FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How the CIA Turned “Dr. Zhivago” Into a Weapon

by

American Cold War propaganda had little, if anything, to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union.  However, by dramatizing Soviet mendacity it made the world blind to Washington’s mendacity.

When Soviet authorities refused to publish prominent Soviet writer Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, the CIA turned it into a propaganda coup.  An Italian journalist and Communist Party member learned of the suppressed manuscript and offered to take the manuscript to the Italian communist publisher in Milan, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who published the book in Italian over Soviet objections in 1957. Feltrinelli believed that Dr. Zhivago was a masterpiece and that the Soviet government was foolish not to take credit for the accomplishment of its greatest writer. Instead, a dogmatic and inflexible Kremlin played into the CIA’s hands.

The Soviets made such a stink about the book that the controversy raised the book’s profile. According to recently declassified CIA documents, the CIA saw the book as an opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder why a novel by such a prominent Russian writer was only available abroad.

The CIA arranged for a Russian language edition to be published and distributed to Soviet citizens at the World Fair in Brussels in 1958. The propaganda coup was complete when Pasternak received the Nobel Prize for literature in October 1958.

The use of Pasternak’s novel to undermine Soviet citizens’ belief in their government continued as late as 1961.  That year I was a member of the US/USSR student exchange program. We were encouraged to take with us copies of Dr. Zhivago.

We were advised that it was unlikely Soviet customs inspectors would know English and be able to recognize book titles.  If asked, we were to reply “travel reading.”  If the copies were recognized and confiscated, no worry. The copies were too valuable to be destroyed. The custom officials would first read the books themselves and then sell them on the black market, an efficient way to spread the distribution.

You can read the Washington Post’s report here.

The declassified CIA documents can be read here

What strikes me about the CIA memos is how similar the United States government is today to the Soviet government of 1958.  The chief of the CIA’s Soviet Division described in a July 1958 memo why Dr. Zhivago was a threat to the Soviet government.  The threat resided in “Pasternak’s humanistic message that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being.”

Tell that to the National Stasi Agency and to Homeland Security and to the detainees in Guantanamo and the CIA’s torture prisons. In the US individual privacy no longer exists. The NSA collects and stores every email, every credit card purchase, every telephone conversation, every Internet search, every use of social media of every citizen. Pasternak had far more privacy than any American has today. Soviet travelers were not subjected to genital groping and porno-scanners. Penalties Soviet citizens paid for uttering truths inconvenient for the government were no more severe than the penalties imposed on Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden.

Today Russian citizens are more free to have private lives than are Americans, and the Russian press is more lively and more critical of government than the American press.

As I wrote in one of my columns, when communist East Germany dissolved, the Stasi moved to Washington.

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is How America Was Lost.

 

 

 

More articles by:

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail