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

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138 Chapter 4

Keldysh’s call in 1962 for “the transformation of economics into an exact
science in the full sense of the word.”^50 Keldysh, the president of the Acad-
emy of Sciences of the USSR as of 1961, officially approved and promoted
economic cybernetic research as a priority of the academy, underscoring
that “the development of a theory of optimal planning and management
to a unified mathematical model of national economy was one of the main
directions of developments in modern economic science.”^51
Nemchinov also employed cold war rhetoric to provide a sense of
urgency to his promotion of economic cybernetic methods as a means for
governing a society, socialist and capitalist alike, noting the strong similari-
ties between neoclassical econometrics in market economies and economic
cybernetics in socialist command economies: “after World War II these
methods were reopened in the West and were applied extremely widely to
monopolistic government planning.”^52 He then invoked a sort of cold war
cybernetic economics gap, worrying that the Soviets had lagged behind the
use of cybernetic methods “in the internal planning of the most developed
capitalistic countries.”^53
Yuri N. Gavrilets joined Nemchinov’s laboratory in 1959 and continues
to work at CEMI to this day. A former rocket engineer, he was one among
many military engineers who, like Kitov, was forced to pursue nonmilitary
economic research after a youthful display of what was interpreted to be
anti-Stalin activities in the late 1950s. According to an interview with him,
the early efforts of CEMI to incorporate mathematical methods into opti-
mal planning of the command economy openly sought to merge the best
Marxist principles of social justice and planning with capitalist free-market
equilibria.^54 Inflating the threat of capitalist cyberneticists, Nemchinov con-
tended in his original proposal that “not a single scientific point” (which
he later crossed out by pen and replaced with the word center) currently
stood ready to “guide and coordinate research in the field [of economic
cybernetics]” in all of the Soviet Union.^55 The Central Economic-Mathe-
matical Institute, Nemchinov concluded, together with the OGAS and its
associated mission of planning the economy by a cybernetic management
network, would fill just such a gap.
Nemchinov drafted his CEMI proposal several days after First Secretary
Nikita Khrushchev spoke at the Twenty-second Congress of the Communist
Party on October 18, 1961. That “secret speech” is remembered today for
denouncing the cult of personality, although Khrushchev also countered in
it Stalin’s bias against mathematical economics policy: “life itself requires
a much higher class of scientific foundations and economic accounts
from the planning and national economic leadership.”^56 Cybernetics

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