Soviet Union: Trouble on the Party Line

The switchboard breaks down, and rumors fly

The Moscow Olympic Games produced an unexpected benefit for human rights activists: international direct-dial telephone lines that vastly increased the flow of unauthorized information in and out of the Soviet Union. Installed for the benefit of the thousands of journalists, athletes and spectators who flocked to Moscow in July 1980, the sophisticated French-built electronic switchboard enabled Soviet citizens to keep in closer touch with friends and family members in Western Europe and the U.S.

No longer. After reducing the number of direct-dial lines available for...

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