Eric Lee is a journalist, historian, and trade union and political activist in the US and UK. He’s the author of Saigon to Jerusalem: Conversations with Israel’s Vietnam Veterans and Operation Basalt: The British Raid on Sark and Hitler’s Commando Order. His most recent book is The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgotten Revolution, 1918-1921 published by Zed Books.
The Chosen Few, “Don’t Break Your Promise,” Studio One Soul, 2001.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
Here’s something that should wet the palates of scholars and induce wet dreams among the necrophiliacs of Soviet history. Ukraine announced that it plans declassify the entire KGB archive dating 1917-1991. The number of documents stamped “secret” and “top secret” is estimated at 800,000. The announcement comes after the law “On the declassification, promulgation, and study of archival documents connected with the Ukrainian Liberation Movement, political repression, and famine in Ukraine” was signed by Viktor Yushchenko on 23 January.
Among the documents are “Cheka instructions, execution lists, deportation maps, albums with photographs of fighters of rebel armies, reports of the KGB to the Central Committee on the development of the Ukrainian dissident movement.” Interestingly, this declassification is so sweeping that it will even go against normal archival practice in protecting living individuals. “Not a single agential file or report that possibly contains information about current politicians will stop the process of declassification,” says Valentin Nalivaichenko, the current head of the Ukrainian Security Service. And what about those who aren’t politicians? Do they or their families have rights to privacy?
The documents will certainly prove to be a treasure trove for historians as Ukrainian police and Party communications to and from Moscow will give some roundabout access to classified documents in Moscow’s FSB archive. But while such a move is welcomed from a scholarly standpoint (though I won’t be rushing to Ukraine since I think there is more to history than being a bloodhound), this shouldn’t justify turning a blind eye to its political dimension. History is about the politics of the present and archives are armories of ammunition. There is no doubt in my mind that this declassification is not about some sudden realization on the part of the Ukraine’s government to reckon with the past. These materials will certainly be employed in the further crafting of Ukraine’s “imagined community” of victimization by, rather than a participant in, the Soviet regime. Sadly, using these documents for this purpose has little to do with scholarly inquiry, history, or even historical reconciliation. It has to do with nationalism.
By Sean — 11 years ago
I found a great PBS documentary called Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy while searching for video for a lecture on the Yeltsin years. PBS has put all the film’s chapters online, and I wanted to let readers know about the segments on Russia:
Communism on the Heights, [6:16]
The Ghosts of Norilsk, [4:27]
Behind the Iron Façade, [8:18]
Heresy in the USSR, [8:08]
Gorbachev Tries China, [7:17]
Soviet Free Fall, [4:52]
Reform Goes Awry, [4:26]
Russia Tries to Privatize, [5:33]
Loans For Shares, [6:18]
Closing the Deal, [3:50]
By Sean — 11 years ago
My latest piece for The eXile is now online. Here is an excerpt of “The Myth of the Democratic Model“:
Stanford poli-sci prof and Commissar of Transitionology, Michael McFaul, is quiet no more. After a few years of relative reticence, McFaul, once known as the most gregarious cheerleader for the Yeltsin regime, was smoked out of his academic hole by Time’s recent crowning of Vladimir Putin as the “Person of the Year.” McFaul’s first response was a comment in Slate titled “Putin? Really?” The second was a lengthy quasi-academic condemnation in Foreign Affairs called “The Myth of the Authoritarian Model.” In the Slate piece, McFaul said that Putin’s accolade “most certainly doesn’t ‘feel right,’ and most certainly doesn’t feel like journalism.”
The fact that Time‘s decision doesn’t “feel right” to McFaul shouldn’t surprise avid eXile readers. What doesn’t “feel right” to him is the possibility that “as political freedom [in Russia] has decreased, economic growth has increased.” This is what McFaul has dubbed the “myth of the authoritarian model,” which he argues is based on “a spurious correlation between autocracy and economic growth.” After all, giving Putin any credit for anything except being a mini-Stalin, the second coming of Hitler, or simply a fire breathing hydra, is an affront to academic political correctness.