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

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

Israel in the Balance: Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports on the Modern Jewish State

At the passing on 29 November 1947 of “United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II), Future Government of Palestine,” which sketched the outlines of the future State of Israel, the UN was itself in its infancy and seeking a permanent home. So it was that the Partition of Palestine can be traced to the Sperry Gyroscope Plant on Long Island at 1111 Marcus Avenue, in Lake Success, New York.

 

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It seems fitting that Resolution 181’s three-axis balancing of the “Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem” has its roots in a former defense installation devoted to manufacturing instruments to serve exactly that purpose.

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Israel in the Balance: Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports on the Modern Jewish State

‘All revolutions bring their own laws’: Selections from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

Reports from the Joint Publications Research Serviceacting as a unit within the Central Intelligence Agencywere published to provide wide-ranging insight into geo-politics, global threat assessments, public policy, foreign intelligence, national security, the Cold War and more.  These were among the newly digitized reports released to the Readex digital edition in November and December 2016.


Comments on the TU-144 Supersonic Aircraft

Skrzydlata Polska (Polish Aircraft), No. 33 (788), 14 August 1966. 8 pages

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Over two years before the first successful flight of the supersonic commercial aircraft Concorde, you could have learned the details of its Soviet counterpart from A.N. Tupolev himself in this Polish technical journal. The TU-144 shared the general configuration and iconic “drooped” nose of the British-French aircraft, and was the first such aircraft to exceed Mach 2. It was in production until the early 1980s.


Rare Phenomena: “Vision” in the Fingers of Rosa Kuleshova

Priroda (Nature), No. 5, 1963. 22 pages

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‘All revolutions bring their own laws’: Selections from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

‘Godspeed, John Glenn’: Notes on the Passing of a Great American

The late Senator John Glenn embarked on his life of public service literally and figuratively at the tip of a spear. As a Marine pilot he flew combat missions during World War II and the Korean War; as the first American to orbit the Earth, he flew into history atop a repurposed Atlas missile. Glenn—the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut—died on December 8, 2016, at the age of 95.

 

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In peacetime, he readily transitioned to playing a constructive role in science and government. During his career as a four-term Senator from Ohio he supported legislation proffering an official apology to those Japanese-Americans who suffered internment during World War II. He also championed limitations on strategic missiles.

 

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He was forward-thinking in many other ways. For example, 2016 saw the opening of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, in Washington, D.C. Senator Glenn had proposed such an institution in his home state in 1976, on a site that had been part of the Underground Railroad.

 

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‘Godspeed, John Glenn’: Notes on the Passing of a Great American

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

'In the Shadow of Conventions:' Gender Equality in Islamic Society

 

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The scope of Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, is much broader than politics and national security; social issues are also well represented. In the four reports excerpted below we proceed from general to particular. The first, which includes the cartoons here, is a diverse collection of articles from Arabic-language sources; the second a travel diary of a woman visiting oases in Egypt. The third and fourth items both concern the conflict of Muslim traditions in the former Soviet Union—the latter report specifically with regard to the nomadic culture of Kazakhstan. Together they offer valuable insights into the role of women in Muslim countries, both in urban and rural settings.

The first report, Near East/North Africa Report, No. 2620, Status of women in Persian Gulf countries (JPRS-81769, 09/15/1982. 90 pages) touches upon such contemporary topics as age discrimination, suffrage, driving, marriage and divorce, employment, education, dress, and East/West cultural differences.

'In the Shadow of Conventions:' Gender Equality in Islamic Society

Dangerous Ground: Competing Interests and Intentions in the South China Sea

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Do you know how the many islands, shoals, and reefs were formed? It is a great miracle of nature.

Thus begins Chapter 2 of the book Our Country’s South Sea Archipelagoes (JPRS Report 18424, 3/28/1963) by Ch’en Tung-k’ang, published in 1962. In light of recent developments a revised edition might be warranted, for today that “miracle of nature” involves large-scale dredging and the impoundment of sand and coral into areas large enough to support permanent Chinese military bases and claims to the surrounding waters.

The “Rich and Beautiful Treasure Islands” referred to in the book’s table of contents are increasingly seen as fraught, perilous, and treasured by competing parties in the international arena.

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It's tempting to view China’s island-building program as a recent phenomenon, begun in response to the America's “pivot” to Asia. But Ch’en's book claims, “Ever since ancient times, these islands and islets in the South Sea have been the territory of our country.”

Dangerous Ground: Competing Interests and Intentions in the South China Sea

New and Improved: Personal and Political Reform in Socialist States

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-L0822-0026,_XX__Olympiade,_DDR-Turnerinnen,_Training Caption Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L0822-0026. Gahlbeck, Friedrich. CC-BY-SA 3.0.jpgEast and West, self-improvement is a human project in which the state has a vested interest. In the West, the idea of a liberal education resulting in conscientious, informed citizens has been the goal. In socialist states, the tendency has been to link the personal with the political taken collectively rather than individually.

In this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we offer a selection of best practices drawn from countries in which the U.S. government had a healthy interest.


Residues of the Islamic Religion and Methods for Eliminating them

Voprosy Filosofii (Problems in Philosophy) No. 5, May 1961

The United States is just the latest nation where Islam has become a political issue. Communism has always had an argument with organized religion as leading to “false consciousness” and inhibiting adherence to proletarian goals and identity.

This report relates the proceedings of a conference in Dagestan wherein the rationale and methodology is laid-out for eliminating the Islamic religion from the Soviet population. And they don’t mince words:

New and Improved: Personal and Political Reform in Socialist States

A Day at the (Space) Races: Gherman Titov and Vostok-2 Raise the Stakes of Manned Space Flight

“Socialism is the launching platform from which the Soviet Union shoots off its cosmic ships.” —Nikita S. Khrushchev

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On 6 August 1961, less than four years after Sputnik and not quite four months after Yuri Gagarin's historic orbital flight, Gherman Titov accomplished a flight of over seventeen orbits, lasting more than a day. This achievement had the desired effect of serving notice to the United States that Soviet space exploration was neither a fluke nor a stunt, but a sustained program to demonstrate the technical superiority—and by extension, the socio-political potency—of socialism over capitalism. In these documents from the current release of Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we offer direct quotations from Titov himself, scientists, a journalist, even a farmer witnessing Titov's landing.

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Preparation for Man's Flight into Cosmic Space

Vestnik Akademii Nauk, SSSR (Herald of the Academy of Sciences, USSR), No. 6, 1961. 16 p.

A Day at the (Space) Races: Gherman Titov and Vostok-2 Raise the Stakes of Manned Space Flight

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