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

(Ben Green) #1

Staging the OGAS, 1962 to 1969 145

top-secret military missions enjoyed competitive advantages over other
projects. This also meant that funding approval depended not on the will of
top Party officials but rather on peer and lateral coalition building among
organizations that were both cooperating and also competing for limited
funding and influence in the Soviet state. This contradictory institutional
space, where entrepreneurs seek to leverage organizational dissonance,
exemplifies what I mean by heterarchy. Heterarchy describes the presence
of ambiguities that result from competing formal regimes of evaluation,
and entrepreneurs are those who trade on those ambiguities.^68 As a case in
point, the Politburo claimed to oversee the goals of both the Ministry of
Defense and Glushkov’s and Fedorenko’s institutes, and yet the Minister
of Defense operated within heterarchical power structure that gave it no
reason to recognize the Politburo’s evaluation of the OGAS. To have done
so would have questioned the necessity of the Ministry of Defense’s own
access to massive funding from the Politburo. Ministries, free of any single
centralized operational logic that might be capable of legislating coopera-
tion top-down, were free to not cooperate. They were also free to shut out
peer-competitor institutions.
By the late 1960s, CEMI under Fedorenko’s leadership had abandoned
the OGAS and EGSVTs national network project to refocus efforts on the
microlevel linear modeling of Soviet factories and enterprises. Fedorenko,
a former chemist who was accustomed to microanalytic scales, claimed
that CEMI’s contributions to analyzing the national economy had better
chances when applied to smaller, more manageable local scales, which
his institute developed into the optimal mathematical planning method
known as SOFE (System of Optimal Functioning of the Economy). In his
memoirs, Fedorenko admits that the number of successful macrolevel eco-
nomic analyses that CEMI produced in three decades “could be counted
on one hand.” In contrast, in the tally of firm-level analyses or smaller,
Fedorenko counted hundreds of successes over several decades of work.^69
A closer look at CEMI’s stepwise separation from Glushkov’s OGAS Proj-
ect in the 1960s sheds some light on the negotiated compromises and qual-
ities possessed by entrepreneurs like Fedorenko in the Soviet knowledge
base. CEMI, under Fedorenko, went onto pioneer microeconomic modeling
across the nation. In 1964, CEMI opened a branch in Tallinn, Estonia, and
in 1967, a branch in St. Petersburg. In the 1966 preparations for the celebra-
tion of the fifty-year anniversary of the Soviet regime, Fedorenko described
the EGSVTs (network) project in glowing if slightly scaled-down terms: “An
important direction of CEMI’s research is the development and creation of
a unified state network. This network should consist of three levels: a main

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