[FPSPACE] Soviet cosmonaut photo forgeries -- who did it, and why?

E.P. Grondine epgrondine at hotmail.com
Tue Oct 16 19:24:20 EDT 2007

Hi Jim - 

A fascinating question. My vote goes to the propaganda bureau of the Ministry of Defense.  I am trying to remember through the haze of my stroke, but was it under Ustinov then?

Most likely the same folks who controlled Korolev's publications.  If they are still alive and if you can find them and interview them, it will make for an interesting read.

In any case, the process started with Tikonravov's publication in the youth magazine many years before.


> Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 12:33:06 +0200
> From: kgottschalk at uwc.ac.za
> To: FPSPACE at friends-partners.org
> Subject: [FPSPACE] Soviet cosmonaut photo forgeries -- who did it, and why?
> Dear Jim,
>    How ironic that now Abode Photoshop and its freeware rivals make
> this easier to do even in democracies & the corporate world.
>     In the pre-digital decades, I presume this could only be done by
> (is the title correct?) "touch-up artists" who would have 1. to paint by
> hand over parts of a photo, & then 
> 2. get photographic darkroom technicians to blur the rejoined borders
> of the remaining parts of the old photo, or the borders of the new bit.
>  Technically, this is equivalent to one of the techniques Chesley
> Bonestell sometimes used in his 1940s and 1950s planetary art. A Soviet
> innocent variant of it was to draw in stronger lines where the border
> between two objects is unclear in the original photo.
>      As your 2nd last para notes, this was on a scale that must have
> required staff in permanent posts to serve all state departments &
> parastatals. So an enquiry should start with the Q: were the forged /
> touched-up photos issued by, or through, a Soviet press agency? If so,
> its photographic department would surely be where the touch-up artists
> worked.
>        I am presuming that the KGB & other secret services  would only
> do this sort of thing when fabricating disinformation to plant in major
> political or counter-intelligence cases. 
>      What we are discussing is by those standards trivial publicity
> releases for a civilian parastatal to merely "tidy up" its photos. No
> political dissenters were involved. It is like a high school
> surreptitiously removing from its grade 12 photos & mementos all mention
> of the kid who was expelled for drunkenness or was a drop-out. Cases so
> "trivial" must have been done by civilians. I am sure that after 1991
> there must be at least one article in the Russian-language press by or
> about someone with such memoirs. They have published the memoirs of a
> now extremely elderly executioner from the Katyn forest 1939 massacre of
> Poles - so there surely must have been published reports on these vastly
> less embarrassing photoshop-by-hand touch-up artists.
>   The "why"? No one in the West felt sheepish that some candidate
> astronauts did not qualify, or were dropped for medical reasons. So this
> points to some paranoically defensive bureaucrat. Whether in the
> cosmonautics agency itself, or in the media agency, we don't yet know.
> yours,  Keith
> >>>> "Jim Oberg" <jeoberg at comcast.net> 10/14/07 10:45 PM >>>
> >I'm finishing up a presentation for a space history conference,
> >in a more scholarly tone than my "Cosmonaut/Cosmo-NOT"
> >public lecture (http://www.jamesoberg.com/cosmonot.pdf),
> >and there remains one serious gap in the discussion.
> >
> >WHO actually performed these forgeries? Where? In
> >accordance with what guidance and what authority?
> >
> >Sure, these were totally in keeping with official Soviet
> >news fabrication/falsification policies going back to the
> >very beginning of the Soviet state -- so there must have
> >been an existing 'infrastructure' whose job it was to produce
> >'corrected' visual materials for public (and foreign) consumption.
> >
> >But do we know anything about the nature of this bureacracy,
> >and its specialists?

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