[Soviet Union]: self-published, ca. 1965–1975. Single sheet of paper with typescript to recto, measuring 29 × 21.5 cm. Folded twice along the vertical and horizontal axis. Additional light creases to corners; edges lightly frayed; small tear along the vertical fold; one correction to the text in blue ink and two small perforations. Good or better. Item #6469
[Numerological Conspiracy Theory Samizdat]
This numerological samizdat text combines two “historical references,” one demonstrating the mystical connection between Napoleon and Hitler through the number 129, especially in their ill-fated relation to Russia, and the other connecting the deaths of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Published and distributed surreptitiously sometime after 1964 (the date of first recorded appearance of the Lincoln/Kennedy connection), but no later than 1975 (judging by the quality of the paper and the type), this document of a historical conspiracy theory is an excellent example of the great variety of texts circulating in Soviet samizdat. The origin of the narratives is unknown, with no source cited in the text, however the latter seems to be a piece of American folklore, likely translated from English. A piece about the Lincoln/Kennedy connection even appeared in TIME in 1964 in an article titled “A Compendium of Curious Coincidences.” Together, the lists suggest an underlying distrust of the dominant historical narratives both in the US and in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Numerological “studies” and conspiracy theories circulated more freely in the United States than they did in the Soviet Union, where all publishing was tightly controlled with access to printers and reproduction materials closely monitored and any illicit reproduction harshly persecuted. However, not all Soviet samizdat was strictly dissident in nature and often included marginal texts such as this one, or texts that were simply not part of the national publishing plan. The Russian poet Lev Losev has identified six categories of samizdat literature: literary, political, religious-philosophical, mystical and occult, erotica and instructions. The last three categories have been left out of conversations about the Soviet underground publishing practices altogether because these do not fit into the standard politicized narrative. Interest in these “other” types of texts is currently reviving, see for example Ann Komaromi’s “The Material Existence of Soviet Samizdat” in Slavic Review, 2004. This text provides a fascinating record of the spread of conspiracy theories in the Cold War era, both through Soviet samizdat and in the West.