861.04417/1–2948: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State


155. Official Journal Supreme Soviet, January 25, just received, [Page 799] gives text law regulating relations between Soviet and foreign institutions and their personnel (re A–9, January 31).

As anticipated new decree2 channels all Soviet-foreign intercourse through Ministry Foreign Affairs (MID) and in appropriate cases Ministry Foreign Trade. Soviet institutions and individuals not even permitted reply to written communications from foreigners. Oral approaches must be referred MID without discussion of question and every such approach must be reported to MID. Only exceptions these rules are following institutions “within limits their customary functions”: postal-telegraph; railroads; city, water, and air transport; customs; police notaries; house managements at foreigners’ quarters; fire brigades; emergency medical aid; service stations; savings banks; shops and kiosks including bookstores and restaurants; public utilities; entertainment establishments; museums; exhibits; and information bureaus. Relations with foreign consular representatives are to be regulated by MID on basis laws and international agreements of USSR, and those with military and naval attachés by Council of Ministers on recommendation MID and Ministry Armed Forces.

Decree also repeals earlier law on same subject, whose existence Embassy had long suspected but never identified. [The law was regulation No. 426 of August 27, 1926, of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars.] Text new decree very similar to old but varies in small but highly significant phraseology. Two changes are fundamental, first in subject matter and second in Soviet institutions covered by decree:

While original decree prohibited contact only on “political and state-economic matters,” new decree has dropped this restricting phrase, thus expanding scope of law to include every type of Soviet-foreign contact.
Elimination of words “cultural”, “scientific and educational institutions,” and “et cetera” from list of exceptions has effect of adding all types of cultural, scientific, and educational institutions (e.g., Lenin Library and Academy of Sciences) to those which cannot deal directly with foreigners.

In short, new decree is very important measure aimed at raising even higher already near-impregnable barrier between Soviet citizens and foreigners in USSR. It is undoubtedly inspired by the innate xenophobia of Soviet regime and its Stalinist ideology and by deep-seated inferiority complex of ruling class. Taken in conjunction with other recent steps … decree presents irrefutable official confirmation of fundamental hostility of Soviet Government toward foreign missions [Page 800] in USSR and its intention to make their work as unproductive as possible.

Embassy believes good propaganda possibilities for VOA in this new decree. As tentative proposal subject greater development in Washington, suggest contrasting Soviet approach to foreign relations with current practices of civilized nations and emphasizing danger to world peace in system which regards all foreigners as enemies and potential spies. Emphasize particularly cultural relations prohibited.

Text both new and old decrees will be sent by pouch.

  1. Not printed.
  2. This decree on the restricted handling of foreign contacts in the Soviet Union was dated December 16, 1947.