How Not to Network a Nation. The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet

(Ben Green) #1

Staging the OGAS, 1962 to 1969 125

His wireless currency proposal is a case in point. On Keldysh’s advice, he
promptly dropped the idea and turned his attention back to the practical
universals that he would need to understand before he could integrate both
macroeconomic designs and microlevel problems of the Soviet economy.
Glushkov sought out and marinated himself in the practices of the actual
command economy so that he would understand locally what he sought
to reform universally. In the early 1960s, Glushkov received permission
from Keldysh to observe how each of the constituent parts in the Soviet
economy—factories, firms, collectivized farms of all types, and administra-
tive organs like local, regional, and national planning committees—actu-
ally worked. His purpose was ethnographic—“to ask questions, or simply sit
in the corner and watch how they work: what he decides, how he decides
it, according to what principles, etc.” Glushkov recalls, “And naturally I
received permission to acquaint myself with any industrial object—corpo-
rations, organizations—that I wanted.”^36 By 1963, Glushkov reported hav-
ing visited and observed over a hundred such industrial sites and nearly a
thousand over the next decade, including mines, kolkhozes (collective farms),
sovkhozes (Soviet state farms), railways, an airport, higher control organs, and
administrative organs at Gosplan (the Soviet ministry charged with planning
the Soviet economy) and the Ministry of Finance. Glushkov claimed that “I
may know the structure of the national economy better than anyone else:
from the bottom up, I know the peculiarities of the existing controls system,
the difficulties which occur, and the most important issues.”^37
At roughly the same time that the OGAS proposal was being reviewed
by the Central Statistical Administration, Glushkov gained insights into
the navigation of the informal complaint culture and the administrative
mechanisms that were available for resolving them. Between 1966 and
1976, he served as a Kiev-based adviser for the Division of Clemency (otdel’
pomilovaniya) for the prominent city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. His
behavior in this public function also provides a glimpse into his adminis-
trative behavior concerning top-secret projects such as the OGAS. In these
archival materials, a pattern emerges. For each complaint case that he con-
sidered, he sent a formal letter and an informal letter. The first letter he
sent to the complainant to offer his moral support but declare his likely
inability to ease their situation, and the second letter he sent to the relevant
supervisory institution pleading informally the strongest appropriate case
on behalf of the complainant. Thus he resolved dozens of real-life con-
flicts within the actual social economy of formal appeals and complaints,
including helping a grandmother campaign against alcoholism, speeding
a mother’s request for an apartment, acquitting a decorated war veteran

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