Peter and the Soviet university

Early in Peter’s FBI file was a letter that he wrote to his parents (at least it seems to be to his parents), which someone had turned over to the FBI as evidence that Peter was a dangerous radical who needed to be investigated. (My strong impression from various bits of unredacted info in the FBI file is that it was specifically Peter’s father who called in the FBI.) I don’t have the original probably-handwritten letter, but here’s the FBI’s transcription of it.

A few preliminary notes:

  • In the below, the word “[REDACTED]” is a standin for the blank white redaction boxes the FBI used.
  • I’m guessing that the first redacted word was something like “folks,” and the second was something like “Pop.”
  • I mostly kept the FBI’s formatting, including hyphenation, but presumably they didn’t try to closely duplicate the original letter’s formatting, except at the end.
  • The typos and misspellings were almost certainly introduced by the FBI; it wouldn’t have been like Peter to make those kinds of mistakes.
  • The early paragraphs about Peter’s friend aren’t especially relevant; it’s the rest of the letter that made me want to post this.
  • Peter was twenty years old when he wrote this. He had already flunked out of CalTech for drinking too much; he was living in Seattle (his parents were living in Ellensburg), but I’m not sure what he was doing at that point. He hadn’t yet gone to Mexico.
  • This isn’t the ten-page letter I mentioned in my first entry about the FBI file; that’s still to come in a future installment. This is the letter before that one.
  • Thanks to Kathleen for scanning this document.

Here’s the letter:

          This source furnished the following letters
which were received by the source from the subject during
the Spring of 1960:


     Sorry I didn't make it down to the Y the
next morning,[REDACTED]- I fell asleep.  Got the
suitcase & briefcase though - briefcase is ex-
tremely useful.
     Kind of bad thing happened which you
may have read in papers - [REDACTED] who
alternates shifts with me, was drinking two
or three glasses of beer the other night, and,
perhaps in part because of his recent split-up
with girl-friend, apparently went temporarily
berserk - stole taxi-cab, led police on 70-mph
chase through U.-district, rolled the cab, re-
sulting in totalling out of both patrol-car
and cab.
     He is in jail now, after having gotten
off active (reporting) parole only 1 month
ago (from burglary & term at Monroe - age 18).
Everyone is really sick about the whole thing -
he had been going so straight, doing so well;
hadn't missed a day of work, went to school
last quarter, was reading a lot, et al.
     Since I went to hear [REDACTED] I
have begun to take a real and increasing interest
in politics - am currently entering into Seattle
Young Socialist Club activities with much satis-
faction, anticipation.  Passed out leaflets
advertising rally tonight, attended rally, am
participating for next four weekends in protest
picketings of Woolworth's in connection with
segregated lunch-counters in South.
     Which subject laterally introduces main
topic of letter, namely, the Friendship Univer-
     You see, I have been receiving for about
a month, gratis, in order to get propaganda
slanted the other way than the American press,
the 'Soviet News Bulletin' from the Soviet em-
bassy in Toronto, Canada.  (By comparing this
and Hearst and taking an average, I believe I
come out somewhere in the vicinity of what
actually happens).
     At any rate, a recent issue introduced
me to the 'Friendship University'.  The main
fields of study are mathematico-physico-scienti-
fix realms, and politico-economic-philosophical
areas.  Students are accepted regardless of race,
nationality, citizenship, religion - i.e. anybody
     1.  is a junior or better in high
     school, in which case he goes to a
     secondary school for 2 years in Moscow,
     and then to the University for four
     years (U. is in Moscow).
     2.  has a high-school diploma, but no
     knowledge of Russian, in which case he
     goes to secondary school 1 year &
     U. 4 years. (me)
     3.  has high-school diploma and adequate
     knowledge of Russian, in which case
     he goes to the U. 4 years.

Now, the next things are:
     1.  they pay your way over and back (ha-ha)
     & pay your room, board, tuition, fees,
     books, and medical expenses while at-
     tending schools,
     2.  Russian mathematics occupies quite
     emminent position in academic ratings
     at present - i.e., about 1/2 of all math
     being published today is publ. in Russian,
     they are supposed to be 12 years ahead
     of us in linear partial differential
     equations, etc., etc.  Thus I think
     I could gain a mathematical education
     without equal anywhere else in world.
     3.  I have read so much Dostoiavsky,
     Gogal, Lermoutov, Tolsto: et al., that
     I would really like to read them in
     the original language; and, I am
     extremely desirous of examining at
     first hand the present day culture of
     4.  Travel is br-r-roadening; I would
     learn fluent, modern, idiomatic Russian;
     Eurasian colleges are (I believe)
     much better in general than American;
     I would get to actually see and live in
     this bugbear (bugaboo? bughear? bete
     noir?) economic-political system of
     Communism; actually see what the people
     are like; make fast friendships with a
     few of the students probably.......and
     on, and on, (I invite comment on 'Friend-
     ship U.')

So, I am anyways going to apply for admittance
to these schools (which are brand-new, just
starting this Sept.), though I doubt that I would
stand much of a chance, since my competition will
be world-wide.  But, oh well, it won't hurt to
try. A A Ay Ay Ah!?  fantastic idea - [REDACTED] ought
to apply too - take the whole family - live off
royalties from magazine articles - 'The Difficulties
of Raising American Children in Russia..' ech. oh,

So anyway, how's everything in E-burg?  Hope you
aren't patronizing Woolworth's or Kress',
just kidding - the only values these protest rallys
have are
     1.  symbolic (in number of senses)
     2.  a large-scale boycott can sometimes
          convince a manager that his prejudices
          are too expensive.

     Ah, I've shot off mouth enough for one letter
- write when anybody gets time - sorry to've missed
sending you birthday present,[REDACTED]: will make it
up to you.

See-what-I-told-you-dept. - I forgot to send in
income-tax --- never did find or get W2-forms
from Boeing, have forms for $25 from U. math
                    WHAT SHALL I DO?

                               E       have commenced
PS.  Oh, yeah -                 L      over-ambitious
I certainly hope that my         P     study-program for
newly-burgeoning political        !    self, really
interests (or rather                   reading a lot,
their socialistic tendencies)          both lit. & math.
are not disturbing to you - -
if so, I just become more
I guess -

                             [REDACTED]         never wrote
PPS:  current debts          should arrive      to Merit
                             any time

I owe               people owe me
$20? Tall's          $3.60 )
$??? Parents         $6.00 )  _________(illegible)
$1.45 friend         $4.60 )
$2.60 - "            $(illegible) total     great, huh?

2 Responses to “Peter and the Soviet university”

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