Lee Harvey Oswald in His Own Words:
The Collective Life of a Russian Worker
Warren Commission Exhibit 92, Vol 16.; Pg 287-336
Note: In the interest of clarity and legibility, spelling, puncuation, and capitalization have been corrected in certain cases.
The lives of Russian workers is governed, first and foremost, by the "collective," the smallest unit of authority in any given factory, plant, or enterprise. Sectional and shop cells form a highly organized and well supported political organization. These shop committees are in turn governed by the shop and section party chiefs who are directed by the factory or plant party secretary. This post carries officially the same amount of authority as the production director or president of the plant, but in reality it is the controlling organ of all activities at any industrial enterprise, whether political, industrial, or otherwise personal relations. The party secretary is responsible for politiical indoctrination of the workers, the discipline of members of the Communist party working at the plant, and the general conduct and appearance of all members.
The Minsk Radio and Television plant is known throughout the Union as a major producer of electronics parts and sets. In this vast enterprise created in the early 50's, the party secretary is a 6'4" man in his early 40's -- has a long history of service to the party. He controls the activities of the 1,000 communist party members here and otherwise supervises the activities of the other 5,000 people employed at this major enterprise in Minsk, the capital of the 3rd ranking Republic Belorussia.
This factory manufactures 87,000 large and powerful radio and 60,000 television sets in various sizes and ranges, excluding pocket radios, which are not mass produced anywhere in the U.S.S.R. It is this plant which manufactured several console model combination radiophonograph television sets which were shown as mass produced items of commerce before several hundreds of thousands of Americans at the Soviet Exposition in New York in 1959. After the Exhibition these sets were duly shipped back to Minsk and are now stored in a special storage room on the first floor of the Administrative Building -- at this factory, ready for the next international Exhibit.
I worked for 23 months at this plant, a fine example of average and even slightly better than average working conditions. The plant covers an area of 25 acres in a district one block north of the main thoroughfare and only two miles from the center of the City with all facilities and systems for the mass production of radios and televisions; it employees 5,000 full time and 300 part time workers, 58% women and girls. This factory employs 2,000 soldiers in three of the five mainshops, mostly these shops are fitted with conveyor belts in long rows, on either side of which sit the long line of bustling women.
500 people, during the day shift, are employed on the huge stamp and pressing machines; here sheet metal is turned into metal frames and cabinets for televisions and radios.
Another 500 people are employed in an adjoining building for the cutting and finishing of rough wood into fine polished cabinets. A laborer's process, mostly done by hand, the cutting, trimming, and the processes right up to hand polishing are carried out here at the same plant. The plant also has its own stamp making plant, employing 150 poeple at or assisting at 80 heavy machine lathes and grinders. The noise in this shop is almost deafening as metal grinds against metal and steel saws cut through iron ingots at the rate of an inch a minute. The floor is covered with oil used to drain the heat of metal being worked so one has to watch one's footing; here the workers' hands are as black as the floor and seem to be eternally. The foremen here looks like the Russian version of "John Henry," tall and as strong as an ox. He isn't frilly, but he gets the work out.
The plant has its electric shop, where those who have finished long courses in electronics work over generators, television tubes, testing experiment of all kinds. The green work tables are filled high here. Electric gadgets are not too reliable, mostly due to the poor quality of wires, which keep burning out under the impact of the ususal 220V____ voltage. In the U.S. it is 110V.
The plastics department is next. Here 47 women and three physically disabled persons keep the red hot liquid plastic flowing into a store of odd presses, turning out their quota of knobs, handles, non-conducting tube bases, and so forth. These workers suffer the worst condition of work in the plant, an otherwise model factory, for the Soviet Union, due to bad fumes and the hotness of the materials. These workers are awarded 30 days vacation a year, the maximum for workers. Automation is now employed at a fairly large number of factories, especially the war industry. However, for civilian use, their number is still small.
At this plant at least one worker is employed in the often crude task of turning out finished, acceptable items. Often, one worker must finish the task of taking the edge of metal off plastic and shaving them on a foot driver lathe. There is only so much potentiality in presses and stamps, no matter what their size.
The lack of unemployment in the Soviet Union may be explained by one of 2 things. Lack of automation and a Bureaucratic corps of 16 workers in any given factory. These people are occupied with the tons of paperwork which flow in and out of any factory. Also the number of direct foremen is not small to the ratio of workers in some case 1-10, in others 1-5, depending on the importance of the work.
These people are also backed by a small array of examiners, committees and supply checkers and the quality control board. These people number (without foremen) almost 300 people, total working force 5,000 -- 3-50 without foreman.
To delve deep into the lives of the workers, we shall visit most of the shops one after another and get to know the people. The largest shop employs 500 people; 85% women and girls; females make up 60% of the work force at this plant.
Here girls solder and screw the chassis to the frame attaching, transistors, tubes and so forth. They each have quotas depending upon what kind of work they are engaged in. One girl may solder 5 transistors in four minutes while the next girl solders 15 wire leads in 13 minutes. The pay scales here vary but slightly with average pay at 80 rubles without deductions. Deductions include 7 rubles, general tax, 2.50 rubles for bachelors and unmarried girls and any deductions for poor or careless work the inspectors may care to make further down the line. They start teams of two mostly boys of 17 or 18, turning the telvisions on the conveyor belts right side up, from where there has been soldering to a position where they place picture tubes onto the supports. These boys receive for a 39 hour week, 65-70 rubles, not counting deductions. Further on, others are filling tubes and parts around the picture tube itself, all along the line there are testing apparatus with operators hurriedly afix shape type testing currents, and withdrawing the snaps that fitting out a testers card, pass the equipment back on the conveyor, speed here is essential.
The Communist party secretary here, as in most shops, has promised to increase production by 2% in honor of the coming end of the third year of the current 7 year plan. Now the televisions are carried around the convey to go back down the line where others sit to complete the process, the smoke from the careful soldering doesn't keep the girls from chattering away and that, coupled with the boys at the end of the line, testing the loudspeakers, makes for a noisy but lively place, with the laughter of girls mixing with music and occasional jazz programs, which the testers favor for purely personal reasons until the forman looks his way.
As we go out we see crates of the finished product with the well known, "made in Belorussia," stamp.
One of the most interesting things in observing Russian life and conventions, is the personal relationship to each other; there exists a disciplined comradeship springing from the knowledge that in Soviet Society the fundamental group is the "Kollective" or intershop group. These groups with the shop or section party chiefs and foremen, are the worlds in which the Russian workers live. All activities and conduct of members is dependent upon the will of the "Kollective."
In the shop where I worked, the experimental shop, of the Minsk Radio and Television factory, there were 58 workers, including the party shop secretary, who is a Communist worker assigned into the shop by the factory Party Secretary, the Master Foreman, assigned by the Shop production head who is assigned in turn by the Director of the Factory.
The key person in the shop, as every one appreciates, is Comrade Lebizen, 45 years old, the party-secretary. His background is that after serving his alloted time in the Young Communist League before the war, he became a member in good standing of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union CPSU. During the war, he was for a short time, a tankest, but his talents seemed to have been too good for that job so he was made a military policeman, after the war, starting at this newly built factory. He was appointed by the factory Communist party chief, as shop secretary, responsible for shop discipline, party meetings, distribution of propaganda, and any other odd "jobs" that might come up, including, seeing to it that there always enough red and white signs and slogans hanging on the walls. Lebizen holds the title (besides Communist) of "Shock worker of Communist Labor," this movement was started under Stalin a decade ago, in order to get the most out of the extreme patriotism driven into Soviet children at an early age. Indeed, Lebizen is a skilled mechanic and metal worker and for his work he receives 130-140 rubles -- month minus deductions. This shop party secretary, together with the section party chief, usually selects workers for the title "shock worker of Communist Labor." These people are not neccessarily Communist party members, although it helps in the same way party membership helps in any facet of life in the U.S.S.R.
Factory meetings of the "Kollectives" are so numerous as to be staggering.
Take for instance during one month the following meetings and lectures are scheduled: 1 prof. Union; which discusses the work of the prof. union in collecting dues, paying out receipts on vacations orders, etc. (pg 24), political information (4) every Tuesday on the lunch hour, Young Communist Meetings (2) on the 6th and 21st of every month, production commitees (1) made up of workers, discussing ways of improving work, Communist party meeting (2) a month called by the section Communist party sec.; the school of Communist labor meeting (4) compulsory) every Wednesday, and sport meeting, 1 a month, non-compulsory, a total of 15 meetings a month, 14 of which are compulsory for Communist party members and 12 compulsory for all others. These meetings are always held after work or on the lunch hour. They are never held on working time. Absenteeism is by no means allowed. After long years of hard discipline, especially under the Stalin regime, no worker will invite the sure disciplinary action of the party men and inevitably the factory party committee because of trying to slip out of the way or giving too little attention to what is being said.
A strange sight indeed is the picture of the local party man delivering a political sermon to a group of usually robust simple working men who through some strange process have been turned to stone. Turned to stone all except the hard faced Communists with roving eyes looking for any bonus-making catch of inattentiveness on the part of any worker; a sad sight to anyone not used to it, but the Russians are philosophical. "Who likes the lecture?" "Nobody, but it's compulsory." Compulsory attendance at factory meetings isn't the only way to form spontaneous demonstrations and meetings. The "great October revolution" demonstrations, the May day demonstrations are all formed in the same way. As well as spontaneous meetings for distinguished guests. The well organized party men mark off the names of hundreds of workers approved to arrive at a certain place at a given time. No choice, however small, is left to the discretion of the individual.
Part II The Experimental Shop
For a good cross section of the Russian working class, I suggest we examine the lives of some of the 58 workers and 5 foremen working in the experimental shop of the Minsk radio plant. This place is located in the midst of the great thriving plant which produces some of the best known radios and TV's in the Soviet Union.
The shop itself is located in a two story building with no particular noticeable mark on its red brick face. At 8:00 sharp, all the workers have arrived and at the sound of a bell sounded by the duty orderly, who is a worker whose duty it is to see to it that the workers do not slip out for too many smokes, they file upstairs, except fot 10 turners and lath operators whose machines are located on the first floor. Work here is given out in the form of blueprints and drawings by the foreman Zemof and Jr. foreman Lavcook, to workers whose various reliability and skill calls for them, since each worker has with time acquired differing skills and knowledge. Work is given stricty according to so-called "pay levels", the levels being numbered 1-5 and the highest level "master". For level one (1) a worker receives approximately 68 rubles for work, level (2) a worker receives 79.50, for three, 90 rubles, for four, 105 rubles, for 5, 125 rubles, and for masters about 150. These levels of pay vary slightly because workers receive a basic pay of, for 1st level 45 rubles and bonuses bringing the total to 68 rubles, including reductions for taxes, the basic pay of a master is 90 rubles. Except in instances for poor quality work, bonuses are always the same, giving use to a more or less definite pay scale. A worker may demand to be tested for a higher pay level at any time. Only skill is "a barrier" to higher pay. The foreman and shop head all receive about 120 rubles basic pay but much higher bonuses are awarded to the best shops by the factory committee for good production standards.
Our shop head Shephen Tarasavich Velchok is a stout, open faced, and well skilled metal worker who, although he hasn't got a higher education, which is now a prime requisition for even a foreman's job, he managed to finish a 4 year night school specialty course and through the help of the director of the factory, Mr. Ukayvich, became shop head in an important segment of this large plant, employing 5,000 people. Shephen has an almost bald head except for a line of hair on the left side of his head, which he is forever combing across his shiny top. Aged 45, he is married with two children aged 8 and 10. It may be explained that the Russians seem to marry much older than their American counterparts, perhaps that can be explained by the fact that in order to receive an apartment, people often must wait for 5 or 6 years and since security is so unstable, until a commonly desired goal is reached, that is an apartment for oneself, most Russians do not choose to start families until later in life. Shephen is responsible to the factory committee and director for the filling of quotas and production quantity. His foreman Zemof is 38 years old, has a wife and 15 month old baby, not too long ago moved out of his one room flat without kitchen or private toilet, into a newly built apartment house and flat of two small rooms, kitchen and bath, a luxury not felt by most Russians. A tall thin man with dark creases in his face, his manner, nervous, spontaneous and direct, betrays his calling. His job, keep the working on the premises going as quickly and efficiently as possible. His Assistant, Jr. Foreman Lavcook, is much younger, ten year younger, enigmatic, handsome, quick, he climbed to his post through a night school degree and a sort of rough charm, which he instinctively uses in the presence of superiors. The shop's mainstay is composed of 17 so-called "Shock workers" whose pictures hang on a wall near the stairs so that all might strive to imitate them. Usually of the 5 level or master class of workers, they are experienced at work and politics.
Most shock workers are men of the older aged groups, 40-50, not always members of the communist party, they carry the production load and most of the responsibility of the interlife of the "Kollective".
The remaining 41 workers are divided about half into 18-22 year olds, now metal workers, trying to fulfill their obligatory two years at a factory, before going on to full time day studies at a local University, or one of the specialized institutes, and older workers who have been working at the plant for 4-6 years and occupy the middle number worker levels, 3, 4,; these workers are aged about 24-30 and form the mass of laborers at the factory. 70% have families, apartments are few, most occupy rooms belonging to relatives or rooms let to rent by holders of two or three room apartments, often for as high as 20 rubles a month, although rent in the Soviet Union is paid by the square meter and 3, 15 meter rooms with kitchen and bath cost about 32 rubles a month. The housing shortage is so critical that people count themselves lucky to even find a person willing to let his room, room renting also is the most common form of speculation in the USSR. Often it reaches heights all out of proportion with reality, such as the man who derived 60 rubles a month from letting his room in the summer while he himself was living in a summer house or "Dacha," in the country. Such speculation is forbidden and carries penalties, including deportation to other economic areas of the USSR for terms of up to 6 months. Still these are the most common instances. Most workers in Minsk come from peasant stock, which repopulated the city at the end of the 2nd WORLD WAR. Like most Russians they are warm hearted and simple but also stubborn and untrustworthy.
The life of the "Kollective" or rather inter-life, since it often touches upon more than just the work, is the most reflective side ot the complex working of the Communist party of the USSR. It is the reflection of mass and organized political activity, deciding the actions of every individual and group, placing upon society a course, so strict, so disciplined, that any private deviation is interpreted as politcal deviation and the enforced course of action over the years has become the most comprehensible educational and moral training probably in the history of the world.
To understand the work and workings of the "Kollective" one must first ask who controls, who leads the "Kollective". The answer to that is a long one; all plants and factories in the Soviet Union have party committees, headed by one graduate of a higher party schools whose function is to control discipline members of the Communist party, and who, working in conjunction with the directors of the factory, controls all factors pertaining to the work, alterations, and production of any given line. It must be noted that officially the party men occuppies a position exactly equal to the head of any factory; however the facts point out that he has, due to the fact that Communist hold the leading positions in plants, considerable more sway over the activities of the workers than anyone else. No suggestion of the party man is ever turned down by the directors of our factory, that would be president to treason. The party man is appointed by the H.Q of the central committitee of the Communist Party and in turn the party man designates who shall be shop and section party secrataries, a post well coveted by employed Communists. These Communists in reality control every move of "Kollectives." They are responsible for the carrying out of directives pertaining to meetings, lectures, and party activities in the local cells.
These meetings or "Sabranias" are almost always held at the lunch hour or after working hours. The number of meetings of a strictly political nature is not small, considering that on an average 8 meetings are held a week and of these you have "young Communist, party communist meeting," "political information" and the "school of Communist labor." These are every week and are compulsory for all workers. Also monthly meetings, include "Production meeting," "General trade Union," "Shop Committee," and "Sport Meeting," none of these are compulsory. The numbers of meetings held a month average 20. 50% of these are political or by-political meetings. Meetings last anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours; usually the length of "Political information meetings" held every Tuesday is 15 minutes. An amazing thing in watching these political lectures is that there is taken on by the listeners, a most phenomenal nature, one impervious to outside interference or sounds. After long years of hard fisted discipline, no worker allows himself to be trapped and called out for inattentiveness by the ever present and watchful party secretary and members of the Communist party. This is mostly seen in political information of Central Committee party directive readings. At these times it is best to curb one's natural boisterous and lively nature. Under the 6' by 6' picture of Lenin, founder of the Soviet State, the party section secretary stands. In our section a middle aged poched man by the name of Sobakin, an average looking man wearing glasses, his wrinkled face and twinkling eyes give one the impression that any moment he's going to tell a racy story or funny joke, but he never does. Behind this man stands 25 years of party life. His high post, relatively speaking for him, is witness to his efficiency. He stands expounding from notes in front of him, the week's "Information", with all the lack of enthusiasm and gusto of someone who knows that he has no worries about an audience or about someone getting up and going away.
Part III "Demonstration"
In the same way, May Day and other "demonstrations" are arranged, as well as spontaneous receptions for distinguished guests. I remember when I was in Moscow in 1959, I was just passing in front of the Metropole restaurant when out of the side streets came a 10 man police unit which stopped all people on the street from passing in front of the entrance, surrounding the crowd, and keeping them hemmed in (not detouring the flow of traffic as would be expected) for 3 minutes, until right on schedule, an obviously distinguished foreign lady was driven up to the restaurant, where a meeting in her honor had been arranged. She was taken through the "spontaneous" welcoming crowd, after which the police were withdrawn, allowing the passers by to continue.
Another instance of this was in 1961 when a Chinese delegation arrived in Minsk and was driven from the railway station to a house on the outskirsts of the city. Even though it was 10:30 at night all along the way members of the MVD (security) forces ran into apartment buildings and student dormitories ordering people out on to the streets to welcome the arriving guests.
Altough there was no prior notice of any delegation, another "spontaneous" welcoming committee met the cavalcade of black limousines and dutifully waved back at the darkened cars with the slightly protruding yellowish waving hands.
I myself was visiting friends in the foreign language dormitory when we were called out for this purpose by a security agent. I went right along with all the others into the crowd and I know this story to be not only true, but standard operating procedure.
At the Minsk radio factory, holiday demonstrations (there are two a year), May Day and Revolution Day, are arranged in the following manner. Directives are passed down the communist party line until they reach the factory shop and mill "Kollectives." Here they are implemented by the Communist party secretary who issues instructions as to what time the demonstrators are to arrive. At the arrival point, names are taken well in advance of the march so that late comers and absentees may be duly noted; neither one is allowed. At the collection point, signs, drums, and flags are distributed and marchers formed in ranks. In the city of Minsk on such days, all roads are closed to driving trucks across them, except the prescribed route. This, as well as meticulous attention to attendance, insures a 90% turnout of the entire population. Stragglers or late risers walking through the streets may be yanked into the steady stream of workers by the police or voluntary red armed "people's militia." Anyone who argues may be subject to close investigation later on, the one thing to be avoided in any police state.
In roughly the same way, a 98% majority of the voting population is always funneled into voting for the one candidate for the one post, one party system in the Soviet Union. Before State, Republic, or city elections, a "agitator" calls at the residence of each and every person in the city; he inquires regarding the number of eligible voters (voting age throughout the USSR is Sixteen years). Age, sex, place of work, etc. He insures that all eligible voters know when, where, and how to vote. He can explain who are the candidates, although he is forbidden by law to campaign for one or the other and insures the prospective voter that his name will be on the voting register, located at the poll, which he must sign before voting by secret ballot. At the voting poll, after signing the register, a person receives a voting list with the names of all candidates for different posts. He may either place an X next to his choice or strike out any name he doesn't like or write in any name he wishes. Names written into the ballot are counted but no one can be elected to any post or office in this manner, it may, however, mean that this person will be a candidate for a chosen post sometime in the future elections. All candidates are approved by the central committee of the Communist party, although a candidate does not neccessarily have to be a communist party member (he may be non-party) the system in the USSR insures that no person rises to any heights at all without being approved by the party, even if he has made an application for the party. At the 22nd congress KPCU Khrushchev revealed that out of a population of 216 million, 5 and one half million are members of the Communist party. That is less than 10% of the total population, actually engaged in production, not counting children and pensioners, etc.
But in order to get to know the workers, how they think, act, hope, and have lived, I will take an example from the lower and middle and upper age groups. Starting with the lower.
Usha Shklieavich, born in what is now south western Belorussian territory, he is 24 years old, make 90 rubles a month, without deductions, he is married and has a young baby. He and his wife live in a small room in a house, the property of his inlaws. He is on the waiting list for a small flat, "hopes" to receive it in "four or five years," hopes to enters the University night course next year so that he can become a radio engineer. He went to school during and after the war in the east where his family took him during the evacuation. Moved still further east after an all out attempt at a drive by the Nazi's in which his mother was killed. After finishing his schooling at the age of 19, like most Russian boys, he was drafted into the Army, served in Hungary when the Counter Revolution broke out as a jeep driver. When I asked him who started the war there, he says "American Imperialists" and "spies". When asked who he killed he says "he didn't kill anyone." When asked who was killed during the Revolution, he says "Hungarians." Asked what he thinks of that Revolution, he says, "It was a glorious victory by our forces." Shklieavich also tells a story about how he was "newly arrived with the occupation forces, was walking down the street when he came upon a group of young Hungarian citizens; one of them was a girl he says, and she looked at me so hard I thought she must of known me. One of the younger people came forward and asked for a match. Just then a Hungarian 'people's policeman' came around the corner." This is probably what saved Shklieavich's life. The policeman shouted just as one of the younger people came up behind him and hit him on the head; when he awoke, "there were two of the group dead and the others ran away." Surely a revolution of spies and imperialists I jibed.
A picture of a different sort is that cut by Askonavich. Mild mannered, he served his army service a long time ago, on the Leningrad front during the war. Married for ten years, he has three children, aged 44, he has a hawk like nose, bushy eyebrows, profuse straw colored hair, he makes 115 rubles a month, lives fairly well, owns a television, radio and refrigerator in his two roon flat with neighbors who share kitchen and bath; a very good arrangement for the Soviet Union. He pays 15 rubles a month rent, has a middle school education, had finished a metal workers course at night school, at the night school facility of the University in 1958. He has been working at this plant for 5 years. A skilled tradesman, he is respected and is a member of the shop production committee, non-communist, he believes in the policies of the party as do almost all Russians. His hobby is fishing on the banks of the little creek near his home during the summer. Every morning he spends 20 minutes on a bus coming to work, this is the most inconvenient aspect of his otherwise simple and average life. Does he have money, personal belongings? "No money, but I have an apartment;" that is the most important thing in life. People have been known to do odd, even unlawful things to get even a little higher on the housing waiting list such as faking the ownership of a baby or two to get special rating. The opening of apartments houses is always done with a great deal of gusto and preparation. Indeed, for the lucky ones, receiving their orders on rooms and flats, it is a big moment, a moment culminating years of waiting and often years of manipulation, the lucky few get the word to move out of their old quarters, usually one room in oblong buildings, built after the war, which are mostly to be later torn down. As soon as a newly built house is ready, enough to support the rush of happy home owners, it is opened even though there may not be light fixtures or toilet seats just yet. What does that matter! In 1960 there were 2,978,000 living places built in USSR; USA, 1,300,000 including Hawaii and Alaska.
One man whose family received a flat not long ago is Orisses. At our shop a master, a shock worker and a communist for many years, he is almost 60 years old. Now with dark but greying hair, long nose and protruding cheek bones, set under very old and weighted eyes, contesting to his long years as a laborer, a laborer with his hands. During the war Orisses, too old to be taken into the army in the first draft remined in Minsk with his wife when the Germans arrived, lived here for 8 months, until things got too hot for him, as it did for most of the remaining population who didn't support the Germans outright, he fled into the deep pine forest with his wife where he served with the famed Guerilla fighters; as it is well known, these people held most of the territory of Belorussia during the enture 4 years of occupation by the Germans of Minsk and other points in Belorussia. One day Orisses, in talking about the war rolled up his sleeve and showed me two unmistakable scars -- bullet holes. When talking about Minsk during German occupation, one feels a trickle running along the neck. There was a chimney in Minsk, he says, next to the crematorium. The smoke from that chimney was as black as death day and night, night and day, the smoke of that belching chimney never stopped rising over the ruined skeleton of Minsk. 90% razed to the ground during the war with only three major buildings still standing after the war, opera house, government house, and church. These buildings, all except the church, which is now closed, are still in use.
The reconstruction of Minsk is an interesting story reflecting the courage of its builders. In a totalitarian system great forces can be brought into play under rigid controls and support. The success of the Russian "sabootniks" is testimony to that. So also is the result of the reconstruction of Minsk and other cities of the USSR. This reconstruction is still, in part, going on but the design and structure of the city already gives no idea of the condition of the capital of the Belorussian State in 1945, only 16 short years ago. The architectural planning may be anything but modern but it in the manner of almost all Russian cities.
With the airport serving as its eastern boundry we find a large spreadout township in appearance, 1 city only. The skyline pierced with factory booms and chimneys betrays its industrial background township. I say in appearance because the tallest building here is the 9 story black apparatus house flanking the main street Prospect Stalin, which is over 2 miles long and the only such boulevard. In the republics, all other streets are narrow rock laid streets, curving the city like rivers of stone branching off the main street ending out at the other end by extensive marks. The design and contend of this prospect is very reflective of the life of this city, from north to south of this straight as an arrow vain of the city includes in the first two miles the center district of the city, Hotel Minsk, and the Main Post Office. The hotel was built in 1950 on the direct orders of Khrushchev who was grieved at the fact that only one, old, dilapidated hotel existed at that time when he paid an official visit to this the capital of Belorussia. The hotel was build in three months, a record for the entire Soviet Union, and has over 500 rooms, a modern, well serviced, and built hotel, box shaped, it serves many tourists traveling from Germany and Poland through Minsk to Moscow.
The post office handles all mail coming in and out of the city. Built in 1955, it has 4 columns at its entrance in the Greek style.
Next down the prospect are a clothing store and children's store. The central movie house, the best one in Minsk, seating 400 people in a small unventilated hall. Next to it stands a shoe store, across from it, the central beauty shop, the main drug store and a gasranon (Russian food store), furniture store. Next is the ministry of Internal Affairs, whose boss is tough military Colonel Nickoley Arsnof, of the "people's militia." He holds the title minister of Internal Affairs. Around the corner is his subsidiary, the KGB committee for Internal Security, (Intelligence and Secret Police). Across from the Ministry is the ever crowded prospect book shop, across from this is the even more crowded restaurant, one of five in the city where for two rubles a person can buy fried toung or plates of chicken with potatoes and fried cabbage, instead of just the "Kotlets" (bread and ground meat patties) or Schnitzel with a little more meat and less bread and beef stake pure (ground beef patties served with potatoes and cabbage and sometimes macaraoni. These are always served in workers dining rooms and stand up cafes for they open at night). And sometimes sweet rolls, coffee and fall fruits, salads and tomatoes can also be bought.
Down from this cafe called "springtime," is the bakery shop. Here for 13 Kopecks a person can buy unwrapped bread (white), for 7 Kopecks sweet rolls of different kinds, 20 Kopecks black bread (the black bread loaf is twice as large as the white is, therefore cheaper per kilogram and more in demand. Also black bread remains fresh for an exceptionally long time due to the hard crust.
Across from this bakery shop is the confection place. Here is a kid's dreamland of sweets and chocolate, although owing to its climate, chocolate costs 4 times as much as in the US (for four ounces one must pay 60 kopecks). Chocolate is much in demand since Russians have a vicious sweet tooth. Here there is always a crowd. Further down we come to the only Department store in Minsk, the "SUM" which means "State Universal Store." Here one may buy anything sold in the smaller specialized stores and sign on the list for refrigerators, vacuum clearners, and even cars, none of which can be bought anywhere outright. The waiting list for refrigerators, 1952--58, 112 milion sold, is three months; also the same for vacuum cleaners. For cars the waiting list is anywhere from six months to a year, depending upon which of the three exising types one puts a down payment on. The "Moskavich, which costs 2,500 rubles, is presumed to be the best, so the waiting list is almost a year for that, however the "Victory" and "Volga" are a little cheaper and so one can expect it after only a 6 or 7 month wait; cars are bought more or less to order here. Their styles are not very impressive. The Moskavich looks like a box on wheels, while the Volga looks like a 1938 Studebaker, which, by the way, is what it is modeled after, "American p reward aid"
Motorcycles and television sets can, however, be bought on the spot for ready cash. A good high powered motorcycle costs 350 rubles and their quality is apt to be better than the more complex automobile; television sets cost anywhere from 80 rubles for a 6 inch by 6 inch screen to 350 rubles for a well made television of 22 inch screen. Other models, light table models, cost 190 and 145 rubles. Here ready made suits of rough material can be bought. The cheaper, a double breasted blue for about 110 rubles or a better made three button suit for 250 rubles, and jacket cost 40 rubles or 2 pair of pants for not less than 15 rubles. There are a few cheap ones, however in stock. They usually cost 30 rubles.
Just before we come to "Stalin Square," the end of the central district along the Prospect, we find the two "automats" or stand up cafes. These cafes are located across the prospect from one another, the internal and external structure is exactly the same in each. Both places serve the same dishes at the same prices. Why these were not built at opposite ends of the central district or even the square, for instance, is not known. Although, it would of course be more convenient. The reason is that the architectural plans for all the cities in the Soviet Union come directly from Moscow, which, as one can imagine, is a big resonsibility for the architect since, in the USSR, one pays for a mistake with one's head. It seems that the logical reason for the outward architecture is that in building the street so it is the simplest, it is therefore the safest way. Another charactaristic and interesting strucure in Minsk is the trade union building. This houses an auditorium, offices for the training and costuming of the amateur group, who perform here periodically, and a small dance hall. There is not, as one might assume, an office of any trade union. They do not exist as we know them (since strikes or negotiations for higher pay or better working conditions are not allowed, of course; suggestions may be made by any worker but these are all handled through the local Communist factory committee and are passed along or shelved as it suits the committees). An imposing structure, it looks like a Greek temple with figures atop the V shaped roof supported by large white marble columns all around. However, a close look reveals not naked Greek gods but, from left to right, a surveyor complete with scope, a bricklayer holding a bucket, a sports woman in track suit, and a more symbolic structure of a man in a double breasted suit holding a brief case, either a bureaucrat or an intellectual, apparently.
The rest of the prospect for the remaining miles is enclosed with the so familiar square shaped 5 storied apartment houses, ending at victory square; it may be that at the present time 60% of all living is in apartments. In 20 years 90% of all living quarters will be in these many storied barracks. The building spree is in full swing, although at the 22nd congress, Khrushchev announced that so many building projects were started in 1960-1961 that for a year after the finish of the Congress only special important projects will be allowed to be begun in order to give a chance for the completion of sites already started. This is not the only reason, for the demand for raw materials and prefabricated parts far exceeds the supply and in desperation, Khrushchev called a halt to the construction plans of the present 7-year plan, this means, especially on apartments, for which there is a dire need.
Most factory workers do not consider themselves in line for an apartment even if they are on the list for at least 4 years. Their estimates are based on experience.
At the 22nd party Congress, Khrushchev in his 7 hour keynote speech, (which was, for all practical purposes, the only speech, since all others followed in support of the first speech), revealed that in 1960, 700,000 people in the Soviet Union went abroad. This is a gross over-estimate, including engineers and technicians sent abroad, which make up 20% of this total. All others are delegations of Intelligent students, all scientific workers. The 250,000 "tourist" who do manage to go abroad are carefully selected from applicants, the main requisite is "is he loyal and politically prepared?" Any worker at our plant could apply for a tourist trip under the "limited number rules" applying to delegations; for 140 rubles he can go to China for two weeks from Minsk or for 80 rubles go to Czechoslovakia, for more, if he passes the requisitions, he can even get to England, the hitch is (1) that he must be OK'd by the Comm-bureau, (2) he must account for the presence of excess money, since speculation is not allowed in the USSR, (3) he must leave behind close relatives, preferably a wife and children, or mother and father; this last is actually the most important. The Russians know that a person will not ordinarily leave a delegation or group of tourists to seek asylum if he knows he'll never see his family again, not alive anyway. Individual tourist who go abroad when and where they want to because of their own desires is unknown in the Soviet Union. Passports abroad are issued only after a 6 month exhaustive investigation by the K.G.B.
Even trips to many cities of the Soviet Union is forbidden, even to those who would like to travel there to see relatives. All cities above Leningrad toward the Finnish border, fall into this category. Breast on the Polish Border, Odessa, main seaport, some cities in the Ukraine and Siberia connected with industry, all cities along the Southern border of the USSR from Moldavia to India are forbidden without a pass, all cars, trucks and other private vehicles are stopped at police check points to these areas. Train and plane and bus terminals are not allowed to sell tickets to these places without being shown a passport or being shown a valid pass whose owner's address is in the forbidden city. Persons already living in these cities may travel freely to and from them, however, they may not bring others in without passes; passes are given out by the local K.G.B. offices and one must apply directly to it.
It may be explained that in the Eastern European custom all citizens upon reaching the age of 16 years are given a grey-green "passport" or identification papers. On the first page is a photo and personal information, on the following 4 pages, are places for the registering of addresses this including rented rooms, on the next four pages are places for making particular remarks as to the conduct of the carrier, a place better kept blank, the next three pages are for registering the places of work, then the next page is for marriage license and divorce stamps. These "passports" are changed for a small charge every five years, a lost passport can be replaced after a short investigation for 10 rubles. All persons regardless of nationalitity are required to carry these at all times in the Soviet Union. Nationalities are all marked on the passport, for instance a Ukranian is Urkanian, a Jew is marked Jew, no matter where he was born. An immigrant is marked as to place of birth, as in the case of the many immigrants in the U.S.S.R., also on these pages. Marked for special remarks usually of a criminal nature, immigrants have a short autobiography painted such as, Carlos Ventera, born in Buenes Aires, 1934, resident Buenes Aires untill 1955, occupation student, immigrated to U.S.S.R. 1956. This is enough to insure that any and all who reads the passport that, Carlos, along with any other of his fellow immigrants will be given the proper treatment and attention, so that he never gets too far away from his registered address without a good reason or too high at his work. But otherwise immigrants in the U.S.S.R., a relative few French, Spanish, and Eastern European, are treated with more respect than the Russians treat each other, particularly in the matter of being awarded an apartment. Any immigrant, no matter how unimportant he may have been in his native country, has much less to worry about concerning getting an apartment and being assigned to work than his Russian born counterpart; this is part of the nation wide drive to impress all foreigners as to the high level of life in the U.S.S.R.
Twelve miles outside of Moscow is a "show" collective farm for the foreign tourist who ask to see a genuine, average collective farm. On it is almost every imaginable help to man possible, including automatic milers, feeder, even automatic floor cleaners. The collective farms at this place along with their counterparts at the same sort of place south of Leningrad, have well built apartment houses with food and clothing stores built right into the first floors.
For the benefit of everyone who doesn't want to be dubed, I suggest you take the Moscow to Breast highway for 24 miles until you come to Uesteech where, by asking directions, you can in five minutes find a real collective farm, a village of the small black mud and scrape wood houses, seen throughout the Soviet Union and although it's 50 minutes from the Kremlin, it doesn't have electricity or gas. Inside plumbing is unknown and the only automation is that done with a broom. There are 45,000 collective farms in the Soviet Union of these types as well as 7,400 State farms run directly by the government. Collective farmers and their families number 65.5 million people or 31.4% of the total population.
True, the collective farmers may own chickens or pigs or even a cow, as well as his own piece of land, usually 1/2 of an acre, but the isolation and agonizingly hard work in summer and fall affects these "advantages". Nowadays, although still without electricity, "collective farms" have wire fed radio programs and speakers in every home. This is part of the propaganda system instigated by Stalin to bring the cultural level of outlying collective farms up to the level of the city dweller. Therefore, although there are no lights, there is always the incessent blare of the loudspeakers. School attendance for the children of collective farmers is compulsory as it is for all children up to the age of maturity, that is up to the age when they receive their passports, sixteen. Public schools are in general, box shaped 3 story affairs with no particular decoration. Teachers receive 80 rubles a month in these general educational institutions, disciple from the student's viewpoint is strong, starting school at 7 years, he is taught to keep his pioneer school costume, which all students must wear, in neat appearance, is thought to stand rigidly at attention when any adult enters the room or when the teacher asks a question. His studies, particularly foreign languages, are apt to be harder and more complex than their American counteparts. Science is also stressed as well as patriotism and Soviet history. An attitude toward his studies of complete seriousness is instilled in him at an early age and young Russian students are apt to appear rather made bookish than Americans.
Since most women work for a living in the U.S.S.R., (with or without husbands) they usually leave their non-school age children in the care of the local "children's garden." These are highly organized state created care centers for childrens. Here babies are fed and cared for, their health is checked periodically by doctors; diets are recommended and baths given, all for 30 rubles a month. Young children are given pre-school preparation by trained day school teachers who receive 50 rubles a month in pay. A director of such a school may receive 100 rubles a month. 3,050,000 children in 1960 were cared for by these establishments. After the U2 incident on May 1, 1960 and the following exchanges between the American government and the Soviet governments, Primier Khrushchev invited then president Eisenhower to come to the Soviet Union and become a director of one of these "children's gardens," since, he said in a speech at the Kremlin in July 1960, Eisenhower doesn't know how to run his country.
Public care centers for young and old are an established principle in the U.S.S.R. Thousands of neat homes, sanitoriums, and hospitals are scattered around the Black and Caspian Seas, the "resort area" of the Soviet Union. For any worker to get a reservation for one of these places he should apply to the factory committee for a "petovkoo" or ticket reservation, after showing that he has the right to his three weeks vacation, (30 days for persons engaged in dangerous occupations or mining). He may buy the "Petovkoo" from Minsk to the Black Sea, Yalta resort area, for three weeks at a cost of 70 to 100 rubles, depending upon class of service available. If a member of the trade unions, (a worker pays 1% of his pay earnings as dues a month) he may only have to pay 50% of the total cost, if it is at a trade union built house of rest or Republician Sanitorium; service at these places included three good balanced meals a day, the attention of doctors and nurses, sports and sailing facilities, private beaches and excursions and all necessities.
More modest workers can, however, afford journies to rest homes nearer home, in the case of Minsk, to Zhoonovich located in pine forest three hours from Minsk. Here the same services minus the beaches, fruit and sun can be had for as little as 25 rubles for two weeks.
Other rest homes include Liovod and Naroch located 100 miles north-west of Minsk on the shores of 20 mile long lake Naroch, deep in the pine forest of Belorussia, where hare-hunting and fishing can be had as well as the usual rest home services for 35 or 40 rubles by any workers whose vacation time comes up. The only is restriction is sometimes lack of space, especially in summers, but that is not an obstacle to one who plans in advance. Russian workers always take advantage of these cut prices and fairly good services to escape the rigors and dust of Taria factories, at least for a while anyway.
The capital of Belorussia has 12 institutions of higher learning including a university and polytechnical institution. These institutions are engaged in turning out highly trained specialist for the national economy. The city has many secondary schools, colleges, vocational, and factory schools. These schools teach a rigorous 5 year course of vocational and political subjects. Hostels for students are located near their respective Institutes, non-residential students live here. Often these numbers exceeds the rooms and many have to rent rooms in the city. All rooms, 15-15 feet, house 5-6 students with just enough room to allow metal beds to be placed around the walls and a table and chairs in the middle. There is not room enough for closets so clothing is kept in suitcases under beds. Here, except during the three month summers vacation, students live and study for 5 years. Common rooms with stoves, are also located at the rate of 1 room to 8 student living quarters for cooking. The cleanliness of linen and rooms as well as the entire dormitory falls upon the students. The number of students in the U.S.S.R. in 1960-61 was 2,396,000, U.S. figure, 1,816,000 or 102 per 10,000. All students in higher educational institution receive "stipends" or grants of money at the rate of 40 rubles a month, regardless of chosen vocations. For excellent to outstanding grades, a student may receive the maximum of 50 rubles per month. Thus all students are paid to study in the Soviet Union unlike the United States where students must pay tuition to learn. This is the reason why the Soviet Union turns out almost three times as many engineers, 159,000 in 1959, twice as many agronomist, 477,200, technicians, and other specialists. This is why the Soviet Union has more doctors per 10,000 of population (18.5 in 1960) than any other country in the world (U.S.A. (12.1) 1960). Regardless of the lack of dormitories and allied living conditions of the students, that we have in the U.S., we would definitely learn from the rigorous and highly specialized educational system of the Soviet Union. A system which jointly and carefully instills political as well as vocational training into each and every student just as at the factories and plants. Each and every instituion has its corps of party chiefs, sectional, and class, for teachers and professors as well as for students.
At the 22nd Congress in October 1961, Khrushchev prophecized that by 1980, 1 out of every 5 persons living in the Soviet Union will have a higher education. This is an unheard of figure, but it is possible under the system in the Soviet Union.
Foreign languages also hold positions of favority in the Soviet Educational plan. Much more so than in the U.S., in scientific fields of vocation, two foreign languages are compulsary over a five year period, in engineering and also medicine at least one language is compulsary. The studied languages in order of importance and popularity are English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish with far Eastern Languages following. The textbooks from which these languages are learned are very interesting in themselves; they combine politics and education at once, a very common occurance. An example is that texts in English or German for instance are given on the life of Lenin, founder of the Soviet State or the structure of the communist party of the Soviet Union, formerly the life of Stalin was a favorite subject to fill a textbook; these books are no longer in circulation. A good textbook for English speaking students studying Russian is the one by Nina Potronova, chairman of the U.S.S.R. society of friendship with the United States and England. This book published in 1959 by the Moscow publishing house Lulovski Blvd, 29, Moscow is a good start for anyone insterested in the highly expressive Russian language. Political texts are kept to a minimum in this book and only make up about 20% of the text. Most of the millions of text books printed in the Soviet Union every year are published at the Central Moscow publishing house, a truly gigantic and monopolistic enterprise printing (69,000 titles in 1959 abd 1,169,000 copies). Here foreign books are printed in the Russian language and others into any one of the 100 of languages of minority groups in the U.S.S.R. 90% of the population of the U.S.S.R. speak Russian, however national languages are protected and propagated by law, of the 208,827,000 million people in the Soviet Union, 114,114,000 count Russian as their national language, next is Ukranians 37,253,000, and Belorussians 7,913,000, and Ubekstans 6,015,000. The remaining population figures are distributed among 18 minority, and 60 factional groups. Some of which have as few as 4,000 people speaking the tongue. Also there are 60,000 persons in the Soviet Union who are not of Soviet origin, of these the leaders are Yugoslavs 5,000, Albanions 4,800, Afgans 1,900, Uangols 1,800, Italians 1,200, (unitelligible) 1,000, Spanish 1,000, and Argentinians (estimated) 4,000. Since the figures for Argentine immigrants is not given 1960 figures for the Soviet Union pages 74-75.) 50% of all the 69,000 titles printed in the U.S.S.R. in 1959 were technical or industrial textbooks. Only 20% of these titles were for light reading, of those most concerned war stories reflecting the struggle and victory of the Soviet armed forces over the Nazis during the 2nd world war as well as heroic novels about opening up the Virgin lands in Siberia and the wild country East of the Urals. As was described by Irving Levine in his book "Main Street U.S.S.R." Love stories are few and far between with them apt to be "boy loves-tractors-loves girl," episode or how Ivan increased production at his machine to win the admiration of Natasha, the shop foreman. Foreign novels are very popular in the U.S.S.R. becuase of the comparability racy lines, however foreign writers seem to be chosen because they write about the decay and immorality of their respective country. Every foreign book seems to be chosen to show that if capitalism isn't dead or dying it should.
American authors include, Jack London, Ernest Hemmingway, and others. Some of these writers are often very popular in the U.S.A. but not for the same reasons. Jack London wrote what we consider adventure stories while the Russians consider them to be reflective of present day life. Ernest Hemmingway wrote, "Old Man and the Sea," a deeply touching story of man's struggle against nature and the sea, where here it is considered an indictment of capitalist society, although Hemmingway, unlike Jack London, was never a Socialist.
For a person reading detective stories by foreign writers, one gets a very depressing feeling and is overwhelmed by the greyness and dullness of the life depicted in them. Other foreign authors include Leonard Frank, German nihlist William Goodwin, "Things As They Are," English, and more classical writers such as Alexander Drue, "Count Margo," French author "Sherlock Holmes and Captain Blood" are also known and read in the U.S.S.R. but such titles are few and hard to find. Dickens however, is in profusion wherever one goes. Mark Twain books are also found in quantity, such novels of 300-400 pages sell for 1.50 rubles or less. Spy stories rank high in fiction publication and therefore, are popular with the plots more often than not American or West German spies chased and captured in the end by the young, handsome, Soviet courier espionage agent.
Newspapers and magazines are also a giant undertaking with the printing, if not the information agencies, less centralzied and controlled. In 1959 periodicals and magazines numbered 4,029 titles and 10,000,000 copies.
Newspapers numbered 10,603 Trade Union, Republican and city and collective farms papers, with 13 and one half billion copies. Foreign newspapers are not allowed in the country except representative communist party papers such as the "Worker" United States, "Daily Worker" England, "Humanity" France, "New Germany," East Germany, "The Daily Berliner" West Germany, etc.
The main publications in the U.S.S.R. are "Pravda," "Truth," organ of the communist party of the U.S.S.R. and Isvestia, "The News," organ of the council of ministers of the Soviet Union. It may be noted that the chairman of the council of ministers and the first secretary of the communist party of the U.S.S.R. is one man, Nikita S. Khrushchev. All republican and city newspapers take their cue from these two leading dailies, reprinting articles passed to them by TASS, Soviet news agency, government controlled. All newspapars are organs of one or another ministry or their subsidiaries. In Minsk, the newspapers are "Soviet Belorussia" organ of the central committee of the communist party of Belorussia, sport newspapers are the organ of the ministry of physical culture, railroads' newspapers is the organ of the ministry of transport and etc. The name of the organ of control is printed at the top of the first page. Russian newspapers from "Pravda" right on down consist of four pages except on spy events where the number is increased from four pages for two kopecks to six pages for three kopecks. Advertising is unknown and unneccessary in a government controlled economy where prices are raised and lowered as the 7-year plan fluctuates up and down. The first page in all Soviet language is developed to party news and speeches. The second to production notices and local industrial achievements such as the opening of a new dam as the overfalling of overfulfilling plans at a plant. The third page is filled with foreign news items. Often covered and credited to A.P. or Reuter's news agencies they usually concern strikes and clashes with police, crime and race incidents in capitalist countries as well as other "News," slanted to give a bad impression that all countries except those who are members of the Socialist camp or their fellow travelers such as Cuba, who are painted as prosperous democracies fighting against Imperialism from without, and captitalist spies and agents from within.
Films carry the propaganda ball where books and newspapers leave off, with 90,872 movie houses in the U.S.S.R. with collective farm clubs bringing the total to 118,000 movie houses; the average number of times a Soviet cititzen goes to the movies, per year, including men, women, and children, is 16.5 times (page 319.) There is a joke current in the Soviet Union as to why N. S. Khrushchev received his third hero of the Soviet Union medal, the highest order in the Soviet Union, the answer is for his part in the film "Our Nikita Khrushchev," a documentary circulated in the summer of 1961, of old films showing Khrushchev in his younger days as a commissioner on the Eastern front or touring Industries after the war. Half of the hundreds of films made in 1959-1960 were either Revolutionary, historical, or war stories, others were Virgin land or far North adventure stories. Most every Republic has its own studio which shot pictures concerning their respective places. In Belorussia it's the Bele films on "Soviet Street" It employs scores of operators, technicians, writers, costume films, but no permanent (non-amateur) actors. All of these have finished the artist and operators higher school of film making in Leningrad, a 3-or-4 year course and have diplomas in their respective fields. During the week of October 9-15 the following movies were shown in Minsk "Too Live," a revolutionary film of the 1917's, "Clear Sky," the film presented at the film festival in Moscow in July 1961, which took 1st place. A film about the post Stalin Era, it condemns repression of the main character, an ex-prisoner of war who is driven out of the party because he didn't die as all good soldiers must but was captured instead. This film is very symbolic of the new government line condemning some of the tactics of Stalin and his clique. "The Fair," a West German film against militarism and "The Poor Street," a Bulgarian film about the resistance in the 2nd World War.
Foreign films make up quite a large percentage of movies shown here since the young Soviet film industry is not well subsidized and cannot turn out half of the demand for films.
German, Italian, and French films as well as more numerous films from the "people's republics" are popular here. American films are few, although well liked for the technical skill and production. American films shown in 1959-1960 were "Rhapsody" with Elizabeth Taylor, "Eve" with Joan Crawford, "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" made in 1959, and "Serenade of Sun Valley" made in the 40's. Others were "Vienna Waltz" about the life of the composer and "Old Man and the Sea", a technicolor film of Ernest Hemmingway's book. "War and Peace" was also shown to vast audiences in two serials.
Prices for seats in movie houses, unlike the United States, change for adults and children and also for the location of rows with the center rows costing 50 Kopecks in the evening and front row seat 30 kopecks. Shows until 5 o'clock are 10 Kopecks cheaper per seat, until the prices change. Showings are at posted times on the tickets and doors are opened for only five minutes while spectators take their designated seats. Nobody even has to stand because tickets are sold only according to the number of seats in the hall, per showing.
Television is organized and shown in order not to interfere with work in industries. Monday to Fridays programs start at 6:00 in the evening, quite enough to allow any work to get home in time for the start but not enough to allow him to take time off to watch television or become a television addict as we have in the U.S. Programs finish at 11:00 in the evening so that all the workers can get enough sleep. On Saturdays, they start at 3:00 to compensate for the shop work day and end at 12:00 or 12:30. Sundays programs start as early as 10:30 in the morning and end at 12:00 o'clock. Programs are varied but include as always, more than 33 percent pure Soviet politics but often there are good films, reruns of movies, and cartoons for the kids. The best programs, however, of all are the ballet performances from Moscow and Leningrad. Bolshovi theaters, also symphonic music concerts are often used to break the monotonous run of politics and dry facts and figures. A show for a Sunday evening is like the one show in Minsk on October 22, 1961, 6:30 sports, 7:25 Soviet army show, 8:25 a feature length film "Baltic Sky," 2nd party 10:30 at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union "News," 11:00 performance by people's artist of the U.S.S.R. G. Glebove, who sings songs of the motherland. 11:50 news and 12:00 sign off with the playing of the National Anthem and the anthem of Belorussia. Television however is not a force as it is in the U.S. because of the poor programs and the cost of television; a good one costs 350 rubles and the light table models for 190 rubles rarely bought in, are quickly bought up. There were 103,200 television sets in Belorussia in 1960. The really penetrating voice of modern society comes from radio (unitelligible), and extensive it is the means by which the Kremlin reaches into every nook and cranny to the most outlying collective farms or villages. While 3 million television sets were sold from 1952-1958 in the Soviet Union (facts and figures page 343) over 29 million radio sets were sold and this figure is brought up considerably when one considers the fact that whole collective farms which may not have a radio in the place have programs fed to reproducers in each home from points many miles away in keeping with the general plan to bring the cultural level of these collective farms up. And in the Soviet Union there are 45,000 collective farms and 7,400 State farms with 65,500,000 on them, or 31.4% of the total population (facts for 1961 page 27). So radio may be said to be the all encompassor. Programs start in Minski at 6:00 and may end so late as 02:00 however, 24 hours a day broadcast are made to all parts of the Soviet Union from Moscow. There are 18.5 million radios and reproducers in Belorussian which can turn all stations to its one channel in a matter of minutes; this was when Gagarin made his Epoch making trip into space, the entire Soviet Union was blanked out with nothing but reports and intermittent music, for a solid day. In this way the government gets the most propaganda value out of its achievements. Again when Herman Titov made his flight for two days this proceess was repeated. Also all stations are immediately turned to the Kremlin whenever Premier Khrushchev makes a policy speech all stations in the Soviet Union are regularly turned every hour on the hour to the "news" from Moscow. Unlike the U.S.A. where small independent stations can operate, the Soviet Union rigorously imposes control over all it state broadcasting stations which, like industries, are all state financed and built. The radio and television station in Minsk is a four storied cement building located at no.6 Kalinina Street near the small River "SVISHLICH." Behind it stands the impressive 500 feet steel radio towers, the highest structure in Belorussia. This radio tower and building are enclosed with high fences and a patrolling armed guard with a dog. Entrance into the courtyard must be through the building itself and persons cannot enter without a special pass shown to an armed guard. Performers are taken to a separate studio near the city center where production and performers are fed back to the station and them to the broadcasting towers, in this way the all important communications system is guarded against sabotage or "take overs" of the sort often achieved by Latin American counter-revolutionary and malcontents elements.
Near the television tower, 4 blocks east on "Dolgabroadckay" Street stands two more towers approximately 200 feet high each. They are not engaged in braodcasting, quite the opposite in fact. These very apparent landmarks with high power cables strung between them, are jamming towers, used to blank out high frequency broadcast from abroad. The main target of these jamming towers is the Munich and Washington transmitters of the "Voice of America" programs, although they are sometimes employed to disrupt the B.B.C. and French broadcast in Russian. These towers are likewise guarded by armed guards and entrance to the wire enclosed block house and tower area is forbidden except by passes. The amount of voltage used by these towers is known to be tremendous when one considers that needed lighting at workplaces is only grudgingly turned on even on the cloudy days; it is ironical and sad to think of the tremendous waste and effort the Soviet government goes to in order to keep other peoples ideas out. But the jamming frequencies are only half those of the "Radio Moscow" propaganda programs which may be heard on any shortwave radio in the United States without jamming. These "Radio Moscow" programs insure peoples in 81 countries that the Iron Curtain no longer exists, never did exists, and is in general a ficticious slander against the Soviet Union though up by reactionaries, sick!!!
Opera is also a favorite entertainment in the U.S.S.R. with 32 operas and ballet houses throughout the 15 republics. As compared with one in the United States, the metropolitan opera house in New York, that is because Russians have their own operas written by their own Russian composers, while we have none. Here any person can tell you about such splendid operas as "Reiglo," "The Clown," "Queen of Spades," "Traviate," while in the U.S. most citizens are sadly lacking in this field of art due not to the fallacy that we are uncultured as the Russians think, but due to the fact that we simply do have the facilities to put such productions on. Although there are those who prefer to remain tied to their T.V.'s and comedy shows.
Comedy and drama theater number 53 with 11 in Belorussia. Plays are put on by amateur and professional groups in the Russian language or the languages of the republics. In Minsk the Belorussian drama theater on "VOIADARSKAYA" street has a troup of 55 professsionals earning from 90 to 140 rubles a month putting on 4 plays a week in the Belorussian language. Sets and costume are always well made in any productions I saw, but the scripts are apt to be overloaded with politics in the dramas.
Museums exist for the education and learning of the population, of these; 26 are historical Revolutionary, 89 historical, 171 memorial (the House of Shikovski in Moscow near the American embassy), 421 of local or regional interest, and 122 art museums as well as 68 more of different kinds bringing the total to exactly 907. There are 37 in Minsk. In the year 1959, 43 million people visited these places of interest as well as 7,200,000 who visted the famous permenant exhibition of Soviet achievements in Moscow's "SKOLHIKEY" park. Here a huge display covering 25 acres was set up in 1955. It advertises real and imagined progress for tourist and Russians like. In it are sputniks and jet airliners, a tractor exhibition house in a building 300 feet long, housing and industrial samples, the light consumer industry is shown more as the Russian would like it to be than as it is with pocket radio (there are none made in quantity in the U.S.S.R.). Automatic washing machines with two spinners (from 1952-1958), there were 1.2 million made and sold all simply one spinners and modern vacuum cleaners (1950-1958 500,000 sold) however this doesn't keep Russian from hoping that some day these things will be in mass production, undoubtedly they shall be.
Another means of distributing propaganda are throught the Agitpunks, or in English "agitation points." These are located at desks or in small offices open 16 hours a day. They are manned by "volunteer" communist and young communist party members. They are for the distribution of pamplets, bulletins and other party literature, for the more or less informal meeings of groups of communist party members. Formed in the early 1920's, they were then points of armed workers located near to each other who would could down "white" uprising or conveniently arrest anyone in the neighborhood. Now their functions have slightly changed but it's still known that any party member may come in and report disloyal comments at an unguarded moment on the part of any citizen, there is always a telephone handy here. In Minsk there are only 12 movie houses but 58 agitpunks in the telephone book, they can be recognized at a distance by red flags and banners dropped over the doors and windows of the respective building.
The Young Communist League or YCL embraces all young people from the age of 16, until they outgrow the children's pioneer league. 90% of all persons between the ages of 16 to 26 belong to this organization, although they may attain a communist party membership as early as 19 or 20 years. Signed on as soon as they receive their "passport" at 16, they receive a YCL party ticket and must pay a small due of 70 or 80 kopecks a month. After this they are obligated to attend YCL meetings, go on harvesting trips on weekends during the fall to collective farms to help bring in the potato and grain, and to keep their studies up to high standards. A violation of conduct or refusal to tow the line will result in expulsion from the league and is a block personal progress in the Soviet Union since membership is considered a reference in hiring in factories or institutions reviewing request for a place at higher educational institutions, but expulsions are fairly common, about 20% being expelled before reaching the age where they may be chosen for communist party membership. A young student may become rather popular and powerful by being elected to the post of YCL secretary in his classes at school or at work. A sure way to success is to remain at this post in one's local school or institute keeping high standards of marks and discipline until chosen for party membership. In this way young people get a taste of what the Party can do for them if they have the right attitude.
At our shop, the YCL secretary is Arkadia ____________ a tall handsome langly Russian of 24 with a broad grin. He reminds one of a Texas or Oklahoma boy, his father is a minor bureaucrat while his mother works as a nurse. Therefore they have a full three room apartment. His brother, also a YCL member, is the youngest and last member of this family group. Arkadia has worked at this factory for years after serving his 3 years in the navy in the Black Sea. He was only recently elected to the post of YCL secretary in our shop, after the former person received CP membership, usually an easy-going fellow if you don't get him rallied, he takes his YCL duties seriously collecting dues on every other pay day (which are on the 5th and 20th of the month) of 1% of the total paycheck, of 1% of 80 rubles, 80 Kopecks. He checks off names and is responsible for turning in the cash to the factory YCL committee. He is responsible for posting directives handed down by the YCL factory committee for helping to draw up the list of Droozhniks who shall have the duty during this month. Droozhniks are "volunteer" civilians who patrols streets and parks as peace and order keepers, they are given a special card which they carry and when on duty wear red arm bands, they help to subsidize the police in its more routine work, such as walking a beat in a usually quiet district. Droozhniks always walk in groups of threes and fours, often women and girls are seen in this capacity. This custom is relatively new and is not generally used except on Saturdays and Sundays when there are boisterous groups as teenagers and a large number of drunks to be seen. Both these types of groups are on the downgrowth at least, partly due to these "volunteer" efforts. Besides helping to draw up the list of Droohniks is their respective shops, the YCL secretary is expected to set high examples of work and political "preparedness" to their fellow members and to help the shop and section leaders get to know his workers.
In Minsk the young communist headquarters is a long grey cement 4 story building on "KAPASNO ARMI" street or in English, "Red Army Street." Inside, the building is honey combed with 200 rooms, an auditorium, and meeting hall. Three hundred people are permenantly employed here to do the work of the YCL. Also here is the central committee of the YCL of Belorussia, they review cases of expulsion and direct YCL party organization. The actual political influence of this committee is almost nothing compared to the central committee. YCL in all cities are directed by the CP headquarters in their repsective cities.
The headquarters of the central committee of the CPB is located on "Karl Marx St.," a 8 storied yellow metal and brick structure, it is a retangular shaped with straight shape lines and almost none of the gaudy decorations found on most buildings in the city. "The first secretary of the central commitee of the CP of Belorussia" is the imposing title carried by a short stocky man in his late 50's, K.T. Mazoorof. Rarely seen on the streets he and his family occupy a huge 8-room apartment on the top floor of a government apartment house on prospect Stalin. Entrance to this apartment is guarded night and day by one uniformed policeman who checks passes and keeps unauthorized persons out. Here is also the residence of several ministers such as, Minister of Education, B. Poroshebed, and Minister of Administration, E. Zhezhel. Mazoorof controls and directs all activities in his republic with authority no United States governor has ever enjoyed, while his authority cannot be controlled or challenged by court orders or injunctions as it often is in the United States. Mazoorof is responsible directly to Moscow and the party presidium chairmaned by Khrushchev. He appears in the reviewing box in the center of his cronies, on May 1st and November 7th holidays, where waves a congenial hand occassionally without the trace of a smile. He isn't elected to his post in a general election anymore than Khrushchev is elected to the post of premier, but rather appointed from the members of the Supreme Soviet of the Repbulic who are elected on the one candidate ticket which is prepared and authorized in the first place, by the central committee of the communist party of the respective republics, therefore the central community chooses the members of the Supreme Soviet from whose members replacements for vacated seats in the central committee are filled. Replacement may be required in the case of "death, derangement, higher appointment to the central committee of the Soviet Union, or expulsion from the party" under the party constitution, government procedure, in the central committe.
Corruption in the U.S.S.R. takes a major form in embezzling and greasing of palms as in any purely cratic society. In 1961, the death penalty for embezzlement of States' funds in large sums was reenacted as an answer to widespread pilfering of goods, crops and embezzling of money and state bonds. On any collective or state farm there is a certain percent of State goods illegally appropriated by the collect farmers for their own private use to make up for low wages and therefore low living conditions, often sold to private individuals, stores or at the open market type of bazaars. These goods may consist of only a pilfered lamb or piglet or may run in scores of sheep or cows hidden in backwater swamps or thick pine forest and sold by the appropriator piecemeal or in wholesale lots to crooked store supervisors, who are supposed to buy state meats and crops at government prices, but pocket the differences in prices from the black market without making entrances in their books that such merchandise was brought for State prices. Such practices are so common that without them many stores would be almost empty if they had to rely on the sporadic, poor quality meats brought in from the State slaughterhouses at high prices. The directorship of even a small fruit or milk store opens up wide opportunities for lucrative entreprising by person with a slight business sense, it is almost impossible for authorities to act on such going on because of difficulties in obtaining proof in acceptable amounts since such going on are usually in small amounts. Materials such as electric appliances, dinning tables are often ridden with speculation which often leads to poor goods or bad foods brought in and sold under the counter examples are horse meat used to subsidize a "beef stew."
Most of the bureaucratic appartatus can be detoured by a well placed 10 spot, persons occupying most of the housing ministry and passport and visa offices, expect renumeration for the life and death services which all Russians seek namely, to receive permission for an apartment, and official visas to live in such an apartment, and compulsary laws in the Soviet Union without a city "visa" stamp a person cannot work in that city. Once a position or work is decided or taken it is a very difficult processes to secure permission and work in order to receive an apartment in another city therefore to live in another city. In such instances the Adminstrator of an apartment house may expect 60-100 rubles for his stamp of approval on a request blank for an apartment or into an apartment already occupied by a family who are expecting to leave one city for another. The usual method of getting a room or apartment without having to wait on the so called housing list which may take 5-7 years to receive a one room "apartment". In any bureaucratic society a class of desk administrators is always born who expect their palms greased and who exploit their position for self-purposes, however in the U.S.S.R. such practices take on a particularly potent nature, since it is not simply a matter of receiving rare services or conveniences but a matter of getting the fundamental things of life, a simple room, a work stamp, permission to see a relative in a city inside a restricted zone such as border zones or military base and rocket base zones. In order to receive permission to leave one city and live in another because of individual choice, a person must receive permission from the local passport agency in the city from which he is leaving and from the city to which he is going, then he must show that he has received a place of living in that city to which he is going, as well as permission to move (from the military authority if he is militarily obligated) from the police and security agency in case he has government or secret work. He must show that his specialty or profession will be used in the city to which he goes. All this creates piles of paperwork and photo, references, documents, and notorized declarations but the main obstacle to moving in the U.S.S.R., is getting a place to live, since it would be years if one simply applied for a place in the housing line. Even if one can live until with friends or relatives for the time being, they could rent a nook from somebody, they could not work because without a living visa stamps on one's "passport," it is against the law for any directors or administrators of any enterprise, store or office, to give work to that person since without a living visa one cannot get a "work stamp." Even renting a room to a person who cannot get a living visa to that room in against the law (speculating). So although moving from one city to another is quite legal now (after the war it wasn't) it is a long process of red tape, greasing palms and struggling against bureaucratic procedure. That is why few people actually do change cities or exercise paper rights. The structure and procedure of Soviet Society control the flow of people and their occupations and hence value, to state, any Russian will tell you he can change jobs or move to another city any time he wants to, this is true, however he must meet certain requirements in order to receive new work, although he may indeed quit any job he likes. Up until 1950 a person could not quit a job without police and state security permission. It was simply compulsary to work at the job one had been assigned to. Nowadays it is more common that foremen enforce a Soviet law making permissable the holding of any workers who cannot be replaced. In the event a worker does not chose to remain at his place of work or choses to refuse a certain job, he can be tried by a peoples court and sent to a work camp or prison for terms ranging up to 3 years.
Such work laws safegaurd the state from "sabotage" of State property, work stamps, and passes as well as permission from proper authority in regards to living passes and the "work passes" is the indirect control influx and outflux of what Marx called "Scruples of Labor", which in a capitalist society has no control and is determined by mode and matter of production and economic conditions which are always fluctuating. Therefore it is not the liberation of the prolitarian masses but rather the administration of state machinery which regulates population and labor moves in a geographic sense and isolates instances of backflow of labor in specialized economic areas, which leads to unemployment in capitalist countries due to automation and over production, both of which can be carefully controlled by the State, which builds and operates all enterprises in the U.S.S.R. In such cases, as there are, of overflow of labor, the excess is pationed off by the "living visa" system, and since there is no place for them to live and the extra workers realize there is no place for the workers, the "virgin land" program is instrumented, and surplus labor is promptly shipped off to a promised room and work. This is one of Khrushchev's favorite plan and has been a spectacular failure, mostly owing to the quick subsiding of enthusiasm of the young people (for most part) seeing conditions of 5 to a room hostel erected, "towns", of concrete blocks with unpaved streets in village conditions, a 1,000 miles from their mothers and families in the overcrowded, lack of work-demanding cities (mostly Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and a few of the other big population centers) conditions for leaving the Virgin land center and young back home are simple, get up and go, but few do, because they must pay their own way back, a cost of sometimes 200 rubles or more and also face the same conditions which drove them from the cities in the first place.
When elections are initiated part in the U.S.S.R. a whole huge, mechanical apparatus is started, not only to ensure victory, but to safeguard the State from any voice of dissent, either in absenteeism or opposition. All eligible voters (that is from the age of 16 up) are registered well before hand by "agitators", who go around to every door in their district getting names and notifying all voters of their duty to the Mother land in voting. In the case of the elections held throughout the Soviet Union on March 18, 1962 to "elect" the Supreme Soviet including Khrushchev, the people's movement (House of Representatives) and the Soviet of Nationalities, the agitator came on January 24 and February 20. On election day all voters go to the polls (usually a school) and vote. They are given a ballot which they drop into a box, on the ballot is the single name of the candidates for each post. Thats all anybody does ever does to "vote." This system ensures a 99% turnout and predetermined victory. In each polling place there is a booth for secret balloting (crossing out the candidate and writing in your own). Under Soviet law anyone can do this, nobody does for the obvious reason that anyone who enters the booth may be identified. There is a Soviet joke about the floor dropping out from anyone stepping into the booth. But the fact is if the entire population used the polling booth they could beat the system, however years of mass discipline and fear have made the people afraid to attempt any such demonstration. And with no means of communication at the hands of a would be candidate, there is no way for communication with the people and wiping up support for a black horse candidate.
Universal military training has been in force in the U.S.S.R. for several years. Unlike the U.S., drafting always takes place at 19 years of age, all other reasons for exemption of standing. Periods of service are from 2 years in the north to 3 years in the south. Climactic conditions vary so much that many young men elect to the relatively sunny south to serve for three years, rather then to the 9 month bitter cold winters of camps in Siberia or Sakhalin in the far north-east. Clothing issues are scarce in the beginning and in getting one's clothes cleaned, and dirty clothes thrown into a common pile to be cleaned off and steamed and brought back in a common pile with the result that a soldier never gets the same jackets and trousers twice. Barracks are usually bare and damp, even in Minsk, where they are located in the older parts of town behind high walls. Passes are never given except on holidays and sometimes on Sundays or after manuevers, leave of 30 days as our armed forces guarantee in their contracts are unknown. However the greatest difference is pay. After Marshall Mikalyn became commander in chief of the Soviet armed forces in the early 1950's, pay was summarily cut for common soldiers (privates) from 3.30 rubles old money to 3 rubles new money, a lost of 29.7 rubles (new). 3 rubles are enough to buy 12 packs of cigarrettes, 20 cigarettes to a package whereas 30 rubles was enough for a soldier to save up for his discharge. The pay of a lath worker in Minsk is 80 rubles new money. The drop of money was less felt in the offices ranks since they lose only a 10% cut up to the rank of Major.
And no loss of pay for major and above, a lieutenant in the Russian army gets 180 rubles, a full soldier gets around 300 rubles but also gets "duty expense" pay, like our travel pay. Discipline in the Russian army is supposed to be the most rugged in the world since top sergeants can hand out up to 15 day sentences to any private any time he wants to without a court martial for minor offenses. Duties at a base camp or barracks may be more like a prison than an American base as we know it, with soda fountains, clubs where alcoholic drinks are served, a snack bars, and PX's. As soldiers are never allowed to wear civilian clothes (this is against military law) we might think such life to be exceedingly drab even for a soldier but Russians have such drab lives on the outside that there is no conflict of color between civilian and military life. When I told about the basic features of American military life in the U.S. marine Corp, the ex-soldier I knew usually laughed and said we have no discipline but I'm quite sure the ohs and ahs were signs of admiration when I spoke of our "undisciplined" army, especially the complete absence of political lectures under our system of separation of army and state, and also the fact that at the end of each work day we could put on civies and pile in the car and drive up to town to a movie or a dance, army discipline without a wall, with money in our pockets and our own military obligation clearly understood and in our own hands.