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Cyberneticists' Plans for Technocratic Economic Management

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Soviet cogitations: 4510
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 26 Jun 2010, 03:29
In the article "Internyet: why the Soviet Union did not build a nationwide computer network", Dr. Slava Gerovitch discusses Soviet attempts, first by Anatolii Kitov, then by Victor Glushkov & co, to set up a nationwide network capable of managing the Soviet economy. The article explains how Soviet liberal economists and bureaucratic interests stiffled each attempt. To me the article's historical examination is bittersweet. It is uplifting because it shows that the forward-thinking ideas that could have strengthened the Soviet economic system and made it even more dynamic than that of Western capitalist countries did exist. Long before the West's computer revolution Soviet scientists had come up with the ideas that could have made the USSR a beacon for cybernetics. It is depressing that bureaucratic interests prevented this potential from being realized, all the more so because it was a real historical possibility, and not just some nebulous 'what if'.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
Soviet cogitations: 5437
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 28 Sep 2009, 00:56
Ideology: Democratic Socialism
Post 30 Jun 2010, 17:00
That was a very interesting read, but I think merely computerising the economy wasn't going to save it. There were more fundamental problems in the mix. Unless I'm mistaken, replacing paper with hard-drives wouldn't solve it.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Post 30 Jun 2010, 17:14
There were more fundamental problems in the mix

What would these fundamental problems be?
Soviet cogitations: 5437
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 28 Sep 2009, 00:56
Ideology: Democratic Socialism
Post 30 Jun 2010, 17:29
Sporadic shortages, the unsustainable use of raw materials, a failing system of incentives and lack of investment in consumer goods, to name a few.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 05 Jul 2010, 14:21
The incorporation of computer technology is the key to modern centralized planning, and thus to proving the superiority of socialism over capitalism. In the USSR, it was needed by the 1960s, when the country's productive forces were highly developed and the damage from WW2 completely rebuilt. A nationwide computer network to facilitate planning and communication would have solved the issue of the number of inputs and potential outputs exceeding the state planning agenies' ability to rationally and efficiently allocate them. Combined with the raising of labour productivity through the use of new machinery and technology, it would work to make the USSR the most developed country in the world over time, given its natural wealth in natural resources which made it virtually self-sufficient. All of the issues you mention Jingle_Bombs (except for incentives, which I don't quite understand) are symptoms of an outdated planning system overloaded with information which it could not effectively use.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
Ideology: Other Leftist
Post 06 Jul 2010, 03:59
I agree with Soviet78's position on introducing technocratic methods into the centrally planned system. I've seen a good case that it could have dealt with a lot of the problems which arose in the Soviet system. While it could never 100% solve the problem of supply and dammand, can anyone honestly claim that modern capitalist economics has?

I haven't had a chance to read the article properly yet, but it looks very interesting.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 18 Apr 2010, 04:44
Ideology: None
Post 06 Jul 2010, 06:47
Unfortunately, I can't seem to download the PDF file.

I assume this was an attempt to use computer technology to point out imbalances and inefficiency, as well as predict shortfalls and other issues, rather than building some omniscient HAL-type computer god who would completely regulate the economy with no human input or intervention.
Miss Strangelove: "You feed giants laxatives so goblins can mine their poop before the gnomes get to it."
Soviet cogitations: 10005
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Post 06 Jul 2010, 19:29
Question: Why do you guys call it "Technocratic" instead of "cybernetic" or simply "advanced" or "computerized"?

"Technocratic" sounds like... technocracy. Rule of the machines. Matrix.
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
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Soviet cogitations: 4779
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 12 May 2010, 07:43
Ideology: Other Leftist
Post 06 Jul 2010, 19:35
I don't quite understand how you got "rule of the machines"? I know "techno-" sounds like it's related to machines, but that's not really what the word means...

From Wiki article on technocracy:

Technocracy is a hypothetical form of government in which engineers, scientists, and other technical experts are in control of decision making in their respective fields. The term technocracy derives from the Greek words tekhne meaning skill and kratos meaning power, as in government, or rule. Thus the term technocracy denotes a system of government where those who have knowledge, expertise or skills compose the governing body. In a technocracy decision makers would be selected based upon how highly knowledgeable they are, rather than how much political capital they hold.

Technocrats are individuals with technical training and occupations who perceive many important societal problems as being solvable, often while proposing technology-focused solutions. The administrative scientist Gunnar K. A. Njalsson theorizes that technocrats are primarily driven by their cognitive "problem-solution mindsets" and only in part by particular occupational group interests. Their activities and the increasing success of their ideas are thought to be a crucial factor behind the modern spread of technology and the largely ideological concept of the "Information society." Technocrats may be distinguished from "econocrats" and "bureaucrats" whose problem-solution mindsets differ from those of the technocrats.[1]

In all cases technical and leadership skills are selected through bureaucratic processes on the basis of specialized knowledge and performance, rather than democratic elections. Some forms of technocracy are a form of meritocracy, a system where the "most qualified" and those who decide the validity of qualifications are the same people. Other forms have been described as not being an oligarchic human group of controllers, but rather an administration by science without the influence of special interest groups.[2]

China has been described as a Technocracy. [3]

... and "technocracy movement"

The technocracy movement is a social movement which arose in the early 20th century. Technocracy was highly popular in the USA for a brief period in the early 1930s, when it overshadowed many other proposals for dealing with the crisis of the Great Depression.[1][2] The technocrats proposed replacing politicians with scientists and engineers who had the technical expertise to manage the economy.[1]
“Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals” - Mark Twain
Soviet cogitations: 34
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 23 Mar 2010, 17:58
Post 21 Jul 2010, 03:46
Interesting article. It is a shame that it was never implemented and the god damn bureaucrats put their own interests ahead of the national interest.
Soviet cogitations: 105
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 24 Mar 2010, 05:37
Post 10 Sep 2010, 23:32
Project CyberSin in Chile 70-73, an attempt to computer controller planned economy.

I'm convinced that one of the USSR flaws was the difficult to do economic planning when the country reached development and required finer control. Altough there was not enough computational power at the 60s/70s to implement full computerized planned economy, there was of course a need for a support network dedicated to production.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Post 11 Sep 2010, 18:59
What do you comrades think about the reasons why SSSR didn't develop a nationwide computer network,and computerized planning institutions?
If i remember,Chile had a central planning computer bureau,though it didn't last long it proved to be effective.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Forum Commissar
Post 13 Sep 2010, 02:23
Having only read the material provided in this thread, I think it was atrocious; especially since it shows that particular interests were being put ahead of the general good.

"You say you have no enemies? How is this so? Have you never spoken the truth, never loved justice?" - Santiago Ramón y Cajal
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Soviet cogitations: 4510
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 07 Nov 2012, 14:59
I have read a few more English-language sources on the subject, and would like to leave a few relevant quotes here for anyone interested.

To begin, here is an excellent introductory article to the subject from the website dedicated to the History of Computing in Ukraine:

UAComputing wrote:
Academician Glushkov’s “Life’s Work”

History of Computing in Ukraine

It began in 1956, with the publication of the first Soviet book on computer technologies, “Electronic digital machines” by A.I. Kitov. According to Glushkov, it was this book that first introduced him to the basics of computer operation as well as the potential for their use. It wasn’t until much later that he learned about Kitov’s subsequent fate.

As it turned out, in 1959 Kitov wrote a memo to the leader of the USSR Nikita Khrushchev addressing the issue of developing computing technologies, which played a major role in preparing the decree of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Council of Ministers of the USSR “On acceleration and expansion of production of computing machines and their implementation in the national economy”.

Inspired by this decree, Kitov prepared a report for the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in which he proposed to create a unified automated control system for the armed forces and the national economy, based on a common network of computing centers created and serviced by the Ministry of Defense of the USSR. A special committee of the Ministry headed by Marshal K.K. Rokossovskiy was created especially to consider this proposal. The report’s criticism of the current state of affairs and proposals for fundamental changes to the control system used in the Ministry of Defense and high levels of government provoked a negative reaction from the committee. Kitov was expelled from the Communist Party and ordered to vacate the position of Head of the Computing Center #1 of the Ministry of Defense.

Despite this extreme reaction, Kitov remained true to his ideas, and in 1961, just before the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he published a new article, calling for the creation of a control system for the national economy based on the conceptofa nation-wide network of computing centers. However, the only attention it received came from abroad; the American journal Operations Research published an extensive positive review of the article.

V.M. Glushkov met Kitov in the early 1960s, when he worked as the Executive Director of the Computing Center of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Despite knowing that Kitov was being prosecuted for his countless insistent letters, Glushkov found the courage to continue his work on the Nation-wide automated control system (OGAS) himself, and appointed Kitov his assistant for this project.

In fact, the idea to create OGAS came to Glushkov even before he came across Kitov. He shared this idea with the President of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, who in turn introduced him to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers A.N. Kosygin. Kosygin approved Glushkov’s project, and the scientist took to the task with enthusiasm.

The USSR had a planned economy, where all physical resource funds listed in the National Plan were redistributed by 20-30 subdivisions with roughly 500 staff members. The USSR’s economy, colossal in size, was very difficult to plan precisely using only manual calculation methods. Additionally, the plan underwent constant modifications throughout the year in order to adjust for changing circumstances. Therefore it became clear that it was impossible to coordinate all the planning and economic controls without the use of computers.

Glushkov was aware of this, and during 1963 visited around 100 plants and organizations of varied specializations ranging from industrial plants and mines to state farms. He then spent a week at the Central Statistics Administration, where he studied the control chain from regional offices to the Central Administration itself. Glushkov also spent much time studying the operations of the State Planning Committee. Soon, the number of organizations he visited reached 1,000. These experiences gave Glushkov an extremely thorough understanding of the national economy of the USSR as a whole, from the lowest level of authority to the top, enabling him to recognise the system’s peculiarities, challenges, and instances where computing technologies could make a difference.

The first draft project for the Unified nation-wide network of computing centers (Russian: EGSVC) was created as early as 1964. Glushkov proposed a system to help the country’s authorities control the economy of the entire Soviet Union at all levels of the hierarchy, all in real time using a network of computing centers. The project implied a complete restructuring of the entire system of control, planning, and economic forecasting.

The submitted project suggested the creation of 100 computing centers in the biggest industrial cities and economic centers, connected by broadband communication channels. These centers would be spread across the entire country, and service around 20,000 large industrial plants and ministries as well as small enterprises. The presence of a distributed databank and the possibility of access to any information from any branch of the system (after verification of access privileges) was the distinguishing feature of the system. A number of proposals regarding data security were also included.

However, after the committee reviewed the project, very little of it was left. The budget of 5 billion rubles for 10 years and the need to prepare over 300,000 highly skilled specialists for the project forced the committee to cancel many projects. The practical implementation of EGSVC was limited to creating a number of more basic objects like the Management Information and Control Systems (MICS) and the Automated Manufacturing Process Control Systems (Russian: ASUTP). Their functions were limited to industrial process automation and statistical information collection, in addition to document control in some organizations. This fell far short of the original vision of automation for the entire planning and control system. Thus, Glushkov’s plans were not fulfilled, and eventually his rival, the Central Statistics Administration rose to be in charge of the State Economic Administration computerization project. As a result, the focus of the project shifted to improving the Administration’s work flow.

There were other reasons that prevented the implementation of Glushkov’s vision. In large part, it was the fault of the State Planning Committee, by way of its cumbersome bureaucratic apparatus. The heads of its regional and branch administrations were not interested in receiving accurate information about their performance, not to mention unprepared to receive and process economic information. Secondly, implementation of such a large project required large expenditures. Thirdly, the process of in-line data input was still imperfect and necessitated additional training for the staff.

Statistics departments and some of the planning department branches were still using computing-analytical machines from 1939, while in the US the comparable authorities had already switched to the new generation of computers. Before 1965, the Americans were developing two lines of computing machines: science research machines and economics machines. These first merged in the machines made by IBM. In contrast, the USSR only had science research machines because nobody cared to develop computers for economics; thus, there was nothing to merge. While Glushkov attempted to spark computer designers’ interest in the necessity of such machines, he managed to persuade neither B.I. Rameev (head designer of “Ural”) nor V.V. Przhiyalkovskiy (designer of the “Minsk” computer series).

Starting in 1964, leading economists like Liberman, Belkin, Birman and others began to speak out openly against Glushkov. Despite this, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers A.N. Kosygin, being a very practical man, decided to hear him out and weigh the potential costs. Glushkov stated openly that the OGAS project was more complex than the space and nuclear programs combined, because it would affect every administrative branch: industry, trade, planning, control and more. However, according to his calculations, the system would pay for itself within 5 years of operation. Still, the country’s leadership decided that simple economic reform would suffice, and cost less. Glushkov and OGAS were put aside. Not much later, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, P. Shelest, summoned Glushkov and ordered him to stop OGAS propaganda and instead focus on lower-level systems.

Expecting this, Glushkov and his team at the Institute of Cybernetics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR began working on the “Lviv system” – a MICS for use at the Lviv television plant “Elektron” (today, a more modern term “Enterprise Resource Planning Systems” or “ERP-systems” is used to describe such systems). The Lviv MICS was the first system in the USSR used at a plant with large-scale production. The history of the system began in 1965. Glushkov attended a conference organized by the regional national economy department in Lviv, where he gave a speech promoting automated control systems and explained how they work. The Director of the television plant S.O. Petrovskiy gave the scientist an opportunity to create such a system at his plant and promised cooperation. Glushkov, excited by the chance to create a first-of-its-kind machine, completed the project within 2 years. After completing the “Lviv system”, the Institute of Cybernetics went on to build an even more complex system “Kuntsevo” for the Kuntsevo radio manufacturing plant.

In the late 1960s, new information emerged about American attempts to build an information network. Apparently, they completed a draft project for several such networks in 1966, 2 years after Glushkov’s original OGAS proposal. The launch of ARPANET, which would connect computers in several American cities, was planned for 1969. As a result, the Soviet leadership decided to return to the OGAS idea, and created another high-level committee, which now included the Minister of Finance, Minister of Instrument-building, etc. This committee was tasked with making a decision about the creation of OGAS.
In the new version of the project, Glushkov shifted emphasis from core issues to implementation mechanisms. He proposed to create a State committee on OGAS design control, and a central scientific center including 10-15 existing institutes. Most importantly, he proposed that one of the members of the Politburo be made responsible for the projects.

At the hearing on OGAS, where neither Brezhnev nor Kosygin were present, the Politburo expressed major objections toward the project. This is how Glushkov himself described it in his “Confessions”:

“Suslov led the hearing. After Kirillin spoke, I had the chance to present the idea. My speech was short.” It provoked many questions, but Glushkov answered all of them. “Then Kosygin’s assistants were invited to speak. Baybakov was first, and he not only supported me, but also emphasized the importance of the project and explained how the resources needed for implementation could be procured.”

“Minister K.B. Rudnev signed the document, but commented negatively, said that it was premature to sign it. Garbuzov, Minister of Finance made a speech worth recounting.

He entered the stage and addressed Mazurov, Kosygin’s first assistant. He said that, well, he went to Minsk as directed, in order to examine the poultry farms. At the so-and-so farm, the workers designed a computing machine on their own. I laughed out loud. He shook a finger at me and said, “You, Glushkov, shouldn’t laugh, we are discussing a serious issue”. However, Suslov interrupted him, “Comrade Garbuzov, you are not the chairman here, and it’s not up to you to control the proceedings of a Politburo hearing”. He shrugged, and self-confidently continued, “The machine can perform three programs; turns on music when the hen lays an egg, turns lights on and off, and so on. This increased egg production at the farm”. So he suggested that first we should implement these machines at all the poultry farms in the Soviet Union, and only then could we even begin thinking about silly projects like a nation-wide system…

So someone introduced a counter-suggestion, which significantly decreased the level of the system. State control was replaced by Head Administration of computing technologies at the State committee for science and technology; the central scientific center – by the All-Union Scientific Research Institute for issues of organization and control; etc. The main task remained intact, but became more technical, and focused on the Nation-wide computing center network. The economic dimension, the mathematical model development for OGAS and the rest was phased out.

Toward the end of the hearing, Suslov came forward to say, “Comrades, perhaps we are making a mistake by not accepting the project in full; however, it is so revolutionary a change that it is difficult for us to implement at this time. Let us try it this alternative, and see how it goes”. Then he asked not Kirillin but me, “What do you think?” I said, “Mikhail Andreevich, I can tell you one thing, that if we don’t do this now, by the late 1970s the Soviet economy will face serious problems that will force this issue to re-emerge”. However, my opinion was ignored, and the counter-suggestion was accepted.”

After the directives by the XXIV assembly about OGAS were published, strange assaults on Glushkov began. For example, as he remembered it, in 1970 when he was returning from Montreal to Moscow on the Il-62 plane, the experienced pilot felt something was wrong when they were already flying over the Atlantic and returned. It turned out that someone added something to the fuel mix. Glushkov landed safely, but the rationale and perpetrators of the sabotage remain unknown.

Behind the scenes other intrigues took place. Minister of Finance Garbuzov managed to set Kosygin, who originally supported OGAS, against Glushkov. He told Kosygin that the State Committee would become an organization that would check the activity of Kosygin and the Council of Ministers, and thus should never be allowed.

In 1972, the All-Union conference, headed by Kirilenko, took place. It finalized the shift toward manufacturing process control. The aim was to slow the development of automated control systems. “OGAS is done for” – said Glushkov’s opponents.

During the preparations for the XXV Assembly of the CPSU, the word “OGAS” was taken out of the text of the decision. Glushkov wrote a memo for the Central Committee proposing to create branch control systems, which could later be merged into OGAS. This suggestion was accepted.

Viktor Mikhailovich also began a media campaign for the creation of OGAS. The editor of “Pravda” supported this idea. After the article “For the entire country” was published, Glushkov finally felt hope that OGAS could see the light of the day. After all, “Pravda” was a branch of the Central Committee, which meant that the article was approved. However, this was not to be.

Y.E. Antipov, deputy chairman of the Military-industrial committee of the USSR and a supporter of OGAS commented, “The planned economy of the former USSR allowed us to create the most effective system of economic control. Understanding this, Glushkov made his bet on OGAS. According to experts’ estimates, the Soviet control system was three times as cheap as the American system, at the same level of GDP. The decision not to approve OGAS was the biggest strategic mistake of our leadership and our society”.

As a result, Glushkov was like a prophet “not welcomed in his town”. He was misunderstood and forgotten.

During those difficult times, D.F. Ustinov, Minister of Defense supported Glushkov. He suggested the scientist implement the idea of OGAS partially, in the defense branches of the industry. The branches being well-organized, it was easy to create a number of effective automated control systems for them in a very short time. However, Glushkov’s opponents continued to plot against him. His automated control systems were declared ineffective and to cause financial loss. While in a limited number of cases this was true, due to poor understanding and use of the systems, the reports were exaggerated and presented as the last word. This in turn resulted in the policy of denial of accelerated computerization and informatization of the society. Just as in cybernetics, Glushkov’s opponents managed to achieve temporary success, which was crippling despite his best efforts.

Another new and unexpected opponent was Glushkov’s worsening health. During his last days of life, Ustinov’s assistant came to him and asked if they could help him in any way. “Send me a tank!” he responded furiously, remembering the wall of bureaucracy and misunderstanding he never managed to breach. On the morning of January 30, 1982, the great scientist’s heart stopped beating.

Academician Glushkov was ahead of his time; the state and society were not ready to receive OGAS when he proposed it. This was the scientist’s tragedy, as he did not want to accept that others could not comprehend something that for him, was self-evident.

From the article posted at the head of this topic by Dr. Gerovitch:

Slava Gerovitch wrote:
p. 337:

In December 1957, the Soviet Academy of Sciences suggested in a confidential report to the political leadership that ‘the use of computers for statistics and planning must have an absolutely exceptional significance in terms of its efficiency. In most cases, such use would make it possible to increase the speed of decision-making by hundreds of times and to avoid errors that are currently produced by the unwieldy bureaucratic apparatus involved in these activities.’13 The Academy proposed creating a computer center in every region to aid planning, statistics, engineering, and scientific research...

The Cybernetics Council set up an economics section, regularly published papers on mathematical economics in the annual volumes of Cybernetics in the Service of Communism, and sponsored several conferences, bringing mathematicians, computer scientists, and economists together. In 1958, only a handful of Soviet economists were interested in mathematical models of planning and management. In 1960, the first national conference on the use of mathematical methods and computer in economics and planning was held; the following year, over 40 institutions conducted research on mathematical economics.17 By 1967, the Council on Cybernetics coordinated cybernetic research in some 500 institutions, and half of them were engaged in applying cybernetic methods to economics.18


... Soviet projects in computerized economic management were to a large extent inspired by parallel developments in military computing. All the early Soviet computers were built for the military. The initiative to apply computers in economics came from the same engineers who designed military systems, and they brought the ‘command and control’ philosophy of military computing into their economic proposals.

In the mid 1950s, Soviet military planners became seriously alarmed by the news of the development of the American air-defense system SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment), a centralized nationwide network of computerized command-and-control centers capable of coordinating a response to a massive air offensive.19 The Soviets decided to build three systems – an air defense system, a missile defense system, and a space surveillance system – each with its own centralized computer network.

All three networks were developed independently by different organizations. In 1956 the Scientific Research Institute No. 101 (later renamed the Scientific Research Institute of Automatic Equipment) was created specifically to design a national air defense system similar in function to SAGE. In the early 1960s, the Institute developed TETIVA, the first Soviet transistor-based computer, and built a network, which comprised eight computers coupled in pairs for back-up and located in distributed command-and-control centers.20 In the late 1950s, the Moscow Institute of Precision Mechanics and Computer Technology developed a network for a prototype missile defense system, code named ‘System A,’ at the Sary-Shagan Proving Ground near Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan. Two large universal computers, M-40 and M-50, at the command-and-control center were linked with several specialized computers that controlled remote radar installations. System A was successfully tested in March 1961, after which Khrushchev publicly boasted that Soviet anti-missiles could ‘hit a fly in outer space.’21 Work on the space surveillance system began in 1962; its purpose was to track Soviet and foreign spacecraft with high precision needed for possible destruction of spy satellites. It had two remote nodes, in Sary-Shagan and near Irkutsk in Siberia, and a commandand- control center near Moscow. Each node included eight computer-controlled radar stations. The Moscow Institute of Electronic Control Machines developed transistor-based M4-2M computers for its distributed network, which exchanged data across thousands of miles and was fully automated.22

The SAGE model of a hierarchical control network inspired not only military, but also civilian projects. At a plenary meeting of the Academy of Sciences in October 1956 director of the Control Machines and Systems Laboratory Isaak Bruk proposed creating a hierarchical network of ‘control machines’ to collect, transmit, and process economic data and to facilitate decision-making by computer simulation.23 Two years later his laboratory was transformed into the Institute of Electronic Control Machines, which developed M4-2M computers for the space surveillance system, as well as M-5 computers for processing economic data.24 In 1961 the Institute was transferred under the control of the State Economic Research Council, and later the State Planning Committee, all the while continuing its work on both defense and economic applications.


Another proposal to create a computer network for economic management came directly from the military. In January 1959, Engineer Colonel Anatolii Kitov, deputy head of the Computation Center No. 1 of the Ministry of Defense, a co-author of the first Soviet article on cybernetics, and the author of the first Soviet book on digital computers, sent his book to Khrushchev and attached a letter, which advocated ‘radical change and improvement of methods and means of management by making a transition from the manual and personal forms of management to automated systems, based on the use of electronic computing machines.’ He proposed first to install computers at several large factories and government agencies, then to link them together to form ‘large complexes,’ or networks, and ultimately to create a ‘unified automated management system’ for the national economy. Kitov suggested that these measures would lead to a significant reduction in administrative and management staff and even to the elimination of certain government agencies. He realized that potential personnel cuts would cause friction, and suggested that a new powerful agency be created to implement the automation and reorganization of work in all government institutions. The computerization of economic management, he argued, would ‘make it possible to use to the full extent the main economic advantages of the socialist system: planned economy and centralized control. The creation of an automated management system would mean a revolutionary leap in the development of our country and would ensure a complete victory of socialism over capitalism.’25

The Soviet leadership took Kitov’s proposal seriously and appointed a panel led by the chairman of the Cybernetics Council of the Academy of Sciences Engineer Admiral Aksel’ Berg, one of Kitov’s biggest supporters. In June 1959, the Central Committee held a meeting, which publicly called for widespread mechanization and automation of industrial production and accelerated development of computers. In December, the Party and the government adopted a joint resolution on automation in accounting and engineering. The Soviet leadership took a cautious approach, however. It encouraged new technologies but stopped short of any organizational reform. The resolution ordered the construction of specialized computers for economic analysis, statistics, and planning, but it did not include Kitov’s most radical ideas – a nationwide computer network and an automated management system for the entire economy.


In September 1960 [Kitov, Academy of Sciences Engineer Aksel Berg, and Cybernetics Council mathematician Aleksei Lyapunov] published a joint article in the leading Party journal Communist. The authors argued that an automated management system for the national economy, based on a unified territorial network of information computation centers, would provide the means for the automatic collection of economic data, planning, distribution of resources, banking, and transportation control. They claimed that it would take only two or three minutes for a computer to complete a task that would take a week for a human worker. Given that nearly a million people were involved in processing material supply documents at various regional economic councils and individual enterprises, the promised savings looked enormous. An introduction of computers would slash supply planning time from three or four months to three days, cut the management by half, and reduce the cost of supply management by a factor of five. The authors claimed that computer installation expenses would be recouped within two years. They promised that computers would greatly improve the efficiency and productivity of economic management, and would provide the basis for a powerful upsurge in the national economy.27


In the meantime, Kitov came up with an idea of radically reducing the cost of construction of a nationwide computerized system. He proposed creating a dual-use nationwide network of computer centers for both military and civilian applications. As was typical for the time, Kitov believed that computer capacities outpaced the demand. He reasoned that military calculations would not entirely fill the capacity of computer centers, and in the spare time these facilities could be used for civilian purposes. Kitov suggested building these centers underground in secret locations and protecting them against a direct bomb hit. These centers would then be connected by hidden communication lines with civilian information- collection stations in big cities, turning the entire network into a dual-use system.

Again, he submitted his proposal directly to the Soviet leadership, but it was referred to a Ministry of Defense committee headed by the Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky and dominated by the military top brass. Kitov’s biggest supporter Aksel’ Berg had left the government by that time, and despite the backing from a handful of less influential computer enthusiasts among the military, Kitov’s proposal was rejected. Kitov’s appeal to the Party leadership over the heads of his military superiors and his critique of the current state of affairs with computing at the Ministry of Defense infuriated the committee. He was expelled from the Communist Party, lost his position as deputy director of the Computation Center No. 1, and was discharged from the Army.28 The proposal was formally rejected on the grounds that the combination of civilian and military functions was inefficient. Perhaps the military feared that they might be held responsible for failures in the civilian economy. Kitov personally believed that the main reason behind the rejection of his proposal was that ‘people in power were concerned that, as a result of the introduction of computer technology, many of them could prove redundant.’29


In November 1962, the deputy chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers Aleksei Kosygin called to his office president of the Academy of Sciences Mstislav Keldysh and director of the Institute of Cybernetics in Kiev Viktor Glushkov. Glushkov, who had been familiar with Kitov’s ideas, presented a new proposal to build an automated system for economic planning and management on the basis of a nationwide computer network. Kosygin generally supported the idea and soon appointed Glushkov chairman of the Interagency Scientific Council on Computer Technology and Automated Management Systems...

The Kiev Institute of Cybernetics started planning a wide-ranging economic management reform on the basis of computerization. In 1963, Glushkov visited over 100 organizations, studying their management methods and information flows. The draft design of a nationwide computer network included 100–200 large centers in major cities serving as regional nodes, which would be linked to 20,000 smaller centers located in government agencies and large enterprises. The large centers would be connected by dedicated highbandwidth channels without channel-switching or message-switching. The network would support a distributed data bank, which anyone could access from any terminal on the network after an automatic authorization check.35

Glushkov’s initial proposal included one particularly controversial provision. He envisioned that the new network would monitor all labor, production, and retail, and he proposed to eliminate paper money from the economy and to rely entirely on electronic payments. Perhaps Glushkov hoped that this idea would appeal personally to Khrushchev. The elimination of paper money evoked the Marxist ideal of money-free communist society, and it seemed to bring the Soviet society closer to the goal of building communism, promulgated by Khrushchev at the Twenty-Second Party Congress in 1961. The Academy president Keldysh, who was much more experienced in top-level bureaucratic maneuvers, advised Glushkov to drop the provision, for it would ‘only stir up controversy.’ Glushkov cut out this section from the main proposal and submitted it to the Party Central Committee under a separate cover. If ideology were to play any significant role in Soviet top-level decision- making, this was its best chance. Glushkov’s proposal to eliminate money, however, never gained support from the Party authorities.


While previous cybernetic proposals had been developed solely by mathematicians and computer specialists, Glushkov wisely cooperated with economists. His Institute of Cybernetics established close ties with the Central Economic Mathematical Institute of the Academy of Sciences, headed by the academician Nikolai Fedorenko. In 1964 Glushkov and Fedorenko published a joint proposal for a unified system of optimal planning and management on the basis of a three-tier unified nationwide network of computer centers. The proposed network included tens of thousands of local computer centers to collect ‘primary information,’ 30–50 mid-level computer centers in major cities, and one top-level center controlling the entire network and serving the government.

Glushkov and Fedorenko proposed a great simplification to the cumbersome procedure of collecting primary economic information. Existing procedures prescribed the collection of the same information from individual enterprises through four parallel, relatively independent channels: the planning system, the material–technical supply system, the statistical system, and the financial system. Glushkov and Fedorenko suggested instead to collect all economic data only once, store it in data centers, and make it available to all relevant agencies. Glushkov and Fedorenko promised that the proposed unified system of optimal planning and management would provide support for ‘optimal decision-making on a national scale’ by processing ‘the entire body of primary economic information as a whole.’36 Glushkov aspired to create a comprehensive system that would define, regulate, and control the complete operations of the management apparatus of the Soviet economy. In effect, he intended to re-engineer the entire Soviet bureaucracy: ‘to develop a detailed design of the work day and the work week for every bureaucrat, to create detailed lists of their duties, to determine clearly the order of document processing, the chain of responsibility, the timetable, and so on.’37 This far-reaching proposal faced formidable opposition.


Glushkov’s proposal faced opposition on two sides. Industrial managers and government bureaucrats opposed the computerization of economic planning and management because it exposed their inefficiency, reduced their power and control of information, and ultimately threatened to make them redundant. On the other hand, liberal economic reformers viewed Glushkov’s proposal as a conservative attempt to further centralize the control of the economy and to suppress the autonomy of small economic units. A controversy erupted. Liberal economists saw the solution of Soviet economic problems in introducing market elements into the economy. They proposed radical decentralization of economic planning and management and the introduction of market incentives. In their eyes, Glushkov’s project merely conserved obsolete forms of centralized economic management. Glushkov argued that his proposal would not centralize all decision-making, but only top-level strategic planning. He believed that it would be possible to design a system that would provide quasi-market incentives for individual enterprises through computer modeling. He argued that this would work even more efficiently than actual market.38


Glushkov admitted that his project would cost 20 billion rubles over 15 years. He acknowledged that this project would be more complex and more difficult to implement than the space program and the atomic bomb project combined. Yet he insisted that at the end of this 15-year period his plan would bring into the budget 100 billion rubles.42...

The biggest problem with Glushkov’s plan was that it would work only if introduced in full. Without a radical management reform on the top, local optimization lost its meaning. One factory manager offered a frank explanation: ‘I cannot reallocate portions of the salary fund; it comes with a state order. This fund is greater for the production of narrow pipes. If you reassign the orders, this would upset the stability of this fund. To accept your proposal, the entire management system would have to be reformed.’43 Economic cyberneticians admitted that it was impossible to achieve local optimization without reforming economic mechanisms on the national scale.44...

In November [1964] the presidium of the Council of Ministers discussed Glushkov’s proposal. It faced stern opposition from the same government agencies that were supposed to participate in its implementation. The idea of automated economic management threatened to upset the existing hierarchy of power in the economic sphere: information-collecting through a network of computer centers would challenge the role of the Central Statistical Administration, while automated planning would undermine the monopoly of the State Planning Committee (Gosplan) on top-level economic decisions...

Instead of directly opposing Glushkov’s reform, central government agencies began to slow down and emasculate the project. First, officials at the Central Statistical Administration raised objections to the idea of direct access to the proposed central data bank. The Council of Ministers turned Glushkov’s proposal over to them for ‘finalizing.’ This agency already possessed a nationwide network of statistics-collecting stations, and it quietly transformed Glushkov’s concept of a national network of computer centers into a simple extension of its own network. This idea, however, did not suit Gosplan: since the computer network lost its planning function, all the resources seemed to be directed to a rival government agency. The Council of Ministers duly turned the project over to Gosplan for another ‘touch-up.’


In the meantime, the military moved on to a new generation of distributed commandand- control systems with more sophisticated networking capabilities... Because of pervasive secrecy, the Soviet economy could not take advantage of any technological innovations in the defense industry. Even if secrecy restrictions were lifted, it would have been very difficult to adapt military technologies for civilian use. Dealing with unreliable components, defense industry engineers tried to simplify computer design. Instead of building complex universal computers, they developed a large variety of small specialized computers with hardwired algorithms. Every type of weaponry was controlled by its own type of computer; over 300 hundred different types of specialized computers were developed in total in the Soviet defense industry.50 Their highly specific designs were of no use in a civilian context.


A new impetus to the idea of a nationwide computer network came in the late 1960s, when the Soviet leadership learned about the development of the ARPANET in the USA. Glushkov came up with a new proposal, even more ambitious than the previous one. He proposed to unite management information systems of all levels – from individual enterprises through branch-based ministry systems and regional nodes up to the top government level – to create the Statewide Automated Management System for Collection and Processing of Information for the Accounting, Planning, and Management of the National Economy (in Russian, abbreviation, OGAS) (Figure 1). Glushkov argued that the larger was an object controlled by an automated management system, the greater would be its economic effect.51 Unless the processing of economic information was automated, he warned, by the mid 1980s nearly the entire adult population of the Soviet Union would be engaged in planning, accounting, and management.52

To make his idea more palatable to various government agencies, Glushkov cleverly asserted that OGAS would not control the economy itself, but only the information flows in the economy. Glushkov insisted that OGAS would not undermine the existing system, in which individual ministries already controlled their sectors of the economy and accumulated information in their own computer centers. OGAS would only make the system function more efficiently. ‘In order to organize information flows on the national scale,’ he argued, ‘one needs to centralize interagency management of all information banks and computer centers, not the management of the economy.’53 OGAS was thus depicted not as an economic super-agency but merely as a management system for information processing and software development. One of the functions of OGAS, for example, would be redistribution of computing tasks among different computer centers with the help of special ‘information dispatch stations’ in order to even out the load across the network.

Glushkov aspired to make OGAS a truly universal information bank accumulating all conceivable information from the lowest level up to the top. He went as far as suggesting that OGAS would include not only factual data, but also innovative proposals and ideas from individuals: ‘Since the object of control is not only equipment but also personnel, one must include all the information about new technical, technological, economic, and organizational ideas and projects that workers at a given enterprise have.’54

Some liberal intellectuals began to see in Glushkov’s proposal the specter of an omnipresent surveillance system; others dismissed it as a technological utopia. Economists argued that solution was not in processing large amounts of information, but in reducing the amount of information necessary for decision-making: ‘Excess information is not only useless, but it is harmful.’55 Management experts asserted that management information systems had ‘simply reinforced outmoded methods of accounting and keeping statistics in American corporations’ and insisted that a management reform must be implemented first, and computerization should come second.56

... the draft resolution of the Twenty Fourth Party Congress, published in 1971, authorized the full-scale OGAS project, but this decision was soon retracted. The Soviet leadership also realized that the OGAS project had direct political implications, which threatened to upset the established balance of power. Shortly before the Congress the Politburo decided to scale down the OGAS plan. They now called only for wider introduction of individual management information system, but the creation of an automated management system for the entire economy was put off. The plans for the construction of a national network of computer centers survived, though only on paper. Lacking a clear economic purpose, the costly construction of a nationwide network could hardly be implemented.


Ministry officials realized that there were many ways to skin the cybernetic cat without necessarily losing their grip on power. Each ministry built its own computer centers and developed management information systems for their internal needs. In 1971–75, the number of such systems grew almost sevenfold, but they often used incompatible hardware and software and did not form any cross-agency network. By constructing specialized management information systems, Soviet industrial branch ministries laid a technical foundation for strengthening centralized control over their subordinate enterprises. Now the ministries did not have to share information/power with any rival agency. On the contrary, each ministry could use computer technology to strengthen its control over sensitive information...

Similar stories repeated every five years, as new economic plans were drafted for approval at Party Congresses. The Twenty-Fifth Congress in 1976 and the Twenty-Sixth in 1981 duly approved new reincarnations of the OGAS project. Every time the efforts to build a network of computer centers stopped at the ministry level and did not reach the national scale.

When computerized management systems are compatible, they can serve to unite different enterprises, but if they are incompatible, they will divide just as effectively. By accelerating the development of branch-based incompatible systems, the ministries effectively blocked the idea of a national computer network.60 In the 1970s several branch networks were independently developed for civil aviation, weather prediction, banking, and academic research.61 Most of them collapsed along with the Soviet Union. New Internet-type networks emerged only in the 1990s, and they were created not by the government, but by commercial enterprises.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
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Post 07 Nov 2012, 15:01
Another work by Gerovich, From Newspeak to Cyber-Speak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics (MIT Press, 2002), has further details:

Slava Gerovitch wrote:

Anatolii Kitov, in particular, wrote that “the national economy as a whole may be regarded as a complex cybernetic system, which incorporates an enormous number of various interconnected control loops with various levels of sub-ordination.” He argued that only the application of cybernetic methods—mathematical modeling and computer simulation—could place economics on a solid scientific foundation: “Computer modeling makes it possible to forecast economic processes and to conduct mathematical experiments in economics. Thereby economics turns into an exact experimental science.”45In January of 1959 Kitov sent the Party Central Committee a copy of his1958 book Electronic Computing Machines along with a proposal to create an automated control system for the national economy that would be based on a unified network of state computation centers. The authorities appointed a commission, headed by Berg, and soon the Central Committeeand the Council of Ministers issued a joint decree on the improvement of production and introduction of computers into the economy. 46

Berg, Kitov, and Liapunov summarized the essence of cyberneticians’ aspirations to reform the Soviet economy in a 1960 joint article in the Party journal Kommunist . To increase the productivity and quality of manage-ment, they argued, managerial tasks must be automated. Citing positive Western experience, they suggested using computer technology and cyber-netic methods of information processing on a scale much greater than in the West:

The dominant trend in the area of management is the transition toward complex automation of all types of information processing with the help of electronic computer technology, aimed at creating “a fully automated managerial office.” . . . In contrast to capitalist countries, where different companies create individual automated control systems for themselves, in the conditions of socialism it is quite possible to organize a unified complex automated system to control the national economy. It is obvious that the effect from such automation would be much greater than from the automation of control of individual enterprises.47

The authors argued that the automation of management would greatly improve the efficiency and productivity of Soviet industry. They wrote, for example, that the use of computers would help reduce procurement planning time from 3–4 months to 3 days, cut the management apparatus by half, and decrease the cost of procurement procedures by a factor of 5. To support the outlined automated control system for the national economy, the authors proposed to build a unified territorial network of information computation centers with centralized control. These centers were to be linked to individual institutions and industrial enterprises, whose computational needs they would serve. The entire network was to provide means for automatic collection of economic data, planning, distribution of resources, banking, and control of transportation.


Soviet cyberneticians’ proposals for a cybernetic reform of managerial practices posed a direct challenge to the existing power hierarchies. Cybernetic analysis of information flows and managerial procedures exposed serious flaws in Soviet economic management, and cyberneticians believed that the introduction of cybernetic methods would help reform the obsolete managerial practices. For example, citing studies of data-collection procedures in Soviet industry, Liapunov argued that the contemporary managerial practices were clearly inadequate:

Certain data required for expedient control are, in fact, neglected, while much information, which is collected with great effort, has no function to fulfill, for this information does not affect decision making in production management. . . . As a result, many agencies and information channels duplicate one another and make no real impact on production. A detailed mathematical modeling of production control would help find out which links in a control system are not necessary, and perhaps would help arrive at a more rational system of control in general.53

Cyberneticians explicitly contrasted the promised efficiency of cybernetic control with the ineptitude of the cumbersome Soviet bureaucracy. In December of 1957 the leaders of the Soviet Academy of Sciences wrote to the presidium of the Party Central Committee:

The use of computers for statistics and planning must have an absolutely exceptional significance in terms of its efficiency. In most cases, such a use would make it possible to increase the speed of decision making by hundreds of times and to avoid errors that are currently produced by the unwieldy bureaucratic apparatus involved in these activities.54


Under the umbrella of cybernetics, a new trend in Soviet economic thought—“economic cybernetics”—emerged. The participants of Liapunov’s open seminar on cybernetics at Moscow University often discussed the prospects for applying mathematical methods in economics. In May of 1957, for example, the Leningrad mathematician Leonid Kantorovich, the Soviet pioneer of linear programming, presented a paper on mathematical methods in economic planning. Ten days later, two cyberneticians spoke about a proposed “high-speed computer for economicanalysis.”61

The Academy Council on Cybernetics set up an Economics Section, regularly published papers on mathematical economics in Cybernetics—in the Service of Communism, and sponsored several conferences on that topic. In 1958 only a handful of Soviet economists were interested in mathematical models of planning and management; 3 years later, more than 40 institutions were conducting research on mathematicaleconomics.62 In 1967 the Council on Cybernetics coordinated cybernetics research in some 500 institutions, and half of them were engaged in applying cybernetic methods to economics.63 “Economic cyberneticians” advanced their ideas in constant struggle with the conservative elite among Soviet economists.


With the political “thaw” and the growth of economic problems, how-ever, Soviet leaders began contemplating an economic reform and permit-ted an open discussion of its possible directions. A group of prominent economists and mathematicians led by Kantorovich, Vasilii Nemchinov,and Viktor Novozhilov challenged the authority of political economists and proposed to use mathematical methods and computer technology for efficient planning, price regulation, and processing of economic information. Conceptualizing the Soviet economy in cybernetic terms as a giant control system, they aspired to transform the entire Soviet economic system into an optimally functioning one. This formidable task faced serious technical and political difficulties.66

Soviet economic cyberneticians interpreted economic management as a form of cybernetic control [upravlenie] and brought Western studies on “management science” under the umbrella of cybernetics. Cybernetics was viewed as a guide to the automation of production control and to the auto-mated management of the national economy. In July of 1962 the Academy of Sciences dispatched a group of experts to the United States and England to learn about the latest methods of industrial automation. Upon their return, members of the delegation wrote a confidential report, in which they argued that cybernetics (“management science”) would provide new methods for industrial automation and economic management:

Management science in the United States incorporates the main ideas of automated control of machinery, the principle of feedback, and the methods of application of this principle. The main purpose of this science is the elaboration of methods of optimal planning and industrial management. The delegation believes that now is the time to utilize in a serious way the achievements of management science under the conditions of planned economy in our country in order to place solid scientific principles in the foundation of economic management and production control with the help of operations research methods.67


Proposals for cybernetic (“rational,” “objective,” “scientific”) control of the economy had the ear of Party authorities. At a Central Committee plenum in November of 1962, Khrushchev called on his Party comrades to adopt Western “rational” managerial techniques. In the conditions of the planned economy, he argued, these techniques would be even easier to implement than under capitalism.68

Also in November of 1962, Aleksei Kosygin, then Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers, met with two leading mathematicians—Mstislav Keldysh and Viktor Glushkov—to discuss the prospects for using cybernetic methods to control the economy. Keldysh and Glushkov proposed to optimize economic decision making on a national scale by creating a nationwide automated system, based on a unified state network of computation centers, for economic planning and management. Soon the Council of Ministers appointed Glushkov to head a commission charged with preparing a detailed proposal.69

Glushkov originally envisioned a system that would monitor all labor, production, and retailing. He even proposed to eliminate money from the economy, evoking the Marxist utopian vision of a communist society.

Perhaps Glushkov hoped that this idea would appeal to Khrushchev, who in 1961 had announced the Party’s goal of building communism in the Soviet Union by 1980. Keldysh, who was much more experienced in top-level bureaucratic manoeuvres, reportedly advised Glushkov to drop this radical idea, explaining that it might “arouse unnecessary emotions.”Glushkov then excluded this section from his main proposal and submitted it to the Party Central Committee separately. If ideology was to play any significant role in the Soviet top-level decision making, this was its best chance. Glushkov’s proposal to eliminate money, however, received neither support nor a formal response from the Party authorities.70

In a more acceptable form, economic cyberneticians’ proposals gradually made their way through the maze of Soviet government agencies. Eventually, in 1963, the Party Central Committee and the Council of Ministers adopted a joint decree titled On Improving the Supervision of Work on the Introduction of Computer Technology and Automated Management Systems into the National Economy. Several major government agencies involved in the management of the national economy established specialized institutions to study problems of automated management :the Academy of Sciences set up the Central Economic Mathematical Institute (hereafter CEMI),71the State Planning Committee organized the Main Computation Center, and the Central Statistical Administration created the Scientific Research Institute for Design of Computation Centers and Economic Information Systems. To coordinate all work in this area, the government set up the Chief Administration for the Introduction of Computer Technology into the National Economy. CEMI, organized with the active support of Berg’s Council on Cybernetics, became the hotbed of economic cybernetics. The director of CEMI, Academician Nikolai Fedorenko, also became the chairman of the Scientific Council on Optimal Planning and Management of the National Economy. CEMI put forward an ambitious program of optimal economic planning on a national scale, based on the cybernetic methods of control-ling large-scale complex systems. In 1964 CEMI’s research agenda was formulated as follows:

(1)Elaboration of a theory of optimal planning and management, and the construction of a general mathematical model of the national economy;
(2)Development of a unified system of economic information;
(3)Development of a unified state network of computation centers;
(4)Development of mathematical methods for the general model;
(5)Creation of concrete planning and management systems based on mathemat-ical methods and computer technology; and
(6)Elaboration of standards and algorithms for planning and management.72

CEMI cooperated closely with Glushkov’s Institute of Cybernetics. In1964 Glushkov and Fedorenko published a joint proposal for a unified sys-tem of optimal planning and management on the basis of a three-tier unified nationwide network of computation centers. The proposed network included tens of thousands of local computation centers to collect “primary information,” 30–50 mid-level computation centers in major cities, and one top-level center controlling the entire network and serving the government. The structure of the computer network was made flexible enough to pro-vide independence from possible reorganizations of planning and management agencies, which were quite frequent in those days. In the existing economic system, the central planning organs collected primary economic information from individual enterprises by means of four relatively independent parallel channels: the planning system, the material-technical sup-ply system, the statistical system, and the financial system. Glushkov and Fedorenko proposed to replace this scheme with one in which all economic data would be collected only once, stored in data centers, and then made available to all the agencies involved. By this restructuring of economic information flows, the authors hoped to reduce the number of reports sub-mitted by an individual enterprise by a factor of 20–30.73 Glushkov and F edorenko promised that the proposed unified system of optimal planning and management would provide “optimal decision making on a national scale” by processing “the entire body of primary economic information as a whole.”74


Economic cyberneticians quickly realized that it was impossible to centralize all economic decision making in Moscow: the mathematical optimization of a large-scale system was simply not feasible. CEMI researchers estimated that complete optimization of the Soviet economy required solving a gargantuan system of equations with 50 million variables and 5 million constraints. They admitted that even a computer per-forming 1 million operations per second, which was much faster than any available Soviet computers, would require one month to solve a system a billionth as large.75Besides, economic cyberneticians realized that there were some serious conceptual difficulties: linear programming was suited for the problem of resource distribution, but it did not work well for prospective planning, there were different views on what constituted an economic optimum, and it was difficult to agree on a single criterion foroptimization.76 In 1967 Fedorenko unequivocally stated that “the full formalization of the functioning of an economic system and the creation of a fully automated centralized system of planning and management of the economy is unwarranted.”77


Despite the Soviet leadership’s general encouragement of their approach, economic cyberneticians faced a stern opposition from the same government agencies that were supposed to help in the implementation of optimal planning projects. Instead of directly opposing the cyberneticians’ reforms, these agencies began to scale down and delay these projects. As it made its way through various government committees and commissions, Glushkov’s original proposal for a nationwide automated control system for the economy was completely emasculated. The economic reform part disappeared; only a nationwide network of computation centers was pre-served, and its functions were reduced significantly. In November of 1964the Soviet government transferred the responsibility for “finalizing” Glushkov’s proposal to the Central Statistical Administration. That agency quickly replaced Glushkov’s concept of creating a unified network of computation centers with the idea of installing some computers at the existing statistical data-collecting stations. The State Planning Committee opposed this idea, fearing that the narrow specialization of computation centers would give an advantage to a rival agency, and insisted on rewriting the proposal to include some planning functions. As the two powerful government agencies struggled, trying to adapt Glushkov’s project to their own ends, the prospects for building a unified system of optimal planning and management on the basis of a nationwide network of computation centers quietly withered away.85
In 1968 Kitov wrote in a personal letter to Liapunov:

The top leadership realizes the importance of [the introduction of computers into the national economy] but takes no effective measures in support of such work, while responsible officials from the ministries and other government agencies . . .display no interest in the automation of management or the optimization of planning. The problem is apparently rooted not in their personalities, but in their positions [in the bureaucratic hierarchy] and in the overall traditions, which change very slowly.86


While industrial managers and government bureaucrats resisted the computerization of economic planning and management because it could upset the existing power structures, liberal economic reformers opposed Glushkov’s proposal because they feared it would further centralize the control of the economy and suppress local initiative. Liberal economists insisted on the radical decentralization of economic planning and management and on the introduction of actual market mechanisms in the Soviet economy. If central planning organs and individual enterprises could arbitrarily manipulate various economic criteria, they argued, computers could only produce “distorted results, though with great speed.”88

Liberal economists warned that Glushkov’s project would divert resources urgently needed for economic reform and merely conserve the obsolete forms of centralized economic management. The economist Gavriil Popov, who would later play a prominent political role in Mikhail Gorbachev’s
perestroika, severely criticized Glushkov’s proposal in a 1970book:

[The construction of] the pyramids of Egypt was one of the reasons why that fertile ancient country turned into a desert. If one vigorously implements a meaning-less economic decision, it ruins the economy. According to the blueprint of a unified state network of computation centers, these centers would spread over this country like those pyramids, designed by talented mathematicians and able engineers with the participation of unqualified economists.89

Glushkov indeed admitted that his project for a nationwide network of computation centers would cost more that the space program and theatomic project put together.90


After October of 1964, when Khrushchev was ousted and Brezhnev came to power, the drive for reform in the Soviet economy quickly withered away. Soviet cybernetics underwent a parallel change: it transformed from a vehicle of reform into a pillar of the status quo. The Soviet political, economic, and academic establishment successfully appropriated cyberspeak and computer technology to serve its own goals.94...

Officials at various industrial branch ministries quickly realized that there were many ways to skin the cybernetic cat without necessarily losing their grip on power. Instead of building a nationwide automated management system that would connect all branches of industry within each region, they proposedto develop information-management systems along industrial branch lines. In March of 1966 the Party Central Committee and the Soviet Council of Ministers adopted a joint decree that made this approach an official policy.95

It was decided that each ministry would set up a separate automated management system to serve its internal needs. Now the ministries did not have to share information/power with any rival agency; on the contrary, each ministry could use computer technology to strengthen its control oversensitive information. If computerized management systems were compatible, they could serve to unite different enterprises; if they were incompatible, they would divide enterprises just as effectively. Built without much coordination, branch-based information-management systems proved incompatible with one another and with that of the State Planning Committee, and thus their integration was not possible. By constructing isolated information-management systems, Soviet industrial branch ministries laid a technical foundation for strengthening the centralized control over their subordinate enterprises.


Instead of facilitating the mechanism of “indirect centralization” envisioned by economic cyberneticians, computer technology was enrolled to strengthen hierarchical structures of centralized control... Gosplan officials effectively used computers to shore up their habitual planning practices rather than to reform them... Mathematics and computing was now “on tap, not on top” of economic decision making.


A new impetus for the idea of a nationwide computer network came from the West when the Soviets learned about the development of the ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet. Glushkov immediately drew the attention of the Soviet leaders to the similarity between this American project and his own 1964 proposal for a unified state network of computation centers. In his memoirs, Glushkov recalled:

In the late 1960s, the Central Committee and the Council of Ministers received information that Americans had drafted the design of an information network (several information networks, to be precise) as early as 1966, that is, 2 years after us. Unlike us, however, they did not argue but got to work, and in 1969 they already planned to launch the ARPANET network, . . . which linked computers installed in various American cities. Then some concern began to show in our quarters. I came o see [the secretary of the Central Committee] A. P. Kirilenko and handed him a memo that proposed to return to the ideas of my original project. “Write down in detail what has to be done, and we will create a commission,” he said. Then I wrote something like this: “The only thing I ask is not to create a commission. Commissions operate on the principle of subtraction of brains, not summation, and they can wreck any project.” They created a commission all the same.99

Glushkov argued that, unless the processing of economic information was automated, by the mid 1980s nearly the entire adult population of the Soviet Union would be engaged in planning, accounting, and management.100

To solve this problem, he proposed to build a Statewide Automated Management System (Obshchegosudarstvennaia avtomatizirovannaia sistema upravleniia, hereafter OGAS)—a network of regional and branch-based management information systems that would include all levels of control, from the top government level to production-control systems at individual factories. Glushkov believed that the larger was the object con-trolled by an automated management system, the greater was that system’s economic effect.101

To coordinate the entire project, he proposed to establish a State Committee on the Improvement of Management, a powerful inter branch agency staffed with scientists who would oversee the construction and operation of a nationwide automated management system. Glushkov lobbied hard, trying to win over the support of the Soviet leaders. In his memoirs, comparing his situation with the position of the leaders of the Soviet space program and the atomic project, Glushkov wrote:

Both Korolev and Kurchatov had a curator among the Politburo members. They could come to him and resolve any issue. Our problem was that we did not have such a person. . . . It was particularly important to have a direct contact with one of the Politburo members, since our task was not only scientific and technical, but also political.10

The Soviet leaders also realized that the OGAS project, unlike the space program and the atomic project, had direct political implications, which threatened the established hierarchy of power. The published draft resolution of the Twenty-Fourth Party Congress included the full-scale OGAS project, but shortly before the congress the Politburo decided to scale it down drastically. Instead of creating a powerful State Committee on the Improvement of Management, the Politburo resolved to set up a much more modest agency, the Chief Administration for Computer Technology. The elaboration of mathematical models for the national economy and the implementation of automated management systems were put off, and only the least ambitious, largely technical part of the plan—the construction of a state network of computation centers—survived.103

While losing its top-level reformist component, the revised OGAS project acquired a completely different political dimension: it now served to conserve the existing power structures and administrative hierarchies, rather than reform them.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 4510
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 07 Nov 2012, 15:04
In his book Pioneers of Soviet Computing, Boris Malinovsky cites the recollections of Victor Glushkov at length. Glushkov had dictated these in January 1982, shortly before his death. They're valuable in their confirmation of much of the above information:

Viktor Glushkov wrote:

First Deputy Prime Minister Kosygin instructed me to begin work on a computerized control system for the economy in November 1962, because I had already expressed these ideas to the President of the Soviet Academy of Science, Mstislav Keldysh, who brought me to see him. I briefly outlined for Kosygin what we wanted to do; he approved; the Council of Ministers of the USSR issued an order for the creation of a special commission (with me as its chairman) to prepare materials for a government resolution. On this commission were economists, notably Academician N.N. Federenko, chief of the Central Statistical Department Vadim Nikitovich Starovsky, First Deputy Minister of Communications A.I. Sergeichuk, and people from other administrative bodies.

The commission was granted many privileges. This allowed me to visit any cabinet, minister, or even the Chairman of Gosplan [in Russian: Gosudarstvennii planovii komitet, the state economic planning agency], and ask questions or simply sit in a corner and watch him make decisions and procedures. Naturally, I received permission to familiarize myself, as needed, with any production site, enterprise, organization, etc.

By that time we already had a concept for a unified system of computing centers for economic information processing for the entire country. The famous economist Vasily Sergeevich Nemchinov and his students proposed using computers already operating in computer centers, but not in a remote access mode. Neither the economists, nor the computer technology specialists were aware of it at the time. They basically copied the 1955 proposal by the USSR Academy of Science to create a system of academic computing centers for scientific calculations, which led to the creation of the Computer Center at the Ukraine’s Academy of Science. They proposed to do exactly the same thing for the economy: to create large government computing centers in Moscow, Kiev, Novosibirsk, Riga, Kharkov, and other cities. Workers from various economic institutions would bring their problems to these centers, make their computations, receive their results, and leave. Of course, this was not acceptable to me, because by that time we were already manipulating data remotely and were able to send, receive and process the data from the Atlantic Ocean at Kiev’s computing center.

All of the governmental organizations in our nations were poorly prepared to process economic data. The blame could be placed on both the economists, who never computed anything, as well as on the computer designers. As a result, the statistics and planning agencies were still equipped with 1939-vintage mechanical calculating machines at the time when America had completely switched over to the electronic digital computers.

By 1965, the Americans were working on two lines: scientific high-capacity binary floating-point machines and business-oriented sequential binary-decimal devices with advanced memory. The IBM Corporation was the first company to produce these two lines of machines simultaneously.

At this time, we only had scientific computers, and no one was developing machines for economic purposes. Therefore, the first thing I tried to do was stimulate interest in developing machines for economic applications, which were sorely needed. I turned to the best computer designers, mainly Bashir I. Rameev, the designer of the Ural-1 and Ural-2 computers, and Victor V. Przhyakovsky, the designer of the Minsk series, and urged them to start working on this problem.

I formed a working group at the Institute and single-handedly came up with a program to outline the task assigned by Kosygin. I spent a week at the Central Statistical Department studying every detail of their work; I examined all the links between them and the regional stations. I spent a lot of time at Gosplan, whose office staff was very helpful, especially Vasily Mikhailovich Ryabikov, Gosplan’s First Deputy Minister. Both of them had extensive experience in the military economics and of course, intimately knew Gosplan. With their help, I was able to study all the tasks and planning steps, and anticipate the difficulties that might emerge.

In 1963, I visited at least one hundred various sites, from factories and mines to state collective farms. Over the next ten years, the number of sites had increased to almost a thousand. Therefore, I knew more than anyone else about every detail of the national economy and understood the peculiarities of the existing management system, which allowed me to predict the difficulties that might arise and what calculations would be necessary.

I quickly understood technological needs as well. Long before I was fully aware of the scope of the project, I had envisioned not individual government centers, but an entire network of computing centers with remote access capability. In other words, I expanded the concept of shared data processing to include contemporary technological methods.

The first draft of the project for the Unified State Network of Computing Centers included nearly one hundred centers in large industrial cities, connected via wide-band communication channels. These centers, spread throughout the country, would be united with smaller regional centers to process economic information. We estimated there would be twenty thousand of these, composed of large enterprises, ministries, and key centers that served the small enterprises. An important characteristic of the system was its data bank and the ability to access it remotely from anywhere in the network after an automatic identity check. We worked out a number of information protection issues as well. In addition, in this two-level system the main computing centers exchanged information with each other not by channel, but through messages, which is now standard. I suggested combining these one to two hundred centers with wide-band channels to bypass channel-forming apparatus, so it would be possible to copy the information from a magnetic tape in Vladivostok directly onto a tape in Moscow without a reduction in speed. All of the procedures would be greatly simplified and the network would gain additional capabilities. Nothing like this existed back then and until 1977 our project was a secret.

In addition to the network’s structure, I developed a system of mathematical models to manage the economy, in order to receive a regular flow of information. Consequently, I presented our plan to Keldysh, who approved it except for the electronic currency system. The model would still work without it. According to Keldysh, such a system would only stir up controversy and should be treated as a separate issue from the economic plan. I agreed with him and we did not introduce this factor into the project. I did write a separate letter about it to the Central Committee; it came up for discussion several times but eventually disappeared, and no resolution concerning the creation of electronic currency system was made. Once we finished the final draft of the project, we submitted it for review by the commission.

Unfortunately, after the commission reviewed the project proposal, they dismissed most of it. The entire economic portion was removed, and only plans for the network itself remained. The removed portion of the economic proposal was burned because it was top secret and dangerous to the Soviet bureaucracy. We were not even allowed to keep a copy of it at the Institute, and unfortunately, we are unable to recreate it. The head of the Central Statistical Department, Starovsky, was one of the staunch opponents of the project. His criticisms were purely demagogical. We proposed a new system of accounting, which would allow access to any piece of information from any point. Starovsky argued that the Central Statistical Department had been organized on Lenin’s initiative, and so far was managing its assigned tasks quite well. He was somehow able to convince Kosygin that the information from the Central Statistical Department was sufficient for state control, and there was no need for a new system.

In June 1964 we presented our project to the government for approval, and in November, I made a presentation about it at a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers. Naturally, I mentioned the Central Statistical Department’s objections. That’s when a decision was made to give the project to the Central Statistical Department for reworking, with the assistance of the Radio Industry Ministry. For two years, we worked from the bottom up; not from the ideas of what was best for future of the country, but from what already existed. The regional offices of the Central Statistical Department in the Archangelsk region and the city of Nukus in the Karakalpaksky Autonomous Republic (two of the most distant points from Moscow) were assigned to study the information flow. They were supposed to determine how many documents,
statistical reports, and letters were received in these regional offices from enterprises,
organizations, etc.

According to the Central Statistical Department, when arithmometers were used to process information, each input digit or letter required 50 sorting or arithmetic operations. Feeling smug, the authors of this project reported that if they were to use electronic digital computers, the number of operations would increase tenfold. God only knows why they wrote this.

Furthermore, they took the number of statistical reports being processed, multiplied it by 500 and came up with the required operating speed. The number was ridiculous: if the computers were installed in Archangelsk and Nukus, they would have to perform at 2000 operations per second! This was the conclusion that they presented to the government.

Another commission was created to accept this project. They wanted me to chair it, but refused on ethical grounds. After the commission members reviewed the project, they declared that although they did not agree with all of my ideas, at least my proposal had a planning phase, whereas the Central Statistical Department had only statistics. Except for me, the commission unanimously rejected the project. Considering the vital importance of this project for our country, I suggested to mark the project as unsatisfactory, but move onto the technical development phase to be carried out by the Ministry of Radio Production, the Academy of Science of the Soviet Union, and Gosplan. My proposal was rejected again, but my recommendation was recorded as a special opinion and Gosplan was ordered to start over. Gosplan required two years to do this, and it was already 1966. They dragged their feet until 1968, and accomplished absolutely nothing. Moreover, instead of preparing the project outline, they wrote a decree for the USSR Council of Ministers, restoring the old system of branch control. As the result, they were absolved of any responsibility for the project. If every ministry
created its own branch system, they would merge at the end and function as one comprehensive governmental system. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, nothing more needed to be done and so it was ordered. The resulting OGAS became a sbornaya solyanka – a hodge-podge soup of mismatched bits.


Starting in 1964, when my project was first announced, many people began to openly oppose me, among them the economists Lieberman, Belkin, Birman, and others; many of them later left for the United States and Israel. Kosygin, who had always been a very practical man, became interested in the projected cost of our project. In the preliminary budget, it was estimated at 20 billion rubles. The main part could be done in three five year periods, but only if it were organized and funded like the nuclear and space programs. I did not hide from Kosygin that this program was far more complicated than the space and nuclear programs combined. Plus, it
would be much more difficult to coordinate, because it involved industry, commerce, planning agencies, administration, and control. The working model anticipated that after the first investment of 5 billion rubles during the first five-year period, the return would be in excess five billion rubles, because we planed for the program to pay for itself. And after three such five-year periods, the program would bring no less than 100 billion rubles in revenue – and this was a conservative figure.

But the “ivory tower” economists convinced Kosygin that the economic reform would cost nothing, except for the price of paper to print the Council of Ministers’ decree, therefore bringing more revenue in the end. Our ideas were shoved aside once more and moreover, we was treated with suspicion; Kosygin was not happy...

By the end of the 1960s, both the Central Committee and the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union had received information that the Americans had completed a plan to build several information networks – two years later than us. The difference was that the American government did not argue over this and carried it out, and planned to make ARPANET and several others operational in 1969, connecting computers in different American cities. That is when our government began to worry. I sent a note to Kirilenko about the necessity of returning to my project ideas. ‘Tell me what you think we need to do and we’ll create a commission,’ he replied. I answered along these lines: ‘I implore you not to create a commission because it always gets in the way of progress and ruins every project.’ But a commission was created anyway; Vladimir Alexeevich Kirillin was appointed as the chairman and I was his deputy.

This commission consisted of higher level officials than before, including a minister of finance, minister of instrument building, and others. It had to prepare a resolution for the creation of OGAS to be reviewed by the Politburo, which would then decide if it was a go or not. So, the work began again. This time, I focused not so much on the essence of the project, since that was already done, but on the actual steps for the realization of OGAS.

The reality was that people like Korolev and Kurchatov had their own representative, who was a member of the Politburo, and they could go to him to immediately resolve any problems.

Unfortunately, we had no such person to turn to. Issues related to computerization were the most complex and controversial ones, able to greatly affected politics, and any mistake would have had dire consequences. We badly needed a benefactor in the Politburo because our problem was political first and scientific-technological second. We planed to create a state committee on modernization of government administration (in Russian: Gosudarstvennii Komitet po Sovershenstvovaniu Upravleniya, or Goskomupr). Its scientific center would contain ten to fifteen institutes, which already existed; therefore, we only needed to create one leading institute for control and dealing with the Politburo. The rest would be selected from various Academies of Science.

Everything went smoothly and everyone agreed. By this time, a draft directive of the 26th Communist Party Congress was published, which included all of our formulations. Our proposal was reviewed by the Politburo twice. At one of the sessions they reviewed the overall project and agreed that OGAS had to be implemented. But how? By creating Goskomupr, or was it necessary to create something else? This is where the arguments began. I succeeded in “convincing” all the members of the commission, except the Minister of Finance Garbuzov, and then we presented them again to the Politburo.

But when we came to the session – incidentally, it took place in Stalin’s former office – Kirillin whispered to me, ‘Something’s happened, but I don’t know exactly what.’ The question was reviewed at the session with neither the General Secretary nor the Prime Minister: Brezhnev had left for Baku to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Soviet leadership in Azerbaijan, and Kosygin was in Egypt at Abdul Nasser’s funeral. Mikhail Suslov conducted the session. Kirillin spoke first, then me. There were many questions and I answered all of them. When Garbuzov came up to the podium and responded, his speech sounded like a joke. He addressed Mazurov, Kosygin’s First Deputy Minister, ‘Kyrill Trofimovich, I went to Minsk to observed poultry farms, as ordered. And there, on this one particular poultry farm, the poultry maids were using a computer.’

I laughed out loud. He shook his finger at me and warned: ‘Don’t laugh Glushkov, we are discussing serious matters here.’ But Suslov interrupted him, ‘Comrade Garbuzov, you are not the chairman yet, and it’s not your business to bring a session of the Politburo to order.’ Then, Garbuzov – the self-assured and conceited person that he was – continued as if nothing had happened, ‘The computer executes three programs: it turns the music on when the hen lays an egg, it turns a light on and off and on and so forth. This program has significantly improved the egg production on this farm.’ At this point he declared that now all poultry farms in the Soviet Union need to be automated and only then could we begin to think about such stupid things as the general governmental system. I laughed again and thought: ‘All right, whatever.’

A counterproposal was issued, which simplified everything: Goskomupr was reduced to a department within the existing State Committee on Science and Technology and the whole system became more technical, that is, the focus was changed from the control of industrial and management processes to a government network of computing centers. Anything related to economic or mathematical models for OGAS was scrapped. It became a hardware solution without any appropriate software support.

Just before the end of the session, Suslov stood up and said, ‘Comrades, perhaps we are making a mistake by not accepting this project as a whole, but because it calls for such a revolutionary transformation, it will be difficult to realize at this time. So let’s go ahead with the counterproposal for now, and then we will see what’s what.’ He then turned not to Kirillin, but to me, and asked, ‘What do you think?’ I replied, ‘Mikhail Andreevich, I will only say one thing: if we do not do this correctly right now, then during the second half of the 1970s the Soviet economy will encounter such problems that we will be forced to return to this question.’ But in the end, my opinion did not matter, and they accepted the counterproposal.

Sometime in November, Kirilenko asked me to come to his office at the Old Square. When I entered his reception area at 9:58 am, I saw our ‘Rocket Minister,’ Sergei Alexandrovich Afanasiev, who had a scheduled appointment with Kirilenko at 10:10 am. He asked me, ‘Is yours supposed to be a short meeting?’ I responded that I had no idea why I was there.


I went in first. Andrei Pavlovich stood up, greeted me, and said, ‘You have been appointed Kirillin’s First Deputy. I have already confirmed this with Leonid Ilyich (Brezhnev), who asked me if he needed to have a little chat with you, but I told him no, I will take care of everything myself.’

I replied, ‘Andrei Pavlovich, why didn’t you discuss this with me first? What if I won’t agree? You know that I was against the accepted proposal because it will only disfigure OGAS and yield no positive results. If I were to agree with your proposal now, then both of us would look guilty: I brought you a proposal, you supported it, they appointed me and put everything in my hands, but nothing gets done. You are a smart man, you understand that from this position, it’s impossible to make even a simple rocket, never mind a new economic system of government administration.’

We sat down, and he started to pressure me, ‘You’ve put me in an uncomfortable position with Leonid Ilyich. I’ve already told him that everything was arranged.’ But I would not budge. He began using some ugly word to force me to agree, but to no avail. His tone alternated between nasty and polite for an hour. Then, just like that, he let me go. In the end, we had not agreed on anything. He didn’t even say good-bye to me, and I didn’t speak to him again until we met at the 24th Party Congress. Later, our relationship improved. He ended up recommending his friend, Dmitri Zhimerin, as Kirillin’s deputy, and I agreed to be the scientific supervisor of the head institute.

Meanwhile, the Western press was in an uproar. At first, no one knew about our proposals because they were secret. The first mention of OGAS appeared in the proceedings of the 24th Communist Party Congress.

The first ones to get upset were the Americans. Of course, they would not have started a war with us – it was only a ruse. They were using the arms race to crush our economy, which was already weak. Any news about even a possibility of strengthening our economy frightened them, so they immediately opened fire on me with every weapon at their disposal. Two pieces appeared: one was in The Washington Post, entitled ‘Punch Cards Control the Kremlin,’ by Viktor Zorza, who wrote that, ‘The Tsar of Soviet Cybernetics, Academic V.M. Glushkov Proposes to Change the Kremlin Leadership with Computers.’ It was a nasty article.

The second article, in Britain’s The Guardian, was aimed at the Soviet intelligentsia. It stated that Academic Glushkov proposed to create a network of computing centers with data banks; while it sounded very modern and was more advanced than anything currently available in the West, its real purpose was not economic, but actually a part of a KGB plot, intended to gather Soviet citizens’ thoughts in order to keep track of them.
This second article was republished many times all over the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries. At the same time, all of my opponents in the Soviet Union, particularly the economists, began sneering at me. In 1972 Izvestia published an article by Boris Milner, Deputy Director for the Institute of the United States and Canada, titled, ‘The USA: Lessons of the Electronic Boom.’17 In it, he attempted to prove that the demand for computers in the United States had dropped.

Several economists, who had taken business trips to the United States, sent reports to the Central Committee comparing computer technology to a passing fad, sort of like abstract painting. It was rumored that the capitalists bought the new machines because it was trendy and they did not want to appear old-fashioned.

This completely disoriented our leaders. It also negatively impacted the decision about our proposal. Garbuzov actually told Kosygin that the Central Committee would use Goskomupr to monitor the economic decisions made by him (Kosygin) and the Council of Ministers. This turned Kosygin against us and assured that the Goskomupr proposal would not be accepted. But I didn’t learn about that until two years later.

In 1972, Kirilenko supervised a national conference on computerization, with an emphasis on the control of industrial processes. He intended to slow down the work on the Automatic Control Management Systems and speed up the work on Automatic Control of Technological Processes.

In my opinion, the Central Committee was somehow influenced by the CIA and their clever disinformation campaign, intended to hinder attempts to improve our economy. Perhaps they figured that such a diversion was the simplest and cheapest way of winning the economic competition. I was able to do some things to counteract this. I asked our science advisor attaché in Washington to prepare a report on the actual usage of computers in the United States, which former ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin sent to the Central Committee. Because this report originated directly from our ambassador in the United States, every member of the Politburo received it and read it. This maneuver seemed to work, and it softened the blow a bit. During the preparations for the 25th Congress of the Communist Party, attempts were made to completely eliminate the word ‘OGAS’ from the project resolution. After the draft of the ‘Basic
Directions’ had been published, I wrote a note to the Central Committee, proposing to create several branch systems of computerized administration and later unite them under OGAS. It was accepted.

The same thing happened five years later, during the preparations for the 26th Congress. But this time, we were better prepared: we sent materials to the commission that wrote Brezhnev’s speech. I spoke with almost all of its members and swayed them in our favor; they promised to push our proposals through. Initially, we wanted the proposal to be included in Brezhnev’s speech at the 1980 October Plenum of the Central Committee. But it was too long and much of the information was withheld. We were able to include a large portion of the proposal in the review report on computer technology.
I was advised to publicize the OGAS program in Pravda. The editor of the paper, a former administrator, backed me. They named my article ‘For the Whole Country,’ which was hardly accidental, because Pravda was the media wing of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and no article could have appeared there without approval.


Glushkov’s daughter, Olga, recorded the OGAS story on January 10 and 11, 1982. After Pravda published Glushkov’s article, he hoped that OGAS would finally be realized for the whole country. Perhaps this inspired the ailing Glushkov to be able to dictate his last words. On that very day, Defense Minister Ustinov’s assistant visited Glushkov in the hospital’s intensive care unit and asked, “Can the minister be of any help?” Glushkov, who had just finished dictating his story of trials and tribulations could not help but remember the wall of impenetrable bureaucracy and misunderstanding that he encountered with OGAS. “Ask him for a tank!!” Glushkov answered angrily, surrounded by life support equipment, which was barely keeping him alive. His mind was as clear as ever, but his ability to endure the soul wrenching, physical pain was coming to an end.

Malinovsky's work can be found here:
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Soviet cogitations: 42
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Nov 2011, 06:00
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Post 09 Nov 2012, 06:06
soviet78 wrote:
In the article "Internyet: why the Soviet Union did not build a nationwide computer network", Dr. Slava Gerovitch discusses Soviet attempts, first by Anatolii Kitov, then by Victor Glushkov & co, to set up a nationwide network capable of managing the Soviet economy. The article explains how Soviet liberal economists and bureaucratic interests stiffled each attempt. To me the article's historical examination is bittersweet. It is uplifting because it shows that the forward-thinking ideas that could have strengthened the Soviet economic system and made it even more dynamic than that of Western capitalist countries did exist. Long before the West's computer revolution Soviet scientists had come up with the ideas that could have made the USSR a beacon for cybernetics. It is depressing that bureaucratic interests prevented this potential from being realized, all the more so because it was a real historical possibility, and not just some nebulous 'what if'.

Thanks for the file comrade, this also proves my point that we(Socialist or Communist) should be working with Technocrats.
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