The Ghost of the Executed Engineer: Technology and the Fall of the Soviet Union

The Ghost of the Executed Engineer: Technology and the Fall of the Soviet Union

Loren R. Graham

Language: English

Pages: 160


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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.

Under Two Dictators: Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler: With an Introduction by Nikolaus Wachsmann

















he and Nina returned to their native land. There he established in 1916 an institute devoted to the "study of the rational use of the natural resources" of Russia. Known as the Institute of the Surface and Depths of the Earth, it took as a slogan a thousand-year old phrase from the primary chronicle of ancient Kiev: "Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it." Palchinsky announced that his goal was to achieve order not by inviting in foreigners, as the ancient Kievans had done with

before the Revolution Palchinsky had been a socialist, and during World War I he had become accustomed, as an administrator of war industries, to the idea of a command economy. Perhaps he could work with the new rulers of Russia after all. He volunteered to help the new planning agencies that proliferated immediately after the Bolshevik victory, and soon was very busy. Within a few weeks of leaving prison in mid-March 1919, he was consulting for a variety of Soviet offices . It is ironic that he

explosions, a concern in American mines as well as Soviet ones. 26 The two sides were able to exchange valuable information on standard ways of preventing such explosions: forecasting the onset of gas bursts, degassing outburst-prone coal beds, installing gas sensor and alarm systems, providing adequate ventilation and temperature control in the mine shafts, establishing loudspeaker warning systems and good communications throughout the mines, and drawing up emergency evacuation procedures. In

truth, I prefer to call him a ghost. That ghost haunts most pervasively the inefficient, EPILOGUE, THE GHOST OF PETER PALCH!NSKY 103 polluted, and inhumane industrial cities of the former Soviet Union, since Palchinsky's original criticisms were directed toward industry in his native land, but it hovers uncomfortably over the industrial wastelands of other countries as well. Where did Palchinsky and his associates obtain their vision of the humane engineer, the liberally educated specialist

Peter, 10, 11, 17, 21, 24, 29,45 Krzhizhanovskii, Gleb M., 30, 32 Kumsa River, 63 Kuznetsk (later Novokuznetsk), Siberia, 51, 82 Havel, Vaclav, 99, 100, 102, 103 Hitler, Adolf, 4, 58 Hoover, Herbert, 103 Labor: forced, 59-60, 61, 64, 83, 86-87;volunteer, 59-60, 61, 83; apathy of, 60, 101-102; strike, 93-97 First Circle, The (Solzhenitsyn), 45 Five-Year Plans, 3, 49, 50, 83, 84, 90, 100; First Five-Year Plan, 33, 49, 51, 61, 81 Ford, Henry, 38-39, 102 France, 103 126 INDEX Lake Baikal, 89

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