*Updated at bottom
Excuse me while I continue to geek out on Soviet government memos…
As I flip through, I’m continually amazed at the level of specificity in these memos, and to realize that “Big Brother” genuinely read all letters received from North American activists and government officials. (Paging Amnesty International.)
We like to complain that the government doesn’t listen to us (even as we unload all manner of private info onto the interwebs), it’s terrifying to see what happens when a government really is paying attention – every word was carefully noted and the results turned out to be a nightmare. People are named, their addresses, occupations, and birth dates are noted.
So, for example, in a series of appendices to a background report submitted by Yuri Andropov, the head of the KGB (officially noted here as the Chairman of the Committee for State Security, which sounds simultaneously much more innocuous and creepier), from May 1972, are nine people, each with a detailed paragraph describing their birthdate, address and reason for visa denial. (Three of those people went on to become famous refuseniks – Vladimir Slepak, Alexander Lerner and Iosif Begun.)
Somewhere, in a stack of fading, forgotten, KGB files there’s probably a memo with my parents’ names, and mine, too.
Updated – My mother tells me that there really is a KGB file with my name on it (along with files for both her and my father), assuming it hasn’t been tossed. It’s nice to know my one-year-old self was that important.
* I’ve withheld the name and a couple small details for privacy reasons
** Yes, you really did read the words “Ministry of Medium-Sized Machine Building”