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At the next Vossius Seminar Mario Daniels and Flavia Buzzetta will present their research. Mario Daniels will give the talk “Safeguarding Détente: U.S. High Performance Computer Exports to the Soviet Union in the 1970s” and Flavia Buzzetta "Secrets and Kabbalah in Pierleone da Spoleto’s Library".

Event details of Vossius Seminar
Date 12 January 2022
Time 16:00 -18:00

Mario Daniels (Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam, UvA)


Safeguarding Détente: U.S. High Performance Computer Exports to the Soviet Union in the 1970s

During détente U.S. companies sold a handful of the most powerful high performance computers (HPCs) in the world to the Soviet Union – despite their obvious military applications. The computers were used for high-profile civilian projects like the UN’s global meteorological network, the Kama truck factory, or the booking system of the Soviet tourist agency Intourist. These HPC exports were a crucial strand in the U.S.-Soviet relations of the 1970s that historical research has so far largely overlooked. 

The U.S. government balanced the benefits and risks of HPC sales – and of détente economics in general – through export controls. HPC export controls are especially remarkable because the U.S. government established a special, highly elaborate international regime to control large computer systems. The main feature of this regime was measures, called “safeguards”, that made it possible to control HPCs after their export – on Soviet soil. The most important component of the safeguards regime was the establishment of extensive inspection rights for Western companies and the U.S. government inside the Soviet Union. This was an extraordinary diplomatic achievement as during most of the Cold War, the Soviets stiffly opposed inspectors in their own country, most notably in regard to the nuclear safeguard regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN. 

My talk will offer an analysis of the role the HPC safeguards regime played in U.S. détente policy. It examines how safeguards were implemented; how companies used them to foster economic ties across the Iron Curtain; and how they facilitated the sharing of one of the West’s most cutting-edge technologies with the ideological enemy in the East. More importantly, this article traces the intense controversies these technology sales caused in the United States.

Flavia Buzzetta (Vossius Fellow, UvA)


Secrets and Kabbalah in Pierleone da Spoleto’s Library

The lecture will discuss the transmission of Kabbalah in the Humanistic world at the end of the 15th century and its transformation in Christian Kabbalah, through references to the Kabbalistic library of Pierleone da Spoleto, and in particular to the vernacular translation of the Massekhet Hekhalot. It will focus on the encounter between Jewish and Christian thought through a study of the translations made by Sicilian Jews for Lorenzo de’ Medici's personal physician, who discovered old secret knowledges bringing together pagan mysteries, and Mosaic and Christian revelations. Particular attention will be paid to Kabbalah and the visionary mysticism of Hekhalot as “esoteric knowledges”, capable of interpreting the most hidden, mysterious, and occult dimension of the Godhead.


The seminar will be hosted online.


If you want to join this seminar please send an email message to with „join seminar“ in the subject header. You will then receive the link for the online meeting.