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Lance Payette

A slightly different perspective on Oswald

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“Oswald” hid his Russian language proficiency in the Soviet Union

Before “Oswald” first set foot in the Soviet Union, while he was still in the U.S. Marine Corps, “it was a matter of common knowledge among squadron members that he could read, write, and  speak Russian.

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As soon as he arrived in Moscow, the Soviets realized he was a spy and decided to kick him out.  In a desperate but brilliant move, “Oswald” faked a suicide attempt and was able to rescue his mission.  Nevertheless, medics at Botkinskaya Hospital in Moscow who treated his wound realized that “The patient apparently understands the questions asked in Russian.  Sometimes he answers correctly, but immediately states that he does not understand what was asked.”

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In Russia, “Oswald” tried to hide his fluency in Russian from almost everyone.  Pulitzer Prize winning author Norman Mailer was among the earliest people to gain access to Russian Intel documents about “Oswald.”   Mailer wrote that when “Oswald” arrived in Moscow by “Deluxe class,” he hired a personal tour guide named Rimma and, “He didn’t seem to know a single word in Russian, so Rimma spoke to him in English.”

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By the time he got to Minsk, “Oswald” continued to pretend he didn’t speak Russian.  Mailer wrote, “People laughed at him when he talked.  His Russian was so bad people laughed, not mocking, but friendly.  He would try to pronounce words, get them wrong. They would laugh…. You have cows in America?  You have pigs in America?  He couldn’t understand their words, so they showed him with sign language, made animal sounds, and he laughed.”

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A Belarusian scientist named Stanislav Shushkevich was eventually assigned to teach “Oswald” the Russian language.  A few years ago, Shushkevich was extensively interviewed by an American writer.   There were, apparently, only a dozen or so lessons, and the teacher noted that “He didn’t appear to know a lot.  He didn’t appear to want to know a lot.”  Shushkevich added that he “knew very few words” in Russian.

Shushkevich concluded that he real job (he didn’t speak English) was not to teach “Oswald” Russian, but “to see how much Russian Oswald really knew….”

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Nothing could be more obvious than the fact that “Oswald” tried to hide his Russian fluency while in the Soviet Union.  Saying otherwise is merely attempting to hide the fact that he was a U.S. spy who successfully worked in the Soviet Union understanding everything that was said about him but pretending he barely understood a word.  His brilliant and lengthy final report was published by the Warren Commission, hidden in plain sight for all these years.

For much more on all of this, read Dr. James Norwood’s superb essay on my website:

Oswald’s Proficiency in the Russian Language

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On Ernst Titovets....

Titovets considers the idea that Oswald was connected to either American or Russian intelligence the “wildest speculation.”  “A James Bond fantasy.”  He ignores the evidence of Oswald’s connections to American intelligence as revealed in many books, and seems to hope his readers will ignore it as well, thereby effectively cutting the marionette’s wires.

--Milicent Cranor, 2013

 

Here’s what Dr. James Norwood wrote about Titovets in his article Oswald’s Proficiency in the Russian Language:

One of Oswald’s friends in Minsk was a medical student named Ernst Titovets, who acknowledged in his 2013 book Oswald: Russian Episode that Oswald spoke in a “faltering Russian.” [44]  In JFK studies, Titovets was a johnny-come-lately, waiting until the approach of the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination to bring out his memoir.  After his book publication, Titovets has attempted to discredit John Armstrong’s research into the period in which Oswald was in residence in Minsk.  Using sleight-of-hand, specious arguments, and hearsay testimony, Titovets attempts to name individuals who heard Oswald speaking competent Russian during his stay in Minsk.  Undoubtedly, Oswald gave the appearance of attempting to learn the native language over the course of his two-and-a-half years in the Soviet Union.  But nowhere does Titovets provide an example of Oswald’s unsurpassed command of the Russian language, as attested by those in America who appeared before the Warren Commission.  About the best testimonial to Oswald’s language competency while in the Soviet Union was given by Belarusian President Shuskevich, Oswald’s former tutor in Minsk, who described Oswald’s spoken Russian as “passable.” [45]  

Along with his book, Titovets released a set of tape recordings in which he is in conversation with Oswald.  Those tapes offer examples of Titovets and Oswald speaking only in English.  But according to Norman Mailer, who was granted access to the KGB files, Titovets also recorded conversations in which Oswald was attempting to speak in Russian:  “His [Titovets’] Russian-speaking tapes were also studied [by the KGB] to explore any possibility that he [Oswald] was concealing a better knowledge of their language than he pretended to have.” [46]  In other words, the KGB was concerned about the main point raised in this essay, namely, Oswald’s intention of “concealing” to his hosts his fluency in Russian.  

If Titovets genuinely wishes to do a service in the interest of the historical record, he would release the tapes in which he was conversing with Oswald in Russian to offer the public first-hand evidence into Oswald’s Russian language skills while living in the Soviet Union.  Until that happens, Titovets is offering only second-hand evidence with a personal agenda.  At present, there is nowhere in Titovets’ writings an instance of a laudatory comment about Oswald’s fluency in Russian to compare with the superlative tributes given by Oswald’s acquaintances in the United States.  The question is:  Why?   Researcher Millicent Cranor has raised the most pertinent question about Ernst Titovets:  “In his book, Titovets appears to be defending Oswald—but is he really defending the C.I.A.?” [47]

NOTES

[44]  Ernst Titovets, Oswald: Russian Episode (Belarus: Mon Litera Publishing, 2013), 111.

[45] Fred Weir and Marie Eckel, “Why Soviets Were No Fans of Lee Harvey Oswald,” The Christian Science Monitor (November 21, 2013):
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2013/1121/Why-Soviets-were-no-fans-of-Lee-Harvey-Oswald

[46] Mailer, 121.  Mailer also offers a character sketch of Ernst Titovets from the perspective of one of his friends in Minsk, a young woman named Albina:  “She [Albina] had always thought Erich [Ernst Titovets] was a little strange, and nothing about him was fun….Some students used to speak of him as manerniy—full of mannerisms.  So, nobody liked him much, but then he always wanted to show people he was better….Titovets always wanted to impress people that he was not average, and so he always did things by himself.” (99-100)

[47] Milicent Cranor, “Is US Effort to Block Oswald Friend and His ‘Revelations’ Another Deception?”, Who.What.Why.: https://whowhatwhy.org/2013/08/27/is-us-effort-to-block-oswald-friend-and-his-revelations-itself-a-further-deception/

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I met Titovets at the 2014 Bethesda conference. As I recall he travelled to the U.S. at his own expense to tell those in attendance that his friend was innocent--that Oswald was not the glum Marxist assassin depicted in the Warren Report. His most effective weapon in this quest was the comedy tapes he'd made with Oswald, in which Oswald adopted a goofy Stan Freeborn-ish voice and riffed on various subjects. It was improv-type stuff, the kind of stuff one might see on a comedy show at the time. It was, more importantly, the kind of stuff no one raised on the Warren Report would associate with Oswald. 

I take Titovets at face value. He was a friend, who wanted his friend to be accurately presented in the history books. I think it's a mistake to take much from Titovets' story about the stolen item. Oswald could have been testing Titovets. Or he could have been testing the KGB. Or he could have actually had an interest in bomb-making. I've known straight-laced guys who have miniature and not so miniature cannons with which they blow stuff up on their back forty. It doesn't mean they plan on using it on people. There was little chance the KGB would arrest Oswald for such a minor infraction. They were using his presence in Russia as propaganda, and would be extremely hesitant to burst their own bubble of b.s. I mean, really--"Newsflash: that Marine who came here to live a better life was a plant, which we should have suspected all along, seeing as we all know this country is an armpit, and no Marine would ever come to live here!" This was and is a country that lies to its people all day and all night. They won't admit it when they've had a nuclear accident, for crying out loud. So what were the chances they'd arrest Oswald as a possible spy after letting him stay, and using his "defection" for PR purposes? Next to nothing, right?

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In response to Moderator Pat Speer above:  The problem with taking any eyewitness at "face value" in the JFK case is to run the risk of being misled by someone with personal bias or an agenda.  The question is not whether Titovets is a stand-up guy and a "friend," but whether his story stands up to careful scrutiny, based on the evidence.  The balance of your commentary above is pure speculation about Oswald's stay in the Soviet Union.  I wish you would read my article referenced by Jim Hargrove, wherein I present source documents and hard facts about Oswald's proficiency in speaking Russian.

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What made me suspicious of Mr. Titovets was his claim that "Oswald" often spoke Russian in public, as well as his claim that associating him with American Intel was absurd.  The Russian language business conflicted with most of the evidence we have (see some of it in my post at the top of this page). 

John A. interviewed Ana Ziger in Buenos Aires in 1998.  Ms. Ziger knew "Oswald" as well as anyone else.  Her father was his boss at the Minsk radio plant.  There are numerous pictures of Oswald and her together.  Some are published in the Warren Volumes.

Ana Ziger told John A. that "Oswald" almost never spoke Russian.

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