NOTE: As with most telegrams, superfluous words were omitted. This creates grammatical errors which are not part of the transcribing, but rather an inherent part of the telegram itself. At other times it appears words were mistakenly omitted from the original transmission. The parts enclosed in brackets [ ] were inserted by the State Dept. Text in red indicates a quote of Soviet government sources.
811.20200(D)/1-3046 : Telegram
The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State
Thus far America is about only breath of clean and fresh information about USA entering USSR. On basis of comments from varied sources, Embassy has no doubt that Russians who see America are enormously impressed by it. Embassy [copy?] is on file, it is most sought-after publication. Embassy is confident that if circulation restrictions imposed by Soviet Govt were lifted America would be most popular magazine in USSR.
Soviet sources inform Embassy that size and illustrations are most impressive feature of America. USSR is after all land of gargantua. Russians are impressed by size. To suggestion that size of America be somewhat reduced they reply "People will say, 'See the USA is now unable to afford to print so fine a magazine'". Soviet readers would feel such reduction tended to prove contention of current flood of articles in Soviet press featuring economic dislocation in USA and prophesying decay of American capitalism. Present high quality of America -- slick paper, excellent color reproductions and generous size -- is to Soviet readers symbolic of success of American system. Embassy believes that downward revision of any of these features would represent to Soviet people an American retreat.
Embassy's Soviet contacts unanimously agree that illustrations in America carry more punch and are more convincing than any printed matter. As one of them said, "One good picture tells more about USA than thousands of words". For example, picture spread of an average American school, a small town, or even an average American kitchen dramatizes to Soviet readers fact that we have, contrary to everything they are told by their propaganda, a superior standard of living and culture. Pictures are more difficult to refute than text as "sheer American propaganda". And they have thus far not been subject to Soviet censorship.
America has not been arriving regularly on a monthly schedule. Soviet authorities originally agreed in effect to monthly issue. We should not continue to lose out on this score.
Embassy realizes that America is expensive project. Intake from 10,000 sold copies, we realize, is insufficient to cover cost and deficit must therefore be made up out of taxpayers' pocket. For reasons outlined at beginning of this telegram and for reasons which will be covered in subsequent message, Embassy feels that Government is justified in underwriting magazine's financial losses. Govt has invested in project and has after much efort secured an entry to small but influential public in USSR. We should not throw away this initial investment by abandoning magazine, or reduce its effectiveness by compromising on its quality. Embassy is again requesting Soviet authorities to permit increase of circulation sufficient to make America pay for itself.30 If we receive a negative answer, we shall continue to press for increased circulation hoping that eventually America can become independent of Government subsidy and possibly even pay back into public treasury funds which have been advanced to finance it.
30 Mr. Kennan reported in telegram 304, January 31, from Moscow, that he sent a letter to Assistant People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Solomon Abramovich Lozovsky requesting a paid circulation of 50,000 copies for the magazine. When no answer had been received, he renewed his request on February 23 (811.20200(D)/1-3146, 2-2746)
If you have questions or comments on this or other pages in this site, feel free to email Craig Haggit (email@example.com).
Back to the top of the page