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Those Infernal Internal Passports

At the left is a passport cover, one of those things designed to protect your passport, especially if your home is really a pied à terre and you travel a great deal.  But look carefully: it’s from the old Soviet Union, complete with their national seal embossed on the cover, and “Pasport” at the bottom.

The Soviet Union had not only external passports (for those few who got to leave the country) but internal ones as well.  It was necessary to produce this passport for inspection upon request of the police.  As noted in Pipko and Pucciarelli (1985):

“The passport is a biographical capsulization of its bearer in booklet form. It contains a recent photograph of the bearer. It states, inter alia, his name, place and date of birth, nationality (based upon the nationality parents), information concerning his marital status and the id of his children, a record of his military service, his place of work, notations concerning his failure to make court-ordered alimony payments, if applicable, and, most importantly, a propiska.”

The last is the most important: this stamp and its annotations showed permission to the bearer to live in their specific dwelling place.  The internal passport’s most important function was not to limit the journey or the destination but to define (and control) the starting place!  I should note that the Soviets were obsessed with the passport concept: even pieces of equipment had their own passports, I have a few of these myself.

Today we’re debating the use of “vaccine passports” to restrict people from going certain places and doing certain things based upon whether they have been vaccinated or not.  The biggest problem with this is that, once we start with a passport based on vaccination status, we then proceed to something more comprehensive like the Soviets had.  Our problem is that we have a political and bureaucratic class which is no longer content to regulate and facilitate the society’s prosperity but to control it.

I’m not sure I really have the sword to cut this Gordian knot, but it will be interesting to see if whatever universal ID they eventually come up with will be useful when it is time to vote.


Pipko, S., & Pucciarelli, A. (1985). The Soviet Internal Passport System. The International Lawyer, 19(3), 915-919. Retrieved April 2, 2021, from


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