Duck and (Dis)cover: Strategic Information Hiding in Plain Sight in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

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Do you remember the “Duck and Cover” drills from the 1950s? The Soviet people practiced similar civil defense maneuvers in case the unthinkable happened. What follows is the entire table of contents (omitting the authors) of Soviet Military Translations, No. 368, 24 January 1967, drawn from Voyennyye Znaniya [Military Skills, Moscow, No. 12, December 1966] and found in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports:

  • Civil-Defense Services must be Perfected
  • The Actions of Civil Defense and the Armed Forces must be Coordinated
  • Efficient Utilization of Machinery in Rescue Work
  • Civil Defense at a Khar’kov Plant
  • The Methods of Civil-Defense Training are very Diverse
  • Methods of Compensating for a Shortage of Shelters
  • Training of Civil-Defense Commanders is Financed Partially by the Enterprises
  • Average Norms for Loading Casualties on Vehicles
  • England’s Reliance on Evacuation of the Population

Civil defense was far from an abstract concept in the Soviet Union. Consider how granular their concern was, extending to the “norms for loading casualties” onto vehicles, with several articles using the imperative mood. Beneath the Cold War saber-rattling about communism “burying” capitalism and the bravado surrounding the U-2 Incident and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it isn’t much of a stretch to see in this list of articles a nation that is terrified of being nuked.

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And why not? It was 1966; Khrushchev had been removed as First Secretary late in 1964. Brezhnev was still consolidating his power. China was testing nuclear weapons. The Soviet space program was floundering following the death of S.P. Korolev, the country’s foremost rocket engineer and spacecraft designer. America was vigorously waging war in Vietnam. Soviet preeminence and national pride were under siege. Prague Spring was just around the corner. Those beautiful Moscow metro stations doubled as fallout shelters. The world was a dangerous place.


Heroism and Modern War, by Major D. Volkogonov

Soviet Military Translations, No. 369, 30 January 1967.

Kommunist Vooruzhennykh Sil [Communist of the Armed Forces], Moscow, No. 24, December 1966. 

At the other end of the military spectrum from civil defense stands that archetype of Soviet society, the military hero. The author confirms that heroism can be found in the simple acts of day-to-day civilian life, but the stakes are raised exponentially for military personnel such as submariners on a round-the-world cruise:

But the spirit of courageous optimism did not abandon the Soviet sailors for a single minute. We will observe that the commander of the American atomic submarine, “Triton,” which also made a round-the-world cruise, recalls in his notes: “The crew had a constant feeling of fear, oppression, and depressed expectation.” The Soviet submariners experienced nothing of the kind.

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The implication here is that communism creates superior technology and better people than capitalism does, which raises the question: if Soviet technology and military personnel were markedly better than those of Western nations, is Soviet heroism diminished by those purported advantages?

Since we know that humans and their creations are far from perfect, there’s room to interpret the anxiety candidly described by the American commander as a (heroic?) triumph of honesty and perseverance during the cruise, compared with Soviet hubris and rash idealism. Can a bourgeois imperialist measure up to the communist standard of heroism? The author thinks not:

In order to “predispose” and train a person for an heroic deed, it is necessary, above all, to build communist convictions in him. In a man who does not possess sufficiently firm convictions even such qualities as honesty, courage, and resoluteness are unable to display themselves beyond a definite limit.

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The author is at least honest in his biases, even if those assumptions have since been proven incorrect by history. Note to once and future communists: America too prevailed in the Great Patriotic War. Respect your enemy.


The Economic Role of Private Subsidiary Farming, by M. Makeyenko

Voprosy Ekonomiki [Problems in Economics], Moscow, No. 10, October 1966.

Have you been reviewing your seed catalogues this spring, deciding what savory or exotic varieties of vegetables to plant? Imagine if your government concerned itself in whether or not you planted a garden or raised animals for your own consumption. In the United States such locavore practices are encouraged as both healthy and humane; in countries where refrigeration and transportation are limited, raising and selling one’s produce is simply a way of life.

In the Soviet Union, however, supplementing your diet or selling your extra eggs or strawberries to your neighbors at the local market was a source of anxiety for the government. The Communist Party viewed it as undermining the state’s centralized planning, and detracting from the socialist ethic of all for one and one for all. Apparently the fruit from Chekhov’s famous cherry orchard could be red, but not Red.

This is a very good article in that it applies economic principles to a specific case rather than blathering on about the inherent sanctity of socialism. And one of the telling facts revealed is that women were engaged in what we’ll call domestic agriculture—the kitchen garden. And the author goes further:

It is impossible to be further reconciled with the fact that Soviet industry does not at all take these characteristics into consideration: spades, rakes, pitchforks and other implements of manual labor are, for all practical purposes, manufactured according to standard technical specifications and are not designed for feminine hands.

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Have you ever used a tool that wasn’t suited to your particular physiology or needs? It’s true: in the worker’s paradise, fully one-half of the population was discounted out of hand because the means of production were standardized for men. Women especially had an uphill battle to feed their families through their own efforts when the collective failed them. Given this fundamental economic rigidity and gender discrimination, it’s no wonder that famine figures prominently in the history of communist countries.


Clearing the Fog over Halim Air Base by Ratna Sari Dewi

Translations on South and East Asia, No. 140, 6 January 1967

Angkatan Bersendjata [Armed Forces], Djakarta, 17-20 October 1966.

Not another weather modification report! Actually, the title here is completely misleading. The “fog” the author is attempting to clear is the ambiguity regarding what really happened during the 1965 coup d’état that deposed Indonesian President Sukarno.The author is none other than Sukarno’s wife.

Of the “30 September incident” she writes:

There are still many things concerning the 30 September incident which cannot be made public yet. Many reports portray the incident in various ways, but I regret to say that not all of them are correct. Or it would be better to say that some of them very much deviate from the truth.

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There you have it: the first draft of history, from open source intelligence in Readex’s Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995. For more informatoin, please contact Readex Marketing.


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