SIGINT, Soviet Radio Reconnaissance

The Black Hole of SIGINT

Soviet SIGINT During World War 2

A lot of information has been written about Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) during World War 2.  Movies have been made and books written about the trials and tribulations of Bletchley Park and the British effort to conduct cryptologic analysis of the Enigma machine in order to support the war effort.  Lesser known but still acknowledged are the efforts that were made by Poland prior to the war in solving German Crypto and their efforts to defeat the Enigma machine.  The efforts of the United States, in particular in defeating the Japanese Purple and Red cryptologic ciphers are published and impact considered when reviewing the battles of the Pacific.  Yet nothing is mentioned concerning Soviet SIGINT during World War 2.  There has been virtually no leaks, little mention, and therefore no acknowledgement of the efforts made by the Soviet Union in breaking the communication means of their adversaries and allies.  This lack of writing, this absence in and of itself is interesting and worth exploration.

Given this complete lack of information, there are three explanations that should therefore be considered:

  1.  The Soviet Union did not partake in SIGINT;
  2.  The Soviet Union was unsuccessful in their SIGINT and do not want their failures published; or
  3. The Soviet Union were successful and consider SIGINT a matter of intelligence to be classified and protected for a period of greater then 50 years.

My view is that the first option should be dismissed out of hand.  While there is limited knowledge of the Soviet SIGINT activities, they do exist and prove efforts were made.  My personal knowledge and bias makes me believe that option 3 is the correct option.  In particular while studying Electrical Engineering the contributions of Russian mathematicians and physicist in the 20th Century were pronounced.  Cryptographic work is heavily based in math and cryptologist are often chess players.   I would therefore be surprised if the Soviet Union did not have a large, and successful SIGINT program during World War 2.

I would propose that the Soviet Union had a successful SIGINT program during World War 2.  In particular I would like to explore the possibility that the Soviet Union was successful in deciphering German codes and the Enigma machine. I know that I will never be able to prove Soviet success as only the declassification of Soviet records will definitively prove their success or failure.  However, I hope that through an examination of Soviet capabilities both prior to, during, and after the war a technical trend line can be developed.    Further, I hope that by studying Soviet actions during the war additional evidence can be gained to prove that they had succeeded in breaking German codes.  As I discover information I will post it to the blog, and I would gladly invite comments or collaboration in this endeavour.

I will end this post by thanking Geoffrey Jukes for all the work he has done on this theory to date.