Russian-notebook-bar

On a Russian website a handwritten notebook from the Soviet era is described. Its content is encrypted. Can a reader solve this unusual cryptogram?

I absolutely love to rummage in archives and libraries in search of interesting crypto documents. Many of the stories I have covered on Klausis Krypto Kolumne are based on findings I made this way.

Klaus-Cambridge-Library

However, my best source for new crypto stories is still Google. Usually, I carry out my online searches in German or English, but with the help of Google Translate I can easily use search terms like “encrypted”, “secret writing” or “crypto mystery” in other languages, as well. I prefer to search for images instead for text, because interesting pictures are easier to spot on a long list of items than interesting text.

One of the most interesting Google searches I ever made came about when I used Russian search terms like тайнопись (“secret writing”) and закодированный (“encrypted”). Among other things I found a page about Russian child murderer Vladimir Vinnichevsky (1923-1940) and his allegedly encrypted note. When I reported on this story in a blog post last week, my readers Alexander Ulyanenkov and Thomas found out that the note was not really encrypted but abbreviated.

 

The Russian notebook

Here’s another crypto mystery from Russia I found via Google. On a Russian website (I prefer the Google Translate version) I read about somebody who had discovered a notebook in the waste paper of an old country house. The content of this notebook is written in an unusual script – most likely, it is encrypted. Only two page scans are given on the website. The cleartext is unknown. I put the Russian notebook on my Encrypted Book List (position 00082).

Russian-notebook-1

The author of the Russian website offered the notebook for sale. I wrote him an email telling him that I was interested in buying it. For the case that the booklet was already sold, I asked him for a complete set of page scans. So far, I haven’t received a reply. I don’t even know if he speaks English.

Russian-notebook-2

Here are a few facts about the encrypted Russian notebook:

  • It’s a squared exercise book as used in school.
  • The writing probably stems from the 1980s.
  • The paper is slightly affected by water.
  • The book contains several pictures, the meaning of which is unclear.
  • The finder of the notebook thinks that the content has got to do with magic. I’m not sure about this.

As it seems, the notebook finder posted information about this booklet on a variety of online forums and received many comments. However, nobody came up with a solution.

Can a reader of Klausis Krypto Kolumne find out more about this unusual cryptogram?

Further reading: An extraordinary encrypted book: George Orwell’s “1984” enciphered in color

Kommentare (38)

  1. #1 David Wilson
    31. August 2016

    The drawing looks like a sarcophagus (Sarkophag) or a coffin. Then it’s rotated at an angle.

  2. #2 Klaus Schmeh
    31. August 2016

    Mark Romo via Facebook:

    The cipher was written so neatly!
    I wonder, because it was written in a type of notebook used in school, if it was written by a teen who had a fascination for magic.

  3. #3 Klaus Schmeh
    31. August 2016

    James Simpson via Facebook:

    I downloaded the best looking match of these alchemaic and occult symbols years ago and cant find it….it was like a thesaurus and had dozens of linguistic and alphabet charts side by side and made breaking so easy….now I cant find it in my files…..ugh…

  4. #4 Klaus Schmeh
    31. August 2016

    James Simpson via Facebook:
    there is a guide to all these types of ciphertext symbols…..any clues where its found in the web? What title?

  5. #5 merzmensch
    31. August 2016

    In case it would be Russian, I’m on it.
    If it’s a substitution code, let’s look to the one-character-words (especially little circle), which could be followings:
    “и” – “and”
    “я” – “me”
    “o” – “about”, or: “oh”

    In context of magic, if we suppose a spell or evocation of some ghosts, it could be either “o” (“oh” as appellative) or “и” “and”, since ancient Russian narratives often begin the sentence with “And…”.

  6. #6 Klaus Schmeh
    31. August 2016

    David Oranchak via Facebook:

    Here is a possible word match:

  7. #7 Klaus Schmeh
    31. August 2016

    David Oranchak via Facebook:

    I tried to find words that had several repeated letters within them. This way, it will limit the number of possible words that fit. The above word appears on the left page of the 2nd photograph. It has a repeated “curvy left arrow” and repeated “o”. The words for “purchased” and “payoff” fit that pattern, assuming this is a simple substitution cipher. Certainly someone could easily run with the rest of the decoding from here.

  8. #8 Klaus Schmeh
    31. August 2016
  9. #9 Klaus Schmeh
    31. August 2016

    David Oranchak via Facebook:

    The full words were “приобретение” and “расплатиться” but I found when I dropped the last 3 letters of each, they still translated without correction on Google Translate.

  10. #10 Thomas
    1. September 2016

    @merzmensch
    We should also have a look at three-letter-words with “o”. There is “o3o” which may represent – sorry, I have no Cyrillic keybord – “ili” (engl. or) or “kak” (engl. how) or “ono” (engl. it). I think “tot” can be ruled out because there is no Russian single-letter-word “t”. “ili” would correspond to the one-letter-word “i” (engl. “and” as you said), “kak” would correspond to “k” (engl.”to”), “ono” to “o” (engl. about).
    Now to other three-letter-words: There is “3o0” (0 stands for the Danish o with a slash) . If 3=a and o=k, this could stand for “akt” (engl. act), I can think of no other word “ak?” There is another three-letter- word in cipher: “T3o” which could stand for “tak” (engl.: in this way). If 3=l and o=i, “3oO” could mean “lik” (engl. face, but in the sense of German “Antlitz”). And “T3o”? Maybe “pli” (engl. fire! (milit.)).
    Now to the variant o=o and 3=n: “3o0” could stand for “nos” (engl. nose) and “T3o” for “dno” (engl. bottom) or “zlo” (engl. evil).

  11. #11 Thomas
    1. September 2016
  12. #12 werner
    1. September 2016

    The pictures look like a sketch of a catacomb with sarcophagi on several staggered levels. Anything known like this in Russia?

  13. #13 Thomas
    1. September 2016

    #10

    “zlo” won`t do it because of the “l”, sorry!

  14. #14 Leonid
    Oryol, Russia
    1. September 2016

    An additional fact about this book listed on the website: only three turning pages covered with writing in cipher. Published photos of only two turns.

  15. #15 Klaus Schmeh
    1. September 2016

    @Leonid:
    Thanks for the hint. As it seems, there’s less content than I thought.

  16. #16 merzmensch
    2. September 2016

    Dear friends, I am about to solve it. Just have not so much time, so perhaps somebody could assist me.

    How I did it?

    I used the good old method I often did in various ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) with codes involved.

    Since the code looked like substitution code, the most handy kind to manage it is following:

    1) You make a PDF of the image
    2) You use form function (text form), where you find the unique chars and attend to it a text form with unique ID. So at the end you have all chars, still without values or solutions, but already with unique ID.
    3) You look for sequences or recognizable words, put letters into the text forms, and – magic! – all other identical letters will appear.

    Here is the screenshot with my first page
    http://i234.photobucket.com/albums/ee240/kosmopol/code1_zpsaqreh6f2.jpg

    What do we have?
    Note: some letters looks very similar, but should be various, and some letters aren’t still recognized. Especially “с” / “е” and “б” / “в”.

    These letters are marked with []. All unclear or found on the flow letters are marked with *. As you see, I begun with letter identification but because of luck of time haven’t covered all characters visually (under the page image).

    “Живо[sic!]ные и птицы так и
    возникли девы и были те
    девы прекрасны и мудры
    выла у них сила знания
    и разума и создали ини
    города хрустальные и пи
    рамиды в недра уход[ящ]ие
    так появилась царство
    ому и жили девы с[ч]астли
    во покуда не упал [с]ини[й] камен[ь] и в
    месте [яре] во*ел он в тв
    ердь по[ч]вы взо*и травы
    иные коры же стали [я]дов
    иты и вы[ш]ли из них ры[б]ы
    отрастили хвосты и лапы”

    Which can be translated:

    “Animals and birds, and so the maidens[or:virgins] were born and these maidens were beautiful and wise, they had the power of knowledge and sense, and they grounded crystal towns and pyramids, which were borrowed into the grounds, and so was the kingdom [Omu?] founded, and the maidens lived in happiness, until the blue stone had fallen, and it came deep into the ground, and grass and [other barks?] became poisoned, and the fishes were arisen and they have grown their tails and legs”…

    The first page is solved, for the next pages I just have to find time. In case you want to experiment around with codes, you can use the PDF.

    https://merzmensch.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/russian-notebook-2-c2.pdf

    You can move the text forms to another page. With RESET you can reset the whole solution and try it out at your own.

    I will try to solve the rest tomorrow. The most important thing is: it’s a simply substitution code. The text sounds like a mystical story / fantasy setting. Perhaps somebody was sketching his novel, and in order nobody could steal his ideas he used the code? Well, two pages still unsolved, but it’s just issue of time.

  17. #17 David Oranchak
    Roanoke
    2. September 2016

    Wow, merzmensch; really nice job! Thanks for posting your solution!

  18. #18 David Oranchak
    http://zodiackillerciphers.com
    2. September 2016

    And your method of using PDF forms to manage the substitution is very clever. I like that you can skip the transcription step that way!

  19. #19 Merzmensch
    2. September 2016

    Thank you, David!
    This text form feature is really pretty useful, almost brute force :-)

    I posted now the whole translation, and hope it will appear in comments now.

  20. #20 Thomas
    2. September 2016

    @ Merzmensch
    Great!
    With your method I got from the first page: (Maybe bad English)

    Book of…. virgins

    In the beginning there was nothing. Only emptiness. After that fire gave birth to everything and the stars appeared in the sky and from dust mighty powers formed after them two. So the earth came into being and … time. On it there was nothing. Only emptiness and life emerged.

  21. #21 Merzmensch
    2. September 2016

    @Thomas, great!
    Here is the translation:
    Page 1.

    “The book of sleeping maidens

    at thhe beginning there was nothing, just void, but then the fire generated everything. stars appeared at the sky and powerful forces clayed from dust near of them the grou(nd). So the Earth was born and long timne nothing was on it, just a void. But then life came

    Page2

    and grass and trees appeared, animals and birds (as well). And so the maidens[or:virgins] were born and these maidens were beautiful and wise, they had the power of knowledge and sense, and they grounded crystal towns and pyramids, which were borrowed into the grounds, and so was the kingdom [Omu?] founded, and the maidens lived in happiness, until the blue stone had fallen, and it came deep into the ground, and grass and [other barks?] became poisoned, and the fishes were arisen and they had grown their tails and legs
    Page 3

    and killed all life, and the maidens died, but the most wisest of them, in order to preserve themselfes for the future times, build a huge pyramid deep under the earth and put themselfs there and felt in deep eternal sleep.

    ***
    in the middle is the stone, this stone contains the power and knowledge”

  22. #22 Thomas
    2. September 2016

    Better than #20
    “So the earth came into being and a long time there was nothing on it. Only emptiness. And life emerged.”

    @Merzmensch
    The char which looks like a “J” seems to represent not only “d” (dolgoe), but also “tsh” (nitshevo). (Sorry, no Cyrillic Keyboard).

  23. #24 Thomas
    2. September 2016

    @Merzmensch
    Fantastic! I was just wondering what the virgins/maidens were doing – they were sleeping, you´re right!
    In line 6 I read “tve” which I misinterpreted as “two”. “”tve” means ground?

    Could you explain how the substituition plate by kosmopol works?

  24. #25 Klaus Schmeh
    2. September 2016

    @merzmensch
    Thank you very much! Great job! As it seems, the mystery is solved now.

    @Thomas and David: thanks for confirming the solution.

  25. #26 Klaus Schmeh
    2. September 2016

    Here’s the complete decryption and translation Merzmensch provided me via mail:

    Page 1.

    “Книга спящих дев

    вначале не было ничего
    лишь пустота затем огонь
    породил все у во*игли на
    небе звезды и из пыли
    силы могучие слепили под
    ле них тве? так ви(!)зникла
    земля и долгое время не
    было на ней ничего лишь
    пустота и возникла жизнь

    page2

    возникли травы и древа
    живо[sic!]ные и птицы так и
    возникли девы и были те
    девы прекрасны и мудры
    была у них сила знания
    и разума и создали ини
    города хрустальные и пи
    рамиды в недра уходящие
    так появилась царство
    ому и жили девы счастли
    во покуда не упал синий камень и в
    месте яре вошел он в тв
    ердь почвы взош[]и травы
    иные коры же стали ядов
    иты и вышли из них рыбы
    отрастили хвосты и лапы

    Page 3

    и убили все живое умер
    ли все и девы но самые
    мудрые сохранить себ а
    для времен грядущих со
    здали они одну большую
    пирамиду уходящую в не
    дра легли туда телами
    и сном вечным уснули

    ***
    в центре камень в нем
    сила и знания в нем их”

    Page 1.

    “The book of sleeping maidens

    at thhe beginning there was nothing, just void, but then the fire generated everything. stars appeared at the sky and powerful forces clayed from dust near of them the grou(nd). So the Earth was born and long timne nothing was on it, just a void. But then life came

    Page2

    and grass and trees appeared, animals and birds (as well). And so the maidens[or:virgins] were born and these maidens were beautiful and wise, they had the power of knowledge and sense, and they grounded crystal towns and pyramids, which were borrowed into the grounds, and so was the kingdom [Omu?] founded, and the maidens lived in happiness, until the blue stone had fallen, and it came deep into the ground, and grass and [other barks?] became poisoned, and the fishes were arisen and they had grown their tails and legs
    Page 3

    and killed all life, and the maidens died, but the most wisest of them, in order to preserve themselfes for the future times, build a huge pyramid deep under the earth and put themselfs there and felt in deep eternal sleep.

    ***
    in the middle is the stone, this stone contains the power and knowledge”

  26. #27 Thomas
    2. September 2016

    Congratulations, merzmensch! A very fine method for solving substitution ciphers!

  27. #28 Klaus Schmeh
    2. September 2016

    Bart Wenmeckers via Facebook:

    The biggest problem i have (probably most of us actually) is transcribing the texts we get. In the comment section on Klaus’s page a user who solved this cipher by the name merzmensch transcribes with the following method
    “1) You make a PDF of the image”
    “2) You use form function (text form), where you find the unique chars and attend to it a text form with unique ID. So at the end you have all chars, still without values or solutions, but already with unique ID.”
    Is anyone familiar with this method or the software tools used??
    I am really interested and i am sure many others will be too.

  28. #29 Klaus Schmeh
    2. September 2016

    David Oranchak via Facebook:

    I think you just need a PDF editor (such as Adobe’s) that supports PDF forms. It looks like merzmensch linked a set of “master” form elements to various other form elements placed throughout the scans atop the symbols. Then, entering text into one of the form element in the “master” (used as the cipher key) causes all the other dependant form elements to change automatically to the value you entered.

    On here, they are called “duplicate form fields”: https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/pdf-form-field-basics.html

  29. #30 Thomas
    3. September 2016

    Maybe this method could also be helpful in solving the (French or Italian) Ranzo cryptogram (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b9059908w/f4.item.zoom) which Klaus presented here:http://scienceblogs.de/klausis-krypto-kolumne/2016/05/17/wer-loest-diesen-verschluesselten-brief-aus-dem-franzoesischen-nationalarchiv/

    Converting an image into a pdf ist no problem but up to now I don´t know how to go on (merzmensch #16:
    “You use form function (text form), where you find the unique chars and attend to it a text form with unique ID”.). Is a special version of the acrobat reader (mine hasn´t any function menue) or another program required? Can anybody help?

  30. #31 merzmensch
    4. September 2016

    Dear friends, I can with pleasure write a little tutorium, showing how to build this kind of solution using Adobe Acrobat.
    (I’m on it actually :-))

  31. #32 merzmensch
    6. September 2016

    Dear friends, here you can find my tutorial about the way to solve substitution code.

    http://merzmensch.blogspot.de/2016/09/how-to-solve-every-substitution-code.html

    Fell free to use and uncover the mysteries!

  32. #33 Thomas
    7. September 2016

    Thank you very much!

  33. #34 Emil
    Resolver earlier)
    7. November 2016

    Hello! This script was resolved earlier. I posted this in Febrary 2016, and Igor Homiakov this resolved))

    Link – https://vk.com/wall-46299096_17821

  34. #35 Klaus Schmeh
    7. November 2016

    @Emil:
    Thanks for letting us know!
    If you know other interesting cryptograms, please let me know.

  35. #36 Emil
    7. November 2016

    Hello, Klaus!
    Ok, if I find new cryptograms, I I will publish this in your site!)

  36. #37 Klaus Schmeh
    7. November 2016

    @Emil: Sounds good!

  37. #38 Merzmensch
    30. November 2016

    @Emil
    Fantastic! You were the first.
    It would be very good, if you would try to solve this one: http://scienceblogs.de/klausis-krypto-kolumne/2016/09/12/kaliningrads-second-mystery-who-can-break-this-encrypted-bottle-post/
    Thank you!