Once again, America’s most secretive institution is making noise on Twitter. In a series of tweets, the CIA described how it snuck Russian copies of Boris Pasternak’s subversive novel Dr. Zhivago into the Soviet Union during the Cold War, where it was banned. The CIA then linked to 99 declassified documents detailing the operation, codenamed AEDINOSAUR.
The CIA first tweeted a quote, in Russian, by Dr. Zhivago author Boris Pasternak, leading some to immediately assume it was hacked. It was not a completely unreasonable assumption, given that the CENTCOM Twitter account was hacked on Tuesday.
When it’s not busy fact-checking movies or joking about dead rappers, the CIA Twitter account mostly tweets about missions from bygone eras that are now declassified. The sense of humor the CIA displays on Twitter is in rather stark contrast to some of the very morbid things it carries out. These tweets, though, were a cool trek through an especially interesting time in global history.
The novel’s titular character, Yuri Zhivago, becomes disillusioned with the revolutionary movement and abandons Bolshevism. As a result, the KGB saw it as a subversive threat, and banned all copies of the book. The CIA, seeing this as an opportunity to reach the Soviet elite and make “Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government” (pdf), leapt at the opportunity to smuggle the book in.
Here’s another document (pdf) that lists the countries through which the CIA smuggled the book. 365 of the 10,000 copies were given to Soviet visitors to the 1958 Brussels Fair in Belgium. Later that year, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.