

Ruhollah_Khomeini_speaking_to_his_followers_against_capitulation_day_1964.jpgHe ended a 2500-year monarchy in his country, deposing Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the process. He coined the term “Great Satan” in response to American intervention in Iran. Under his regime Iranians stormed the American Embassy, taking (and ultimately releasing) 52 hostages in 1979-1981. He was Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 1979. He issued the fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, and he invited Soviet President Gorbachev to consider Islam as an alternative to communism. Khomeini was clearly a man of strong opinions who was not afraid of the spotlight.

In the selections below from the Translations on Near East and North Africa series in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, Khomeini appears in a more distilled form, no less zealous but further from the barricades. His firebrand rhetoric is still here, but his early writings especially show him to be a serious legal and religious scholar, devoted to his people and his faith.


Islamic Government, by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeyni

No. 1897. (Publication data not given. Arabic, [1969-1970]) 78 pages

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Iran Finds Its Revolutionary: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Law and Politics

‘In the Green Hell of the Amazon:’ From the Rediscovered Notebooks of an Early Russian Explorer of Brazil

Grigori-langsdorff 2.jpgThe 2016 Olympic Games and mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have drawn the world's attention to Brazil recently. Even the Russians attending the Rio games may not be aware that one of their illustrious forebears, Grigory Langsdorff, was present as the first Russian Consul General in that city over 200 years ago. The story of this important naturalist and explorer is told in “Russian Scientists in Brazil, A Forgotten Expedition,” published in 1963 in Nauka i Zhizn' (Science and Life), and found in English-language translation in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports.

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Langsdorff served as consul in Rio from 1813-1820. By then he had already circumnavigated the world and spoke five languages including Portuguese, hence his appointment to the then-Portuguese colony of Brazil. His official duties in Rio were eclipsed by his scientific passion, however, and mosquito-borne complications from tropical diseases ultimately took his mind and ended his career.

Langsdorff returned to Russia in 1820, was granted 200,000 rubles for expeditionary support from Czar Alexander the First. He returned to Brazil in 1822 with a team of scientists and artists. Their three excursions along the coast and into the heart of the country extended over the next seven years.

‘In the Green Hell of the Amazon:’ From the Rediscovered Notebooks of an Early Russian Explorer of Brazil

The Body Politic: Public Health and Quality of Life in the Eastern Bloc

In such diverse forums as National Geographic, The Aspen Institute, and the TED-talk series, there has been an active discussion of “blue zones,” initially proposed as five distinct geographic locales where the populace demonstrates greater longevity and a higher quality of life than the norm. The concept was popularized by the author Dan Buettner, and includes areas such as Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Loma Linda, California. Conspicuously absent from the list, however, is any location in the former Eastern Bloc.  

In this month's highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we're delving into some of the statistical and qualitative material which might contribute to an understanding of the absence of “red” countries from “blue” zones.  


Comparative Studies on the Frequency of Suicides in the Two German States

Das Deutsche Gesundheitswesen (The German Health Service), Vol. XVI. No. 19, May 1961 

The Body Politic: Public Health and Quality of Life in the Eastern Bloc

Goodbye Comrades: The Voskhod Space Mission in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

The Voskhod program was primarily designed to produce spectacular firsts in space flight. In October of 1964 the Soviets launched the first Voskhod mission. It was the first spacecraft to carry more than one cosmonaut, and among its three-man crew was a medical doctor. His presence aboard and the decision not to wear space suits were also firsts in the space race.  The first spacewalk occurred during the Voskhod’s second and final flight in March 1965.  


Click to open in PDFAccount of the Voskhod Flight (1964)

This is a first-hand account of the mission by two of the Voskhod cosmonauts as told to two correspondents from Pravda. Consequently, it is in the first person and has a rather vernacular appeal. The men begin by talking about the night before the launch, revealing personal relationships among the crew and among all of the other personnel engaged in the program.

When the crew had been raised by elevator to enter the capsule, they paused to look down at the crowd below them:

At parting, the heart always aches a little. Involuntarily, all three of us cried out one and the same thing: Goodbye, Comrades!

Goodbye Comrades: The Voskhod Space Mission in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

Space Race Research by the Soviet Union: English-Language Translations from JPRS Reports

For most of the second half of the twentieth century, the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in serious competition on many fronts.  Perhaps the most popular and comprehensible manifestation of this competition was the space race.  It is not surprising that a significant effort was made by the Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) to gather and translate a wide spectrum of scientific and technical articles published by the Soviets.  From the July release of JPRS Reports, we highlight advances in space science and space travel research.

The Space Age: Exploration of the Moon

This report was published less than three years before the United States landed men on the moon and Neil Armstrong took “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” The author states,

The first five years in space (1957-1962) passed under the sigh of triumphal attainments of the USSR in all fields of space research, including lunar exploration.

He defines the American space program largely by its failures, while extolling the steady stream of Soviet accomplishments. However, he does credit American research, particularly photographing the moon's surface but asserts that the photography could not answer critical questions that only a successful soft landing on the moon's surface could satisfy.


Problems in Aerospace Medicine

Space Race Research by the Soviet Union: English-Language Translations from JPRS Reports

I Was Chairman Mao's Cook (and other unexpected finds in a Cold War-era intelligence archive)

What do the hydrodynamics of dolphins[1], the philosophical quandary of extra-terrestrial life[2], and Soviet experiments to detect emotions[3] have in common? Need a hint? It’s the same thing that biographies of Anwar Sadat[4] and Zhu Rongji[5], who became the fifth Premier of the People’s Republic of China, and an article by Chairman Mao’s cook[6], have in common. They are all found in the Readex digital edition of Joint Publications Research Service Reports (JPRS)—an English-language archive of translations of foreign scientific, technical, and social science materials.

I Was Chairman Mao's Cook (and other unexpected finds in a Cold War-era intelligence archive)

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