Created: 12/1/1964

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TITLE: For an Eclectic Sovietology

AUTHOR: Richard W. Shryock




A collection ol articles on lhe historical. opcraUonal, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol intelligence.


All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

the authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agencyny other US Government entity, past or present Nothing in the contents should be construed aj asserting or implying us Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations


Diagnosisethodological maladyuggested course of therapy.


Writing several years ago, Daniel Bell, an articulateentertaining writer, and part-time student jf .students ol Soviet affairs. Identified at least ten schools of thoughtwith the analysis of Internal Soviet politics. Hisranged them from the conventional approach of the political scientists through the somewhat more esotericof the "content analyzers" on up to the way-out system of thell Communists aree did not specify which school he favored but seemed to suggest that each may have something to learn from the others. We concur. In the following we shall examine the sovtetological schisms In the Intelligence community andleaore eclectic approach Ln this pursuit.

In official Washington the methods used for studying do-mestlc Soviet affairs are fewer thanersonally know of no Freudian group, alas, and there Isaucity of pure sociologists Ln the community. But thereumber of other identifiable schools each holding the others InThis, obviously. Is too bad: the development of strong vested Interests in one approach or another has taken place at the expense of the substance of the research. Therereat deal of energy expended on destructive criticism of the work produced by other groups, with precious little exchange of helpful Ideas. Something should be done about It. This paper Ls an effort to show how something can be done.

The Warring Schools

Some yearsIA analyst discovered Klkita Khrushchev referred to as the First Secretary of the CPSU, whereashe had been Identified Ln the official press only In lower case, "firsthe conclusion from this evidence, that Khrushchev was on his way up. was subsequently hailed


ethodological triumph, proofewfound world of analytic method. No matter that Indicators of Khrushchev's ascending fortunes were apparent In almost all areas oflife: this little "esoteric communication" became cause in part for the establishmenthole new approach to Soviet studieshole new corpus of political philosophy concerning the Soviet and Communist systems.

This method does In fact provide the student with anuseful tool, it Is basedruth as old asall political commentary, all speeches by leaders areertain extenthey contain messagef^to^the elite not ordinarily decipherable by the layman.losed society, naturally, the content is apt to be more esoteric than in an open one. But what Is as often forgotten asby the professional adherents of this school Is that the Important problem for the analyst Is more likely to lie In distinguishing between the politician's Intentions and his capabilities than In trying to ferret out the precise messages that reveal the intent

Another problem with this school Is that it raises more questions than It can answer, and so its practitioners are prone to discover messages and then forget about theirImplications. Last spring, forankingof the CPSU Presidium, Klrtlenko, was listed In official media out of the normal alphabetical order; this was quickly spotted by alert readers of Pravda and other Soviet Journals, but no one could come upatisfactory explanationpossibly that of the waggish school thatlot by the Soviet typesetters't could only be concluded, solemnly, that this wasould not be mereand thus surely meant something.

Regrettably, those who spend their time delving Into these arcane subtleties have only scorn for less sophisticatedand, even more regrettably, do not make use of sources other than the open Soviet press.ave heard them proclaim their disdain for other sources: "They serve no useful function at all, merely confuse those of us using thehis Is clearly no attitude from which to see theWe feel. Indeed, that these analysts have been rooting around one particular tree for so long as to be lost to their


wider-ranging colleagues. Many of them, however, are gifted students and well endowed, and therefore we address them an anguished plea: come back!

In the school of the political scientists weessapproachroader and more promisingadequately informed, its practitioners often come upright questions and. though less often, the rightthey too have no use for other altitudes andare likely to listen only to themselves. Further,-them sometimes seem Jo.foraet that thelr^askgls not like

making an examination of the affairs of state and localIn, say. Pennsylvania. We have, for example, very little needetailed map of election districts in the Ukraine and even lesshorough study, district byof the election results.

Finally, the political scientists suffer from an analytical malaise all too common to students of Soviet affairs, bothandfixation. They think that allallbe diagrammed accordinget of political rules derived from the assumption that thebehavior of mankind Istruggle tor pure power (no matter what the Freudiansn fact, of course, this does not work. Men do often behave as the politicalthink they should behave, and certainly power Is one of the prime movers; but complete reliance on this notion can lead to ghastly errors of Interpretation.

A somewhat smaller school In the Intelligence community (one probably overlooked by Bell because It does not extend to academic circles) can best be called the biographic school. Analysts spend anxious hours scanning theand careers of Soviet officials in search of clues as to their future political behavior. To these practitioners, aelement in the lives of twocoincidence of birthplace or congruenceolitical alliance in perpetuity. Thus If partyre found both to be Ukrainians who once served in Omsk and they are now working together In Gosplan. they obviously conspire together against non-Ukrainian, non-Omskian careeristsimilar or slightly superior level. The old school tie thusignificance vastly exceeding its

proverbial Importance In Oreat Britainveryone knows. Conservatives and Laborites all went to the same school anyhow).

A sub-species of the biographic school Is the provincialgroup, which resolves all politics by place of birth and subsequent service. Thus the chief political forces In the USSR are the Leningrad faction, the Moscow faction, and the Kiev (or Ukrainian) faction. To some extent thesecertainly exist, but they do not ordinarily determine the direction of all.Soviet political life. Like any^pPMof,hich concentrates on one uialytlc formula-to the virtual exclusion of others, the adherents of this one are blinded by their own searchlight, and the fact that one "Lcntngrader" may have served Inull decade before another does not dissuade them from tying the two together. The achievement of discovering that two men served In the same place, no matter when, la acclaimedreakthrough andufficient reward In itself.

Next we must contemplate the pure researchers. These haunters of old flies and library stacksreed apart. They escape the world of current problems and politicaland retire amongst the musty shelves. Every so often they may emergecrolleemingly endless compilation of facts. This, If turnedaper of sorts, must be atages long, contain noreflect no insight, and, hopefully, avoid allommon denominator of very generally applicable qualities may be Isolated, but the chances are that this will be of only marginal academic Interest or else so long accepted as to be platitudinous. This school la scarcely aware of the existence of others, views current intelligence as "mere journalism'* (as If there were something heinous aboutnd when challenged delgna not to reply. After all. the facts speak for themselves.

Theretalinist school of Soviet studies, too.its ablest practitioners are outside the community, usually senior professors at august universities. They onceook (say, twice visited tbe USSR3, and have established reputations. They do not feel secure, however, In these elongated reputations and are


therefore impelled to do two thingi: one, the; decry thethat there can hare been changes ln the USSR sinceof theirtheir analysis standstwo, they colonise other Institutions andoffices' with students trained in their Ideas. Thusof this school reach Washington, and theyknown, but always negatively. Throw one offresh Idea and he tosses It right back. Being ln ato cry nay, they are of course otttimes right.are never novel

We cannot end this examination withoufat leasta few lesser but well-known Washingtonair are formed by the economic determlnlsts and theirthe scientific determlnlsts. All politics iseflection of economics (or science) and can be studied only In the light of this great truth. Non-Marxists, they outdo the Marxists In their devotion to determinism. And finally there Is the clandestine school, for which everything ls subordinated to the greater mission of espionage, clandestine sources, and secret data (Limited Background Use Only/Not Releasableut It would be Improper, really, to think of thischool of Sovtet studies; rather It Is an approach which transcends the purely Soviet and all studies, including its own substantive results: Itay of life.

These, then, arc the schools, somewhat arbitrarily deflned. Clearly something should be done about their dissonance, and soon. The analysis of Soviet politics ls loo important ato be fragmented by divisions based more on methodology than on substance. Here are some Ideas for putting it

Curative Measures

There is no such thing as the right school or the wrong school. And there Is no such person as the ideal sovietologist. All schools have something worth while to contribute and all political analysts can become good contributors. We need researchers, content analysts, biographers, economists, and even (if only to remind us of the nature of the society with which we are dealing) Stalinists. We need politicalwith broad background and Insight, not necessarilyspecialists In Soviet affairs. But we also need


the experts whose Russian approximates native fluency. Eachroper functionob to do.

What are are saying, perhaps, is that there should be no single school or methodology at all.ariety of schools, or sub-schools, which ride with the assigned function, not with the Individual. But In another sense there should be only one school, one which combines the discipline of thescientist with the Insight of the empathlc specialist,the social scientist to lecture to the specialist ana in turn be tutoredjbvahto.^dgstjmportant. the JarlousanaIvsts should hold one anotherTnTespect. assumTrigTheTnuTvw worthy, and should exchange thoughts and Ideas; there is no room for tight compartmentstlon Ln sovietology.

This brings to mind some crucial Intelligence failures and the notion that at least some of them might have been avoided If the various sovielological schools, had been willing to exchange Ideas and had some medium for such anIt might have occurredood content analystor example, that somethingight was brewingKhrushchev and Molotov and that this struggleinvolved questions of high national policy, such as the proposed peace treaty with Austria. At the same time, the political scientists who were viewing the problem from their own vantage point might haveelativelyattitude concerning the Austrian treaty had their views not been predetermined by their devotion to power politics and firm conviction that the USSR was not about to pull back on any Issue, anywhere, at any lime.

As it was. the signing of the Austrian peace treaty caught just about everyone by surprise. It had never occurred to the Kremlinologlsts to tie the Moscow struggle in with matters of policy, much less the peace treaty; they were concerned strictlyolitical struggle and esoteric manifestations thereof. They were looking under rocks for Invisible writing on slugs and whatever else was uncovered, they were notunder the headlines In their morning papers. Andthe political scientists, who normally speak only to one another, were concentrating on those very headlines but were Ignorant of the factional duel In the Kremlin. Neither could add the two and two together. And of course the researchers


ie lo logy

at this point were still playing games with the removal of Beria, the Stalinists were looking for evidence of an increase In troop strength In the Soviet zone in Austria, and thedeterminists were racking up the statistics concerning the shipment of Austrian POL to the Soviet Union. And so on.

Perhaps, to be fair, we should cite at this point not another failurearticular triumph of the Kremlbiologists. Or, to be moreartial triumph: the politicalsaw to it that the victory was not total.mall but persistent band of Kremlinologists discovered, through content'analysis that the ^mese*8onnTnmfe vlets were engaged In an increasingly bitter struggle. They published their findings and sought to advertise theirbut their journals were obscure and their voices were not heeded. The political scientists, in particular,any corrupting notions of Bloc disarray. In partIt did not jibe with their ideas of sensible power politics and in part because of furnly held views long expressed in their own writings.

Finally, of course, it became all too obviousispute In fact existed. Still the political scientists had not learned their lesson. While they now reluctantly admittedino-Soviet struggle, they were as yet not prepared to apply the generalization to any particular area of politics or policy. Thus when the Kremlinologistsfor example, that the Chinese and Soviets were at odds over the Congo and Algeria, the political scientists were scornful. In one particular Instance that we remember, an articleontent analyst concerning the Algerian imbroglio was almost killed by the strident criticismested-Interest polltkal scientist. Fortunately for the readership, this effort was thwarted. In other Instances, however, thewere less fortunate; what the political scientists lack in depth they more than make up in sheer numbers.

A small beginningnified school has been made with the creation of an ad hoc working group from overt and covert elements of CIA, chaired by the chiefovietunit. Devoted in the first Instanceook at thestruggle sure to follow the death of Khrushchev, it must of necessity deal with other political problems and In

fact does so. The national estimates process may sometimesimilar opportunity: it occasions contacts onmatters between CIA and other Intelligenceand when an estimate concerned at least In part with Internal Soviet politics Is being coordinated there canrofitable cross-fertilisation of Ideas. It might be wise to put thisore regular basis, however, by adding to the CIA ad hoc group some representatives from other agencies

This working-group approach in any case needsther measures Most practical .and perhapswouldedium of written exch'angearaong Interested1 sovietologists, both within the community and outside It.edium could be created, though It mightmall government subsidy,ournal devoted exclusively to the field of sovietology. Ftesearchers could be given space to display their products (many of which might otherwise never see the light ofnd analysts could present theirand reviews Non-sovietologists might be permitted to ask questions and bring the specialists up to date on related matters such as foreign affairs. The experts could testify and the students learn. There ls at present no periodical Inwhich offers such opportunities to the practitioners of the aggregate school. What more painless way to keep the currents moving, to exchange ideas and gam Inspiration? What better way to end the provincialism so characteristic of the field, to destroy the myths of exclusive Infallibilityby the several melhodologists?

Original document.

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