- Hardcover: 144 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (1 Nov. 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674354362
- ISBN-13: 978-0674354364
- Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.1 x 1.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,399,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
The Ghost of the Executed Engineer: Technology and the Fall of the Soviet Union (Russian Research Center Studies) Hardcover – 1 Nov 1993
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This remarkable book by Loren R. Graham deals with one of the many independent minds crushed by the Soviet government.--Hiroaki Kuromiya "American Historical Review "
From the Back Cover
Stalin ordered his execution, but here Peter Palchinsky has the last word. As if rising from an uneasy grave, Palchinsky's ghost leads us through a miasma of Soviet technology and industry, pointing out the mistakes he condemned in his lifetime, the corruption and collapse he predicted, the ultimate price paid for silencing those who were not afraid to speak out. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It tells the story of how blind faith in a system cause truth to be supressed, often at the cost of lives.
Unfortunately, the writing at times becomes polemical.
It is an easy, short read and of value to those interested in the times and anyone who worries about when theory or dogma silences truth.
I don't think this book really gives Palchinsky the credit he desrves and this book certainly isn't all about him, just brief historical facts.
This small book looks at the Soviet failure from an engineering view, specifically one engineer, Peter Palchinsky. From the beginning of his career in 1905, Palchinsky firmly believed that engineers should consider economic and social conditions along with their technical calculations. Although he was not a Marxist, Palchinsky was a radical who drew many of his social and economic ideas from Kropotkin¹s writings. Palchinsky didn¹t support the Bolsheviks but he did welcome the opportunity to help socialist development in Russia. Palchinsky wanted to keep western capitalists out of Russia as much as possible but he did see that in some circumstances western equipment and knowledge were necessary.
The industrialization policy started by the Bolsheviks and carried further by Stalin emphasized gigantic projects controlled directly from Moscow. Some of the characteristics of the soviet projects included no consideration for local conditions, safety sacrificed to output, rushed tempo of the work, and finally no criticism or debate was allowed. Palchinsky did continue criticizing what he considered a disastrous industrialization policy until he was arrested in the middle of the night in 1928 and finally executed in 1929.
The author offers three examples of gigantic ill-conceived engineering projects in the early Soviet Union and three projects of the 1970¹s and 80¹s. These projects included world¹s largest steel mill in Magnitogorsk, the world¹s largest hydroelectric dam on the Dneiper River, and finally the disastrous White Sea Canal built entirely by prisoners. Palchinsky was involved with the steel mill project and a sever critic of the other two projects. Chernobyl is given as a latter day example to show that the Soviet Union never learned its lesson.
After Palchinsky, engineering training in the Soviet Union became narrower and strictly technical after the 1920¹s. Despite the narrowing of the views of engineering profession in the Soviet Union, engineering training became one of the surest ways of securing government positions. After World War II most Soviet officials came from an engineering background, Brezhnev himself was a graduate of an engineering institute.
The lessons of this book go beyond the experience of the Soviet Union. Any political-economic system that centralizes control, stifles debate and criticism, and ignores human conditions may do so at its peril.
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