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Risk and Reward: Cutting-Edge Eastern-Bloc Research in the Early 1960s

Posted on 10/18/2017

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.

In the introduction, the reader will learn that warfare is the fault of bourgeois imperialists, but these aberrations are neatly resolved by Marxism-Leninism with the help of cybernetics, the science of control. The “laws of social development,” below, which entail an occasional regression to the mean of warfare, turn out to involve a host of engineering problems as well as the threat of annihilation. What follows is a textbook definition of the arms race, taken from an actual textbook:

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This is as bloodless a presentation of state-of-the-art military technology as one might desire. Notice that in the examples below, the improved means of aiming various guns have removed the human components from the systems entirely, leaving only an implied human target on the receiving end of the devices. Violence and chaos can thus be released from a “control center” (i).

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Manned Space Stations

Obitsyemyye Kosmicheskiye Stantsii [monograph] by I.N. Bubnov and L.N. Kamanin, Moscow, 1964.

This is a lavish, comprehensive presentation on the peaceful uses of space, brought to you by the USSR Ministry of Defense. The cosmonauts here are apparently much too busy surviving lethal levels of radiation in a total vacuum to concern themselves with war machines.

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Oxygen Deficiency

Kislorodnaya Nedostatochnost’ by A.F. Makarchenko [Chief Editor], Kiev, 1963.

Our final hostile environment is natural, terrestrial, and likely scenic as it involves human acclimatization to the alpine environment. This report includes an extensive bibliography.


For more information about Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1994, or to request a trial for your institution, please contact

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