Soviet Union


Black and White Shot Through with Red: Poet Claude McKay Brings the Harlem Renaissance to the Soviet Union

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At the confluence of the period of racial violence known as Red Summer (1919) and the first Red Scare (1917-1920), Jamaica-born poet and journalist Claude McKay merged black anger with radical politics in his most well-known poem, “If We Must Die.”

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McKay’s sonnet initially appeared in the July 1919 issue of The Liberator, a radical socialist magazine published in New York City from 1918-24 by Max and Crystal Eastman. The fame and impact of “If We Must Die” was such that it was soon reprinted as a rallying cry in other progressive magazines such as the September 1919 issue of The Messenger, available in African American Periodicals, 1825-1995.

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Black and White Shot Through with Red: Poet Claude McKay Brings the Harlem Renaissance to the Soviet Union

Sifting the Ashes of Counterinsurgency: The Role of America’s Phoenix Program in the Vietnam War

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Fifty years ago the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, a multi-pronged military campaign that underscored South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu’s inability to protect his country’s urban areas from attack.

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Although the assaults were eventually repulsed, the heightened focus on the defense of South Vietnamese cities exposed rural areas to greater infiltration by the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) cadre, consisting of civilians and paramilitary personnel collaborating with the communist North.

America formalized the Phoenix Program in 1967 as a means of addressing just this eventuality. Through a melding of rural development with intelligence gathering and targeted detention and killing of suspected Viet Cong, they hoped to turn the tide of the war to the South and democracy.

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Sifting the Ashes of Counterinsurgency: The Role of America’s Phoenix Program in the Vietnam War

Pre-occupations: Cold War Commonalities between the Soviet Union and the United States

Occupation can be a state of mind as much as a physical presence, and we have both in this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1994.

The star of the show is undoubtedly the travelogue of two Soviet journalists exploring America in 1972. We also have more sober assessments of chemical and nuclear weapons, and a guidebook on eliminating Islamic religious belief. Fifty years later, with North Korea testing ever more potent missiles, and a contentious ban on Muslims traveling to the United States, these concerns still seem ripped from the headlines in 2017.


Soviet Correspondents Report Motor Trip Through the United States

Pravda (Truth); Komsomol’skaya Pravda (Komsomol Truth), Moscow, March-June 1973

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Two Soviet journalists drive over 15,000 kilometers in six weeks, coast-to-coast through 27 states, in a brand-new, brown Ford Gran Torino with New York plates. Seat belts and speed limits are a mystery to them. Kentucky Fried Chicken is fascinating. They were living the dream, and through it all they seemed to like us, even as they’re handed their first-ever medical bill (“Appendicitis always picks the wrong time.”). But back to the dream.

They handle guns in Santa Fe, and they find themselves looking down the barrel of a Texas highway patrolman’s pistol. They visit an adult novelty shop, and the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. The Russian woman who sees them off on their escapade implores them, “Children, please be good...” To make sure they are, at one point they’re tailed by their own countrymen.

Pre-occupations: Cold War Commonalities between the Soviet Union and the United States

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

Seductive Spies, a Quest for Friendly Fumes, and a Lethal Love Triangle: Readex Report (October 2017)

In this issue: feminine charms reveal Civil War strategies; a dismembered body linked to a racially charged love triangle; and the dicey dealings of early American anesthesiologists.


Two Women Who Spied During the American Civil War: Going Undercover with Belle Boyd and Pauline Cushman in the Archive of Americana

Bruce D. Roberts, author of Clipper Ship Sailing Cards

Two Women 1b.jpgIn July 1861—just three months after the bombardment of Fort Sumter—unabashed Southern sympathizer Rose O’Neal Greenhow of Washington, D.C., was already engaged in espionage on behalf of the Confederacy. Well-placed in Washington society—and adept at bleeding information from the many men who found her attractive—Greenhow learned that Union troops under General Irvin McDowell would attack Rebel forces in Manassas, Virginia, within days... > Full Story

Seductive Spies, a Quest for Friendly Fumes, and a Lethal Love Triangle: Readex Report (October 2017)

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

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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