The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Setting Sun
March 26, 2014 9:45 AM   Subscribe

What was the first message sent by the Soviet Union over the infamous 1960s "hotline"?

After the cuban missile crisis a direct communication link was created between Washington and Moscow. Every online resource I've found describes its first message something like this (from Wikipedia, emphasis mine)
The hotline became operational on August 30, 1963, by transmitting the first test messages. Washington sent Moscow the text "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back 1234567890", which is a so-called pangram of all letters and numbers of the Latin alphabet, along with the Apostrophe, which made sure that all the keys on the teletypes were operational. The Soviets sent back a poetic description of Moscow's setting sun.
Does anyone know the extract contents of the poetic description of Moscow's setting sun?
posted by alana to Law & Government (3 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm. According to this contemporary NYT article, the response was a similar test message:

Back from Moscow came a similar test message in Russian, which was completely unintelligible to the United States operators but at least showed that all the characters on the Teletype were working correctly.
posted by trip and a half at 2:47 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another NYT article tells it as the description of the sunset being given after asking for an explanation of "The quick brown fox..."

I suspect that this link gives the most realistic explanation:

The hotline became operative August 30, 1963. Because the link was not in constant use it had to be tested each day. This called for creative dialogue between two archenemies. Poems and stories of all sorts were exchanged. Sometimes baseball game scores from the American side or excerpts from Ivan Turgenev's "Notes of a Hunter" on the Soviet side were transmitted.

That is, the actual first transmissions were probably either pangrams like "The quick brown fox..." or, as trip and a half's link suggests, "QWERTYUIOP..." (or appropriate Russian equivalents), but since the guys who had to work the Teletype needed to regularly test it, they occasionally had some fun with it, and this eventually got abstracted into the more pithy urban-legendy version on Wikipedia.
posted by kagredon at 10:40 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you, kagredon! Just for added speculation, here is a translated excerpt from Turgenev's "A Hunter's Sketches" (title also translated as "Notes of a Hunter"):


ONE EVENING I went with the huntsman Yermolai "stand-shooting." But perhaps all my readers may not know what "stand-shooting" is. I will tell you.

A quarter of an hour before sunset in springtime you go out into the woods with your gun, but without your dog. You seek out a spot for yourself on the outskirts of the forest, take a look round, examine your caps, and glance at your companion. A quarter of an hour passes; the sun has set, but it is still light in the forest; the sky is clear and transparent; the birds are chattering and twittering; the young grass shines with the brilliance of emerald. . . . You wait. Gradually the recesses of the forest grow dark; the blood-red glow of the evening sky creeps slowly on to the roots and the trunks. of the trees, and keeps rising higher and higher, passes from the lower, still almost leafless branches, to the motionless, slumbering tree-tops. . . . And now even the topmost branches are darkened; the purple sky fades to dark-blue. The forest fragrance grows stronger; there is a scent of warmth and damp earth; the fluttering breeze dies away at your side. The birds go to sleep--not all at once--but after their kinds; first the finches are hushed, a few minutes later the warblers, and after them the yellow buntings. In the forest it grows darker and darker. The trees melt together into great masses of blackness; in the dark-blue sky the first stars come timidly out. All the birds are asleep. Only the redstarts and the nuthatches are still chirping drowsily. . . . And now they, too, are still. The last echoing call of the peewit rings over our heads; the oriole's melancholy cry sounds somewhere in the distance; then--the nightingale's first note. Your heart is weary with suspense, when suddenly--but only hunters can understand me--suddenly in the deep hush there is a peculiar croaking and whirring sound, the measured. sweep of swift wings is heard, and the snipe, gracefully bending its long beak, sails smoothly from behind a dark bush to meet your shot.

That is the meaning of "stand-shooting."

posted by trip and a half at 12:36 AM on March 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

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