The Union of Concerned Mad Scientists

Klimov's vision of an anti-Russian conspiracy itself resembles the monstrous progeny of Cold War mad science that was such efficient fodder for the pop cultural mill throughout the world.  Like Godzilla and the plethora of giant, radioactive vermin that attacked the major metropolitan centers of the United States and Japan on the movie screens of the 1950s, or the dangerous biological, nuclear, and psychotropic weapons let loose from ex-KGB laboratories in post-Soviet Russian thrillers, Klimov's "Harvard Project" is a freakish offshoot of Cold War propaganda battles that has far exceeded the intentions (not to mention the life-spans) of the actual researchers who inspired it.

From a Vkontakte group for Harward Project enthusiasts.

From a Vkontakte group for Harward Project enthusiasts.

According to his now defunct official website, (, which had previously been maintained by the "Gregory Klimov Online Fan Club Moscow," Grigory Petrovich Klimov was born Igor Borisovich Kalmykov, not far from Rostov-on-Don in 1918.  In 1945, he was employed as an engineer in Soviet-occupied Berlin, defecting to the Allies' zone in 1947.  From 1949-1950 he claims to have worked for the CIA on a secret plan to destroy the Soviet Union, codenamed the "Harvard Project," which was followed by the "Cornell Project" for psychological warfare in 1958-1959.  As his website puts it, his participation in the Harvard Project "affected his entire life and work," but, "[s]ince psychological warfare was literally a war of psychos, Grigory Petrovich, being a normal person, could not continue to participate in a performance whose script was written by sick people." 

Instead, he produced a cycle of novels and essays that purport to expose the evil machinations of the "Harvard Project'"s masterminds:  The Prince of This World (Князь мира сего, 1970),  My Name is Legion (Имя мое—легион, 1975), The Protocols of the Soviet Elders  (Протоколы советский мудрецов, 1981), and Red Kabbalah (Красная каббала, 1987).  Initially distributed among Soviet émigrés, copies of these books made their way into the Soviet Union before perestroika, after which they were eventually reprinted by right-wing Russian publishing houses (particularly, but not exclusively,  "Sovetskaia Kuban'" in Krasnodar).  In interviews (Mogutin) and elsewhere on his site, Klimov claims that the total print run of all his books is "more than 1,100,000 copies," an assertion that is impossible to verify. [1]  Moreover, Klimov repeatedly declared his willingness to have his books printed by anyone anywhere, foregoing copyright and royalties, and has made his texts freely available on the Internet. [2]   For Klimov, the most important thing was to get his message out; thus, in 1997, he not only granted an interview to gay journalist Yaroslav Mogutin for Mitin zhurnal, but even agreed to have the text of the interview reprinted on his website, despite Mogutin's thinly-veiled contempt for his subject and his insistence on faithfully transcribing all of Klimov's grammatical mistakes and misplaced accents ( [3] 

Klimov's depiction of the Harvard Project does have a basis in the culture of military/industrial think tanks funded by the US government in the 1950s, but from a vantage point that simultaneously distorts the results of this research while highlighting the improbable oddities that actually characterized US anti-communist psychological warfare.  When discussing the Harvard Project, Klimov often invokes the name of Nathan Leitis, a University of Chicago graduate who joined the Rand Corporation in 1949 after working as an adviser to the US government during World War II.  Leitis first made his mark at Rand with the 1951 publication of The Operational Code of the Politburo,  which Ron Robin describes as "the most conspicuous attempt to fuse psychoculture and elite studies during the early Cold War years" (131).  Leitis treated Communism as a "secular religion" (Leitis, The Operational Code xiv), and assumed that its leaders and adherents followed Marxist-Leninist Holy Writ without fail. His "operational code" (a quasi-semiotic elaboration of the rules and motivations that guided Bolshevik leaders) was a marvel of exegesis, teasing out decision-making patterns from numerous volumes of Communist theory and official pronouncements. 

In accepting a total identification between the official pronouncements of Soviet leaders and their actual behavior and motivations, however, he assumed a transparent consistency that reduced the Politburo to a largely one-dimensional body that always followed through on its own logic, however tortured.  He treated the Politburo as an essentially conspiratorial organization that plotted endlessly, with the result that the Soviet leaders resemble none other than the proverbial Elders of Zion, whose purported protocols strained credibility most when the gathered conspirators elaborated their plans and evil motivations so baldly. 

As his work evolved, however, Leitis began to posit a Bolshevik inner life, complete with subconscious motivations that could explain what he saw as the Soviet leaders' uncompromising fanaticism.  In 1955, Leitis threw Freud into the mix, suggesting that the "Bolshevik belief that they were surrounded by enemies with 'annihilatory designs' was a classical paranoid defense against latent homosexuality" (Leitis, "Panic"; Robin 133). 

Finally, we should recall Leitis' contribution to the discourse of "brainwashing."  The term was introduced to the general public in 1956 by the journalist Edward Hunter, in an exposé of Chinese "thought reform techniques" used as ideological coercion on prisoners of war (Brainwashing). [4]  However, it was Leitis who had provided the "scientific underpinnings for the brainwashing theory" two years before, in a Rand Corporation study entitled Ritual of Liquidation (1954) (Robin 167). In his examination of the self-incriminating confessions made by defendants during the Stalinist show trials, Leitis "implied that the act of embracing communism was in itself abnormal, most probably the result of a powerful strategy to overcome the mental defense mechanisms of normal human beings" (Robin 168).  In other words, Communism was a form of mind control.

Tomorrow: Attack of the Degenerate Gay Jews


[1] My copy of the 1997 Sovetskaia Kuban' edition of My Name is Legion is part of a "supplementary printing" of 1000 copies.

[2] Klimov's works could be found not only on his own site, but also on the largest Russian etext server, Maxim Moshkov's library (, as well as numerous sites offering e-books in formats more convenient for higher-end e-book reading software.

[3] Mogutin himself has been identified with xenophobic Russian nationalism in his writings about Zhirinovsky and the war in Chechnya (Essig 143-146; Gessen, Dead Again 185-198), but even for him, Klimov's theories were too extreme to be taken seriously.

[4] The brainwashing hypothesis would soon be adopted by the anti-cult movement, which alleged that non-traditional religious movements exert control over their members through psychologically complex techniques of indoctrination (Bromley & Richardson, " Introduction,"  The Brainwashing/Deprogramming Controversy,).  I have already discussed the ironic afterlife of this strange offshoot of the Cold War in post-Soviet Russia with the panic over "totalitarian sects" ("Suspending Disbelief" 453-455), and I will return to it in the chapter on “zombification."