From BBC in 2001.
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- By Sean — 3 years ago
Andrei Tsygankov is a Professor in the departments of Political Science and International Relations at San Francisco State University where he teaches Russian/post-Soviet, comparative and international politics. His most recent book is Russia’s Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity.
The Heptones, “Message from a Black Man,” Studio One Soul, 2001.
- By Sean — 11 years ago
Archives are often the first casualties of revolutions. When Tsarist Russia imploded in 1917, revolutionaries quickly raided the Okhrana’s archives. Police documents revealed that one of Lenin’s close confidants, Roman Malinovski was unmasked as an Okhrana spy. He was quickly taken out and shot.
War, Revolution, and Civil War reduced Russian central and local archival holdings to utter shambles. As A. S. Nikolaev, the director of the Soviet’s Head Administration for Archival Affairs, explained in the archival journal Istoricheskii arkhiv in 1919:
“Much calamity was caused to documents in October, November, December 1917 and January, February and March 1918, and the holdings are covered in wounds in office and archival depositories. Many institutions began to function as new institutions with new people. These people brought the belief with them that inane and useless work was made there and that the saboteurs that left their work only left useless paper trash. . . [This] useless trash began to be thrown out from cabinets on to the floor, kicking it around from room to the corridor, and from the corridor to the garret, and as trash it was taken to the buyer, the second hand book seller, and to the paper factory . . . Much of it perished, and perished beyond retrieve.”
The poor archival conditions continued well into the 1920s. A survey of local archives in 1927 noted that documents were still be sold to paper mills, used for wrapping fish at local markets, stored on open shelves in offices or in boxes, and secret documents kept in Party members’ apartments for the lack fire proof safes. Often documents were simply thrown in the trash, stuffed in apparatchik’s pockets, reused for other documents, or used to roll cigarettes. Still many young Party and Komsomol members considered archival documents Many young members saw the preservation of documents as “dirty and useless work and considered all this historical material as insignificant to be deposited in archives, useless bureaucratic paper, and excessive red tape.” Given these conditions, I’m surprised we have anything from the 1920s
Soviet archives experienced another catastrophe during the Second World War when
archives were evacuated to protect them from falling into German hands. Many of the holdings in the Komsomol archive were destroyed including records for the journal Molodaia gvardiia, Komsomolskaya pravda, and entire sections of the League’s agitprop and cadres department. Moscow
The biggest archival prize of the war, though, was the Nazi seizure of the Smolensk Archive during their retreat in 1943. The Soviets retrieved part of the archive in
Poland, but a small part was taken to where it fell into American hands in 1947. Subsequently microfilmed, though virtually ignored by researchers (Merle Fainsod and J. Arch Getty being the only two scholars to use the records extensively), the Smolensk Archive proved to be a treasure trove of how the Communist Party managed or really mismanaged local government. It was returned to the Russian government in December 2002. Bavaria
Ransacking Soviet archives became an issue once again in 1991. I was told the following by archivists. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, anti-communists fell upon the Central Communist Party Archive in
looking for materials to denounce communists. The anti-communists, however, did not know their archives. The Central Party Archive only had documents up to the early 1950s. The archive that held documents after 1950s was the Current Archive of the Communist Party which was located down the street. Unable to convince the invaders of this, the archive directors, K. Anderson and O. Naumov, barricaded the doors and slept at the archive for two weeks to prevent their ransacking. It was only after repeated convincing and a personal tour of the depository were the intruders convinced and eventually left. It is unknown whether they took their archival pogrom down the street. Moscow
In another incident told to me by G. M. Tokareva, the reading room head at the Komsomol archive, something similar occurred there but this time the “democrats”, as she calls them, succeeded. Apparently, the “democrats” broke into the archive, which was then housed at the Molodaia gvardiia offices on Leningradskii prospekt, and ransacked the depository. Large sections of the Komsomol’s film and photo document collection were destroyed. When I asked Naumov to confirm this story, he said he did not know anything of it.
The 1990s were also full of stories of foreign researchers buying or spiriting away archival documents.
All of this brings us to today. The Moscow Times reports that the
formerly turned over 80 Tsarist and Soviet documents to the Russian government. The documents were discovered at US antiquities dealers in United States Las Vegasand . No arrests have been made. Connecticut
The documents range from a declaration signed by Empress Catherine the Great in 1792 to orders signed by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev; none appears to reveal any secrets, but some give a glimpse into the lives and styles of the country’s leaders.
Among the latter is a terse note written by Lenin to an apparatchik: “Your request has been considered and I have recommended you.”
Also included is a note scrawled by Stalin’s daughter Svetlana, in which she imitates the format of an official document, including a five-pointed star seal, reading, “I order you to take [me] to the theater.”
The tsarist documents have been appraised at around $5000 apiece. It is estimated that around 4000 archival documents were stolen in the 1990s. About 3500 have been returned since. Only 500 to go. That is a pretty good rate of retrieval.
- By Sean — 10 years ago
The BBC World Service has an interesting documentary on Beatlemania in the Soviet Union. When the Fab Four hit the international scene in 1964, youth in the Soviet Union were no exception in succumbing to their tunes. But unlike fans in the West, the Beatles’ aficionados had to record songs off the Western radio, smuggle their records and then copy them ton x-ray machines (the new hit movie Stilyagi opens with how this was done.), and pass the copies hand to hand or peddle them in underground markets. To be a Beatles fan in 1960s Russia meant you had to be in the know, have connections with those “above,” or just have plain luck. The Beatles were more than just a past-time; it was a way of life.
The Beatles’ penetration into the Soviet Bloc was more than just a symbol of Soviet youth’s hunger for the imagined West. If anything the Beatles’ popularity proved that the Iron Curtain proved quite porous in the face of globalization.
Put simply, for many hearing the Beatles for the first time was a transformative experience. In an interview with popular music scholar Yngvar Steinholt, Nikolai Vasin, Russia’s No 1 Beatles Fan, recalled his first time hearing John, Paul, George and Ringo:
When did you hear about The Beatles for the first time?
It was in the beginning of 1964. I had just finished school, I was still a teenager, I was 18 years old. And I remember that I met, I even, I didn’t learn about it from the radio, not from the papers. But I learned it by the way of what we call the jungle telegraph [narodnaia molvá]. I tell you that radio is the most important radio – the jungle telegraph. And so I met this friend of mine from school. And he asks:
-Have you heard the Beetle-beaters [zhuki-udarniki]?
-I don’t even have an idea what that is. I know Bill Haley, I know Little Richard, but the Beetle-beaters I don’t know.
-How can that be! That band’s a must! It’s the newest, coolest band in England!
That’s what he told me, and he goes:
-I’ll bring a tape player over to your place tomorrow and we’ll listen to it! And so he comes to me with a little Aides-player, a player from Riga, and we listen to a recording made from BBC radio, the frequency changes, noise, cosmic interference hardly lets the music through. I remember hearing a kind of music that I had never heard before. I had a feeling of utter [nevizny] and unusualness and I even leaned over to him and said something like:
-Now I’ll be damned, that’s something new, there wasn’t anything like that before! And that’s it. That’s how it began. And from then on the further the more. A whole cardboard box of recordings of the Beatle-guys were brought to me, that is the Beetle-beaters from Liverpool, that’s what they were called at the time. On BBC Radio there was a musical programme and it call them the Beetle beaters or the beaters from Liverpool. And literally in the cause of a couple of months I became a passionate Beatles-fan. I suddenly felt spellbound, enlightened, I enjoyed everything wildly and I already started collecting all kinds of articles about them, I don’t know what, recordings on bones there were, too. Then there was this newspaper from England, the Morning Star. I started running around to kiosks to get to know when the next issue would arrive, when it would be brought in and already in the early morning I would run over and buy the fresh issue, because there were very often articles about pop-music. It was called pop-music back then.