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To Combat Leaks, Russia Brings Back The Typewriter

Russian officials look to Cold War technology to shield national secrets from espionage.

To Combat Leaks, Russia Brings Back The Typewriter

There’s a nostalgia for the Cold War that’s been heating up in the years following the latest world economic downturn and renewed threats of nuclear armament (this time, via Iran and North Korea). Deluded U.S. politicians still invoke the West/East rivalry, while Americans are fascinated by The Americans, the FX show where the “bad” guys are pretending to be the “good” ones. In mother Russia, half of erstwhile Soviets miss the good old days under Communism, though that number is shrinking, polls suggest.

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Edward Snowden’s revelations about the U.S.’s mass surveillance program, not to mention his awkward limbo in Sheremetyevo Airport, have reignited age-old tensions and allegiances. According to recent reports, it has revived forms of vintage technology as well.


Russia’s Federal Guard Service (FSO) has ordered the purchase and use of typewriters for official state correspondence, reports The Telegraph. FSO sources cite the administrative decision to shun 21st-century technologies for electronic typewriters as a precautionary move to better defend Russia’s greatest secrets from prying eyes and ears. Following the disclosures of Snowden and, earlier, Wikileaks, “it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents,” a FSO contact told the Russian daily paper, Izvestiya.

The FSO has budgeted nearly 500,000 rubles (close to $15,000) for the acquisition of 20 German-made Triumph Adlew Twen 180 electronic typewriters. According to Izvestiya‘s federal source, confidential memos and exchanges between the defense minister and the supreme commander-in-chief, Vladimir Putin, have always been relayed by paper.

Although paper documents are vulnerable to seizure, copying, or fire, those threats are nothing compared to the widespread, global damages the Internet and online databases can do. Expect an upshot in typewriter sales this week and ads in the margins of your Facebook newsfeed. “Typewriters, no longer just for aspiring writers or performative hipster props. Protect your secrets now!”

[Image: Selectric via Wikipedia, Russain typewriter via Wikipedia]

About the author

Sammy is a writer, designer, and ice cream maker based in New York. He once lived in China before being an editor at Architizer.

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