The Institute for the Study of the USSR (ISU) (Cryptonym: BGCALLUS), active from 1950 to 1971, was a cultural warfare project of the Central Intellgence Agency.1 In the guise of a legitimate research institute, consisting mainly of second wave Soviet immigrants from the wartime and postwar era,2 it was responsible for a broad range of anti-communist propaganda operations, including the publication of various magazines tailored for emigrés from the Soviet Union and its satellite states (Belorussian Review, Caucasian Review, Ukrainian Review etc.).
The institute had its origins in a Russian library in Munich that was set up by Boris Alexandrovich Yakovlev in 1948 under the patronage of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The library received support from private persons, publishers, as well as two American universities (Yale and Antioch). It was the IRC representative Markoosha Fischer who suggested that the library serve as contact point for American scholars to call upon the expertise of its associates. Her/his son, George Fischer, would later pursue this goal further.3
By July 1950 Yakovlev was able to set up an institute attached to the library, and with the help of Harvard University funds stopped relying on IRC support. Harvard's representatives in Munich at the time were George Fischer and Frederick Wyle, who were sent there to recruit people for the Refugee Interview Project that was planned by Harvard's Russian Research Center. When Fischer started out on his task in March 1950, he sought to establish contacts with emigrés as well as American officials stationed in Germany, particularly from the State Department.
Fischer was also concerned with helping the library to get a legal status, since inter-rank rivalries, as well as Yakovlev's political engagement, meant a fragile standing of the emerging organization, and thus a potentially unfit partner for Harvard's Russian Research Center. In order to find eight signatories necessary to set up a non-profit scientific institute, Yakovlev and Fischer recruited emigrés employed at the U.S. Army Intelligence schools at Regensburg and at Oberammergau (Aldan, Kripton, Kunta, Marchenko, Nieman, Shteppa). The seventh signatory, one Filipov, was an employee of the International Refugee Organization.4
"In essence, George Fischer and Boris Yakovlev were staffing the Munich Institute with United States government employees from Army Intelligence."5
Furthermore, they represented all major postwar Russian exile parties with the exception of the National Alliance of Russian Solidarists (NTS). Nonetheless, there was initially contact with the editor of NTS's publication Posev, a certain Romanov, and there were plans of a collaboration between the NTS, the ISU and Harvard, which, however, seem never to have come about.
Subsequently, the Russian Library of Munich was incorporated as "Institute for Research on the History and Institutions of the USSR." In December 1950 the institute was officially registered as a German academic corporation. Initially made up of a 12 people strong staff, the institute was first headed by Yakovlev, and later by Stanislaw Stankiewicz.6
The ISU was almost throughout its existence, from early 1951 until mid-1972,7 supported by the Central Intelligence Agency via the Radio Liberty Committee that was registered as a private association. Responsible for the decision to use the committee as a front for CIA operations was the Office of Policy Coordination, the covert operation wing of the CIA. Created as a department of the CIA in 1948, it actually operated independently until October 1950. The OPC existed until 1 August 1952, when it was merged with the Office of Special Operations (OSO) to form the Directorate of Plans (DDP). The creation of the ISU under the Radio Liberty Committee patronage thus falls into the period when the OPC operations had little to no oversight.
QKACTIVE (1951-71), operating through a proprietary cover organization (American Committee for the Liberation of the People of the USSR (AMCOMLIB) (PBAFFIRM)), sought to conduct overt anti-Soviet activities to weaken the Soviet regime and thereby reduce its threat to world security through radio broadcasts (Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty), the Institute for the Study of the USSR (BGCALLUS), chaired by Stanislaw Stankiewicz, and published articles and books.9
The "American Committee for the Liberation of the People of the USSR," when it was formed in February 8, 1951, in New York City, was first called "American Committee for the liberation of the Peoples of Russia, Inc.," and later "American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism," whose acronym AMCOMLIB became the insider term for the project. According to the historian Charles T. o'Connell:
The name recalled General Vlasov's anti-Soviet political program, KONR: Committee for the liberation of the Peoples of Russia, which Vlasov created during World War II while serving as commander of the Nazi sponsored Russian Army of liberation.10
The Radio Liberty Committee (RLC) was ostensibly backed by endowment funds, and maintained, next to New York, headquarters in Munich, Germany (46 Augustenstrasse), which was also the address of the ISU.
In early 1971, the New Jersey senator Clifford Case revealed that the CIA had paid for the ISU's expenses, upon which the agency decided to dissolve the project.7 It is not quite clear what happened to the staff afterwards. A certain Eberhard Schneider (*1941) who had worked at the ISU from 1966 to 1970, became a lecturer on Eastern Europe at the International Institute for Politics and Economics “Haus Rissen” in Hamburg (1971 to mid-1976). In those years, “Haus Rissen” regularly organized conferences and hosted meetings with important political representatives of the GDR and the USSR on behalf of the Federal Government. Schneider was significantly involved in these unofficial explorations - partly in East Berlin and in Moscow. From 1976 until 2000, Schneider took on a job at the "Federal Institute for East European and International Studies" (Bundesinstitut für ostwissenschaftliche und internationale Studien, BIOst), a similar anti-communist research institute, subordinated to the German Ministry of the Interior.
- Ian Iohnson, A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the Cia, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), ISBN-13: 9780547423173.
- Charles T. O'Connell, "The Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR: Origin and Social Composition," The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh Center for Russian and East European Studies, 1990, https://carlbeckpapers.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/cbp/article/view/47.
- 1 a b Declassified BGCALLUS files, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/search/site/bgcallus.
- 2 Charles T. O'Connell, "The Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR: Origin and Social Composition," The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh Center for Russian and East European Studies, 1990, 1, https://carlbeckpapers.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/cbp/article/view/47.
- 3O'Connell, "The Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR," 5.
- 4O'Connell, "The Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR," 9.
- 6Declassified files pertaining to Stanislaw Stankiewicz, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/search/site/Stanislaw%20Stankiewicz.
- 7 a b Charles T. O'Connell, "The Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR," 2.
- 8Declassified QKACTIVE files, https://archive.org/details/QKACTIVE.
- 9National Archives and Records Administration, "Research Aid: Cryptonyms and Terms in Declassified CIA Files Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Disclosure Acts," June, 2007, http://www.archives.gov/iwg/declassified-records/rg-263-cia-records/second-release-lexicon.pdf.
- 10 Charles T. O'Connell, "The Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR," 2, https://carlbeckpapers.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/cbp/article/view/47.