----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Misc. Documents
drawing by N. Budmodmo

Railfanning behind the Iron Curtain(s)
with the blessings of Uncle Joe Stalin

Ah, the good old days, when we bourgeoise types could railfan in luxury behind the Iron Curtain in the Worker's Paradise with the blessings of Uncle Joe Stalin...

Despite what you might think about the closed nature of the Soviet Union in Stalinist times, the country instead actively encouraged Westerners to tour (selected parts of) their land, as evidenced by the slick 1936 Intourist brochure for the Trans-Siberian Express, whose cover we see at below left. (link to Wx4 scan of full pamphlet PDF is HERE).

It was a pretty good deal for the Soviets, who desperately needed capitalist coin to ameliorate the effects of failed Five Year Plans, as well as subsidize the cost of shipping tens of thousands of people to Siberia, for this was the time of The Great Terror, Stalin's purges. The Trans-Siberian was an expedient way to earn income while keeping tourists in a controlled environment. Without question, tourists were all spies and saboteurs that, given the chance, would spread anti-communist propaganda throughout the Workers Paradise - like, say, the idea of eating three squares a day. One would suppose that this patently anti-Soviet activity also required Intourist guides to insure that dining car curtains were closed during the far two many meal periods.

Supervision of overall car iron curtain activities must have been draining for the Intourist folks. Beyond shielding cocktail hour away from the masses, there must have been a host of militarily sensitive locations to worry about, as well as the frequent passing passing of 4th class inconvenient truths headed for the Gulags. Conversely, the blinds absolutely had to be wide open for the many Potemkin Villages scattered along the right-of-way to spiff up things a bit. Tourist comment: "Hey Marge, don't those villages all look the same, and portable?"

How all of this actually played out for tourists is food for speculation. It must have been hard to ignore all of the nastiness that was going on, but at least there was cheap Vodka.

We have included a second, semi-related image on this page of an East German Railways timetable* cover that resides in the CIA Library, simply to point out that it is classified as “Restricted”, and to ask “Why?” According to that fountainhead of trustworthy data, Wikipedia, a Restricted Data markings pertain to documents containing nuclear information. Did the CIA think that East German trains carried nuclear missiles among the cardboard suitcases stacked in baggage cars? Secondarily, why did the CIA wait until 2002 to release a 50 years out of date timetable? We just don't know.

*full timetable located HERE at Internet Archive

ex Intourist Guide (?) sporting Stalin tatoos