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By Sean — 11 years ago
The past week has been big on the archive news. First the United States returned 80 stolen documents to the Russian Government. Now the FSB announces that it is making public documents relating to repression dating back to 1920-1950. Formerly a decree issued in 1992 made the documents only available to relatives who made formal requests. As Interfax explains:
The Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Reprisals (1992) says that rehabilitated citizens, as well as their relatives and other authorized persons, have the right to read the records of declassified criminal cases.
To prevent incursions into convicted persons’ private life, applicants – researchers or journalists – are requested to produce a notarized permit, provided by the convicted person’s relatives.
Last year, says Vasily Khristoforov, the head of the FSB’s Registers and Archives Department, 3500 persons made requests to view documents. 1500 were given permission.
The FSB archive reclassified the documents again in 2000 “without any explanation” says human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeuyeva to the Associated Press. My guess is that the “reclassification” was simply a way for a declassification commission to actually go through the documents in preparation for their full declassification to the public.
Getting access to the these declassified FSB documents is not without overcoming some bureaucratic hurdles. A interested person must file “a request with the archives, indicating what materials he needs to read and for what purpose,” Khristoforov told Interfax. “The request will be processed and if the materials requested are declassified, they will be made available to the applicant.” The only question I have is how long will this process will take, especially for foreign researchers who have limited time to wait for archives to grant access to materials. But be that as it may, getting around such a process when it concerns declassified documents is a whole lot easier than when they are classified.
The documents may prove to be a treasure trove for researchers. In interview Khristoforov did with Interfax, he said that a batch of the declassified documents deal with NKVD units that operated in occupied territory during the war. The force number around 15,000 agents who “liquidated 157,000 “Hitlerites” and 87 high level Nazi officials and unmasked and neutralized more than 2000 agents of these enemy groups.” My suspicion is that included in the number of 157,000 “Hitlerites” were a whole bunch of people the NKVD indiscriminately labeled Nazi sympathizers. In addition, the documents dealing with the war also includes information to identify Russian prisoners who died in Nazi camps, surrendered or were taken by force.
There is no doubt that the declassification will spark a series of new document collections. There are already many great ones. And Khristofornov mentions many examples of them. Already in the works is a collection of documents relating to F. E. Dzerzhinskii, the famed head of the Cheka. This year marks Dzerzhinskii’s 130th birthday and in commemoration a document collection titled “Dzerzhinskii –VChK-OGPU Chairman” is planned for publication. Also planned, and a bit more bizarre, is a collection of his love letters called “I Love You.” The collection features love letters Dzerzhinskii wrote to Margarita Fedorovna Nikolaeva between 1898-1899. Apparently these letters have been known about since Nikolaeva died at a ripe 84 in 1957. Then they were packed in a box and sent to IMEL (the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute , now the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History, RGASPI). Despite his ruthlessness as head of the Cheka, Dzerzhinskii was known for having a soft spot. He wrote poetry and headed the Soviet agency for child homelessness while hunting down bandits, saboteurs and counter-revolutionaries.Post Views: 190
By Sean — 1 year ago
By Sean — 11 years ago
“Bastards! (сволочи!)” For the last week a women who sits in front of me in the reading room has been cursing documents as she thumbed through files of Komsomol protocols and resolutions from the late 1980s. I finally found out what she is working on the other day.
“They are all thieves,” she told me yesterday during tea. “They stole from me and Russia. During Komsomol meetings they were diving up the property of cooperatives, allocating money for projects and themselves.” The “they” are Russia’s oligarchs, many of which have fled the country as exiles. “Khodorkovsky’s name is everywhere,” she told me pointing to a document from 1991 that details funds going to one of the oil cooperatives and banks he “owned.” The protocol in the document allocated to him over a million dollars.
“You know,” I told her “many in the United States consider people like Khodorkovsky are considered heroes of democracy.” “Well, here they are all thieves.” And it was no wonder, she added, because Khodorkovsky was tied to American banks in the early 1990s.
This woman is working on an article she hopes to publish in Der Spiegel. The story of how leading cadres in the Komsomol allocated property to themselves is a fascinating story. It is a perfect picture of what might call primitive capitalist accumulation with all the theft, swindle and blood that goes with it. Everybody knows how elites the Communist Party, like Gazprom’s Viktor Chernomyrdin became instant billionaires. What is less known is how Communist Youth League cooperatives were used in the 1980s as a means to marketize the Soviet economy.
Gorbachev’s idea was good natured but na?ve. By rehabilitating the ideas of Nikolai Bukharin, Gorbachev hoped to revitalize the executed Bolshevik’s slogan “Enrich Yourselves!” and his ideas about socialist competition. Like in the 1920s, Komsomol cooperatives of the 1980s were subjected to market principles to foster competition with state enterprises. The competition, it was believed, would increase productivity and production quality. It is now called Komsomol capitalism.
Komsomol cooperatives were based in two industries: construction and technology. But archival documents might reveal a much wider breath of entrepreneurship. From the few documents, I was shown, the Komsomol was allocating funds to oil, banking, and publishing, all of which were run and later owned by key Komsomol cadres. This of course wasn’t Gorbachev’s idea. His idea was that using the Komsomol to experiment with market reforms was politically safe. The Party pumped funds into the organization for it to set up cooperatives. In the case of technology, it was hard currency since Komsomol members would buy old computer equipment from the West and refurbish it for big profits.
By the time the Soviet system collapsed, the now redundant Komsomol was awash with cash. The players in the organization quickly appropriated it and set up the first banks, and therefore were the first ones that had the ability to give credit. The Komsomol oligarchs also made out big in the privatization scandals of the 1990s where they took privatization shares for loans. The result was that many, like Khodorkovsky, became the owners of recently privatized state enterprises.
“I’ll take these documents to court if I have to,” the woman told me with hopes that an article based on archival documents will bring some justice. In fact, some of the documents she’s looking at were used in Khodorkovsky’s conviction. “The strange thing is that he didn’t believe he was guilty. This is why he didn’t flee to Israel or America like the others. But how could he think he was innocent!? His name is all over these documents. And there were laws on cooperatives that prevented their privatization. And the Komsomol was after all a social organization and therefore not theirs to take.”Post Views: 309