Saturday, December 7, 2013

                                      An Early Prescient Critical Researcher--Thomas G. Buchanan

                                                                      John Delane Williams

Reading Talbot’s Brothers [1] brought my attention to an early JFK researcher, Thomas G. Buchanan, who was prescient regarding both the Warren Report and issues related to the assassination. The American edition of his book, Who Killed Kennedy [2], was published in May 1964, five months before the Warren Report was published. Moreover, much of the book was filed with the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, at  the request of a staff member of that commission, Howard P. Willens. The book was first published in several different languages and widely available in Europe. Buchanan had attended both Yale and George Washington University. He was a veteran of World War II, and had been a journalist in the U.S. until caught up in the McCarthy witch hunts in the 1950’s; he had a previous involvement with communists in the U.S. [3] He moved to France and continued being a political correspondent for several magazines in Europe and Asia. He became interested in the assassination of President Kennedy, and began writing articles about the assassination early on. The book, Who Killed Kennedy, grew out of these early articles.


A Review of Prior Presidential Assassinations


Who Killed Kennedy had one curious feature: it is one continuous text without chapters. It also contains no index. Buchanan addressed the idea that, like other American assassins, Oswald was a lone person without co-conspirators. The three previous presidential assassinations were reviewed. Though John Wilkes Booth was the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, he was part of a conspiracy that included several other persons. Two other persons were to be assassinated at exactly the same time: Secretary of State William H. Seward was to be assassinated by Lewis Thornton Powell, and Vice President Andrew Johnson was to be assassinated by George Atzerodt.  Though the latter two failed in their objective, they and Mary Surratt, a tavern owner, in whose tavern the plans were made, were all executed. Booth had been killed earlier, trying to return to the South. Three more conspirators were given life sentences. One conspirator turned state’s evidence and went unpunished, and Mary Surratt’s son, John, escaped to Canada. This group was in turn just one of several cells financed by the Confederacy to assassinate Lincoln and other figures in his government. The conspiracy led all the way to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederated States of America. Clearly Booth did not act alone.


James A. Garfield was the second American President to be assassinated. His assassin was Charles J. Guiteau, a 39 year old Republican of the Stalwart faction. Garfield overcame the Stalwarts efforts and received the Republican nomination on his way to winning the presidency. The only Stalwart in his choosing persons for positions in his administration was his Vice president, Chester A. Arthur. Guiteau and several of his Stalwart compatriots were left out of the mix. Buchanan argued that Guiteau reasoned that were he to kill Garfield, that the new President Arthur would replace Garfield’s choices with Stalwart Republicans. Guiteau would soon recognize that the public favor would turn against them, given Guiteau’s admission that the act was committed on behalf of the Stalwarts. Though his lawyer would attempt an insanity plea, Guiteau would be found guilty and executed.


Leon Czolgosz was a 28 year old American born son of Polish immigrants. He had worked as a laborer and had been attracted to anarchist writings, presumably due to President William
McKinley’s actions regarding big business. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed in 1890 to protect small businesses from the monopolies. McKinley came to office in 1896, and in the 5 ½ years of his presidency, no prosecutions were begun under the law, despite there being several multi-million dollar trusts established in defiance of the legislation. Czolgosz shot McKinley twice; McKinley died 8 days later. When questioned about his motive, Czolgosz quietly replied, “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.” [4] After an eight hour trial and a 34 minute jury deliberation, Czolgosz was convicted and subsequently executed.


Buchanan reviewed these assassinations to refute the idea that, “All Presidents of the United States to date who fell to an assassin’s bullet were the victims of deranged men who had no accomplices and no political motive.” [5] Buchanan seemed to accomplish this objective.
Buchanan argues that, “…whoever killed the President in Dallas could not possibly have acted from sudden impulse. All the evidence points to a thorough scientific planning of the crime.  Nor does it seem conceivable that an assassin temporarily deranged by sudden passion could, immediately after, at the culmination of his frenzy, stand and drink a Coca-Cola. Certainly the President was not the victim of sudden passion.” [6] 

On Insanity

Buchanan stated:

      For the only time a prosecutor says that the defendant was insane is when he is trying
      to convict a dead man. Such convictions can only be useful when they shield the living.
      “And an investigating agency declares that it can find no motive for the President’s
      assassination but the murderer’s insanity, it does not mean that no motive can be
      found. It only means, perhaps, that the investigation was a failure.” [7]

Buchanan’s digression on insanity addresses the attempt by the President’s Commission having tried to pass off Oswald’s motive as insanity. Buchanan addressed what was then known about Oswald and his actions and behaviors and concludes that Oswald was not insane; later in the book he concludes that Oswald was not the assassin.  

The Presidential Motorcade

District Attorney Henry Wade announced on November 24 that evidence had been found that proved the crime was premeditated. A map was found in Oswald’s rented apartment. The map was said to be of possible locations for the murder of the President. One location was the book depository, which not only was marked, but had a line indicating the trajectory of the bullet. Instead, it was a map of potential places to work—and he did get a job at the book depository. Since Oswald accepted the job and reported to work on October 14, and since a final choice for the motorcade route was not made until November 15, his accepting the job more than a month earlier on what would be  the actual motorcade route could not possibly be conceived as premeditation.


When the first shot rang out on November 22, 1963, several observers discerned that it came from in front, possibly in the direction of the railroad bridge on the underpass. Policeman Seymour Weitzman identified the shot coming from that direction and started running  toward the railroad bridge, until he was told to go to the Depository. Mary Woodward, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News reported the shot came from the direction of the bridge. Charles Drehm [Brehm?] thought the shot came from in front of Kennedy. [8] The reaction of the limousine driver William Green could be explained by a shot from the front. Were he to have perceived that the shot came from the front, he wouldn’t want to drive in that direction for additional shots. But with a shot from the rear coming next, he would push down on the accelerator to get the President out of the firing zone.  


A man and a woman were reported running on the railroad bridge over the underpass directly after the shootings. They were chased by a motorcycle policeman who was thwarted by a wire fence. [9] Wade said on November 23 that preliminary reports indicated that more than one person was involved in the shooting. [10] Buchanan would eventually posit that the first shot did indeed come from a shooter on the railroad bridge.


Four different interpretations of the shootings in Dealey Plaza were given through time by the President’s Commission. New information kept destroying earlier interpretations. Their final interpretation was that exactly three shots were fired, all by Lee Harvey Oswald, with one shot missing, and one shot, “the magic bullet” following an impossible route, doing considerable damage to both President Kennedy and Governor Connally, yet emerged in pristine condition, committed by a shooter who was a poor marksman, and who could not possibly perform beyond world class marksmen ( who could not replicate the feat attributed to Oswald), further restricted by an inadequate weapon. The interpretation also required dismissing the testimony of both Governor Connally and his wife that Conally and Kennedy were hit by separate bullets. The further likelihood is that Oswald was either in the lunchroom or on his way there at the time of the shootings.   


Prints on the Mannlicher-Carcano


The President’s Commission claimed that they had scientific evidence that Oswald fired the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, the imputed murder weapon. As it happens, the only evidence they had of Oswald having touched the weapon was a palmprint on the underside of the barrel, indicating that Oswald had handled the Mannlicher-Carcano when it was disassembled. One could conjecture that Oswald might have readied the rifle for the actual shooter. This conjecture would have been unacceptable, because it would imply a conspiracy. The efforts of the commission were to establish an Oswald working alone. The rifle did have several fingerprints, one of which was unidentified, but none of them belonged to Oswald.  With Oswald’s fingerprints on many of the nearby boxes, but not on the rifle, it was unlikely that Oswald was wearing gloves. He had nitrate on his hands, but not on his cheek. This would seem to preclude Oswald having recently shot the rifle. The one unidentified print on the rifle was finally identified in 1998. It belonged to Mac Wallace. [11]. Wallace was a known henchman for the new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson. That finding, were it to have made known at the same time as the other prints on the Mannlicher-Carcano would have brought suspicion to Johnson into focus regarding the conspiracies surrounding the assassination. [12] Were this information available at the time of the assassination, Johnson’s presidency could have been very brief. The course of American politics would have undoubtedly been considerably altered.


Buchanan’s Take on the Shootings in Dealey Plaza


The first shot came from in front, probably from the railroad bridge. Buchanan based this conclusion from the descriptions of the wounds by the Dallas physicians who attended the President at the Parkland Hospital, together with the observations of witnesses who saw a man and a woman scrambling on a walk on the railroad bridge. The shooter likely went either toward the parking area to enter an automobile, or continued to a freight warehouse. He could have run through the building and emerged on Houston Street, where he could have then entered the Dallas Morning News Building. Buchanan speculated that the first assassin could have been Jack Ruby. Ruby was seen at the newspaper at 12:20 PM when most of employees cleared the building. When they returned at 12:45, Ruby was there at that time also. The second shooter was in the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Buchanan conjectured that Oswald was in some way an accomplice to the second shooter. Perhaps Oswald’s role was to bring the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle for use in the shooting.


Was it a Mauser or a Mannlicher-Carcano? Or both?


Seymour Weitzman, the police officer credited with finding the rifle in the book depository, gave a detailed description of it. “This rifle was a 7.65 Mauser with a bolt action equipped with a 4/18 scope, a thick leather brownish-black sling on it. The rifle was between some boxes near the stairway. The time the rifle was found was 1:22 P.M. Captain Fritz took charge of the rifle and ejected one live round from the chamber.” [13] This statement came from Weitzman’s signed report on November 23, 1963. There seems to be no room for doubt that the rifle found WAS a Mauser. Later, the rifle said to have killed President Kennedy was a Mannlicher- Carcano. Buchanan handles this seeming inconsistency thusly:


     The authorities in Dallas have informed us solemnly that Kennedy was murdered by
     a Mauser. The men who made this first statement were all competent to practice
    their profession. I believe them. They informed us later that the President was killed
    by a Carcano. I believe that, also. I am forced to the conclusion that there were two
    weapons. I deduce that there were two assassins. [14]


It is possible that two different policemen could have found rifles and brought them back to the police station, one of which was the Mannlicher-Carcano. When it was determined that Oswald owned a Mannlicher-Carcano, this became the only weapon of the necessarily (to avoid the concept of conspiracy) lone gunman.


The Shooting of J.D. Tippet


Buchanan’s take on the J.D. Tippet shooting was that Tippet called Oswald to the squad car. Tippet’s presumed assignment was to badger Oswald into pulling his gun. When that occurred, Tippet was to draw his gun and eliminate Oswald; presumably Oswald could identify some of the co-conspirators. Buchanan took the positive test for nitrates as proof Oswald had recently fired a gun. It would also be proof that Oswald had handled some cardboard boxes that morning. There are alternative explanations to the Tippet incident. One of them would be that an Oswald impersonator played his role, but outdrew Officer Tippet. And of course, Buchanan may have been correct. However, I would be inclined to think that Oswald would not have stayed in the movie theater as long as he did if he had just shot a police officer.


Did Oswald and Ruby know each other?


With the information available to Buchanan in 1964, he surmised that the answer was yes. This interpretation is based on the F.B.I. report that Bill de Mar, a ventriloquist who was performing at Ruby’s nightclub (The Carousel), saw the two men talking at the club eight or nine days before the assassination. The President’s Commission (The Warren Commission) did not want the water muddied with such assertions. That they knew each other puts Oswald’s murder in a new light. The unmistakable interpretation is that Ruby killed Oswald to keep him quiet. And with Ruby’s seeming friends in the police department, Ruby’s ease at entering the police station as Oswald was being led past the reporters was suspicious. Recall also that Ruby attended the Friday night press conference and corrected the speaker about the name of the group that Oswald had been distributing pamphlets for in New Orleans (Fair Play for Cuba). “(C)omplicity of the police  with Ruby seemed so evident to people of all countries, all political opinions, outside the United States that any possibility that the official explanation of the President’s assassination might have been accepted was, thereafter, shattered.”     [15]


Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?


Buchanan concludes that: “Oswald was not at this time [in Dallas] what he professed to be-a Marxist- and there is good reason to suppose he never was.” [16] But to profess to be a Marxist in Dallas, he was a brave man and “a most imprudent man unless he had somebody to protect him. And in all the cities in the state of Texas the last place a radical would go, looking for a job, was Dallas,  unless he already had a job.” [17] When Oswald went to a stenographer in Fort Worth, Pauline Bates, to type his manuscript on Russia, he strongly hinted that he was a kind of freelance spy. He was without government assistance, but with government approval. [18]


Buchanan did not see Oswald as the person depicted by the Warren Commission, a crazed loner. Clearly Oswald also had to have income other than that indicated in his official tax information. The implication is that one or more government agencies [perhaps the FBI or CIA] had ways of getting money to him. How else could he undertake a trip to Mexico? If Oswald did kill Officer Tippet, it was a kill or be killed situation.



A Possible Substitute Patsy at the Schoolbook Depository


As difficult as it would seem to be employed in a job and be a radical in Dallas, as it turns out there was yet another radical employed at the Texas Schoolbook Depository. They were both brought to police headquarters and questioned on November 22nd, 1963. The other radical employed at the Schoolbook Depository was a bookkeeper there. His home was searched, and he was questioned for six or seven hours. If Oswald were not targeted to take the blame, an effective substitute was available. [19]


Who was Behind the Assassination?


Buchanan builds a case, not for specific individuals, but rather for persons with certain characteristics within two industries in Dallas. Oilmen come to mind; they were aware that President Kennedy was in favor of reducing the oil depletion allowance (then 27½%) and perhaps eliminating it. This “gift” to the oil producers was very highly valued, and they loathed to lose it.  Oilmen, in their initiation into the oil “game”, are invariably gamblers. With a going rate of about 1 in 8 oil wells actually producing oil, many would give up the ghost early on. For those with deep pockets or some degree of luck, the payoff from oil, particularly the 27½% depletion allowance, would have paid handsome dividends. For these successful oilmen, oil ceases to be a gamble; their wells come in with sufficient success, particularly with the depletion allowance, that the gambling aspect is no longer present. Since the oilmen were more gamblers than businessmen, they might seek to express their gambling elsewhere. One such point of gambling was the attempt to make Dallas the center of the U.S. business and stock markets in the early 1960’s, which clearly was unsuccessful. [20]  


Oilmen’s major threat was the left wing politicians’ intent on reducing or eliminating the oil depletion allowance.  Kennedy supporters made a pledge to ‘“close the loopholes in the tax laws by which certain privileged groups legally escape their fair share of taxation.” The pledge said, “among the more conspicuous loopholes are depletion allowances, which are inequitable.”’ [21] With Kennedy pledging to remove the oil depletion allowance in his next term, he clearly was viewed as an enemy by oilmen.


A second group of Texas interests deemed to be at risk from Kennedy’s agenda was the persons in the defense industry. The Texas defense factories could be brought to a standstill by recent actions by President Kennedy.  Kennedy’s pursuit of détente with Nikita Khrushchev, if continued, would lead to disarmament both for nuclear weapons and the production of war materials. “I believe the murder of President Kennedy was provoked, primarily, by fear of the domestic and international consequences of the Moscow pact: the danger of disarmament which would disrupt the industries on which the plotters depended and of an international détente which would, in their view, have threatened the eventual nationalization of their oil investments overseas.” [22]


It was Buchanan’s view that the Dallas contingent was as opposed as any area of the country to rapprochement with Russia; no other area was more convinced that the United States could survive a nuclear war, and that we could go on and win the war, if we made the first strike, and it might be worth it. That assessment, is a gamblers view. “But in Dallas, we have one of the most powerful and wealthy oligarchies in the world—controlled, as no society ever has before—by men whose instincts are not those of businessmen, but of gamblers. I suggest the impact of this fact upon world history, in any country that possesses the atomic bomb, is terrifying.” [23]


‘If a man believes that, under some circumstances, it is worth the risk of ending life on this planet to achieve some national objective, he will hardly flinch at ending one life, if the chances are remote that he will be detected.” [24]


In the previous presidential assassinations, there were no denials of the act. After the fact, there were the explanations of the reasons. Such was not the case in the Kennedy assassination. No one has ever voiced responsibility, nor given their explanations.       


Since the assassination, various agencies have sought to hide their own guilt, claiming the act could not have been anticipated, since it was the act of a madman. These same agencies also claim Kennedy was partially to blame, for failing to take more precaution. Having failed to find the real conspirators, they claim the only accomplice was the President himself. Buchanan’s final words were, “We, the people, are the only watchmen Kennedy will ever have now. Let these watchmen, then, awaken.” [25]



1. Talbot, D. (2007). Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years. New York: Free Press.

2. Buchanan, T.G. (1964). Who Killed Kennedy? New York: Putnam.

3. Simkin, J. (2013).Thomas G. Buchanan.

4. Buchanan, p. 61.

5. Ibid., p. 66.

6. Ibid., p.73.

7. Ibid., p. 74.

8. Ibid., p. 64

9. Ibid., p. 85.

10. Ibid., p.86.

11. Brown, W. (1998a). TSBD Evidence Places LBJ “Hit Man” in “Sniper’s Nest”. JFK/Deep Politics              Quarterly, 3, No. 3, Extra; Brown, W. (1998b). The Sordid Story of Mac Wallace. JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, 3, No.4, 22-27.

12. Williams, J.D. (1998).LBJ and the Assassination Conspiracies. JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, 4, No.2, 25-28.

13, Buchanan, p. 118.

14. Ibid., p. 120.

15. Ibid., p. 150.

16. Ibid., p.155.

17. Ibid., p. 155.

18. Ibid., p.158.

19. Ibid., pp.174-175.

20. Ibid., pp. 184-187. Later, Buchanan claimed H.L. Hunt helped fund the assassination.

21. Ibid., p. 184.

22. Ibid., p. 187.

23. Ibid., p. 190.

24. Ibid., p. 190.

25. Ibid., p. 198.



Thursday, July 4, 2013

Did Oswald Speak Russian while Living in the Soviet Union?

                                             Did Oswald Speak in Russian while Living in the Soviet Union?

                                                               John Delane Williams and Ernst Titovets

Why Oswald, an alleged assassin of JFK, according to the expressed official view, and an innocent man, according to the overwhelming evidence supplied by independent researchers, is still relevant half a century after those tragic events in Dallas? Is it that, in defending Oswald, there is a public outcry against the deeds of those forces in power that stood behind the JFK assassination and picked out Oswald, a convenient scapegoat, to cover up their crime? The protesting voices carry an important message that the human rights of a man in the street should be respected so there could be no persons used, like Oswald was, in the future. The relevance of Oswald is further demonstrated by the hundreds of books that have appeared up to now concerning Oswald. Unfortunately, only a few of these books were written by persons who had firsthand information about Oswald; all too often others distort to various degrees the profile of the man.    

     The common sense answer to the question posed in the title of this article would be, “Of course”. He was known to be a reasonably proficient speaker of Russian. After his return from Russia, Oswald demonstrated his proficiency in Russian in his interactions in Dallas with the Russian community there; also, he must have spoken Russian to his wife Marina, who had only a simple knowledge of English. However, John Armstrong in his tome [1] where he hypothesizes two Oswalds, Lee Oswald and Harvey Oswald, that Lee Oswald never spoke Russian [2], and Harvey Oswald never spoke Russian during his 1959-1962 stay in the Soviet Union.[3] It is difficult to prove a negative, but Armstrong reasons from several known instances of Oswald not speaking Russian that he never spoke Russian in Russia: “Oswald had to be suspicious of everyone around him, including Marina and the Zigers, and would never have dared to speak Russian. In fact no one said he did, except Marina.” [4] The inference that can be drawn from this reasoning is that to speak Russian would have been dangerous for Oswald, perhaps inferring that he might have been sent to spy on Russia by an American intelligence agency; perhaps expulsion from the Soviet Union, or imprisonment might have been outcome from speaking Russian.


                                                                         Meeting Oswald


The publication of the book [5] by one of the author’s of this article would seem to call into question much of the reasoning by Armstrong. Though the book was completed in 2000, delays in publication were due to not finding a publisher; the book was published in 2010. Titovets was a Russian with a strong interest in the English language, and was cultivating his abilities to speak English. There were few native English speakers in Minsk (since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Minsk is in Belarus), where Titovets was a fourth year medical student when he was introduced to Lee Harvey Oswald in September, 1960.  Titovets was invited to the home of Alexander Ziger, an older worker at the radio factory where Oswald was also employed. The Zigers were immigrants from Argentina, who spoke both Spanish and Russian fluently. Among the Zigers, only Alexander spoke English; his English was with a heavy accent.  Titovets noted that (in September, 1960) Oswald’s Russian consisted mostly of a few stereotyped phrases and a very limited vocabulary. Oswald seemed tongue-tied trying to converse in Russian. It was as if he had to think in English, and then translate to Russian. [6]


Oswald was allowed to stay in an apartment near the radio factory where a job was found for him. It turns out that the Russians were trying to accommodate Oswald during his stay in Russia. While Oswald might have information that could be of use to Soviet Intelligence, other bureaucratic entities decided to allow Oswald to stay. Instead of trying to directly get classified information from Oswald, the KGB monitored his activities and bugged his apartment. The Soviets apparently didn’t want to have an international incident while Oswald was in the Soviet Union. Oswald had indicated he wanted to stay in the Soviet Union, and seek Soviet citizenship. [7] A Russian tutor was found for Oswald, given Oswald’s rudimentary skills in the language. Stanislav Shushkevich, a senior engineer at the radio factory, gave him lessons in Russian. The assignment was made by the Communist Party; thus, the assignment was taken seriously by Shushkevich. [8]


                                                                Getting Together


Oswald invited Titovets to his apartment on September 28, 1960. Neither knew very much about the other. Titovets had a strong interest in becoming closer to a native speaker of English; his training and exposure had been to British English both in class and on the BBC. He had only briefly had experience talking to a British student who had a short stay in Russia. Oswald, with his Southern American speech would be his longest exposure to a person who was a native speaker of English. Titovets tape recorded Oswald speaking English so that he could study more closely Oswald’s American English. [9] Oswald’s interest in Titovets was simpler; Titovets was a similar aged Russian who seemed, for whatever reason, to be genuinely interested in Oswald. Titovets began making assumptions about Oswald based on appearances and Oswald’s behavior. Oswald’s apartment was but poorly furnished and seemingly not what would be inhabited by a successful young professional. Oswald invited Titovets to the opera, and Oswald seemed to enjoy it, leading Titovets to presume Oswald was a more refined person. At the medical school, only a few of his classmates would go to the opera and actually enjoy it. It was Titovets observation that, “Lee would be a wary character when speaking his faltering Russian and a relaxed normal person when he spoke his native tongue.” [10]


                                              The Unfolding of Oswald’s Competency in Russian


As indicated, Oswald’s initial communication in Russian after he arrived in Russia was quite limited. This may have been at least slightly surprising to him, to be aware that he had chosen to move to a country that he was not able to communicate very well in their language, though his receptive Russian might have let him understand more than he could make himself understood. When Oswald’s fellow workers would tell a joke during work breaks, Oswald would often miss the punch lines due to his inadequate Russian. [11] On March 17, 1961, Oswald attended a lecture by Professor Lidia Cherkasova about her recent trip to the United States. Cherkasova’s son introduced his mother to Oswald. After the lecture, Oswald met Marina for the first time at a dance held after the lecture.  In Marina’s account of how she met Lee, she stated, “Sasha was with his friends from the Institute. One of the friends introduced me to Lee, calling him Alik…And Lee invited me to dance and we started to talk. I decided he was one from the Baltic countries, since he talked with an accent.” [12]


Oswald, according to Titovets, eventually succeeded in making considerable progress with his Russian. [13] Oswald would eventually write:

           I am totally proficient in speaking conversational Russian. I can read non-technical

           Russian text without difficulty and can to a less extent write in the Russian

           language. [14]

Titovets adds,

           By the time we met, his Russian was just adequate for the task he set before him.

          I would mention that it took him about twelve months in the Soviet Union to

           arrive at that level. It was another academic step that he set for himself to

           achieve and he accomplished it. A far as I’m aware, he did not attend any Russian

           language courses. It was all through self-education and practice combined with

           his natural aptitude for languages. [15]

    I sent an e-mail query to Titovets regarding the degree to which Oswald spoke Russian in the Soviet Union. [16] Titovets replied, “By the time I met Oswald he had stayed in Russia already close to 12 months and he did speak quite adequate Russian with a heavy American accent. He read Russian newspapers and journals. The two of us spoke exclusively in English but when in the company of Russian speakers Oswald made it a point that, as a matter of politeness, we all spoke Russian.” [17] When Titovets learned that Armstrong stated that Oswald spoke no Russian while in the Soviet Union, [18] he was amazed. Titovets stated, “It was a cause of genuine surprise on the part of my old friend Vyacheslav Stelmakh, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the Belorussian State University, who knew Oswald at the Radio Plant and was also friends with Oswald’s first love Ella Germann, when I told him a researcher in the States doubts the fact that Oswald spoke Russian. There are still many Russians here in Minsk who would confirm the fact.” [19]


Armstrong [20] stated “The KGB recorded numerous conversations within Oswald’s apartment from 1960 thru 1962. If any of the conversations had been in Russian the KGB would have noted the extent of his language ability in their reports and would have immediately suspected him of being a spy.” Armstrong is wrong on two counts. Oswald did use Russian while living in the Soviet Union. And, in that the Communist party provided a person to tutor Oswald in Russian, they would have expected him to use Russian in his daily activities. His using Russian would not have seemed to be a cause for alarm for the KGB if Oswald spoke Russian when his apartment was bugged. 


                                          Deciding to Come Back to the United States


Though we can’t know for sure when Oswald began thinking about coming back to the United States, we can pinpoint two incidents that more or less heralded his return. He had fallen in love with Ella Germann, a co-worker at the radio factory in Minsk. He proposed to her on January 2, 1961. She turned him down. [21] The decisive incident occurred just two days later. He routinely went to the Passport Office shortly before his residence permit was about to expire. He was given the option of applying for Soviet citizenship or getting another term for his residence permit. Oswald chose to simply extend his residence permit for another year, signaling that his intent to become a Soviet citizen may have ended. [22] Titovets noted there were several hints in Oswald’s behavior that showed an interest in returning to the United States. When at Titovets apartment, Oswald would listen intently to Voice of America; Oswald seemed starved for news from his homeland. [23] Titovets came up with idea that they should play army games, specifically to yell out the drill orders to the other person. It became clear that Oswald was proud of his service in the Marines, and he thought America’s armies were better. [24] The University of Michigan Band gave a concert in Minsk on March 12, 1961. After the concert, Oswald went to the stage to engage the Americans in conversation. It was clear that Oswald strongly wished to be among his countrymen. [25] Five days later, after Professor Lidia Cherkasova’s lecture about her trip to the United States, Oswald, along with several others, was invited to her apartment for a reception. Oswald wanted to find the news from home. [26] 


 Then too, there was Oswald’s disillusionment with the Soviet system. He would ask about the ridiculousness of the quota system, wherein each sector was encouraged to overproduce their commodities. How would the Soviets be able to utilize the surplus? Also by this time, Oswald was aware that his apartment had been bugged. [27]  


                                           Titovets’ Retrospective View of Oswald


After Oswald returned to the United States, he and Titovets wrote letters to one another. Oswald mentioned that he and Marina might be coming back to the Soviet Union. His last letter (August 30, 1963) mentioned that a second child was to be born in October. [28] As time went on after the assassinations of President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, Titovets tried to understand what Oswald was doing when he came to the Soviet Union. Titovets used the Warren Commission exhibits in his own search for Lee Harvey Oswald-Who was this interesting American English speaker who was my close friend while he was here in the Soviet Union? Why did he come? Why did he leave? Why was he planning to come back? Titovets wrestled with these and other thoughts regarding Oswald both before and during the writing of Oswald: Russian Episode. What Titovets came to understand was that Oswald was a self educated person who was interested in political sociology. Perhaps he came to Russia to live permanently, or perhaps he was tentative in this decision, or perhaps his decisions were framed through his learning process. He was definitely a student of the Soviet system, as he was a student of the American system. Oswald began to look at the two systems and try to take the better things from both systems, while discarding some aspects of both systems. These ideas were brought to fruition in Oswald’s writing The Athenian System. [29]       


Titovets stated, “Summing up my research into Oswald’s life in Russia, it seems to me I was more privileged to learn his true state of mind than any other person he knew.” [30] Titovets posited that Oswald was trying to integrate the better features of the Soviet system into an American democracy to help bring forth a fairer, better society in America.  Oswald foresaw, much as Marx did, that the American capitalistic system would eventuate in a crisis (perhaps a nuclear war) that would bring itself to an end. At that point, the Athenian system could be the logical step for the survivors of the crisis. [31]


 Titovets saw Oswald as a non-violent person, and incapable of committing the acts toward President Kennedy that were the conclusions of the efforts of the Warren Commission. [32] It appeared that Oswald was a convenient pawn for the Warren Commission to place the blame upon for President Kennedy’s assassination. In Titovets view, Oswald was pursuing his dream, to look at the systems of the two superpowers and amalgamate a new system that combined the best features of both of their systems. [33] Thus, Oswald, in chasing his dream, was a happy man. [34]


                                          Titovets’ Reading of Harvey and Lee


Ernst Titovets apparently decided to read Harvey and Lee for himself, partially to answer the question, how did Armstrong conclude that Oswald spoke no Russian in Russia? Titovets then sent me an e-mail [35] addressing only those portions of Armstrong’s book that pertained to Oswald’s being in Russia and only those portions which were familiar to Titovets.


Armstrong [36]:”I wanted to be sure I understood her answer and said, “Ana you knew Oswald from the time he arrived in Minsk until the day he and Marina left for the United States. You and your parents accompanied them to the train station and took photographs (published in the Warren Volumes). During that time he never spoke any Russian, even up to the day he left Minsk?” Ana, once again replied, “No,-not a word. My father always interpreted for him-he was the only person in the family who spoke English…” (p. 288)…“An English-speaking medical student, Erich (Ernst) Titovets, first met Oswald at the Hotel Minsk and later was a regular visitor to his apartment.” (p. 289).

Titovets: Actually, I met Oswald not at the Hotel Minsk, but at the Zigers apartment. It was in the presence of the whole family: Alexander Zigers, his wife Signora Anna and his two daughters, Anita, [37] and Eleanora. Oswald spoke Russian and there was no need to interpret for him.


Armstrong [38]: “At the factory Oswald met another person who spoke English. Pavel Golovachev, the son of a famous Soviet Air Force General…After Pavel and Oswald began spending a lot of time together the KGB asked him to report on Oswald’s activities. He dutifully informed of his contacts with Oswald and kept them apprised of his movements.” (p. 289).

Titovets: Pavel Golovachev did not speak English at all. Once he confided in me that he wished he did and he was sorry he did not speak the language.


 Armstrong [39] “On October 18 [1960] Lee Harvey Oswald celebrated his 21st birthday. Ella Germann, a girl from the Horizon factory who Oswald had been dating the past two months, and spoke very good English, attended a small birthday party at his apartment.”(p. 311).

Titovets: Ella Germann did not speak English at all.  


Armstrong [40]:”It is clear that Marina associated with Americans, spoke English with Webster and almost certainly spoke English with Oswald… Marina’s ability to read, write, and speak English fluently before she left Russia is indisputable.” (p. 340).


Titovets: Marina did not speak English at all. It would be really surprising if she would have spoken English with Oswald and completely ignored me even when the three of us were together. 


Armstrong [41]: “When Oswald and Marina met, danced, and agreed to a date the following Friday they spoke a common language. Was it Russian or English? The HSCA asked Marina, ‘At the time were you speaking Russian together?’ She answered, ‘Yes. He spoke with an accent so I assumed he was from another state.’ Oswald came in contact with hundreds of people in Russia, but Marina is the only person-THE ONLY PERSON who said that he spoke Russian while in Russia.” (p. 334).


Titovets: Armstrong is right about there were so many people who met Oswald in Minsk. There are still many living who would have testified to the fact that Oswald spoke Russian to them. Had John Armstrong followed Norman Mailer’s [42] example, he would have come to Minsk and interviewed them.


In the book Oswald: Russian Episode [43] one can find an illustration with Oswald’s longhand in Russian on the inside cover of a book where Oswald contemplates the names for his future child. Incidentally, Oswald signed his writings.          


When a date-line does not fit Armstrong’s he dismisses it as an error and suggests his “correct” one. To give an example:

Armstrong [44]: “NOTE: We will soon see the date of March 17 is in error.” (p. 333).

Titovets: It is the night at the Trade Union Palace when Oswald first met Marina Prussokova. The date of March 17, 1961 is correct.


                               Recent Interviews of Persons Who Knew Oswald in Minsk



Two recent interviews were conducted by Ernst Titovets with persons who had known Oswald in Minsk

The first interview was with Vladimir Zhidovich, a leading engineer at the Radio and Cosmic Technologies Department of the Bylorussian State University in Minsk. This interview took place on March 19, 2013. Zhidovich worked together with Oswald at the same shop in the Radio Plant in Minsk.


Titovets: Vladimir, do you know English?


Zhidovich: No, I do not. Why ask? You know that I don’t speak the language!


 Titovets: Never mind. I’ll tell you later. Just answer my questions! Did Oswald speak Russian?


Zhidovitch: Russian was the only language we could communicate with him. He was not a talkative person and his Russian needed much brushing up. But he understood most [of] what he was told to and reacted accordingly.


Titovets: Did anyone at the Radio Plant speak English to him?


Zhidovitch: No way! Nobody knew English around [there] and I never heard anybody speaking English to Oswald at work. Even Stanislav Shushkevich, when he happened to drop over on business to the shop, spoke Russian to him. Now, tell me what’s this all about?


Titovets: A John Armstrong in his book Harvey and Lee insists that Oswald did not speak Russian while those around him spoke mainly English. We both know perfectly well that Oswald did speak Russian and I just wanted to hear it from you to oblige an American friend and researcher who wants to check the fact.


Zhidovitch: First I thought it was some kind of trick question. Of course Oswald did speak Russian!



The second interview was with a neurologist, Dr. Alexander Mastykin, MD., Ph.D. on March 20, 2013. Mastykin was a medical student at the time he met Oswald. Mastykin was learning Spanish and practiced the language at the Spanish-speaking Zigers family’s apartment. He knew Anita Zigers very well.


Titovets: Did Anita Zigers speak English at the time she knew Oswald?


Mastykin: I never heard a single English word ever drop from her lips!


Titovets: John Armstrong wrote a book Harvey and Lee and there, according to John Armstrong, Anita would say to him in an interview that Oswald did not speak Russian at all while he was in Minsk.


Mastykin: It would be Anita all over! I wouldn’t put it past her that she might well invent things and say anything on the spur of the moment, unnecessary true, just for kicks. It might well depend on her mood, how she was approached and if the question was a suggestive one.


Titovets: Did Oswald speak Russian?


Mastykin: To say the truth there was not much love lost between the two of us; I mostly tried to steer away from him. I did not speak English while Oswald did not speak Spanish so it was Russians on those rare occasions when we happened to meet.         




Armstrong’s Contribution to the Critical Literature regarding the Kennedy Assassination


In any research investigation, the theorist may either start with assertions, or with hypotheses they arrive at in some manner. In Armstrong’s case, though he does not refer to his assertion as a hypothesis (one might infer that Armstrong felt that he sufficiently proved his assertion to being true) his assertion/hypothesis can be addressed logically by others. To be sure, Armstrong had a tough hypothesis to prove. No matter how convincing his reasoning, one counterexample would prove his hypothesis false.  Repeating Armstrong’s assertion, “Oswald had to be suspicious of everyone around him, including Marina and the Zigers, and would never have dared to speak Russian. In fact no one said he did, except Marina. [45] 


Allowing the exception of Marina, any other person who heard him speak Russian while in Russia would prove this assertion/hypothesis false. Titovets’ [46] book stands as evidence that Oswald did on many occasions speak Russian in Russia. Further, the interviews herein with Vladimir Zhidovitch and Alexander Mastykin concur that Oswald spoke Russian in Minsk.  But we would even question Armstrong’s making the assertion in the first place. If the Communist party were to provide him with a Russian tutor, then would not they logically expect him to speak Russian? The KGB was bugging his apartment and had at least one person (Pavel Golovachev) reporting to the KGB on Oswald. If Oswald seemed to learn Russian too fast, they would have figured that out. In monitoring his apartment, they would seem likely to have ferreted out any bogus behavior. Stanislav Shushkevich, the person chosen to tutor Oswald by the communist party, was a poor choice to attempt to teach Oswald. Shushkevich, a post-graduate science student at the university in Minsk, had learned to read English for his scientific studies, but had little experience in conversing in English.  Because Russian is a language that uses Cyrillic symbols, it is initially more difficult for persons whose reading has been mostly using European alphabetical symbols. On the other hand, using an approach that emphasizes first learning the spoken language would likely be more successful, particularly for someone with Oswald’s educational background. Stellina Ivanova, the Intourist Director at Minsk would become a teacher of Russian to Oswald. This proved more helpful to Oswald, though as Mailer pointed out, Oswald did not pay her a kopeck for her efforts. [47] Oswald’s learning of Russian, as described earlier, was an arduous task-and apparently within the expectancies of the KGB as they listened to his progress with the hidden microphones. Titovets [48] has shown that Oswald began to speak Russian with limited fluency with increasing success over time while in Russia.


In Armstrong’s concluding that Oswald spoke no Russian to anyone in Russia (perhaps excepting Marina), given the rather strong case that Oswald did in fact talk in Russian as he became somewhat more proficient in the language, the statement that Oswald  did not speak Russian in Minsk is clearly false. Curiously Armstrong admits that Oswald must have spoken some Russian to Stellina Ivanova, since, upon hearing of his marriage to Marina she quipped, ”How can that be? You don’t know Russian well enough.” [49] From this comment one could infer that he must have spoken Russian to her- it just wasn’t adequate enough for fluency.


 Armstrong has compiled the many circumstances that multiple “Oswalds” appears to be doing things at the same time that cannot be attributed to a single individual. [50] Some of these multiple Oswalds can be attributed to misidentifications, to doppelgangers, or to persons who have deliberately impersonated Oswald, either for their own reasons or for hire. That compilation is a useful contribution. But the multiple Oswalds appear to have ended on November 22, 1963.


Finally, the question posed in the title to this article, “Did Oswald speak Russian while in the Soviet Union?” and the answer is simple. Of course he did.



1.       Armstrong, J. (2006). Harvey & Lee: How the CIA framed Oswald. Arlington, TX: Quasar, LTD.

2.       Ibid, p. 187.

3.       Ibid, pp. 339-340.

4.       Ibid, p. 340.

5.       Titovets, E. (2010). Oswald: Russian Episode. Minsk, Belarus: Mon Litera Publishing House.

6.       Ibid, pp. 94-95.

7.       Ibid, p. 18-31.

8.       Ibid, p. 49, p. 229.

9.       Ibid, pp. 146-155.

10.   Ibid, p. 111.

11.   Ibid, p.62.

12.   WCE, Vol. XVIII, pp. 597-602.

13.   Titovets, p. 377.

14.   WCE, Vol. XVI, pp. 337-346.

15.   Titovets, p. 377.

16.   Williams, J.D. e-mail sent to Ernst Titovets, March 13, 2012.

17.   Titovets, E. e-mail sent to John Williams, March 14, 2012.

18.   Williams, J.D. e-mail sent to Ernst Titovets, March 16, 2012.

19.   Titovets, E. e-mail sent to John Williams, March 19, 2012.

20.   Armstrong, p. 339.

21.   Titovets, pp. 156-163.

22.   Ibid, p. 173.

23.   Ibid, p. 147.               

24.   Ibid, pp. 182-190.

25.   Ibid, pp. 210-216.

26.   Ibid, p. 241         .

27.   Ibid, pp. 191-193.

28.   Ibid, pp. 329-345.

29.   Ibid, p. 384; Lee Oswald, The Athenian System, WCE 98, pp. 431-434.

30.   Titovets, p. 384.

31.   Ibid, p.384.

32.   Ibid, pp.389-390.

33.   Ibid, pp. 384-394.

34.   Ibid, p. 423.

35.   Titovets, E. e-mail to John Williams, 1/29/2013.

36.   Armstrong, p. 288, 289.

37.   Some confusion might arise between “Ana” and “Anita”. Anita’s actual name was Ana, the same name as her mother. Thus as long as she lived in the family unit, the younger Ana went by Anita to avoid confusion. Thus, the Russian youths who knew her at the time Oswald was in Russia referred to her as Anita. By the time John Armstrong interviewed her in 1998, she now went by Ana.

38.   Ibid, p.289.

39.   Ibid, p. 311.

40.   Ibid, p. 340.

41.    Ibid, p. 334.

42.   Mailer, N. (1995). Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery. New York: Random House.

43.   Titovets, E. (2010).

44.   Armstrong, p. 333. Incidentally, Titovets gives in his Oswald: Russian Episode a different account of Marina meeting Lee.

45.   Ibid, p. 340.

46.   Titovets, E. (2010).

47.   Mailer, N. (1995). p. 82.

48.   Titovets, E. (2010).

49.   Armstrong, p. 339.

50.   In reading Janney, P. (2012) Mary’s Mosaic. New York: Skyhorse Publishing., I came across a reference to John Armstrong’s article in Probe: Armstrong, J. (1998). Harvey, Lee and Tippet: A New Look at the Tippit shooting. Probe: January-February, Vol. 5, No. 2, ( ) which in turn was identical to an article of the same name published in 2012 in The Dealey Plaza Echo (17: No. 2, pp. 9-22). There should minimally have been a note of attribution to the earlier publication so that readers would not mistake it for new original research.