Two years ago, I blogged about an encrypted notebook from the Soviet Union. Within a few days, a reader solved this crypto mystery. It is high time that I introduce this solution in a blog post.

Occasionally, I use Google Translate to search for terms like “encrypted”, “secret writing” or “crypto mystery” in languages I don’t speak. Using Russian search terms, like тайнопись (“secret writing”) or закодированный (“encrypted”), proved especially interesting. Two years ago these expressions led me to an interesting find: a post in a Russian online forum (here is the Google Translate version) about an encrypted notebook. This notebook is now on my Encrypted Book List (position 00082).


The Russian notebook

The author of the post had discovered this notebook in the waste paper of an old country house. He published two page scans in the forum (if I have understood the post correctly, there are only three encrypted pages altogether). Here is the first one:


Here is the second scan:


Here are a few facts about the encrypted notebook:

  • It is a squared exercise book as used in school.
  • The writing probably stems from the 1980s, i.e., the late Soviet era.
  • The paper is slightly affected by water.
  • The book contains several pictures, the meaning of which is unclear.

The post in the Russian online forum received many comments. However, nobody came up with a solution.

In addition to the pages, the notebook owner posted the following two scans:


I don’t know what the relationship between these scans and the notebook is. Perhaps, a reader can help.


How my readers solved the mystery

After I had published a blog post about this encrypted notebook, several of my readers (including Merzmensch, Thomas Bosbach and Dave Oranchak) started analyzing it. Merzmensch wrote:

If it’s a substitution code [a MASC], 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…”.

Apparently, Merzmensch’s guesses were correct. The encryption method used turned out to be a MASC. Only two days later Merzmensch posted the solution. To find it, he had used 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.

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 key Merzmensch found:


The following pictures show scans of the PDF Merzmensch created:



The cleartext

Here is the cleartext (in Russian):

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

Page 2, left:

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 2, right:

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 и

Google translate provides the following English translation:

Page 1:

The book of the sleeping virgins

in the beginning there was nothing
only emptiness then fire
gave birth to everything from a needle to a
the sky of stars and of dust
the mighty forces were
Le tve? so let’s see (!)
land and for a long time not
there was nothing on her
emptiness and arose life

Page 2 , left:

there were grasses and trees
live [sic!] birds and birds and
there were virgins and were those
the virgins are beautiful and wise
they had the power of knowledge
and reason and created an ini-
city ​​of crystal and pi
ramis in the bowels of the outflow
so there was a kingdom
the virgin lived and lived happily
while the blue stone did not fall and
he entered the place in a tv
The ground of the soil is [] and grass
other bark became poison
ita and came out of them fish
grew tails and paws

Page 2, right:

and killed all living things died
Do all and virgins but the most
wise to keep
for the time to come
They were one big
the pyramid leaving in not
the drills went there with bodies
and sleep forever fell asleep

in the center there is a stone in it
strength and knowledge in it their

Only one question remains: what is this cleartext about? A reader of the online forum provided the following explanation:

It looks like an outline of a fantastic novel. Maybe the author used encryption to prevent his ideas from being stolen. In this case, I apologize profoundly to the author of the cryptogram.

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

Kommentare (3)

  1. #1 Thomas
    22. August 2018

    The right scan shows the title, it means ” notebook”. The left scan shows the back containing the name of the paper factory, an article number and the price.

  2. #2 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa
    23. August 2018

    …in the somewhat uninviting-sounding (to my English ear) city of “Swetogorsk”.

  3. #3 Klaus Schmeh
    25. August 2018

    Bart Wenmeckers via Facebook:
    Good work by Merzmensch. Personally I find foreign language ciphers of unknown type to rather challenging.