Dateline: September 22, 2003
An international group of cryptographers, the Kryptos Group, announced this week that the decade-old Cyrillic Projector Code has been cracked, and that it deciphers to some classified KGB instructions and correspondence.
The Cyrillic Projector is an encrypted sculpture at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, that was created by Washington DC artist Jim Sanborn in the early 1990s. It was inspired by the encrypted Kryptos sculpture that Sanborn created two years earlier for CIA Headquarters.
The message on the Cyrillic Projector has turned out to be in two parts. The decrypted first part is a Russian text encouraging secret agents to psychologically control potential sources of information. The second part appears to be a partial quote from classified KGB correspondence about the Soviet dissident Sakharov, with concerns that his report to the Pugwash conference was being used by the Americans for an anti-Soviet agenda.
Sculptor Sanborn created two codes -- One for the CIA's Kryptos sculpture, and another lesser-known one related to KGB operations. The CIA's Kryptos sculpture attained international media attention in 1999 when it was announced that the first three sections of the Kryptos code had been solved independently by two different cryptographers. Part 4 of Kryptos remains uncracked to this day, and was what sparked the creation of the Kryptos Group in May 2003. The group currently has about 70 members from at least four different continents, and includes cryptographers, mathematicians, game developers, academics, and other interested hobbyists. Along with investigating the Kryptos code itself, the group is also closely examining other elements related to Kryptos, such as other sculptures created by artist Jim Sanborn, including the Cyrillic Projector.
The Cyrillic Projector was originally a piece displayed in Sanborn's gallery shows in the early 1990s. In 1997, it was installed permanently at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The Projector is a bronze cylinder, five feet wide and several feet tall, with hundreds of cyrillic characters cut through its metal circumference. At night, a bright light on the inside of the cylinder shines through the letters, illuminating the campus courtyard with encrypted cyrillic text.
The decryption process of the Cyrillic Projector Code was a unique international project, involving the work of several different people working in parallel -- some who knew each other, and others who were unaware of each other's efforts.
The process broke down into three major sections: Transcription, Decryption, and Translation.
|A major step towards a solution was the compilation of a complete transcript in June 2003. Three different members of the Kryptos Group spent weeks painstakingly transcribing the cyrillic characters from photographs, to create three independent transcripts. The comparison of those three transcripts was posted publicly on the website of one of the group's moderators on June 18th, 2003. At the right you can see a partial section of the ciphertext.|| Л T Ф E Ю
T Ф Я Й Я M П X Ц Ф A Ч
H Щ П B Б Г Ж Ч C К Ь Г
Г Л З Д Э Й П
Ъ К X C Й P Э A Ф H Ф П Щ B П E Ц P Д Ф A Щ Ш T К C X C Ч Ы У X X E Ю
К У M Л E Ч Л Ы T O Б H E Я Ж Ж И Ь H Э З Щ Ц P Л Ы Б П H Ф O И И A Б Ь
П И К Л E У P Ы C M Ъ Ш Л Л Б X M X Л Ж Ш P A Щ P Й Л П E O O Й Й B Ц
И Ъ Л Б X Ц P Ы Ч C К A P C P B Я Э Ф К Ю Ф P Ю M O Я З O Л O Д Э Ш P З У
Д X M A Э X O Й Г Й Ю Ф M Щ X X C B И И З X A Г Й Я Ь П C И Б P P Ш O M
К T C У Я Г X У Ь Л E У P Ы C M Ъ Ш C П П Я Я Ц Ш У Ш A Ц Ч П И M Ш H
P Б Ч P Я Ы M И У P A Д Ф A И Ю Й Ы Ц Я Л O H У Ф Ж O Ф Ш X Ф Ж C Б
B Ъ Ч Д Ц C Ф Б M Д Э Ш P З У Д X У P Б Ш T O К Щ Ъ M X П O T O X O Щ Ч
Ж A Ц Д Щ P A Ю Г O Й B P Б Г Ю Б З Г E Ж P Й Л П E O O Й Й B Ц H З П Г Ф
Ц З A И B Я Ю Ф Л Ъ Ц X C Ч Ы Ш Ь Б E O M Щ Ш Ж T Э Д Й O T T Ф X П P
П Л O Д Э Щ P З У Д X К П Г Ф O Ц Б Щ Ъ M M Э К Ч E P Л M К Ъ Ц Ц З Щ Л
Ф Ц Ч Ъ Щ К B H Ф A E C Д П T Д Ф П P Я Й К Ю H X B Ц Б Ю E И C Ч Я Ч Ц
X M Ж Л C П P Ч У Л Э Ш Ж Ы И И M E D U S A И H X E З Л Ч З P З Й К Л
П П E B Л Ч C X Ц Ы O Й B P Б У Д X C B Ъ Г Ж Ч C К A P C P B Я Э Ф P Щ Ф
Я Ц Щ П Ъ З Ы T Ф O Й Й У C Д T Ю T B C Б P X C П Б Щ Л Ш К У B Й Й Г З
| Other cryptographers who were not members of the group were
also working on the code, once they'd learned of the group's transcript.
One of those independent cryptographers figured out a decryption method
in July of 2003, but did not complete or announce his solution, because
his decryption resulted in a solid wall of Russian text which he could not
translate. Online translation programs were of little use because the resulting
text was all run together, and included spelling errors (a portion is at
Another group member independently came up with the same decryption method in early September, but didn't announce it because he too wanted to figure out how to translate the Russian before he said anything.
B Ы C O Ч A Й Ъ И M И C К У C C T B O M B T A Й H O Й P A З B E Д К E C П И T A E T C Я C П O C O Б H O C T Ь P A З P A Б O T A T Ь И C T O Ч H И К К O T O P Ы M T Ы Б У Д E Ш Ь B C E Ц E Л O P A H П O P Я Ж A T Ь C Я И К O H T P O Л И P O B A T Ь П O Э T O C У T A Й H O Й P A З B E Д Ы B A T E Л Ь H O Й C Л У Ж Б Ы К O H T P O Л И P У E M Ы Й И C T O Ч H И К К A К П P A B И Л O П O C T A Я Л Я E T C A M У Ю H A Д E Ж H У Э И H Ф O P M A Ц И Ю К O H T P O Л И P У E M Ы M C Ч И T A E T C Я К У П Л E H H Ы Й И Л И H A X O Д Я Щ И Й C Я B Л Ю Б O Й Д P У Г O Й З A B И T И M O C T И И C T O Ч H И К П O T P A Д И Ц И И Ц E Л Ь Э П P O Ф E C C И O H A Л A P A Б O T A Ю
|For an English example of the problem:||
On September 19th, one of the Kryptos Group's moderators noticed a webpage that had been created by the July solver, which included the decryption technique, though not the complete Russian plaintext or any English translation. The moderator quickly informed the other group members about the webpage, confirmed and duplicated the technique, and thereby obtained her own version of the Russian plaintext.
BЫCOЧAЙЪИM ИCКУCCTBOM B TAЙHOЙ PAЗBEДКE CПИTAETCЯ CПOCOБHOCTЬ PAЗPAБOTATЬ ИCTOЧHИК КOTOPЫM TЫ БУДEШЬ BCEЦEЛO PAHПOPЯЖATЬCЯ И КOHTPOЛИPOBATЬ ПOЭTOCУ TAЙHOЙ PAЗBEДЫBATEЛЬHOЙ CЛУЖБЫ КOHTPOЛИPУEMЫЙ ИCTOЧHИК КAК ПPABИЛO ПOCTAЯЛЯET CAMУЮ HAДEЖHУЭ ИHФOPMAЦИЮ КOHTPOЛИPУEMЫM CЧИTAETCЯ КУПЛEHHЫЙ ИЛИ HAXOДЯЩИЙCЯ B ЛЮБOЙ ДPУГOЙ ЗABИTИMOCTИ ИCTOЧHИК ПO TPAДИЦИИ ЦEЛЬЭ ПPOФECCИOHAЛA . . .
Then, working with two others, she obtained the first known English translation of the Cyrillic Projector Code on September 20th 2003. Other group members working independently confirmed the translation, and so the announcement of the Code's solution was sent out.
At the right, is a partial English translation of the first part of the Cyrillic Projector Code.
The highest skill of the secret service is the ability to develop a source, which you will handle and control completely so that the source supplies, as a rule, the most reliable information. A controllable source is a source that is considered bought or made otherwise dependent by some means. Traditionally, the goal of the secret service professional is to ensnare any potential-value source of information with a psychological net, and pull tight this net at the appropriate time. There are not too many possibilities for this, but those secret agents who develop controllable sources of information will get promotions and the respect of colleagues. However, the methods and behavioral techniques that are needed to attain this goal . . .
A timeline with the history of the Kryptos and Cyrillic Projector codes, and which individuals were involved in obtaining the solutions:
The Cyrillic Projector Website
More information about the Cyrillic Projector, including the June 2003 transcript of its ciphertext:
The Kryptos Group
More information about Kryptos:
A mirror of the discovered solution page:
More information about sculptor Jim Sanborn:
A collection of KGB documents, which may contain one that was quoted in the
For any questions, or to obtain contact information for interviews, please contact one of the Kryptos Group moderators: