Operation Osoaviakhim

'Osoaviakhim' was a Soviet operation in which MVD (ex-NKVD) and army units removed more than 2,200 German scientific and technical specialists within a total of more than 6,000 people including family members, from the Soviet zone of occupation in eastern Germany for forced employment in the USSR (22 October 1946).

Much equipment related to the specialists' work was also removed, and the overall object of the undertaking was to transplant research and production research centres such as the V-2 rocket centre at Mittelwerk Nordhausen, from Germany to the USSR, and collect as much material as possible from test centers such as the Luftwaffe’s central military aviation test centre at the Erprobungstelle Rechlin, which had been captured by Soviet forces on 2 May 1945. The codename 'Osoaviakhim' was the acronym of a Soviet paramilitary organisation (later renamed DOSAAF), which was erroneously introduced by a West German radio station and adapted by the Central Intelligence Group predecessor of the CIA. The Soviet operation was an analogue of the US 'Paperclip'.

The operation was led by General Major Ivan A. Serov, a deputy commissar of the MVD, quite outwith the control of the local Soviet military administration, which in a few cases, such as that of Carl Zeiss A. G., attempted to prevent the removal of specialists and equipment deemed to be of vital economic significance for the occupation zone. This attempt was not successfully, and only 582 of 10,000 machines were left at Zeiss.

Planned some time in advance to take place after the zone’s elections on 20 October, in order to avoid damaging the Bloc of the Anti-Fascist Democratic Parties Unity List’s result, 'Osoaviakhim' used 92 trains to transport the specialists and their families, together with their belongings (including furniture). The removed specialists were offered contracts which offered the same remuneration as that paid to equivalent Soviet workers.

Two major considerations in the Soviet decision to undertake the operation were fear that the German economy and technological potential would accelerate rapidly with the return of peace, and the Soviet desire to garner this technological renaissance for the benefit of the USSR, especially in fields such as aviation and rocket programmes. In particular, A. G. Myrkin of the Soviet artillery directorate wrote a letter to the head of NKVD/MVD operations in Germany complaining about the prominence of German scientists in important matters of state security. Another factor in the decision to undertake the operation was the Soviet fear of being condemned for non-compliance with Allied Control Council agreements on the destruction of German military installations.