``This exhibition is important for what it represents, what it contains, and what it suggests. It represents a new Russia, willing and anxious under its first democratically elected president, Boris Yeltsin, to affirm the core democratic value of open access to information. Shortly after defeating the attempted coup of August 1991, a group from the victorious democratic resistance led by the chief archivist of Russia, Rudolph Pikhoia, took over the previously top secret archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and began the process of both consolidating democratic control over all archives in Russia and attempting to make them available for the first time for public study. This exhibit, which will later be shown in Moscow, is a milestone in this process -- the first public display of the hitherto highly secret internal record of Soviet Communist rule. The legendary secretiveness and general inaccessibility of the entire Soviet archival system was maintained throughout the Gorbachev era. The willingness of the new Russian Archival Committee under Pikhoya to cooperate in preparing this exhibit with the Library of Congress dramatizes the break that a newly democratic Russia is attempting to make with the entire Soviet past. They are helping to turn material long used for one-sided political combat into material for shared historical investigation in the post-Cold War era. This exhibit is also remarkable for what it contains: the first significant number of documents ever shown anywhere from what may be the most important new source of primary materials for understanding the history of the twentieth century. These documents provide an unprecedented inside look at the workings of one of the largest, most powerful and long-lived political machines of the modern era. As in any modern archive, there is more bureaucratic verbiage and fewer instant revelations than one might hope for. But the documents that the Library of Congress has here chosen from the 500 made available from the Russian archives cover the entire range of Soviet history from the October Revolution of 1917 to the failed coup of August 1991. They include material from archives that had been key working files of the Communist rulers until August 1991: the archives of the Central Committee, the Presidential archive, and the KGB. This exhibit illustrates both the domestic and the foreign policy of Soviet rule. The first section covers internal politics and aspects of Soviet reality that were hidden or falsified in official propaganda. These include the unannounced decisions and votes of the higher organs of the Communist Party, as well as the repressive activities of the Soviet security organs and various organs charged with controlling literary freedom and organized religion. The second section, dedicated to Soviet-American relations, shows how those relations were conducted between governments, between the publics of the two countries, and between the Communist parties of the USSR and the USA. This section documents cooperative as well as confrontational periods in that relationship. The material in the exhibit offers only a small suggestion of what the vast archives of the paper-intensive Soviet era may eventually reveal. The material suggests that totalitarian practices of terror and forced labor began earlier and more deliberately than have often been assumed. The ruthlessness, originality, and complexity documented in these records suggests bureaucratic dictatorship cut off from the people--and provides many hints of why Communist rule both lasted so long and fell apart so fast."
Revelations from the Russian Archives
Library of Congress Soviet Archives Exhibit presents a virtual glimpse into the entire range of Soviet history from the October Revolution of 1917 to the failed coup of August 1991.
(b) Repression and Terror: Stalin in Control
During the second half of the 1920s, Joseph Stalin set the stage for gaining absolute power by employing police repression against opposition elements within the Communist Party.
(c) Repression and Terror: Kirov Murder and Purges
The murder of Sergei Kirov on December 1, 1934, set off a chain of events that culminated in the Great Terror of the 1930s.
(d) Secret Police
From the beginning of their regime, the Bolsheviks relied on a strong secret, or political, police to buttress their rule.
(e) The Gulag
The Soviet system of forced labor camps was first established in 1919 under the Cheka, but it was not until the early 1930s that the camp population reached significant numbers.
(f) Collectivization and Industrialization
In November 1927, Joseph Stalin launched his "revolution from above" by setting two extraordinary goals for Soviet domestic policy: rapid industrialization and collectivization of agriculture.
(g) Anti-Religious Campaigns
The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion.
(h) Attacks on Intelligentsia: Early Attacks
In the years immediately following their accession to power in 1917, the Bolsheviks took measures to prevent challenges to their new regime, beginning with eliminating political opposition.
(i) Attacks on Intelligentsia: Renewed Attacks
The pattern of suppressing intellectual activity, with intermittent periods of relaxation, helped the party leadership reinforce its authority.
(j) Attacks on Intelligentsia: Censorship
Creative writers enjoyed great prestige in both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union because of literature's unique role as a sounding board for deeper political and social issues.
(k) Attacks on Intelligentsia: Suppressing Dissidents
The Communist regime considered dissent in the Soviet Union a repudiation of the proletarian struggle and a violation of Marxism-Leninism, and thus a threat to its authority.
(l) Ukrainian Famine
The dreadful famine that engulfed Ukraine, the northern Caucasus, and the lower Volga River area in 1932-1933 was the result of Joseph Stalin's policy of forced collectivization.
Joseph Stalin's forcible resettlement of over 1.5 million people, mostly Muslims, during and after World War II is now viewed by many human rights experts in Russia as one of his most drastic genocidal acts.
(n) The Jewish Antifascist Committee
The Jewish Antifascist Committee (JAC) was formed in Kuibyshev in April 1942.
On April 26, the city's anonymity vanished forever when, during a test at 1:21 A.M., the No. 4 reactor exploded and released thirty to forty times the radioactivity of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
From modest beginnings at the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in 1986, perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev's program of economic, political, and social restructuring, became the unintended catalyst for dismantling what had taken nearly three-quarters of a century to erect: the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist totalitarian state.
(q) Early Cooperation: American Famine Relief
After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the ensuing Civil War produced acute food shortages in southwestern Russia. Several volunteer groups in the United States and Europe had organized relief programs, but it became clear that help was needed on a larger scale because an estimated 10 to 20 million lives were at stake.
(r) Early Cooperation: Economic Cooperation
During the 1920s and early 1930s, tensions between the Soviet Union and the West eased somewhat, particularly in the area of economic cooperation.
(s) Soviet and American Communist Parties
The Soviet Communist party evolved from the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party's Bolshevik wing formed by Vladimir Lenin in 1903.
(t) World War II: Alliance
Despite deep-seated mistrust and hostility between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies, Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 created an instant alliance between the Soviets and the two greatest: Britain and the United States.
(u) World War II: American POWs and MIAs
Soviet archival documents -- from an earlier era after World War II -- reveal that Americans were detained, and even perished, in the vast Soviet GULAG.
(v) Cold War: Postwar Estrangement
Joseph Stalin deepened the estrangement between the United States and the Soviet Union when he asserted in 1946 that World War II was an unavoidable and inevitable consequence of "capitalist imperialism" and implied that such a war might re-occur.
(w) Cold War: Soviet Perspectives
After World War II, Joseph Stalin saw the world as divided into two camps: imperialist and capitalist regimes on the one hand, and the Communist and progressive world on the other.
(x) Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis
According to Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs, in May 1962 he conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba as a means of countering an emerging lead of the United States in developing and deploying strategic missiles.
Last update:April 13, 2009 at 16:14:14 UTC