US Fiction: Debunking Soviet Sleep Experiments


After the successful conclusion of WWII, the United States and the UK embarked upon an extensive and intensive anti-Soviet campaign of disinformation that lasted in its original Cold War form up until the collapse of the USSR in 1991, and which continues today in modified form, as Western anti-Russian racism. In this battle for hearts and minds, the capitalist West was determined to undermine the power of Socialism and Communism in the mind’s of its own workers, and to do this, the Soviet System had to be presented as a thoroughly corrupt an demonic regime that promised freedom, but which delivered only despotism and slavery. In effect, this was an exercise in the imaginative re-inventing of the Soviet Union entirely through the dark-side of the Western psyche, and in so doing, imbuing the USSR with every odious attribute usually associated with Hitler’s Nazi Germany. In this mission of misrepresentation, historical facts, along with logic and reason, were not allowed to get in the way, and certainly not allowed to form a ‘barrier’ to this process of system denigration. Once the demonic nature of the US’s former wartime ally was established, then the flood-gates of imagination were opened, guided by the idea that the more ludicrous the allegations, the more effective the anti-Soviet propaganda would be in the minds of the poorly educated US workforce. One such story that has oddly gained more currency after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, is that entitled ‘Soviet Sleep Experiments’. The above photograph is often associated with this story, but I am told that it features US soldiers engaged in testing experimental gas-masks.The two men on the left of the picture are wearing US-style military insignia denoting a ‘corporal’ (two stripes) and a ‘sergeant’ (three stripes). In typical US-style, the echelons point upwards, etc. This (black and white) photograph may be related to WWI, or shortly after, and has nothing to do with the Soviet Union, the Soviet military, or Soviet convicted criminals. Despite the Soviet Records being open for scrutiny, there exists no Russian language files recording any Soviet attempt at sleep experiments, but it does note that in 1964, it was Stanford University in the US that carried sleep-deprivation tests. In fact, both Western and Russian academic sources record that sleep-deprivation tests were carried-out in the West, but that apart from dizziness, memory loss and fatigue, the abhorrent results (allegedly created by the Soviets) did not occur at all. The mythological ‘Soviet Sleep Experiment’ is encapsulated as follows, and it is important to note (as stated in the referenced Russian language sources) that its narrative reads like a Stephen King horror novel. The accompanying photograph is obviously photo-shopped, possibly made-up, and may involve a distorted image of a burns victim, or perhaps a disabled person – whatever the case, it is out of context as is the above image already discussed:


Scientific experiments regarding sleep, and sleep deprivation are well-known and happened exclusively in the capitalist West. Most, it not all of the research is open to public scrutiny, and easily accessible on the internet. As mentioned, Stanford University conducted sleep experiments in 1964. This is associated (in Russian language sources) with the case of Randy Gardner who went without sleep for 11 days. He experienced no undue symptoms other than fatigue, dizziness and occasional memory lose and muddled thinking – but when he finally went to sleep, he slept for 14 straight hours and awoke fully refreshed. Another case involved one Morin Weston of Cambridgeshire in the UK, who in 1977 is recorded as going without sleep for 18 days and 17 hours (far longer than the supposed Soviet sleep experiment). She sat in a rocking chair for the duration, and did not suffer any severe symptoms or side-effects, and certainly did react with any form of self-harm. Whilst Western governments mislead their own citizens about the Soviet Union, Western science confirms that sleep-deprivation in now way creates the horrific conditions that Cold War anti-Soviet propaganda claimed that it did. Of course, a Russian colleague of mine thinks that this story might well be a modern invention designed to denigrate the reputation of contemporary Russia by referring to an alleged corrupt Soviet past. The point is that the imagined Soviet sleep experiments are nothing but an unscientific and ahistorical myth, designed to keep a poorly educated Western workforce in a state of fear and opposition against the very Socialist ideology that would free it from the only real horror – namely that generated by an oppressive capitalist system.



Russian Language Sources:


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