World History


Tapas Rojas: Brief Reports on Cold War Communism in Latin America

Marchers for Allende, 1964. Photograph by Jim WallaceHyperinflation in Venezuela and Argentina. Transformative elections. Plummeting oil revenue for Brazil. Leftist governments have faced significant political and economic challenges recently. Fifty years ago, regional socialist experiments were at a more nascent and often violent stage in their development.

In this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we’ll peruse family snapshots of Latin American politics back when communism—for all its bloodshed and “red” ideology—appeared more black-and-white.


Guerilla Threats against Peasantry

La Esfera (The Globe) – 3 December 1962

In what could be the first line of a novel, the opening sentence of this report says volumes about life in Venezuela in 1962: “Fabricio and his partisans threatened to shoot the peasants.” Che Guevara’s name comes up, as does the revolutionary character of Jesus Christ’s ministry on Earth.


Bolivian Peasant Leader Attacks Police and Defies Minister of Government

Presencia (Presence) – 23 November 1962

A government attempt to retrieve a stolen vehicle turns into a five-hour confrontation.


Communist Political Activities in Brazil

Novos Rumos (New Ways) – 14-20 December 1962

Conferences rather than confrontations here as the peasants attempt to consolidate their power and better their situation.


Cuban Economic Highlights—1961

Revolucion (Revolution) – 30 December 1961

Tapas Rojas: Brief Reports on Cold War Communism in Latin America

Beyond the Climate of Fear: Environmental Research in the Soviet Union during the 1960s

Although the United States competed with the Soviet Union politically, economically and technologically, our countries shared many of the same concerns regarding the environment. During the era when Rachel Carson was publishing Silent Spring in the West, in the East the Soviets were also looking into the dangers of organic compounds. They discussed climate change seriously, studied the effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear tests, and explored the mysteries of the northern lights. 

In this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we’ll take a break from politics to consider some of the more fundamental aspects of life.  


On the Problem of the Mechanism of the Selectivity of Toxicity of Organophosphorus Insecticides

Gigiyena Truda i Professional'nyye Zabolevaniya (Labor Hygiene and Occupational Diseases) — May 1963

We’re familiar with the organic compound DDT through its historical use as an insecticide and its toxic effects on wildlife. This report considers how the chemicals’ effects on insects differ from their effects on warm-blooded animals.  


The Artificial Control of the Climate of Large and Small Areas

Izvestiya Akademii Nauk SSSR, Seriya Geograficheskaya (Bulletin of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Geography Series) — 1963

Understanding the biochemistry of an insecticide is important. On the macro end of the scale, it’s also important to know the impact of our actions on the global climate. No politics intrudes on the science in this report.


Translations from Radioactive Contamination of the Environment [1962]

Beyond the Climate of Fear: Environmental Research in the Soviet Union during the 1960s

A Violent Desire of Making Discoveries, or, The Passion for Traveling: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

From Afro-Americana Imprints

The November release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains a remarkable 18th-century history of the Age of Discovery, featuring abundant maps, charts and illustrations, and a dramatic 19th-century work about an around-the-world excursion, which was written by the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe.


A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels (1745)

This four-volume tour de force details nearly all aspects of the Age of Discovery. Its subtitle proclaims it to include:

every Thing remarkable in its Kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, with respect to the several Empires, Kingdoms, and Provinces; their situation, extent, bounds and division, climate, soil and produce; their lakes, rivers, mountains, cities, principal towns, harbors, buildings, &c. and the gradual alterations that from Time to Time have happened in each: also the manners and customs of the several inhabitants; their religion and government, arts and sciences, trades and manufactures; so as to form a complete system of modern geography and history, exhibiting the present state of all nations…

The work introduces the Age of Discovery through the explorations of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and Ferdinand Magellan:

A Violent Desire of Making Discoveries, or, The Passion for Traveling: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Bridges to the Past: Everything from the Cold War Is New Again

A left front view of a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft parked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS AmericaSeveral weeks ago a Dutch investigation determined that a civilian airliner flying over contested Ukraine territory was brought down by a missile of Russian manufacture; Presidents Obama and Putin continue to spar over "deconfliction" in Syrian airspace. And Steven Spielberg's latest film, "Bridge of Spies," based upon the Soviets' downing of an American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft in May 1960, was released internationally. Is this art imitating life? Or it could be more as William Faulkner wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

In this month's highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we're going back to the future: Political prisoners. Electronic countermeasures. Confrontations on the German Autobahn. Let the credits roll: the Cold War's about to get hot. Again.


US-USSR Incident on the Berlin Autobahn

Muenchner Merkur (Munich Mercury) – 20 October 1963

If your commute was challenging this morning, at least you didn't have armored personnel carriers and spiked vehicle barriers blocking the roadway. In October 1963 an American military convoy traveling through East Berlin to West Germany encountered all that and more. Protests were filed. Ultimatums issued. There was talk of "misunderstandings" and "compromise," but also of "provocation" and "heavy undesirable consequences."

Bridges to the Past: Everything from the Cold War Is New Again

Foreign Broadcast Information Service: A Brief Overview of Its Daily Reports and Their Value for International Studies

From 1941 to 1996 the U.S. government published the Daily Report of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). FBIS was begun in 1941 as a means of letting the government know what propaganda was being broadcast into the U.S. by the shortwave radio services of the foreign governments involved in the European war.

Broadcasts deemed of potential interest to U.S. government officials were selected for translation into English. Political, economic and war news dominated the first years of FBIS. Broadcasts were either transcribed in their entirety, in part, or were briefly summarized. Every day a Daily Report was published and delivered. After World War II the number of FBIS sources grew, and the size of the Daily Report ballooned. In the early 1970s FBIS Daily Reports began to be delivered in Regional Reports whose names changed over time. Sources now included newspapers and television news shows as well as radio broadcasts.

Graham E. Fuller, a former C.I.A. official, wrote about FBIS Reports in a Consortium News piece entitled, “Value in Reading Others’ Propaganda,” which was published online on September 29, 2015. In this piece Fuller writes:

Indeed there was an entire branch of CIA which monitored and published on a daily basis a thick booklet of selected broadcast items from around the world—available by subscription. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service provided an invaluable service. It is now sadly defunct, the victim of short-sighted budget cutting—an operation which probably cost less annually than one fighter aircraft and offered much more.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service: A Brief Overview of Its Daily Reports and Their Value for International Studies

“Mingled Puerility and Brutality”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The September release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several multi-volume works detailing various regions and peoples of Africa.


Maritime Geography and Statistics: A Description of the Ocean and its Coasts, Maritime Commerce, Navigation, &c. &c. &c. (1815)

By James Hingston Tuckey, a commander in the Royal Navy

James Hingston Tuckey’s four-volume work is a tour de force describing the world’s oceans and coasts. Tuckey, born in 1776, joined the Royal Navy in 1793 and by the turn of the century was assisting in the expansion of the British colony of New South Wales in Australia. In 1805, after having returned briefly to England, Tuckey was captured by the French near St. Helena in the South Atlantic and held prisoner for nearly nine years. If not for his imprisonment, it is unlikely that Tuckey’s Maritime Geography and Statistics would have been written:

If it should be asked how a naval officer could, during the activity of war, find leisure to compile a work requiring the perusal of many thousand volumes, the answer is unfortunately too ready: it was undertaken to pass away the tedious hours of a hopeless captivity, alike destructive of present happiness and future prospects.

In Volume II, Tuckey turns his attention to the coast of West Africa, writing:

After passing the limits of Morocco, the first nation met with is the Moors of the Desert, who inhabit the coast from Cape Agulon to the Senegal, and form three tribes. Though they acknowledge the Emperor of Morocco as their sovereign, they are in every respect independent of his government or power. They lead an erratic life, their habitations being conical tents of cloth manufactured of camel’s hair, which they move about in search of pasture for their cattle.

“Mingled Puerility and Brutality”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

Constitutions and Constituents: Syria, the Soviet Union, and Security

An interesting dynamic is playing out on the world stage between Syria, Germany, and Russia. In a dramatic historical turn, a unified and economically resurgent Germany is welcoming Syrian refugees even as post-Soviet Russia redoubles its support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal suppression of the fruits of the “Damascus Spring.”

To provide some context to current events, in this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we offer West German and Soviet political commentaries on state power, and a core document, the 1962 Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic.

From JPRS ReportsSoviet Press Parallels Chinese Communist and Western Militarists
Izvestiya (News), Moscow – 25 September 1963

Citing Clauswitz’s dictum that “war is the continuation of politics by other means,” in the September 25, 1963, issue of Izvestiya, commentator Boris Dmitriyev claimed that on the question of nuclear war, both China and the United States were in favor of it. On the one hand, in his argument for the peaceful aspirations of the Soviet Union, the writer recognizes that “nuclear missiles have fundamentally changed the nature of modern warfare;” on the other, the USSR had just the previous year been discovered placing missiles in Cuba. With China and the Soviet Union locked in a bitter controversy over the true nature of communist orthodoxy, one might wonder whether the missiles removed from Cuba were usefully redeployed on the Asian continent—pointed east.

Constitutions and Constituents: Syria, the Soviet Union, and Security

Marxism ex Machina: Pulling Back the Curtain on Soviet Economics

Nikita Khrushchev with the Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander in a rowing boat, 1964 by Arne Schweitz/ScanpixIt’s notable during the run-up to America’s presidential primaries that the candidates include uber-capitalist Donald Trump and the self-described socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Their competing ideologies underscore the great extent to which America’s political economy appeals both to naked self-interest and to popular concerns for social goods—but still goes by the name “capitalism.” Conversely, behind the utopian rhetoric of communism, the Soviet Union regularly appealed to the workers’ acquisitive desires. And when the Communist Party’s vaunted planning didn’t pan-out in the marketplace—out it went!

In this month's highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, we expose some of the arcane machinery underlying the seemingly monolithic communism of the Soviet Union, beginning with the machine shop itself.

Marxism ex Machina: Pulling Back the Curtain on Soviet Economics

Hitler, Heroes, and Harmony: Newly Digitized Reports from the Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

In this month’s release of JPRS Reports, 1957-1994, we’re exploring psychology—dark & light, hortative & theoretical, aspirational and actual.


Hitler’s Former Headquarters Now a Tourist Attraction in Poland

On a road in Rastenburg (now Ketrzyn), Poland, past the wild swans and the birches, the Polish Society for Tourism and Home Lore erected a sign leading travelers to the “Wolf’s Lair.” Upon arrival in 1963, for the price of ten zloty the curious visitor could tour the numbered ruins of the massive complex of reinforced concrete which served as Adolf Hitler’s headquarters from 1941-1944, where the Fuhrer narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. The presence of schoolgirls and wild strawberries are noted among the graves and mine fields in this short, poignant report.


From JPRS ReportsThe Lei Feng Campaign: A Pictorial Report on a Chinese Communist Hero

Lei Feng was literally the poster child for Chinese communism beginning in February 1963, although there is disagreement as to the existence of the actual person depicted. Some of the visual details were lost during the reproduction process, but there’s still a great deal to be learned through the captions and especially the numerous cartoons. If you’ve seen this Chinese Everyman once, you’ll recall having seen him a thousand times, which was the point, after all, as he was held to be the best guide and highest realization of the ideal communist citizen.

From JPRS Reports

Hitler, Heroes, and Harmony: Newly Digitized Reports from the Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

San Francisco Conference Founds the United Nations: A Look Back through Three Readex Collections


From America's Historical Newspapers

Beginning on April 25, 1945, as World War II entered its final months, delegates from dozens of nations gathered at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Their goal was the creation of an international organization that would lessen the chances of a third global conflict.  The meeting’s official name was the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), but it was more typically called the San Francisco Conference.  

The participants debated the institutional framework that had been negotiated earlier in the year by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C.  Chaired by U.S. diplomat Alger Hiss, and addressed by President Harry Truman, the San Francisco Conference ultimately produced the United Nations Charter, which was signed on June 26, 1945.

Readex collections offer three different ways to see real-time accounts of this historic meeting. The first is through the daily press accounts in America’s Historical Newspapers.  The actions of the delegates in the build-up to the final charter can be traced through news stories, editorials, opinion columns, photographs and cartoons.

San Francisco Conference Founds the United Nations: A Look Back through Three Readex Collections

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