The Ghost of the Executed Engineer: Technology and the Fall of the Soviet Union
Loren R. Graham
Stalin ordered his execution, but here Peter Palchinsky has the last word. Palchinsky tells of Soviet technology and industry, the mistakes he condemned in his lifetime, the corruption and collapse he predicted, the ultimate price paid for silencing those who were not afraid to speak out. The story of this visionary engineer’s life and work, as Graham tells it, is also the story of the Soviet Union’s industrial promise and failure.
only the beginning of a reign of terror among Soviet engineers, several thousand of whom were arrested. There were only about ten thousand engineers in the entire Soviet Union at the time. In the end, about 30 percent of Palchinsky's colleagues were arrested-most of them thrown into labor camps with little chance of survival. The lucky ones were placed in special research and development prisons and assigned tasks by the government. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's novel The First Circle describes one of
execution . Much of the secret police interrogation of the "engineer-wreckers" reads like a medieval chronicle that was written primarily for moral edification; it does not provide reliable facts, but it shows instead what myths the secret police wanted to create. The engineers are described as traitors who had been bought off by Western com panies, such as Shell Oil and the Nobel Company, and were follow ing orders from abroad on how to destroy Soviet industry. They were incredibly greedy and
the technical details of the reactor itself, the behavior of its supervising personnel, and the resulting social and economic damage. Rarely have analysts noted that Chernobyl was a product of the standard Soviet industrialization policy.that emphasized gigantic projects over smaller ones, centralized plans over locally sensitive ones, output above safety, technology above human beings, closed decision making to the detriment of critical debate, and, above all, a madly rushed tempo. 15 If nuclear
insistence on maintaining inefficient state farms and giant state factories, if not an expression of willful dogmatism that flew in the face of a mountain of empirical data worldwide about economic structures that were more efficient and more just? Palchinsky could confirm that these irrational characteristics in Soviet communism did not first become visible in Havel's time, but had been discerned and described in the 1920s by himself and many others. Their critiques were put forward in the name
you have always loved one and the same woman, and therefore in three days that woman could again possess your soul, that I have completely retreated into the background. THE RADI CAL ENGIN E ER 19 Nina's initial tolerance followed by an expression of overt jealousy may well have been the wisest way for her to save their marriage. Peter resumed his loving correspondence with Nina, and mention of the episode disappeared from their letters. But they continued to maintain that they were free of