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Military Journalism in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia - Articles (2)

The Military Journal Zarubezhnoe Voennoe Obozrenie Under Perestroika (1985-1991)

In the Vanguard of Change or a Bastion of Traditional Soviet Military Journalism?
Sophie Momzikoff

Abstract

This article aims to present the evolutions of the military journal Zarubezhnoe voennoe obozrenie (ZVO)’s life during the perestroika years (1985-1991). The journal’s main mission was to picture the state of Western armed forces, using data collected in the Western press. Recent historical researches carried after the crushing of the Soviet State have shown that journalists or policy analysts in contact with foreign sources participated in the opening of Soviet media landscape and produced a new and less ideological discourse. The purpose is therefore to determine if the same applies to ZVO’s journalists. Considering the general context of glasnost and the journal’s close contacts to Western sources, was ZVO in the vanguard of the change process affecting military journalism in Soviet Union? Or did it remain a bastion of tradition?  

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  • 1 A. Weiner, “The Making of a Dominant Myth: the Second World War and the Construction of Political I (...)
  • 2 R. R. Reese, The Soviet Military Experience, Routledge, London, 2002, p. 3-4.
  • 3 A. Kozovoï, Par-delà le mur. La culture de guerre froide soviétique entre deux détentes, Bruxelles, (...)

1In the USSR, the military had a prominent function both in society and in ideological discourse. After the victory over Nazi Germany, which closed a desperate chapter for the Soviet population, the Red Army played an important role in consolidating or justifying Soviet power1. Memories of the “Great Patriotic War”, its spectacular battles and heroic sacrifices added to recollections of the epic Civil War. A real cult of the Red Army was launched, especially after Stalin’s death. The Red Army became at this time a strong, hierarchical and powerful institution2. During the Cold War, it was considered to be the main shield against “American imperialism”, the guarantee of protection for every Soviet citizen to counter “capitalist aggression”. This picture was shaped in literature and cinema3: from Mikhail Chiaureli’s “Fall of Berlin” (1949), to Sergei Bondachurk’s “They Fought for the Motherland” (1975). From the 1960s, grandiose parades took place in Moscow every 9th of May (Victory Day) in order to show that the Red Army ensured safety and “vigilance” (bditel’nost’).

  • 4 R.P. Osveyan, Istoriia noveishei otetchestvennoy zhurnalistiki, Izdatel’stvo MGU, Moscow, 1990.
  • 5 Ibid.
  • 6 S.I. Zukov, Frontovaia petshat’ v gody velikoi Otetshestvennoi voiny, Moscow, Izdatel’stvo Moskovsk (...)

2Military journals were also an important tool of Soviet propaganda. One of the first Bolshevik journals, published in 1917 by the Petrograd Soviet, was called Soldatskaya Pravda (“Soldiers’ Truth”)4. After the Civil War, the journal Krasnaia Zvezda (“Red Star)” was launched in 1924. Its goal was to propagate military reform plans designed by the new authorities and forge links between the armed forces and the population. Nicknamed zvezdochka” (“little star”) it was widely distributed at the end of the 1920s (100,000 printed copies)5. Such importance for a single journal in the media landscape reflected the place given to military matters in Soviet culture. The aim was to ensure moral support, a positive picture of the armed forces, and to develop soldiers’ knowledge in military sciences. Not surprisingly, to meet this dual objective (propaganda and technical learning), the number of newspapers and journal copies devoted to military issues grew constantly during the hard 1941-1942 years, reaching in 1942 a total figure of 725 journals6! But the peculiarity of the Soviet military press was its very large civilian audience - as was the case of Krasnaia Zvezda.

  • 7 A. Kozlov, “Voennaia zhurnalistika v gody korennykh preobrazovanii v sfere glastosti i svobody pres (...)

3In the early 1980s, Krasnaia Zvezda was also a publishing house under the Defense Ministry which controlled all fifteen military publications, which can be divided in two groups. The first includes newspapers for non-specialists: Krasnaya Zvezda (2,200,000 copies), Kommunist Vooruzhennykh Sil “(550,000), Sovetskii Voin (“Soviet Soldier”) (370,000). The second one is composed of more specialized journals: for instance Tekhnika i vooruzheniia (“Technology and Weaponry” – 65,000 copies) and Grazhdanskaia oborona (“Civil Defense” – 30,000 copies)7.

  • 8 General Directorate for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press under the Council of Ministers (...)
  • 9 T. Goriaeva, Politicheskaia tsenzura v SSSR, 1917-1991, Moscow, ROSSPEN, p. 131.

4Military journals were not censored by the Glavlit8 and the Central committee agencies, as it was the case with other publications. Censorship of the military press was exclusively exercised by the Defense Ministry and the KGB. The only mission of the Glavlit with regard to military matters was to ensure that no “state secrets” were disclosed in the civilian press9. That system, shaped during the 1920s, lasted until the early 1990s. Nevertheless, this does not mean that military press was “independent” of the Party. But we can see in this censorship system a vivid example of the peculiar relationship between the Party and the Red Army. In the USSR, the Red Army was the “armed wing” of the CPSU and had therefore to implement its policy, inside and outside. Nevertheless it had some autonomy in interpreting this line in the press.

5Control over those publications was also very tight, taking into account the weight of military secrecy during the Cold War period. Soviet military journals were scrutinized by Western analysts even though they provided a distorted picture of the real state of the Soviet Army10. The job of war correspondent was only for military men who had journalist training. Coverage of conflicts was also controlled by censorship, which increased after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979. A decision issued by the Ministry of Defense in 1981 prohibited showing any picture of Soviet troops, either in action or on the battlefield11 so that the only images of Soviet soldiers authorized (by the decision) were those of World War II... To maintain this control, military journalism had to remain a military matter. In fact, after the Second World War, many demobilized young soldiers switched to military journalism. The young soldier K.P Golovanov, who wrote novels for children, entered the prestigious Military Political Academy named after V.I. Lenin in 1949 and became a correspondent for Krasnaia Zvezda four years later12. Andrei Aliagev, a correspondent for Krasnaia Zvezda and Na strazhe rodiny during the 1970s, graduated from the Lvov Military Political School of the Soviet Army in 1966 and is known for having covered the Soviet-Afghan war13. These institutions, along with the Military Academy (Frunze) were designed to train military journalists and experts whose mission was to shape a controlled and powerful image of the Red Army. Nevertheless, one journal occupied a special place in the landscape of military journalism: Zarubezhnoe voennoe obozrenie (ZVO), that is to say “Foreign Military Review”. ZVO was created in 1921. First called Voennyi zarubezhnik, it was edited by Krasnaia Zvezda and placed under the control of the Defense Ministry.

  • 14 See for example R. Reese, The Soviet Military Experience, A History of the Soviet Army, 1917-1991, (...)
  • 15 R. English, Russia and the Idea of the West, New York, Columbia University Press, 2000.

6This article aims to present the developments in the journal’s life during the perestroika years (1985-1991). Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms swept changes through both military affairs and media structures. Although many research works have focused on military journals such as Krasnaia Zvezda14, ZVO is less known or cited, maybe due to its highly technical content. But its main interest lies in the fact that its mission was exclusively to picture the state of Western armed forces, which is why this journal has been chosen for this research. ZVO’s journalists collected all data and pictures reproduced in the pages of the journals found in the Western bourgeois press. Recent historical research carried out after the collapse of the Soviet State has shown that journalists and policy analysts in contact with foreign sources15 - such as Aleksandr Bovin or Vladimir Pozner, played an important role during perestroika. They participated in the opening up of the Soviet media landscape and produced a new, less ideological discourse. The purpose is therefore to determine if the same applies to ZVO’s journalists. Secondly, the glasnost process deeply affected military journals and newspapers where new topics were introduced at the time. Considering this general context and the journal’s close contacts with Western sources, was ZVO in the vanguard of the change process affecting military journalism in Soviet Union? Or, on the contrary, did it remain a bastion of tradition?

7We begin by drawing a picture of the journal’s structure before the 1980s. Then, we analyze the general consequences of Gorbachev’s policy (glasnost and military reform) for the Soviet military press as a whole. The central section of the paper is devoted to the transformations of ZVO in order to see whether it had a vanguard role in the Soviet military press’ perestroika taking into account its contacts with Western sources.

  • 16 A. Kozlov, Sovetskaia voennaia zhurnalistika v 1945-1991 gg, Moscow, Military University of the Min (...)
  • 17 These collections are identified by Andrei Kozlov in the Russian journal “Vestnik arkhivista”. See (...)

8Due to the restricted access for Western scholars to the Archives of the Russian Defense Ministry, this article is primarily based on an analysis of ZVO issues from 1973 to 1991. Nevertheless, research conducted by the Russian historian Andrei Kozlov16, whom Defense Ministry granted access to archive collections related to the Soviet military press17, helped us give a more accurate picture of the journal’s life and structure.

Zarubezhnoe Voennoe Obozrenie (ZVO) in the Early 1980s

  • 18 Th. Malleret, M. Delaporte, L’Armée rouge face à la Perestroïka, Bruxelles, Complexe, 1991, p. 8.

9This journal perfectly reflects the major features of the Soviet military press during the Brezhnev years. ZVO was only accessible to generals, admirals and officers of the Red Army. In 1973, by decision of the Defense Ministry, the journal was renamed and became accessible to everyone although it was distributed by subscription. The context is very important for understanding this shift in the journal’s life. The détente policy, while decreasing the level of international tension, could also entail dangerous side effects. Indeed, war scares and the demonization of the enemy were a significant factor unifying society around a common fear. Manufacturing a bad image of an enemy implementing an aggressive policy towards the USSR was therefore a mission pursued by ZVO insofar as it was published not only in Russian but also in six other languages and sent abroad18.

  • 19 ZVO, # 1, 1975.
  • 20 ZVO, # 3, 1975

10Most data and pictures reproduced in the pages of the journal were collected in Western military journals: Aviation Week and Space technology, Aviation and Marine, Armada International, Armies and Weapons, Defense, International Defense Review…. Soviet Agencies dealing with that kind of issues obtained TASS classified information and had open access to Western data and press. Their main goal was to show the “bad” intentions of the capitalist world, contrasting with USSR’s “peaceful policy” as could be seen for instance in a January 1975 article entitled “NATO’s Propaganda Machine”19 or in another contribution denouncing “reactionary traditions among capitalist armed forces” in the March issue of the same year20.

  • 21 P. Cherkassov, Imemo, Portret na fone epokhi, Moscow, Ves’ Mir, 2004.
  • 22 Th. Malleret, Mureille Delaporte, L’Armée rouge face à la Perestroïka, Bruxelles, Complexe, 1991, p (...)

11Parallels can be made between ZVO’s mission and that of the IMEMO institute specialized in the study of Western economy and capitalist world. This institute, reorganized under Khrushchev in 1956, issued a journal (MEiMO). The Institute journalists’ main purpose (they had the same open access to Western press as journalists of ZVO) was to serve the Party’s propaganda mission: in short, discrediting the capitalist economic system21. These data, collected in Western press, were highly valued by Defense and Foreign Ministries and could be used in arms control negotiations. In fact, this kind of journalism work was narrowly connected with government agencies and served their interests. In a certain way, articles of ZVO reflected the general perception of the Western threat inside the Defense Ministry22. But Gorbachev’s perestroika redefined this traditional mission. Winds of change began to blow across Soviet society and the military establishment. This change also affected journalists’ missions. But first of all, we have to gain a good picture of the journal’s life before the Gorbachev years to measure the change produced by his reform policy.

  • 23 Roger R. Reese, The Soviet Military Experience, op. cit., p. 52-71.

12First, attention has to be paid to the profiles of military journalists in the early 1980s. All ZVO contributors were military men. Many of them graduated from the Frunze Military Academy, named after Mikhail Frunze (1885-1925). With Stalin’s and Zinoviev’s support, he managde to have his idea of a strong, professional and permanent Red Army accepted before his sudden and mysterious death in 192523. Frunze reorganized the former tsarist academy by turning it into a prestigious Soviet institution designed to train high ranking members of the Soviet armed forces. Frunze Academy also offered the opportunity to pursue doctoral studies in the defense field. This was also the case for the Military Political Academy, named after V.I. Lenin and designed to prepare military and political personnel with higher military education for all branches of the Armed Forces, as well as scientific and teaching staff for military schools.

13Let’s take for instance various issues of the journal between 1981 and 1984 to gain a profile of its journalists and see how they chose and addressed their topics according to their specialty. Some of them were doctors (kandidat) of Technical or Historical Sciences. The doctors of technical studies who graduated from military institutions were specialized in designing weapons or conducting defense projects. Various Military Academies distributed over the Soviet territory, could provide this degree: the Frunze Military Academy, or the Ukrainian Higher Military Command School named after the USSR Marshal N.I. Krylov. The Frunze Academy could also provide the degree of doctor in historical sciences. At ZVO, some authors belonged to this highly qualified group of journalists. For example, I. Vladimirov was a doctor (kandidat) in military history (he was also a colonel) of Frunze Academy.

  • 24 ZVO, # 7, 1981, p. 12.

14His article “Great Britain Military Policy” presents a contemporary analysis of “British imperialism”24 seen as a continuation of the English 19th century’s “aggressive policy” of control and domination. After a short presentation of these past tendencies in order to reinforce his argumentation, he cites increasing arms sales to China, and intensification of the British nuclear strategic program to support his main thesis… Moreover, in a traditional class perspective the author contrasts unconscious rulers and capitalist entrepreneurs - hungry for highly profitable business, and manipulated “simple citizens”:

  • 25 Ibid, p.8.
  • 26 ZVO, # 12, 1984, pp. 3-9.
  • 27 ZVO, # 1, 1983, pp. 9-15.
  • 28 D. Volkogonov, Kto est’ kto v Rossii i blizhnem zarubezhe, Moscow, Novoe Vremia, 1993, pp. 144-145.

15“Although millions of simple English citizens don’t know how to make both ends meet, a shower of gold benefits ‘death sellers’ -16 large corporations strongly related to defense industry (…)”25 In December 1984, O. Rzhechevskii, doctor and history professor, devoted six pages to the topic of “falsification of history in the service of imperialism”26. His main goal in this article was to underline the secondary role given by Western historians to Soviet war efforts during the Great Patriotic War. In January 1983 General Dmitri Volkogonov (1928-1995) wrote an article for the journal, “Psychological War’s Mechanism of Imperialism”27. Volkogonov is a well known figure: this general and historian, while rising in his career, had access to archived classified material and collected hundreds of secret documents now available in Washington’s Library of Congress. At this time, after defending his PhD thesis at the Military Political Academy, he was recruited by the Main Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and Navy where he was in charge of the propaganda department specializing in “psychological wars”28. These three examples show that the topics treated by military historians were mainly designed to denounce the contemporary aggression of Western imperialism, using the past to reinforce their argument.

  • 29 ZVO, # 9, 1981, pp. 48-50.

16The second part of ZVO’s contributors had a different kind of profile: five of them were military engineers. They may have been trained in Higher Military Engineering Schools. The Kharkov School, built in 1941, taught a specialized course on aircraft to young students who were then able to pursue their careers either in military universities as teachers, or in Strategic Rocket Forces commanding military units and divisions. Due to their useful knowledge of military arsenals, they could therefore precisely analyze Western weaponry. One article in the September 1981 issue signed by P. Ivonov describes the characteristics of new tanker aircraft29. The general tone here is very different from Vladimirov’s article, in the way that there is no sign of “political” or “ideological” considerations, only technical characteristics, summaries of advantages achieved while developing this new kind of aircraft. Military Engineers were authoring more “technical” articles less accessible to non-specialist readers.

  • 30 Ibid., p. 35.
  • 31 Ibid., # 9, 1981, p.71.
  • 32 ZVO, # 11, 1981, pp. 7-14.
  • 33 A.V. Kazarian, Voina, liudi, sud’by, Moscow, 1975.
  • 34 P. Golitsin, Zapiski Nachalnika Razvedki, Moscow, Tserera, 2002.

17The third group of ZVO’s contributors were professional servicemen (a majority of colonels), who focused on battlefield operations and division structures. Colonel Iu. Dmitriev devoted an article to the new structure of the West German Tank division30. Captain P. Riabov studied American survival equipment in naval and air forces31. Their articles are shorter and as with the engineers, very technical. A final group of contributors, present in every issue was composed of very high-level members of the military establishment. In the November 1981 issue, Major-General Rair Gregorevich Simonian, professor and doctor of military sciences authors an article devoted to the “tendencies and implementation of American military doctrine”32. Simonian, born in 1919, studied and taught at the Frunze Academy where he became doctor and professor33. In 1960 he was appointed head of the chair of intelligence and foreign armies (Frunze Academy). Pavel Golitsin34, who had worked for the GRU since 1951, former major-general, notes in his memoirs that this organization played a very important role in the Frunze Academy, training young students and feeding journalists useful material:

  • 35 Ibid.

18“GRU officers played a role in the formation and development of the faculties of intelligence and foreign armies, in a number of military academies, providing them with the necessary materials for the educational process”.35

19It is also the case with ZVO, which worked closely with the GRU. The military journalists’ mission within ZVO’s editorial staff differed according to the author’s specialization. Engineers and militaries were to draw an accurate picture of Western forces for specialized readers. Academic authors and high rank generals or majors focused on more strategic and ideological topics. Furthermore, the journal was very well illustrated with colored pictures of Western weapons and military equipment. At the start of each issue a three- or four-page collective introduction was devoted to current news, the Party line, and general considerations on the Soviet Army, which gave a picture of the General Staff’s state of mind.

  • 36 Th. Malleret, M. Delaporte, L’Armée rouge face à la Perestroïka, op. cit., p. 9.

20It should be noted that American and Western intelligence paid close attention to the journal, seen as reflecting the Soviet vision of Western armies. It was carefully read by American experts and its content summarized for the US Defense Ministry36. ZVO could also interest more unexpected readers. Since the journal’s audience inside USSR was rather important, many Soviet children used to cut ZVO’s colored pictures out and stick them into their school notebooks…

Gorbachev’s Reforms and the major changes occurring in military journalists’ work during perestroika

21In 1985 a young new leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, took the rudder of the Soviet boat. Perestroika swept changes through military affairs and reforms carried in this area impacted military journalism in the Soviet Union. Attention will be paid to these changes in order to see how ZVO was also affected by them.

  • 37 Otvetchaia na vyzov vremeni, Vneishniaia politika perestroiki : dokumental ‘nye svidetel’stva, Mosc (...)

22At the beginning of 1985, Gorbachev’s main purpose was to calm down the international situation under stress from the Afghan War, Reagan’s “Star Wars” (IDS) project and above all the Euro missiles crisis leading to the installation of American Pershing in Europe. These weapons were considered to be guns pointed directly at the Soviets head and their danger was known and widely recognized by the Soviet political elite. Anxious to halt this arms race and find a new détente with America and Western Europe, Gorbachev used the old classical “peace propaganda” and “war scare” rhetoric. He argued the need to “burn the black book of nuclear alchemy”, and “eliminate nuclear warfare forever”37.

  • 38 See D. Hoffman, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy, (...)
  • 39 A. Cherniaev (ed.), V Politburo TsK KPSS, Moscow, Alpina Buisness Books, p. 15.
  • 40 D. Hoffman, The Dead Hand, op. cit.; R. D. English, Russia and the idea of the West, Gorbachev, Int (...)

23But the road chosen by Gorbachev was different from his predecessors’. Instead of going on with the arms race while pointing out the Soviet desire to halt it, he favored a political solution38. A dialogue with the West and a true reduction of nuclear and conventional warfare could benefit the USSR. First, it would eliminate dangerous threats to its security (IDS and Pershing). Second, it would reinforce its positive image worldwide. Third, it would release more funds for Gorbachev’s economic reform. This new strategy was presented in his October 1985 speech where he emphasized the need to calm down international tensions and concentrate on economic issues39. In February 1986 he announced his “New Thinking” project, a sort of guideline for international relations where he laid emphasis on new principles such as the rejection of the use of force. The turning point in his foreign policy can be seen in the December 1987 INF treaty with the US, which proposed the destruction of a whole range of missiles (the medium range SS 20 and Pershing) and the launching of the Soviet New Military Doctrine of “non-offensive defense” (that is to say, reducing Soviet’s warfare to a low level sufficient to guarantee its security). But foreign policy was also closely linked to internal policy considering the need for economic recovery. By reducing the large defense budget, money could be redirected to civilian industry. It should be noted that Gorbachev’s New Thinking was inspired by civilian experts from the Party and scientists40 who had gained an important position in foreign policy at the expense of the Defense Ministry.

  • 41 F. Daucé, « Le déclassement d’une armée invincible et légendaire », in C. Ajam, A. Merlot-Henry, J. (...)
  • 42 A. Cherniaev (ed.), V Politburo TsK KPSS, op. cit., p. 227.

24The Defense budget was frozen by 1987-198841. This redirection of credit from defense to civilian industry was seen as an emergency inside Gorbachev’s team by the end of 1987, considering the huge reduction of national income due to falls in oil prices, the anti-alcohol campaign and consequences of Chernobyl. “We are crossing the red line” said Prime Minister Ryzhkov in October 1987 to his Politburo colleagues42. In a certain way the defense industry was more and more seen as a burden both for the Soviet economy and its new international “peaceful” image.

  • 43 lou. Zarestskaïa-Balsente, « La censure à l'époque de la perestroïka : le passé surmonté ? De la sy (...)
  • 44 Pravda, 19 july1988.
  • 45 Th. Malleret, M. Delaporte, op. cit., p.64
  • 46 Ibid, p.72.
  • 47 A. Kozlov, “Voennaia zhurnalistika...", op. cit.
  • 48 Ibid.
  • 49 Th. Malleret, M. Delaporte, op; cit., p. 64.

25Another important aspect of Gorbachev’s new policy was the well known “glasnost” (“transparency”). Nowadays, early glasnost is seen more as an increase in the flow of information rather than an easing of censorship restrictions. It was conceived as a tool to serve the new political course and attract the intelligentsia43. But it soon escaped the Party’s control and began to unleash new forces at the end of the 1980s. As far as military matters are concerned, glasnost’s novelty lay in the increase in non-military press articles dealing with military issues. In a certain way, military matters were not military journalists’ prerogative anymore. The image of a perfect Red Army was tarnished by articles denouncing dedovshchina. This was an old military hazing practice of older military personnel that grossly violated human dignity. For instance, the Party newspaper Pravda reported in July 1988 an awful incident where a young conscript had killed six of his older companions44 on a train after suffering dedovshchina. Officers favorable to military reform began to author articles in the civil press. General Lobov in Sovetskaia Rossiia (October 1988) denounced moral degeneration among conscripts45, Lieutenant-Colonel Savikine proposed a new model army in Moscow News (1988)46. But starting from 1987, the glasnost process also affected military journals and newspapers. New topics introduced revealed huge concerns among military establishment regarding defense reforms and the emergency of a military perestroika. The number of articles devoted to the problems inside the armed forces grew constantly during the 1980s. Publications regarding “Troop morale and military education system” rose from 4.4% of total publications in 1985 to 8.5% in 199147. Conversely, the topic “International questions, ideological pressure on USSR, military issues worldwide” fell 50% from 1986 to 199148. More generally speaking, military journalism began to deal with new topics such as the precarious condition of servicemen, low wages, alcoholism49, dedovshchina.

26The perestroika years muddied the waters of military journalism. First, it gave civilian “party journalists” the right to deal with issues regarding armed forces. Second, it launched new topics such as the everyday life, human aspects of military service, financial situation, or housing of servicemen. Third, glasnost opened the way to criticism and damaged the image among Soviet citizens of a Red Army that was once above suspicion. Gorbachev’s New Thinking, peace propaganda policy, disarmament initiatives, renouncement of the use of force in international relations contradicted the earlier perception of the Red Army as a bulwark against aggressive Western imperialism. Considering this, the function of journals such as ZVO, designed to emphasize Western danger, became less and less clear. Did ZVO also make its perestroika during the Gorbachev years and choose a new editorial line?

In the turmoil of glasnost: a real change in Zarubezhnoe Voennoe Obozrenie’s style or a continuation of the traditional approach towards foreign armed forces?

  • 50 ZVO, # 10, 1985, pp. 17-22.
  • 51 ZVO, # 9, 1986, pp. 3-9.
  • 52 Ibid, p. 3.

27In 1985-1987, no particular changes occurred, either in article content or editorial line. Since 1974, the articles had been divided into eight sections, each devoted to a special type of armed forces (naval forces, law enforcement, etc.). The first dealt with more general issues such as highly topical subjects, strategic conceptions of the NATO block, or new weapons technology developed in Western countries. The articles’ tone in that section remained very hostile towards the West at that time. For instance an October 1985 article was devoted to “Military Industry in Pakistan”50. This choice, far from being insignificant, has to be put in the context of the Soviet Afghan War. Another article (September 1986) entitled “West German special forces: weapon for aggression and revanchism”51 focused on growing militarist tendencies inside the FRG: “As pointed out in the foreign press West Germany has become the nerve center of imperialist intelligence in Europe, directed against the socialist community”52.

28These highly political articles were generally signed by researchers (PhDs) and academic experts from Military Academies. But attention must be paid to the editorial board of the journal in order to see whether it was affected by personnel changes. Its membership is summarized in the table below.

Table 1: Editorial board membership (1983 - 1991)

Chief editor

Assistant editor

Secretary

Other members of editorial board

1983

Bugrov I.I.

Burmistrov N.A;
Didenko,
V.C;
Diev D.V;
Kozhevnikov V.A;
Korobov A.A.;
Dolgopolov E.I,
Pestov G.I.

Levin V.V

Petukhov. L.K.;
Simonian R.G. ;
Slobodenko A.K.;
Sorokin N.I.;
Staroverov N.I.;
Shevshenko L.F.

1985

Bugrov I.I.

Burmistrov N.A;
Didenko, V.C;
Kozhevnikov V.A;
Pestov G.I.

Slobodenko A.K.;
Staroverov N.I;
Shevshenko L.F.;
Chershniev L.I.

1986

Bugrov I.I.

Burmistrov N.A;
Didenko, V.C;
Kozhevnikov V.A;
Pestov G.I.

Slobodenko A.K.;
Staroverov N.I.;
Shevshenko L.F.;
Chershniev L.I.

1987

O.N. Abramov

Greshnikov V.G.;
Didenko V.C.;
Ivanov. A.I.;
Kozhenvnikov V.A.;
Pelievin Iu.N.;
Pestov GI.

Andrienko A.L.;
Vertekhvostki V.A

Sokolov I.G.;
Fiodorov, V.V.;
Shevhenko L.F.

1988

Kozhemiakin V.I

Greshnikov V.G.;
Didenko V.C.:
Ivanov. A.I.;
Kozhenvnikov V.A. Pelievin Iu.N.;
Pestov GI.

Andrienko A.L.;
Vertekhvostki V.A

Sokolov I.G.;
Fiodorov, V.V.;
Shevhenko L.F.

1989

Kozhemiakin V.I

Greshnikov V.G.;
Didenko V.C.: Ivanov. A.I.;
Kozhenvnikov V.A. Pelievin Iu.N.;
Rodionov V.I

Andrienko A.L.;
Vertekhvostki V.A

Sokolov I.G.;
Fiodorov, V.V.;
Shevhenko L.F

1990

Kozhemiakin V.I

Gul’ko A.Ia.;
Guzakov V.D.
;
Andrienko A.L.;
Ivanov. A.I.;
Ladygin F.I.;
NesterkinV.D.;
Pelievin Iu.N;
Rodionov V.I.

Fiodorov, V.V.;
Shevhenko;
Sazhyn A.I.

1991

Babushkin Iu.D.

Andrienko A.L;
Gul’ko A.ia;
A.I. Gushcher’, A.E. Ivanov;
N.F. Krivorotov;
Iu.B. Krivoruchko;
F.I. Ladygin;
V.A. Lipilin;
A.A. Rimskiy
;
V.I. Rodionov.

M.M. Sokolov, G.G.;
Sukharev, V.V.;
Fedorov;
Shuleshko, M.M.

  • 53 J. G. Hines, E. M. Mishulovich, J. F. Shull, BDM Soviet Intentions 1965-1985, Volume II, Soviet Pos (...)
  • 54 Ibid.
  • 55 V. Snegirev, V. Samunin, The Dead End, The Road to Afghanistan, p.504, http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchi (...)

29The restricted sources available do not allow us to make a more detailed presentation of these new members, or to determine to which military networks they belonged. Indeed in the light of a few documents and recollections, the Soviet military establishment seems to have been less monolithic than it appeared. By the end of the 1970s some high-ranked generals and majors disagreed with the military course pursed by their leaders based on the mutative accumulation of obsolescent weapons53. Some of them favored a military reform designed to improve qualitative technological research on conventional armament, which was seen as key to the powerful army of the future54. Others, such as Marshal Akhromeyev55, objected to military involvement in Afghanistan. Unfortunately the lack of knowledge about military networks makes it impossible to say whether the new board members belonged to the reform-minded wing of the Defense Ministry. However, the only information available (the list of board members), shows that major turnover occurred among the editorial staff during the perestroika years in comparison with the late Brezhnev years. How can we explain this novelty?

30New members (in bold in the table) began their work in 1987 and new chief editors were appointed in 1987 and 1988 at the head of the journal. Our hypothesis is that this change was made to adapt to the generational turnover occurring. It is important to note that 1987 was a year of great changes in the Defense Ministry. After the “Cesna accident”, where a young West German amateur pilot landed with his small Cesna on Red Square, ridiculing the Soviet Army and air traffic control, the Defense minister Sokolov resigned and was replaced by the more accommodating Dmitri Yazov. Mikhail Gorbachev took advantage on this incident to urge Marshal Yazov to implement defense reforms and support the new foreign policy course. In that context, a “refreshed” editorial board was able to adapt to the Party’s and Defense Ministry’s line.

  • 56 A. Kozlov, A. Kozlov, “Voennaia zhurnalistika...", op. cit.

31Moreover, it should be said that ZVO’s editorial board, as in the case of every military journal, was under close surveillance. The Ideological Department of the CPSU and Main Political Directorate of the Army monitored their “orthodox ideological line”, and the General Staff their theoretical military correctness56. Consequently, with Gorbachev’s policy shift by the end of 1987, the editorial board’s new mission was to echo the changes in the Party line. At that time, official ideological discourse became less aggressive than in the past, since Gorbachev’s purpose was to accelerate arms reductions with NATO. The new Party line was to insist on common universal values, rather than on threat confrontation. Were these concerns reflected in ZVO?

  • 57 ZVO, # 5, 1987, pp.3-6.
  • 58 ZVO, # 2, 1988, pp.3-6.
  • 59 Ibid,.p 4.

32Since the journal’s creation it had been standard practice to devote three or four pages to the “Party Line” in the beginning of every issue. In May 1985 this short introduction was entitled “V.I. Lenin, the CPSU and the aggressive nature of imperialism”57, which echoed the Party line at that time. But in February 1988, when a new military doctrine had been promoted, the “reasonable sufficiency”, based on the need to guarantee security with a legal military potential, ZVO’s line was quite different. Entitled “the law of high vigilance”58, the short article points out the danger from imperialist circles: “One of the main causes of a necessary high degree of vigilance and alertness of our armed forces is the attachment of reactionary imperialist circles to aggressive military strategic concepts”59.

  • 60 ZVO, # 9, 1989, p.1.
  • 61 ZVO, # 9, 1989, pp. 19-21.

33More than a year later, in September 1989, the front page of the journal was devoted to the “permanence of NATO’s force policy”60. This reflected the Defense Ministry’s concerns about NATO’s strategic and nuclear weapons modernization in Europe that might jeopardize Soviet security. One can observe a growing concern among ZVO’s journalists, whose mission was to analyze developments in Western military warfare. The contradiction between their observations of a constant improvement of these arsenals and Soviet arms reduction policy led to a latent opposition. At the same time, most articles continued to reflect an ideological vision of a world divided into two irreconcilable camps. In 1989, S. Chyuprov, doctor in History, analysed West German war movies as vehicles supporting aggressive bourgeois ideology61.

34The Press liberalization Act of August 1990 removed censorship from military journals and newspapers. New journals dealing with military issues were created and had to be registered with the State Press Committee. Already existing high-circulation newspapers and journals had no need to be registered, which was also the case for ZVO. Thus, journal editors were theoretically exempt from the need to choose topics reflecting Western imperialist aggression and could work as true specialists. That did not mean that they could easily cope with this shift. Let’s not forget that, despite press liberalization and the end of the Party’s ruling role in Soviet society, the journal still reflected the position of the Defense Ministry (as it said on the cover page of ZVO: “journal of the Defense Ministry”) and was still financed by this institution. Nevertheless, many military journalists writing in ZVO still kept in mind the image of the aggressive nature of the Western bourgeois world and continued to use the old stereotypes. But this was the result of their own convictions, rather than a consequence of a command-controlled system of journalism. Instead they had to cope with the crushing of the Red Army’s image and power, so that comparisons with the prosperous Western armed forces were nothing but painful.

35At this time a majority of articles were still devoted to military analysis of foreign armed forces (new weaponry, technology etc.) which had been the main function of ZVO since its creation. But it was less “ideological” in the sense that military journalists wrote there as experts of foreign military warfare and weapons, and not anymore as implementers of the political line of a sinking Party. In that sense they could profess their own opinions: either as still harsh critics of Western militarism or a more descriptive and informative contribution.

  • 62 ZVO, # 6, 1990.

36The real change only occurred in 1990-1991 when propaganda language was abandoned for more analytical work, focusing on topical issues such as the strategic implication of the Persian Gulf situation62.

  • 63 ZVO, # 7 ,1991.

37Journal pages also reflected changes in the Soviet press: in the July 1991 issue advertising made its first appearance: “ZVO’s editorial board is inserting the first advertising announcements from various firms and organizations. Our journal’s advertising… will give you the possibility to contact trusted partners.”63

38We must bear in mind the large number of military journals existing in the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War, which reduced the need to picture an aggressive and militarist West and to mobilize Soviet people behind its strong Red Army, coupled with the effects of the reduction of the Defense budget, the fate of ZVO was threatened. In that context, some journals might disappear. To survive, ZVO had to find new trusted partners and enlarge its audience.

  • 64 ZVO, # 10-11, 1991, p.18.

39This may explain why new topics devoted to more everyday life facts made their appearance in the pages of ZVO, possibly reflecting the personal interests of military specialists and showing the need to find new readers. Journalists paid greater attention to the everyday life conditions of foreign soldiers and military formations. This echoed the new military debate inside the Soviet Union and the development of such articles in other civilian or military journals and newspapers (Izvestia, Literaturnaia Gazeta, Krasnaia Zvezda). The diversification of subjects was a reality during these years, and attention was not only paid to new armaments and technology but also to other matters such as medical assistance, the young conscript’s attitude towards the Army, etc. Some articles were therefore an opportunity to show that the Soviet Army was not alone in its difficulties. An article authored by Colonel P. Vladimirov entitled “relations of youth with Bundeswehr” analyses the negative perception of the German Army among the younger generation. In a survey by the Psychology Institute of Cologne, 30% of young Germans would refuse to serve the Army as conscripts, 40% considered that it had to be reformed. In response to that, the Bundeswehr was therefore implementing a more attractive policy (better wages, family policy).64 The Soviet Army was not the only one to have problems…

  • 65 ZVO, # 12, 1991.

40More articles devoted to medical issues were authored at this time by military medical personnel. At the end of 1991, Doctor A. Vorobev analyzed the British Army’s medical assistance given to soldiers suffering from psychological traumas, which was a brand new type of topic for ZVO. It’s worth noting that the treatment of this subject also reflected the military journalists’ new mission, which was to observe interesting changes occurring in foreign armies that could be implemented in the Soviet army in a competition rather than a confrontational framework. In his paper, Vorobev noted the valuable aspect of British soldiers’ training to endure battlefield difficulties. Thanks to “Battleshock recovery Units” and “Field Psychiatric Teams”, soldiers who experienced a trauma could recover 48 hours later65.

  • 66 Ibid., pp. 28-31.
  • 67 Ibid., p. 23.

41In the last issue of 1991, an article of Colonel Iu. Mgimov focused on the American Army’s welfare and accommodation facilities system66 with a brand new language: “The Military and political leadership of the United States attaches great importance to welfare and accommodation help for soldiers and their families as essential to maintain the morale of troops”. 67

  • 68 ZVO, # 12, 1991.

42More articles focused on parallel military matters such as legal questions. Captain G. Galistin (Doctor of Law) analyzed American military law regarding war prisoners’ behavior and soldiers’ psychological preparation to cope with this tough situation68. One may observe that ZVO was not in the vanguard of the change process affecting military journalism. The real change occurred at the beginning of the 1990s, while other journals, especially Sovetskaia Rossiia or the Pravda, had begun their change process in 1988.

43As far as journalist profiles are concerned, these did change slightly at this time as we can see in the table below:

  • 69 Average calculated on the basis of three issues for each year. # 1, 7, 10 (1985); # 2, 5, 11 (1988) (...)

Table 2: ZVO’s journalist profiles (% in each category), 1985 - 199169.

Profile

1985

1988

1990

1991

Military men

85,5

78

67

70

Military men with a degree (PhDs)

14,4

20,5

21

21

Civilian experts

0

1,5

12

9

  • 70 ZVO, # 12, 1990, pp. 83-86.

44The novelty of the times lay in the growing participation of civilian experts and even two women, L. Krasnaia (doctor in technical sciences) and N. Postnikova, in the December 1990 issue70. Otherwise the authors’ profiles are more or less the same, with a majority of colonels and doctors of military or technical sciences.

  • 71 ZVO, # 9, 1991.

45Moreover, it should be noted that most of ZVO’s contributors did not write in other military journals. There were no “well known” or “star” journalists who occupied a leading position. This may be explained by their distinctive profiles. Military engineers most of them, before perestroika they had to put their technical knowledge at the service of ideological propaganda. Their work was therefore restricted to technical fields. But one may observe a diversification in the the choice of topics and their treatment. The work of military experts was gradually freed from the obligation of criticizing foreign armies. That does not mean that concerns about American military policy disappeared, since they were important due to the strategic crushing of the Soviet Union. On the contrary, in the September 1991 issue the editorial entitled “The spider web of neoglobalisation” echoed the concerns of the Soviet military establishment about America’s military influence in the world despite the New Thinking and Soviet efforts to get rid of “Cold War dogmas” 71.

Conclusion

  • 72 A. Kozlov, A. Kozlov, “Voennaia zhurnalistika...", op. cit.

46In conclusion, ZVO may be seen as a very specific journal in the rich landscape of the Soviet military press. Its main goal, in analyzing foreign armed forces, was to shape a negative and militarist image of the “enemy”. During perestroika, and even after 1987, this guideline was maintained, as long as a contrast between “Soviet peace initiatives” and the “permanence of Western aggressive nature” was established. The real turning point in military journalist work regarding foreign armies really took place in 1990 with press liberalization and the end of the CPSU’s ruling role in the society. Freed from their ideological obligations, military journalists could devote greater attention to more diverse issues and give a more accurate picture of the state of Western armies. The need to find new sources of funding and new readers may also explain the diversification of topics chosen. Nevertheless, concerns reflected in the journal’s pages were still those of the Military Establishment: as pointed out by Andrei Kozlov, this type of journal “was the final information tool of the State’s ‘crushing propaganda machine”72. Furthermore, the very particular nature of ZVO journalists must be pointed out. Insofar as their studies focused on foreign armed forces - and not the Soviet ones, these articles revealed - and that was especially true after 1990-1991, their geopolitical vision and worries about the Soviet Army’s position in a new context. Contrary to what happened with Soviet civilian journalists, contacts with Western materials did not put ZVO at the vanguard of the press opening process, nor did it change the general tone of the journal, still very hostile towards the West. This may be explained by two key factors. First, journalists’ knowledge of the Western press was strictly limited to technical military journals. Second, the data they collected in such journals highlighted the growing military superiority of US armed forces, especially by the end of the 1980s. This helps us to understand the permanence of the perception of a “Western imperialism” even when the “ideological obligation” disappeared.

47Furthermore, the glasnost process opened the road to criticism and revealed the insufficiencies of the Soviet armed forces in the military press. But ZVO was at the periphery of these changes because its mission was not to analyze Soviet armed forces but foreign ones. The real change was thus structural, with new editors and a participation of civilian experts. New topics appeared much later, only at the start of the 1990s, while other military journals had begun their perestroika two years before. In a certain way, ZVO thus remained a bastion of tradition during these years.

48After the collapse of the Soviet state, ZVO continued publishing. Now, in 2014, it retains its original function and openly reveals its objective. Ivan Maltsev, current editor of ZVO, commenting on the motto of an old tsarist military journal which said that “the need to know the enemy is an important guarantee for the success of an Army” 73, thinks it is still true.

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Notes

1 A. Weiner, “The Making of a Dominant Myth: the Second World War and the Construction of Political Identities within the Soviet Polity”, The Russian Review, vol. 55, October 1996, pp. 638-660

2 R. R. Reese, The Soviet Military Experience, Routledge, London, 2002, p. 3-4.

3 A. Kozovoï, Par-delà le mur. La culture de guerre froide soviétique entre deux détentes, Bruxelles, Complexe, 2009.

4 R.P. Osveyan, Istoriia noveishei otetchestvennoy zhurnalistiki, Izdatel’stvo MGU, Moscow, 1990.

5 Ibid.

6 S.I. Zukov, Frontovaia petshat’ v gody velikoi Otetshestvennoi voiny, Moscow, Izdatel’stvo Moskovskogo Universiteta, 1968, p.6.

7 A. Kozlov, “Voennaia zhurnalistika v gody korennykh preobrazovanii v sfere glastosti i svobody presy v Sovetskom Soiuze (1986-1991 )”, Armiia i obshchestvo, # 1, 2009, p. 2.

8 General Directorate for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press under the Council of Ministers of the USSR; Major censorship organ in the Soviet Union.

9 T. Goriaeva, Politicheskaia tsenzura v SSSR, 1917-1991, Moscow, ROSSPEN, p. 131.

10 M. Harisson, “Secrets, Lies, and Half Truths: The Decision to Disclose Soviet Defense Outlays”, PERSA Working Paper # 55, version 26 September 2008, http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/academic/harrison/archive/persa/055.pdf

11 Ibid.

12 K.M. Golovanov, Matrossy Narkomprossa, Moscow, Molodaia Gvardia, 1974.

13 http://www.baltinfo.ru/2011/02/11/Skonchalsya-predstavitel-press-sluzhby-GU-MChS-po-Peterburgu-Andrei-Alyabev-187700.

14 See for example R. Reese, The Soviet Military Experience, A History of the Soviet Army, 1917-1991, Routledge, London, 2005.

15 R. English, Russia and the Idea of the West, New York, Columbia University Press, 2000.

16 A. Kozlov, Sovetskaia voennaia zhurnalistika v 1945-1991 gg, Moscow, Military University of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, PhD, 2009; A. Kozlov, “Voennaia zhurnalistika...", op. cit., 2009.

17 These collections are identified by Andrei Kozlov in the Russian journal “Vestnik arkhivista”. See http://www.vestarchive.ru/arhivovedenie/844----1945-1991-.html

18 Th. Malleret, M. Delaporte, L’Armée rouge face à la Perestroïka, Bruxelles, Complexe, 1991, p. 8.

19 ZVO, # 1, 1975.

20 ZVO, # 3, 1975

21 P. Cherkassov, Imemo, Portret na fone epokhi, Moscow, Ves’ Mir, 2004.

22 Th. Malleret, Mureille Delaporte, L’Armée rouge face à la Perestroïka, Bruxelles, Complexe, 1991, p. 9.

23 Roger R. Reese, The Soviet Military Experience, op. cit., p. 52-71.

24 ZVO, # 7, 1981, p. 12.

25 Ibid, p.8.

26 ZVO, # 12, 1984, pp. 3-9.

27 ZVO, # 1, 1983, pp. 9-15.

28 D. Volkogonov, Kto est’ kto v Rossii i blizhnem zarubezhe, Moscow, Novoe Vremia, 1993, pp. 144-145.

29 ZVO, # 9, 1981, pp. 48-50.

30 Ibid., p. 35.

31 Ibid., # 9, 1981, p.71.

32 ZVO, # 11, 1981, pp. 7-14.

33 A.V. Kazarian, Voina, liudi, sud’by, Moscow, 1975.

34 P. Golitsin, Zapiski Nachalnika Razvedki, Moscow, Tserera, 2002.

35 Ibid.

36 Th. Malleret, M. Delaporte, L’Armée rouge face à la Perestroïka, op. cit., p. 9.

37 Otvetchaia na vyzov vremeni, Vneishniaia politika perestroiki : dokumental ‘nye svidetel’stva, Moscow Gorbachev Fond, p. 37.

38 See D. Hoffman, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy, Doubleday, New York, 2009.

39 A. Cherniaev (ed.), V Politburo TsK KPSS, Moscow, Alpina Buisness Books, p. 15.

40 D. Hoffman, The Dead Hand, op. cit.; R. D. English, Russia and the idea of the West, Gorbachev, Intellectuals and the end of the Cold War, New York, Columbia University Press, 2000.

41 F. Daucé, « Le déclassement d’une armée invincible et légendaire », in C. Ajam, A. Merlot-Henry, J.-R. Raviot (Eds), URSS : fin de partie; les années perestroïka, Lyon, FAGE Editions, 2011, p. 72.

42 A. Cherniaev (ed.), V Politburo TsK KPSS, op. cit., p. 227.

43 lou. Zarestskaïa-Balsente, « La censure à l'époque de la perestroïka : le passé surmonté ? De la symbiose forcée à la scission inévitable », Revue d’études comparatives Est-Ouest, # 3, 2002, pp. 113-147. 

44 Pravda, 19 july1988.

45 Th. Malleret, M. Delaporte, op. cit., p.64

46 Ibid, p.72.

47 A. Kozlov, “Voennaia zhurnalistika...", op. cit.

48 Ibid.

49 Th. Malleret, M. Delaporte, op; cit., p. 64.

50 ZVO, # 10, 1985, pp. 17-22.

51 ZVO, # 9, 1986, pp. 3-9.

52 Ibid, p. 3.

53 J. G. Hines, E. M. Mishulovich, J. F. Shull, BDM Soviet Intentions 1965-1985, Volume II, Soviet Post-Cold War Testimonial Evidence.

54 Ibid.

55 V. Snegirev, V. Samunin, The Dead End, The Road to Afghanistan, p.504, http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB396/.

56 A. Kozlov, A. Kozlov, “Voennaia zhurnalistika...", op. cit.

57 ZVO, # 5, 1987, pp.3-6.

58 ZVO, # 2, 1988, pp.3-6.

59 Ibid,.p 4.

60 ZVO, # 9, 1989, p.1.

61 ZVO, # 9, 1989, pp. 19-21.

62 ZVO, # 6, 1990.

63 ZVO, # 7 ,1991.

64 ZVO, # 10-11, 1991, p.18.

65 ZVO, # 12, 1991.

66 Ibid., pp. 28-31.

67 Ibid., p. 23.

68 ZVO, # 12, 1991.

69 Average calculated on the basis of three issues for each year. # 1, 7, 10 (1985); # 2, 5, 11 (1988); # 5, 6, 12 (1990); # 7, 9, 12 (1991).

70 ZVO, # 12, 1990, pp. 83-86.

71 ZVO, # 9, 1991.

72 A. Kozlov, A. Kozlov, “Voennaia zhurnalistika...", op. cit.

73 ARMS TASS, http://armstass.su/?page=article&aid=101792&cid=%0A25.

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References

Electronic reference

Sophie Momzikoff, « The Military Journal Zarubezhnoe Voennoe Obozrenie Under Perestroika (1985-1991) », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 16 | 2014, Online since 05 December 2014, connection on 25 April 2017. URL : http://pipss.revues.org/4092

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About the author

Sophie Momzikoff

University Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne)

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Copyright

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