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Report from Russia E-W Zeebox dean of the summer session at the University of Minnesota and 10 other university faculty members recently completed a 30 day 9000 mile trip through the Soviet Union. The trip was financed by a grant from the Hill family foundation of St. Paul. While in Russia Dean Zebari interviewed his colleagues and obtained their firsthand impressions for this program. Now here is Dean Zeba. Is a devotee of Ziebart reporting for your cook in Siberia and with me is Dr. John Turner associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. And I'd like to raise with him a number of questions about the timeline here spent in the Soviet Union and the observations which he's made. Even here I think 25 30 days is that right. Yeah but then your itinerary so far I know you have a many many thousands of miles. A group of us came into the Soviet Union from Nuremberg by train in Prague and Warsaw.
We went to Leningrad and he. Rushed off on. And then my school. Day or so ago we left Moscow and flew by jet plane to where we shall return tomorrow and stay in Moscow two or three days and then head back to the United States. This means of course a tremendous amount of travel in terms of PR mileage must've gotten six seven or eight thousand miles at least inside the Soviet Union we are here in Siberia. Two thousand miles or more behind the Urals I believe. I wonder what things you are particularly interested in when you came to the Soviet Union and to the satellite areas as well. Several of us were very much interested in a recent program of economic reorganization and of course Bob and I being political scientists were especially interested in the political ramifications of such a program. I must emphasize however that any impressions we get here must be regarded as tentative and certainly not definitive. Thirty days is all too short a period to spend in the
Soviet Union. And I must emphasize again that much of what we have seen has been Russia rather than rural Russia although we have managed to get out into the country on a number of occasions. I know that you've seen several selective fires that have had an opportunity to interview the chairman of collectives and so on. I wonder whether you would mind recognizing of course that any comment about the Soviet Union and its structure by any one of us is likely to be premature for the rest of our lives in the 30 days is a very short period. You would on the left have a tremendously broad foundation upon which to base observations preceding your visit. Generally if you have any general impressions of the Soviet people in that I'd like to move on to some very much more specific questions I found that people ordinary people are extremely friendly. I found some of our interviewees a little bit difficult to contact but once we had made the contacts they were extremely friendly and very receptive to us. It's a little more difficult to get next to some of the military personnel. I fall among the ordinary people a tremendous
curiosity about the United States. Once they see an American car for example or mediately a crowd gathers issues of America magazine are extremely popular among the masses. The other night I was riding in a taxi cab and had to have a copy of American magazine with me and the cabbie offered to purchase it from me. I think it's important to recognize here that the ordinary man on the street if there is such a human being here is very much willing to be seen with Westerners and to talk with them. This is a change from just a very few years ago is it not. I believe that that is the case from all reports. The other day Bob and I went to the University of Moscow and we happened to be sitting in the hall when classes were passing. A group of the students noticed that we were Americans and immediately they surrounded us many of them spoke English and proceeded to pilot us with all sorts of questions. How large is our university What courses did we teach where the students are given a chance to elective
courses courses. Questions of that sort. I'm very much impressed by the number of people I met who listened to Voice of America. They're particularly fond of the musical programs although for the new they are much more fond of the BBC coverage and they are the voice of the I'm sure you know the music USA portions of Voice of America are permitted to command relatively free from jamming are some of the news programs are rather heavily jazz and this may also make a difference but this preference for the BBC and here we're speaking in one of my own areas of special interest is almost universal here. I believe so. I've been impressed too by the thirst among young people for Western literature. Of course the amount of Western literature that translated into the Russian is very rigidly controlled. But there are large. Likeness of younger people who can read English. And there's a great thirst for that I remember seeing a bookshop where Russian translations of Robert Louis Stevenson were being put out of the shelves
and within just a few minutes all these were gone. And one of the happiest young ladies I've ever seen in my life was one of our guides to whom I had given a copy of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls. I think this is an important consideration because many of these people learning English and there are more each year are very much interested in practicing their English and they get very tired of the diet of The Daily Worker making sure they do this paperwork or from the United States. I think this may raise a problem later on because it may be very difficult to continue to deny to these people that which they know. I gather then that your experiences have been similar. By any time one asks what it is what he might like from the United States as a gift he always says or almost always says books. Please send me books about me about America. However I'm interested as these questions were raised with you. Where did many of the politically oriented questions or where they primarily oriented
toward American life standards of living and so on. It depends upon whom you speak. Many of the more sophisticated elements of the population do ask you political questions but are you lost. Yes but the ordinary citizens are more interested in a broader aspect of American life indeed I would want to argue here that the level of political consciousness as it is in most countries varies from one segment of the population to another I have a feeling that many of these people demonstrating against the United States and her foreign policy from the pictures I've seen at least have pre-board expressions and don't really have their hearts in it may not even understand what's going on. I discovered to it even some of the more sophisticated young people don't read probably regularly and if they do it's generally the theater section the Moscow newspapers have pointed out that there's a mass jubilation in the streets over the summoning of the 21st Congress. That may be true but I have seen none of that.
I wonder whether this will be an illustration of what you're saying I asked a girl at the University of Moscow other enough to be a student demonstration against American foreign policy at the end here of course a very sizable very vigorous one against our policy in Lebanon. She shrugged her shoulders and said Oh no I think it's too cold to have a lot about living standards here Dexter. Well I've been somewhat surprised by the quantity of consumer goods I've seen in the streets in the shops the shops have it as drab as I expected that they would be the people have been a little bit better dressed. I think that this is probably true more to the Soviet Union and it wasn't some of the said cities and their satellite areas that I visited. I think that there has been a relaxation in this realm in recent years that the people are thoroughly enjoying it and hoping that it will continue. There are however still long lines for me particularly your poorer cuts. They've done a great
deal of building in housing and the housing is relatively cheap to rent However the cost of food is very high. I interviewed a young chap the other day whose income was 900 rubles a month and of that salary is seven hundred roubles a month went for food. I would say that probably 60 to 70 percent of the average Soviet family budget goes for food shelter and a very low I think for those rents of course higher for their dinner relaxation in this area. Political and ideological relaxation has been a comfortable relaxation i literaly extremely complex question I didn't notice that. However when I was going to the Lenin Library in Moscow many literary magazines from the west had been purchased for the first time in 1955 56. A lot of the police in the military are still ubiquitous. I think perhaps they're a little less obnoxious than they were in earlier years at least
according to reports. More than that there has been in recent years as you know. A movement on foot to revise the criminal code and some of the civil codes in the Soviet Union had an opportunity to talk with the Minister of Justice about that and you were with a deputy minister with one of the officials in the ministry there just about completed the revision. It's interesting to note that they've attempted here to make at least on paper record provisions for safeguarding the liberty of the defendant giving him the right of Consul and so on. However I was disturbed by one thing and that was that you have had this tendency toward relaxation in the legal fear. And the movement to revise some of the legal costs of the direction of providing for these safeguards. You have had simultaneously the passage of an anti parasite law which enables a group of individuals in a community to in effect banished from that community.
Life for one who presumably isn't carrying his share of the load. And they can do this by majority vote without the right of Consul and so on. It seems to me that these are two contradictory principles and I'm a little bit disturbed by that. Also in 1954 and again in 150 67 there was a relaxation in the literary sphere promising a freer cultural climate. Soviet writers were beginning to criticize Soviet realism and they were objecting to having to trumpet the official line. But in 1957 the party put his foot down. We don't know what has happened to these former critics but very little criticism is now heard other signs of dictatorship. Do you observe here. Well the first thing of course that comes to mind is the fact of censorship. We our group had no one having our group has had no news for a long time. It wasn't until we came to Moscow and contacted people at the embassy that we heard about the Far Eastern situation.
If you go through any library and I've been about through about three or four years the Soviet Union you'll find that western journals dealing with technological matters are readily accessible. But Western newspapers and periodicals dealing with other matters such as for example social science are not so accessible. In talking with some of these people I discover that they did not. They were not aware that the Soviet Union had ever granted military aid to Nasser. I encountered an individual the other day who had never heard of a veto in the United Nations and other evidence of dictatorship of course is the fact that there are no telephone books available for public use in order to get into the University of Moscow. It was necessary to show a pass. In order to get into a library. It's necessary to show a pass to a policeman. One of the signs of a dictatorship is the enormous number of statues and photographs of political leaders in the school.
You remember when we went to the University of Leningrad and were received there by the assistant director of the university. I remember the enormous statue of Lenin as we walked through the hall. I remember seeing enormous portraits of political leaders in that role. A big banner from the Chinese People's Republic and I investigated all the books on the bookshelves and the most conspicuous set of volumes was a copy of my work on a talk about the regimentation of you chemicals of the Young Pioneers come some of which were reach way down into the school system. But I'm afraid we don't have time. We don't indeed we have only about 30 or 35 seconds left and I wonder if you are part of a cultural exchange program. Do you think that these programs are important in any part of the Soviet Union and for these people today. I used to be somewhat skeptical of that but my visit here has tended to shore up my faith and I think it's very important for us to bring some of these young people to
the United States and to put them in touch with reality. I think they first I think they're receptive to it. I think it's extremely important for us as academics to maintain contact intellectual and otherwise with our counterparts in the Soviet universities for failure to do so well really leave them isolated and I think that would be tragic. Thank you very much. John why didn't the barque reporting from the improbable sounding place here Siberia Dr. John Turner of the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. You heard the E-W Zeebox dean of the summer session at the University of Minnesota in another recorded report from Russia. Another report will be heard next week at this time. This series is edited by State University of Minnesota. The programs are distributed to the station through the facilities of the National Association of educational broadcasters
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Report from Russia
Dr. John Turner
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
E.W. Ziebarth speaks to Dr. John Turner about the time he has spent in the Soviet Union.
Series Description
E.W. Ziebarth, Dean of the summer session at University of Minnesota, and ten other faculty members embarked upon a month-long trip through the Soviet Union. Ziebarth interviewed his peers about their thoughts on the trip.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
Public Affairs
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Host: Ziebarth, E. W. (Elmer William), 1910-
Interviewee: Turner, John E. (John Elliot), 1917-2005
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Producing Organization: KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-17-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:31
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Chicago: “Report from Russia; Dr. John Turner,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “Report from Russia; Dr. John Turner.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Report from Russia; Dr. John Turner. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from