The documents detail conversations an agent had with Soviet scientists and a student about the USSR's interest in developing ESP. Guided by these second hand accounts, it sounds like the Soviet Union's plans of developing telepathy went as well as America's well-documented efforts. "At the moment, he does not have a clear detailed language program for this," one report said. "Rather, he has an overall goal for the future of finding out about ESP generally."
The documents come courtesy of a Freedom of Information Act via the transparency site the Government Attic. They're three reports to the CIA about conversations an agent had with a Soviet cybernetics researcher and a visiting foreign exchange student.
There's not much surprising here, at least not for anyone who already has a passing familiarity with things like Project MK-Ultra. But if you love weird old wannabe sci-fi history, then there's plenty to chew on, like this:
Another project that he was only able to describe in hearsay (it was going on in Kiev) was "tapping" messages from the central nervous system by placing electrodes on the skin of the forearm; and, conversely, "introducing" messages into the central nervous system at the same point. Signals could be recorded, he said, from the arm of a skilled pianist while he was playing. Then this recording could be played into the arm of another person who could not play the piano well. That person would then be enabled to play difficult music — but also would retain some of this skill as permanent learning.
Obviously this didn't go anywhere, but it's a neat idea.
There's also this hilarious gem:
I [the CIA agent] asked Kerinov [his Soviet contact] how ESP could be reconciled with Marxist materialism and he said that this was the problem facing Vasilyev — to show what comprises these "thought waves" or whatever they are. […] Although I teased Kerinov quite a bit about ESP and its relation to materialism, he remained unperturbed. He obviously harbors very little skepticism about it.
I'm not entirely sure why ESP could not be reconciled with Marxism; I suppose, in a very overly-simplified Cold War propaganda sense, the idea of individuals being gifted with an ability to hear or share thoughts of other individuals is in conflict with the more community-based Communist mindset? Either way, I'm entertained by the CIA agent's smug certainty that obviously those two things were in conflict.
CIA Document Claims Soviet Union Was Developing Cybernetic Telepathy [Matthew Gault / Motherboard]
Image: Aleksey Parygin / Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)