To date, scholars have treated the history of Soviet rocketry as a linear technological evolution interrupted only by the Great Purges of 1937-38 when the Soviet secret police arrested and shot several engineers at this institute. Lacking a substantial archival record, historians viewed the Purges as the singular break in rocketry work. Evidence available in the post-Soviet era suggests that bitter conflicts over the adoption of specific technologies plagued the institute before the Purges. These technical disagreements contributed to the terror at the institute. Although conflicts over technology are common in most research and development (R&D) milieux, Soviet R&D institutions in the 1930s were unable to resolve technical dissension in a way that facilitated radical innovation. These debates over technological choice affected the trajectory of Soviet rocketry more profoundly than the Purges. The new evidence provides for a broader understanding of how radical innovation evolves under great social, political, and economic strain.


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pp. 470-501
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