Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 31 06:38:06 UTC 2010

Maybe I am barking up the wrong tree, but, it seems, the changed use
deserves more than a single word to acknowledge it.

OED has an entry for Kremlinology in its obvious connotation. The most
recent quote is from 1972 from a top Soviet policy expert, Adam Ulam,
brother of Stanislaw Ulam, so it's easy to assume that the reference is
to the original meaning. The OED does suggest alternatives with a single
"transf." and there does appear to be one corresponding quotation:

> 1970 Ibid. 1 Oct. 15/4 The question now teasing Labour Kremlinologists
> is how long Denis [Healey] will be satisfied to remain a mere member
> of the NEC.

MWOL has a similar entry:

> Date: 1958 : the study of the policies and practices of the former
> Soviet government

The origin date is the same as in OED. Other on-line dictionaries have
an identical or similar entry. In fact, several identify it with
Sovietology. The only exception is Wiktionary:

> The study of the internal politics of any powerful and secretive
> organization.

Of course, with demise of the Soviet Union as an entity, Kremlinology
has taken on a somewhat different, expanded meaning--far beyond what a
single quotation suggests. It's still used with respect to the Russian
political system. I've heard it used with respect to former Soviet
satellites as well--both the former Soviet republics and the former
Warsaw Pact countries. But, by far the most common usage lately (aside
from Russia, that is) is with respect to political systems that we would
otherwise describe as "regimes"--North Korea, Iran, etc.

Wiki has a relatively up-to-date entry, even beyond Wiktionary:

> The term "Kremlinology" is still in use in application to the study of
> decision-making processes in the politics of the Russian Federation,
> and it has also been used in the context of other similarly closed
> regimes such as China and North Korea. In popular culture, the term is
> sometimes used to mean any attempt to understand a secretive
> organization or process, such as plans for upcoming products or
> events, by interpreting indirect clues.

The Wiki article specifically points to a source that uses
/Kremlinology/ with respect to Apple:
> One thing that makes being an Apple pundit fun is that it's akin to
> Cold-War era Kremlinology --- to predict or analyze an opaque,
> secretive organization, you've got to read between the lines of the
> few things they /do/ say, and you've got to know how to interpret silence.

This particular appearance, however, seems weak to me. The
organizational analysis is being /compared/ to Kremlinology, not
identified as such. It is also somewhat circular--the word Kremlinology
is linked to the Wiki article.

Yet, the use is widespread enough. An example from today:
> The exchange shows the familiar difficulties for an American president
> in at once keeping lines of communications open and not having its
> message to Tehran lost in interpretation, and also the Kremlinology
> within the U.S. government over interpreting the agency of Iranian
> actions.

Apple is not the only high-tech company tagged:
Microsoft Kremlinology
By William SaletanPosted Thursday, Jan. 20, 2000, at 3:30 AM ET
> The triumph of capitalism spoiled the old game but replaced it with a
> new one: corporate Kremlinology.

It is also used for general large-scale systems, not just individual
corporations or national governments.
Every word counts in Kremlinology
By John Gapper
Published: April 8 2010 03:00
> John Gapper: Studying the claims made by Goldman Sachs about whether
> it would have collapsed if the US government had not bailed out the
> financial system, and invested $10bn in Goldman itself, is like
> Kremlinology in the days of the Soviet Union - every word counts.

I suppose, this one fails for me for the same reason as the one for
Apple--it's a comparison to Kremlinology, not actual use. So here's an
Fri May 28,2010 10:43 AM ET
> I can't say that partake in enough Red Sox Kremlinology to know
> whether or not Ellsbury is malingering or has questionable intestinal
> fortitude or what.
May 6, 2010
> "I am nearly perfectly confident that the pick will come early next
> week," said Tom Goldstein, a partner at Akin Gump and publisher of
> Scotus Blog. Mr. Goldstein is a self-described "expert on the totally
> misguided Kremlinology of Supreme Court appointments."

Some users are quite conscious of the transformation:
Kremlinology For Fun and Profit
September 13, 2009 - 8:43 pm | Edited by Jean-Louis Gassée
> I'm quite fond of kremlinology, the metaphorical one, not the literal
> sort. For me, it started as a hobby and ended up making me decades of
> fun and money. Allow me to explain before we proceed with an attempted
> decryption of recent Apple events and statements.

On the other hand, some of the new uses are just odd.
April 22, 2010
> Some Draft Kremlinology:
> I'm starting to see and hear rumors of a Dolphins-Cowboys trade and I
> feel I have my strongest crumb of evidence yet, one that is hiding in
> plain sight.


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