Presidential Archive of the Russian Federation, f. 3, op. 3, d. 65, l. 32.
Captain 1st Department of the Scientific Research Chemical Institute of the RKKA
17 October 1935
It was revealed upon examination of the envelope:
A trace of the substance was not complely preserved on the envelope and the possibility of conducting a thorough chemical analysis is excluded.
The envelope emits a weak smell that is a distant resemblance to excrement or a meat product (intestines used in the production of sausage or similar).
It can be assumed that the specimen that is contained in the envelope (in certainly possible it was wrapped in still another paper) is of animal origin, however to what degree cannot be considered proven.
Captain 1st Department NIKI RKKA
This document was published in Istochnik, 3, 1993.
You Might also like
By Sean — 9 years ago
Lewis Siegelbaum has a cover interview with Rorotoko for his recent book Cars for Comrades. I didn’t know about this interview until I received an email from Cornell University Press’ Publicity Manager. I should note, however, posting a blurb about Siegelbaum’s interview isn’t purely out of disinterest. He’s on my dissertation committee and bringing attention to his book is the least I can do to thank him for his quick and gracious reading. Plus Cars for Comrades is a book worth mentioning regardless of my relationship with him. For car lovers it tells a story virtually unknown in the West. For lovers of Russian history, it adds to our knowledge of Soviet culture and consumerism through something we in the United States take completely for granted: the car.
Cars for Comrades also provides some historical context to accompany all the recent articles decrying the state of Russia’s roads and how Russia leads European countries in road fatalities. This past few weeks have been particularly bad for the Russian driver and passenger. According to Pravda.ru, 592 people died in accidents between July 20 to 26 alone. Between 30,000 and 35,000 people die in car accidents in Russia a year. The spate of red asphalt over the last few weeks put this year’s total over 10,000. Even President Medvedev commented on the state of Russia’s road system. “We can’t bury so many people because our traffic system is organized like this,” he said on the Kremlin’s website.
Then there is the current status of the Russian car industry as symbolized by last year’s protests in the Far East against new car import taxes. Not to mention many union struggles, assembly line closures, mandatory furloughs, layoffs occurring the Russian car industry. All of this makes the upcoming protest by AvtoVAZ workers against the indefinite closure of their auto plant, and their possible firing, worth paying attention to.
But Siegelbaum’s book is not a treatise on road fatalities or the class struggles within the Soviet auto industry. As he explains to Rorotoko:
I set out to write a book not so much about the varieties and comparative deficiencies of cars in the Soviet Union as what these objects meant to Soviet citizens. The structure and organizing principles of the book were among the first things to become clear. There would be three chapters on the “Soviet Detroits” – the places where automobiles were built, the people who built them, and how the cars and trucks they produced both embodied the state’s agendas and inspired popular identification.
I settled on Moscow’s AMO factory (later known as ZIS and still later ZIL) from where the first Soviet-made motor vehicles emanated in 1924; the Gor’kii Automobile Factory (GAZ) that began turning out Model A cars and trucks in the 1930s and later the Pobeda, Volga, and Chaika; and AvtoVAZ, the giant factory built on the banks of the Volga in the late 1960s and early 1970s to produce the Zhiguli, or as it became known abroad, the Lada.
These chapters would be followed by one on roads and their construction, the forms of labor relied upon to build and maintain them, and other dimensions of the struggle against “roadlessness.” The final two chapters would tell the story of how Soviet citizens experienced trucks and cars in their daily lives, how Communist ideology eventually accommodated the private automobile, but why cars required a lot of semi-legal or illegal activity to keep them on the road.
The book is structured around three axes: foreign and domestic, public and private, and continuity and change.
Contrary to Cold War-era assertions, the Soviet automobile industry was neither entirely dependent on nor completely autonomous from western technological developments. It did a lot of copying, mixing and matching, and innovating on the fly. In the 1930s, Soviet highway design and construction emulated Fascist Italy’s autostradas and Nazi Germany’s autobahns but for better or for worse otherwise depended on indigenous inspiration and approaches. Foreign trucks and cars – the pre-revolutionary playthings of the aristocracy, the “Renochka” that the revolutionary poet Vladimir Maiakovskii bought as a gift for his mistress, the legendary Lend Lease Studebakers, the trophy cars that Red Army officers brought back from defeated Germany, Detroit’s finest on display at the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow – were icons of a world few Soviet citizens had seen. Yet, Soviet citizens took pride in “their own” luxury models (ZIS and ZIL limousines, Chaikas, etc.), thrilled to accounts of auto races and rallies in which Soviet drivers heroically overcame obstacles, and for the most part leapt at the opportunity to acquire even the most modest of Soviet models.
Actually, even the state’s property – trucks and, until the 1970s, the vast majority of cars – often was appropriated for private or personal purposes by drivers and officials in need of wheels. With the proliferation of privately owned cars in the 1970s and 80s, owners appropriated state supplies of parts and gasoline too. The mutuality of such relationships and the hybridity of forms they produced meant that occasional ruptures in the life of the Soviet automobile did not prevent the emergence over the long haul of a Soviet “automobility.” Many of its features survived the collapse of the USSR itself.
The book’s main argument is that the Soviet automobile had to adapt to Soviet circumstances as much as it provoked adaptation. If the particularities of Soviet socialism can better inform us about the history of cars and trucks, then the Soviet automobile can help teach us about Soviet socialism.
Soviet socialism via the Soviet automobile. Hey, we evaluate America through the car, so why not?
By Sean — 12 years ago
Anyone interested in the status of Russian archives should read the NY Times article, “Iron Archives.” However, some of its claims about the shrinking access to Russian archives should be put in context. For example, anything that is located in the infamous Presidential Archive is off limits, except if you have connections. I know a few scholars who’ve gotten special dispensation to work there. The Foreign Policy and Military archives (19th century materials are available) are also closed.
It is also true that the declassification process has been slowed. As the article points out and honest archivists will attest, this is mostly because the process has been formalized. The body in charge of declassification, the Commission on State Secrets, is under funded and understaffed. Add the lack of incentive to make documents open and the process slows to a crawl. But scholars shouldn’t take this as a sign that archival research on “sensitive subjects” is impossible. Sure military and foreign policy are out. Postwar Communist Party materials are also difficult to get your hands on.
also has a policy concerning personal files. They are only accessible after 75 years unless you have permission from the family. However, historians of some of the darkest moments in Soviet history will tell you that documentation about the Terror, Collectivization, deportation, and the GULAG are abundant. A lot of documentation in the Presidential Archive will only spice up footnotes and pad bibliographies. The new information they contain will mostly further confirm already existing materials. Also, in most archives a researcher with good connections can get classified material even if it is classified. But despite what anyone thinks, there is little left to know that the archives can tell us. I personally doubt that there are any smoking guns buried deep in even the most secret Russian archives. Access to them will only satisfy historians’ own archival fetish. Russia
Still, each Russian archive has its own rules and culture. State and Provincial Archives like the ones cited in the article fall under the laws and policies of Rosarkhiv, the State Archival Administration. Their rules specifically make statements about researchers’ rights to open materials. If all else fails, embarrassing archivist by citing these rules can sometimes works. Going straight to the director does too. The most difficult archives are the ones that are under city administrations. The Moscow City Archive for Social Movements is notoriously difficult. I think I was able to work there by charm alone.
The real problem with Russian archives is not reclassification or access. It is funding. The Komsomol archive where I work has had a staff reduction from 8 to 4 people. Many archives are housed in crumbling buildings or worse are considered prime real estate. Some, like the State Historical Archive in
, have been forced to move. As the main state archive for the 19th century, this is a huge blow to the history of the Imperial period. The lack of funding has also prevented archives from modernizing their reading rooms, purchasing copiers, microfilm readers, etc. The most modern archives are the ones like the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History and others who have signed publishing deals with Western publishers like Yale University Press. St. Petersburg
Lastly, Russian archives are beginning to suffer from a lack in training. Pay is incredibly low—about $100 a month. Most of the staff is either old, mentally deranged or both. Recent rules have reduced archival training to simply a certificate rather than a degree. The next generation of archivists will be poorly trained, paid, and therefore disinterested.
So put in this perspective the status of Russian archives is direr than the Western historians’ obsession with classification.
All this said, my favorite part of the whole article was the final quote from Robert Conquest. I quote the Times quoting him:
“There’s a drive of sorts toward the truth,” said Robert Conquest, the venerable cold warrior and author of “The Great Terror.” “After all, they didn’t really manage to totally suppress it the whole Soviet period, in spite of destroying the intelligentsia and ruining the country.”
It’s funny for a historian like him to speak about the truth. Especially coming from a guy who once declared that rumor was one of the best sources for understanding the
Soviet Union. Plus how would he know about suppressing the truth? To my knowledge, none of his books contain a single archival citation. There is some speculation around the field whether the man has ever stepped into a Russian archive at all.
By Sean — 2 years ago