Unusual and interesting toilets from all around the world.

Geopolitics, Espionage, and Poop

Did Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin Spy on Mao Zedong's Excrement?

A story carried by the BBC in late January 2016 reported that Joseph Stalin spied on Mao Zedong and other world leaders by collecting and analyzing their feces.

Stalin is said to have directed his KGB henchman Lavrenti Beria to set up a secret department tasked with surreptitiously collecting and analyzing feces to gain insight into their targets' medical and psychological states.

Toilet in a Moscow train station.

Toilet in a Moscow train station.

Toilet in a Russian nursing school.

Toilet and shower in a Russian nursing school.

In December 1949 Mao Zedong visited Moscow. He was kept waiting for ten days before meeting Stalin. During this time he was fed well but confined to his guest quarters, a house in which the toilets are said to have been disconnected from the sewer line and connected to special collection systems. The historian David Halberstam reported in his book The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War:

When Mao first arrived in Moscow, he announced that China looked forward to a partnership with Russia, but he emphasized as well that he wanted to be treated as an equal.

Instead he was being taught a lesson each day. He had become, in Ulam's words, "as much captive as guest".

As such, he shouted at the walls, convinced that Stalin had bugged the house: "I am here to do more than eat and shit!"

The BBC story comes from former Soviet intelligence officer Igor Atamanenko, who says that he uncovered the project details while doing historical research in the Russian secret service archives.

He reports that high levels of the amino acid tryptophan suggested that the person was calm and approachable. A low level of potassium was seen as a symptom of a nervous disposition and insomnia.

Not the First Story of Fecal Espionage

In a 16 September 1971 article "CIA Eavesdrops on Kremlin Chiefs" in the Washington Post, the syndicated columnist Jack Anderson reported that the CIA had retrieved and analyzed some of Nikita Krushchev's feces during his 1959 state visit to the U.S. The CIA medical team had concluded that Krushchev was in excellent health.

The retired French spymaster Alexandre de Marenches told a Time journalist that the French Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage had collected Leonid Brezhnev's urine. The Soviet leader stayed at the Hotel d'Angleterre in Copenhagen during a state visit. The SDECE rented the suite directly below, cut through the ceiling, dismantled Brezhnev's toilet waste line, and sent his toilet flushings to Paris for analysis.

In 1987 Jack Anderson reported a story told to him by a confidential source about a series of failed attempts by CIA and MI6 to collect Mikhail Gorbachev's feces.

Yes, the CIA has a Medical and Psychological Analysis Center, and intelligence agencies try to analyze the health of world leaders and use their remote conclusion in analyses and predictions. See this VOA story about the CIA MPAC. But...

Not the Most Reliable Source

The BBC story, which was picked up and repeated with great enthusiasm and only minor changes by many news outlets, is based on a report by Igor Atamanenko in Komsomolskaya Pravda. Atamenenko is a regular source of absurd stories for that publication.

Комсомольская Правда or Komsomolskaya Pravda, literally Komsomol Truth, is a daily Russian tabloid newspaper.

The paper was founded in 1925 as an official organ of the Central Committee of the Komsomol. Komsomol or Комсомол is a typical Russian syllabic abbreviation for kommunisticheskii soyuz molodyozhi, "Young Communist League". The organization is officially Всесоюзный ленинский коммунистический союз молодёжи or ВЛКСМ, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League.

Young children went into the Little Octobrists. When nine years old, they graduated into the Young Pioneers. At fourteen they graduated into Komsomol, the third, final, and longest stage, to which they belonged until 28.

The organization's official organ, Komsomolskaya Pravda, runs stories like its January 2015 front-page claim that the U.S. had perpetrated the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo publishing office in Paris. Atamanenko's contributions to Komsomolskaya Pravda include what claims to be a surprising revelation about Stalin's decisions in during the Great Patriotic War (also known as World War II) that actually is just a retelling of the made-for-TV sequel to The Dirty Dozen.

Stalin Writing

Dear Diary — Today that old Mao Zedong was really full of it.


There are opportunities for legitimate medical analysis of feces. Copromancy, however, is more like fortune telling. If there isn't a Copronomicon describing the practice, there should be.

Ayurvedic medicine analyzes feces, as does traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese practices link stool details to purported bodily accumulations of heat, cold, and dampness, and blame diarrhea on exogenous evils and yang deficiency.


On the Ayurvedic side, Deepak Chopra urges you to examine your feces for color, smell, stickiness, and other attributes. And, of course, his company sells various purgative cleansing treatments.

But for high-grade copromantic nonsense check out the system of copromancy advocated by American charlatan Raymond A. Moody before he got into near-death experiences. In 1972 he was already talking about computers and their potential coprological applications:

Without in any way disparaging tea-leaf reading, astrology, palmistry, phrenology, or any of the other similar techniques, we can say with certainty that coprology — with its modern scientific methods of research, controlled experiments, and computer analysis — is able to obtain much more accurate predictions of future life trends than any other known method.

Moody's self-published book Coprology: The Art and Science of Character Analysis, Prognostication, and Healing through the Reading or Manipulation of Stools contains some hand-drawn sketches of feces that he claims can be used to diagnose various diseases. These include surface fissure patterns plus the overall shapes described by wonderful titles including "Curve or Priscilla", "Spiral of Raymondus", "Tetterton's Spheroids", and more. These were simple sketches, not the science embodied by the Bristol Stool Chart.

Bristol Stool Chart
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