Computer engineering became a reality in the USSR in the mid-1950s. Capabilities of this new branch, demonstrated in the Soviet Atomic Project, generated an urge to expand the production of computers not only in the defense industry but in the civilian economy as well. Since the USSR’s economy developed in confrontation to the capitalist world, the political cliché “to catch up and outdo” introduced by V.I. Lenin back in 1917 was reiterated by other Soviet leaders in different situations. In particular, it was popular after the Second World War and, among other things, was applied to computer engineering. The comparative production of computers in the USSR and in the West was not in favor of our country. Our modest success was primarily attributed to the general slippage in this area. The situation with computer engineering is an example of the catching-up nature of the Soviet technological development during the period of late Stalinism.
Nevertheless, since computer production was launched, there emerged a need for specialists both in industrial production and maintenance. Hence, appropriate disciplines were introduced in the Soviet higher educational institutions. Computer specialists were trained in Moscow, Leningrad, Gorky, Kiev, Penza, and in other leading universities of the USSR. Dating back to this period, until the mid-1950s, there are three out of the four principal academic programming schools, based in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev. At the same time, A.A. Lyapunov laid back the foundations of the theory of programming and L.A. Lusternik organized, in 1950, a workshop on programming at the Institute of Precise Mechanics and Computer Engineering, USSR Academy of Sciences. Computer design was improved simultaneously with software development. From the very beginning, the civilian applications of computers took computer engineering beyond mathematical calculations, to automatic translation, and with time this tendency grew stronger.
The new industry developed in the conditions of severe competition between the two establishments: the USSR Machine-Building Ministry and Academy of Sciences, each promoting their own project. Various means were used in this struggle, up to classifying information about computers in academic and mass media.
The ideological pressure on some scientific areas of biology, genetics and physics, characteristic of the late Stalin’s period, did not have any serious consequences for computer engineering. Yet, computer advocates intentionally distinguished themselves from the “bourgeois” theories of computer animation. Computer applications in civilian branches of economy were artificially held back: no small share in this had the authorities’ stance to strengthen, above all, the national defense potential.