Translation of article from:

An alternate translation, including explanatory footnotes, is available here.

Our global reach is more easily seen from a distance . . .

Vysotsky, in 1970, sang that he had noticed Russian messages written on the walls of a Parisian restroom. These days, other inscriptions -- freakish for those of American and European sensibilities -- and furthermore, cast in bronze, have been found decorating a university campus in the far away transatlantic city of Charlotte (North Carolina). We probably would have never known about it if the letters were ordinary. But they were not -- they were encrypted, and no one has been able to read them since the early 1990s. Now suddenly the secret has been revealed, thanks to the internet. Due to the collective efforts of cryptography fans around the world, it is impossible to not take notice of this event.

A bit more than ten years ago, in honor of the termination of the Cold War, the Washington sculptor James Sanborn had created two original encrypted sculptures. The first, better-known Kryptos, composed of letters from the Latin alphabet, Sanborn built in 1990 for CIA Headquarters in Langley. The second sculpture, the considerably less-known Cyrillic Projector, based on letters from the Cyrillic alphabet, was built two years later, and found its permanent home only in 1997, at the University of North Carolina. The design was composed of a hollow bronze cylinder one and a half meters in diameter, and about three meters in height. Hundreds of letters of code are cut into the metal, and at nighttime the bright light fixture inside of the cylinder projects letters onto the sidewalk and walls of nearby buildings.

The first parts of the Kryptos code in Langley were decoded in 1999. Only in May 2003 did attention come to the Cyrillic Projector. Then an international group of cryptography enthusiasts (, uniting 70 people from different countries around the world, became interested with the sculpture's secret. The code, it is necessary to tell, was a simple one chosen by the sculptor, and they cracked it easily enough (in Langley one quarter of the text still has not been decrypted). The Russian inscriptions that appeared were fragments of two KGB documents that were declassified in the beginning of the 1990s. The first one is a secret agent manual on the recruitment of intelligence sources, and the second a report on the text of the dissident-academician Andre Sakharov's appeal to the Pugwash Conference of scientists.

Many details about Sanborn.s encrypted sculptures and about the process of their cracking can be found here: