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Theoretical frameworks that examine a political actor’s personal characteristics and how they affect the foreign policies of their respective states are useful tools for analysts, researchers, and historians. One of the most widely used frameworks has been operational code analysis, introduced by Nathan Leites in this seminal RAND Corporation volume, The Operational Code of the Politburo. Originally published by McGraw-Hill in 1951, it was the inaugural publication in what was then called “The RAND Series” and later became known as RAND’s commercial books series, a collection of monographs which aimed to make RAND’s groundbreaking research available to the public. In that spirit, and to celebrate RAND’s 60th Anniversary, RAND is proud to bring this classic work back into print in paperback and digital formats. The Operational Code of the Politburo was part of a major effort at RAND to provide insight into the political leadership and foreign policy in the Soviet Union and other communist states; the development of Soviet military strategy and doctrine; and the organization and operation of the Soviet economy. This immense body of research has had an influence and impact beyond U.S. national security, as the techniques and methodological tools have been refined and extended to new analytic challenges.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Predictability and Unpredictability

  • Chapter Two

    Orientation on the Past and Toward the Future

  • Chapter Three

    Means and Ends

  • Chapter Four

    The Calculus of the General Line

  • Chapter Five

    The Control of Feelings

  • Chapter Six

    Effective Action

  • Chapter Seven

    Perseverance and Flexibility

  • Chapter Eight


  • Chapter Nine

    The Danger of Dependency

  • Chapter Ten

    The Danger of Being “Used”

  • Chapter Eleven

    Isolation and Contact

  • Chapter Twelve


  • Chapter Thirteen


  • Chapter Fourteen

    The Danger of Annihilation

  • Chapter Fifteen

    Conduct in Defeat and Victory

  • Chapter Sixteen


  • Chapter Seventeen

    Exertion of Pressure

  • Chapter Eighteen

    Resistance to Attack

  • Chapter Nineteen


  • Chapter Twenty


This report is part of the RAND Corporation Commercial book series. Periodically, RAND Corporation researchers publish with commercial presses. These books are not available from RAND but can be requested directly from the publisher, except in cases where the rights have reverted to RAND and we have republished a new edition.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.