Kamil Galeev Profile picture
Jun 13 21 tweets 7 min read
Counterpoint: Western unity is a myth and might have never existed in the first place. For example, during the Cold War, West Germany was not only the major trade partner of the USSR, but also a proxy for the Soviet technological import bypassing the American trade restrictions🧵
That's not some kind of secret knowledge. The narrative presented below will be fully based on a single book. "N. Krotov. The history of Soviet and Russian Foreign Banks, Volume 1". It is a collection of memories of Soviet bank officials commissioned by the Russian VTB Bank (ВТБ)
Consider the memories of S.M. Bochkarev who was the General Commissioner of the Ost-West Handelsbank in 1980-1985, Instructor of the Economic Department of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party in 1987-1988, and the Chairman of the Ost-West Handelsbank in 1988-1993
In early 1920s Soviet Russia needed to break through the economic blockade. In 1922 it managed to establish diplomatic contacts with Germany. Germany relinquished claims for compensation for confiscated German property on condition that other foreigners get no compensation either
In 1922-1941 Soviet German transactions went through the Garkrebo (Garantie und Kredit Bank Fur den Osten) which belonged to the Soviet Gosbank. Hitler's rise to power didn't stop the trade, but the German attack on the USSR in 1941 did. The bank was closed, assets were arrested
With the defeat of Nazis in 1945, the Garkrebo was restored and its activities resumed. It was initially the only Soviet Bank in the Soviet zone of occupation. But whereas in the 1922-1941 Berlin-based Garkrebo could freely operate all over Germany, now it was limited by the East
Since late 1960s commercial contacts between the USSR and Germany started growing again. Activities of Soviet-founded Sovag were resumed, new companies such as Rusalmaz, Plodimex and most importantly the Transnautic were opened, too
Via the Transnautic subsidiary, the Hamburg-based "Transglob", Soviets bypassed American restrictions on exporting computers to the USSR. They were imported to Germany and installed in Hamburg. Using these computers Transglob regulated Soviet container shipping all over the world
Soviet proxy in Germany importing the computers was an issue of big bureaucratic battles in the late 1980s. Commerce Department argued that the US security was not compromised while the Defense Department objected. See a Chicago Tribune article from 1987 chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-19…
Overall, the degree of autarky and self-sufficiency of the USSR is hugely exaggerated in the public discourse. It was never autarkic or self-sufficient, being very much dependent upon the technological import. And yet, the sources of this import varied over the time
Stalin commissioned the Detroit-based Albert Kahn Associates to manage construction of over 500 key Soviet industrial objects. Most suppliers and contractors were American. Germany was important largely as a supplier of machine tools and electric equipment
After the WWII the technological export from the US to the USSR was not shut down completely but rather somewhat restricted and outshunned by the growing export from the Western Europe (and partially Japan). Let's illustrate this on example of Kamaz truck plant
Following the general Soviet trend on hyper concentration and hyper centralisation of industry (and well, everything) Kamaz was not build as a truck plant. It was built as *the* truck plant covering almost all of the USSR domestic consumption and export needs
Kamaz was advertised as a great socialist industrial project (стройка социализма). And yet, according to a declassified CIA report the project heavily relied on Western equipment: from the US (504 million usd) and from Western Europe + Japan (757 million) cia.gov/readingroom/do…
The Kamaz production was quite sophisticated and very much import dependent. Foundries were designed by Swindell-Dressler, engine assembly line by the Ingersoll-Rand. Most of the plant's operation were computer-controlled, for example the foundry - by the IBM 370
American embargo of 1981 did indeed create some disruptions and delays. But it didn't stop the production. Why? Soviets managed to acquire the equipment and spare part elsewhere, usually in Western Europe and Japan
I find this report fascinating. Let's summarise its conclusions. There is a huge plant that is a major chokepoint in the Soviet supply and industrial chains as virtually the only truck producer in the USSR. It uses cutting edge foreign technologies, equipment and components
Despite the Cold War, the USSR manages to buy much of equipment from its archival, the USA. However, Western Europe and Japan supplied much more of it. When the US imposed its embargo in 1981, the USSR managed to successfully bypass it, largely via European suppliers and proxies
Cutting all technological import from the West must be a priority for undermining Russian military efforts. That includes not only blocking the import of new equipment & maintenance of supplied one, but also disconnecting the Western (=German) software in its military industry
End of thread
PS Memoires of officials of the Soviet foreign banks can be found here (in Russian). It's a great primary source not only for the Soviet/Russian economy but also for its business & administrative culture fa.ru/org/div/museum…

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More from @kamilkazani

Jun 14
I generally agree, but I would add some nuances. For example, in my experience a major difference between Russians and Americans in is that Americans make so little difference between public and private spheres ethics-wise, whereas for Russians this difference is nearly absolute
As a general rule it is how you act in your private sphere that defines whether you are a good or bad person. How you act in public sphere is far less important. Also "honesty" would mean honesty in private rather than in public sphere. In private talk, not in public speech
After college I worked in a government organisation for a couple of months. My boss would sometimes walk into a cabinet where three of us were working to talk or give a monologue. Like: "How I came to the oppositional political views". That's private talk. It can be very honest
Read 10 tweets
Jun 12
A great comment that sums up what is wrong with modern academia. Apparently Professor Radchenko lives in a social bubble where "Brat" movies were viewed just as ironically as the "Pulp Fiction". I am afraid he cannot comprehend that most of the audience watched them unironically
Hard to swallow pill:

A (seemingly) unsophisticated criminal saga could become and indeed has become an integral part of the Russian state mythos. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 for example was widely viewed in the context of Brat-2 movie and described with its language
A hypothesis

Much of the poverty of the modern academia when it comes to studying other sentient and intelligent beings largely derives from:

1) personal arrogance and social prejudices of so many scholars
2) flawed system of incentives within academia itself
Read 10 tweets
Jun 11
You can't really "study" a culture. You can only verstehen it. And in order to verstehen, you need to live into it. The rapid escalation of Z-war hardly came as a surprise to anyone who lived in the context of Russian culture. Watch this fragment from a super popular movie Brat-2
Aleksei Balabanov may be the most talented and the culturally influential film director of the post-Soviet Russia. Some even argue that he created the post-Soviet Russian culture. That may be an overstatement but the absolutely iconic status of his movies is hard to deny Image
Most of Balabanov's fame and influence is based on just two movies: Brat and Brat-2 covering fictional mafia wars of the Russian mafia. The first movie is taking place in Russia (St Petersburg), in the second movie they make a work trip to America ImageImage
Read 10 tweets
Jun 10
Traditional Tatar literature is virtually inaccessible for modern Tatars for a similar reason. Till the 20th c we used to be a Persianate culture, so being "educated" implied a decent knowledge of Farsi (at least) and Arabic (ideally). You needed to be at least bilingual
That helped to differ the registers of language. For example, in English a word constructed on a original Germanic root would be of lowest register, with French root being higher and Latin even higher than that. Consider terms "kingly", "royal" and "regal" for example
In Tatar a word with an originally Turkic root would be considered of a lower register, while a borrowed Arabic or Farsi word - of higher. For example a Turkic word for a nightingale "Sandugach" would be viewed as mundane while a Farsi "Bulbul" - very poetic
Read 10 tweets
Jun 10
Peter I's figure is very much misunderstood. There was hardly any other Russian ruler so widely and universally hated during his lifetime. No wonder so many of his reforms were reversed almost immediately upon his death: Navy budget cut, the capital brought back to Moscow, etc
Some effects of Peter's reforms:

1) Transformation of all varieties of bondage & servitude to a chattel slavery. Rapid expansion of unfree labor in industry

2) Depopulation & de-urbanization

3) Extremely arbitrary military regime, to the extent unknown since Ivan the Terrible
If there is any decent and readable narrative of how Peter's regime was perceived by his subjects in English, then I'm unaware of its existence. But you can take a Sergey Sergeyev's book, open it on this page and google translate it loveread.ec/read_book.php?…
Read 4 tweets
Jun 9
Much of the expertise on Russia has negative value not necessarily because the experts are wrong (they may be right), but because they are right about the unimportant stuff. Lacking the deep understanding of and the deep guanxi in Russia they have no idea what to focus on
That creates an absolutely false and distorted image of Russia in the West. The analysts and the media might not be technically "wrong". They are lying by omission in most cases, not noticing or pretending not to notice a nice herd of elephants in the room. Like the Metodologiya
The impact of Metodologiya on politics & governance is well-known in Russia. Consider this very good introduction by a media I don't really like. It may not be 100% correct but it's a great intro to a topic virtually unknown in the West

Read 7 tweets

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