Thursday, October 22, 2009

LIFE archives: The Oswald Russian Diary

oswald2 Google Book's decision to publish the archives of LIFE magazines continues to provide treasures to all those interested in modern history. Case in point, the July 10, 1964 issue (linked in cover photo) contains a fascinating article of the Russian diary of Lee Harvey Oswald. The handwritten  dyslexic journal was provided to LIFE by his widow, Marina, and allows an interesting insight into the mind of one of the world's most notorious assassins.

For example, Oswald gives a second-by-second recreation of his decision to reject his American citizenship on October 3, 1959 at the US embassy. Richard Snyder, the head consul in Moscow at the time met with Oswald personally and told him he was "a fool" for dissolving his American citizenship and, in an effort to delay any action, informed Oswald that the process would take some time. Oswald was adamant however, and insisted that Snyder take him seriously. Finally, Snyder tells him, "unless you wish to expound on your Marxist beliefs, you can go." 

It is interesting to cross-reference the diary with testimony from the Warren Commission hearings, Snyder himself was called to testify about that meeting. Here is are two excerpts:

SNYDER: As to his general appearance, I do recall that he was neatly and very presentably dressed. I couldn't say offhand whether he was dressed in a suit and shirt, though I think probably he was. At any rate, he presented a nice physical appearance.
I presume that he was well shaven. Otherwise, I would not have had this feeling about him--that he, in general, was competent looking.

He was extremely sure of himself. He seemed to know what his mission was. He took charge, in a sense, of the conversation right from the beginning. He told me in effect that he was there to give up his American citizenship. I believe he put his passport on my desk, but I am not sure. I may have asked for it. In general, his attitude was quite arrogant….

SNYDER: He told me, among other things, that he had come to the Soviet Union to live, that he did not intend to go back to the United States, that this was a well thought out idea on his part. He said, again in effect, "Don't bother wasting my time asking me questions or trying to talk me out of my position."
He said, "I am well aware" either he said, "I am well aware" or "I have been told exactly the kind of thing you will ask me, and I am not interested, so let's get down to business"--words to that effect.
Well, he was a very cocksure young man at that time.  I am not sure that he sat at all throughout the interview, but certainly in the early part of it he did not.  I asked him--I recall asking him to take a seat, and he said, no, he wanted to stand. He may have relented later on.

The Soviets themselves seem perplexed by Oswald and treat him with some degree of suspicion, posting him in Minsk with very limited movement inside the country.

According to the journal, it wasn't long before Oswald realizes Oswaldthat Soviet Union was not what he had expected it to be. Disillusioned with his new life, the drab surroundings and compulsory Communist lectures, Oswald has already had enough by the first of 1961 and petitions to return to the USA with his new wife.

All in all, the Oswald Russian diary is an interesting footnote to the history of the mid 20th century. If you are interested in reading the article it can be found at:

Once again, I would like to thank Google Books and Life Magazine  for allowing all of us to read once again the record of our past.


  1. nice photos! Very beautiful place to visit! Keep going!

  2. Interesting subject. I think it remains as great a mystery as it was all those years ago. Decided it should be worth buying to read about Oswald's time and determined dream of high destiny in Russia. I'll order via Amazon after this comment, thank so much Joe:)

    Between, I appreciate your kind notes recently. A few things I would like to pass you..

    Yes, for sure you should find red berries there. Pls search it in your local bazaars. Try to spell its turkish names like 'davulga' or 'yaban dağçileği' when asking.

    Besides as fruit, you can also try red berries topped with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon. I tried this way, so delicious, simple and fresh you'll want it every day of the week:)

    And, lets come to those songs... Important detail to pick a good wed song. If I were, I'd pick 'My Wish Came True' from Elvis but they didn't ask me, lol:)

    When I think of his song you said, I can't stop being curious: hope their was a happiness wed, but not unwilling wed. By the way, we brought the bride from Izmir, a city famous with its beautiful girls as you may know. Both works in banking sector, residing in Karşıyaka.

    Wish you a nice weekend & looking forward to read your new posts~


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