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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

As good as any reason to learn Russian

I commend this fascinating article to those who have not yet come across it – A Hidden History of Evil:
Why Doesn’t Anyone Care About the Unread Soviet Archives?

The archives contain “unpublished, untranslated, top-secret Kremlin documents, mostly dating from the close of the Cold War”, yet their guardian “can’t get anyone to house them in a reputable library, publish them, or fund their translation.” Amongst numerous other tidbits, there is some very interesting stuff about Soviet dealings with François Mitterrand, Neil Kinnock, and several past and present “European Project”/EU bigwigs.

(From the excellent Michael Totten, who’s doing a fine job of holding the fort over at Instapundit)

18 comments to As good as any reason to learn Russian

  • I’ve corresponded with a few people who have accessed archives in Russia, and they all say the same thing: despite what it officially accessible, access on the day depends on any number of factors from changing laws, interference from government authorities, bribery, lazy archive managers, and old women who won’t let a foreigner into the archives because she doesn’t like what historians say about Russia.

    Accessing Russian archives is not easy by any stretch.

  • Oh, my bad. I wrote the above before I read the article: the documents are freely available in the West already.

    My guess is that most people in academia wish the Soviet Union never happened, or more accurately, never ended and their views at the time quietly forgotten.

  • Accessing Russian archives is not easy by any stretch.

    It’s a lot like doing most other things in Russia.

  • Tim, I see old russian women made quite an impression on you.

  • Ron Radosh has a excellent piece on this subject over at Pajamas media.

  • And for your edification, here is a picture of the most splendid Claire Berlinski, the author of the linked article, at a Samizdata blogger bash, hehe :-)

    Claire Berlinski and Alex Singleton at Samizdata HQ during the Second British Blogger Bash

  • Maureen

    It’s not super-hard Russian or anything. It’s actually harder to get into the groove of reading Russian typewriting that needed a bit less wear on the little letters. :)

    It’s so bureaucratic and deadpan. Banal, banal, scary, banal.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Claire Berlinski and Alex Singleton at Samizdata HQ during the Second British Blogger Bash

    Posted by Perry de Havilland at May 18, 2010 08:28 PM

    Isn’t it amazing how much guy bloggers look like guy bloggers and girl bloggers look like girls?

  • Tatyana,

    Yes, they did. Old Russian women are the single most important, and single most frightening, aspect of Russian society, whether you’re trying to get into a locked toilet on a train, sneak a girl into a hotel, take a shortcut across the grass in a local park, or solve a dispute in a market.

  • “Why doesn’t anyone care about the unread Soviet archives?”

    Perhaps for the same reason that many people – like Ms Berlinski herself – take no interest in specifying the particular agent(s) of a given action or lack thereof, preferring instead terms such as “anyone”, “everyone”, “no-one” and that superlative abolisher of the individual: “one”. Alexis de Tocqueville had something similar in mind when he wrote:

    “Habitual inattention must be reckoned the great vice of the democratic spirit.”

    “Democracy In America” (1988 – J.P. Mayer, ed. G. Lawrence, trans. Harper Collins – p. 611)

    But of course, as Ms Belinski herself insinuates, the other reason why both European and American Soviets (not “anyone”) are not interested in publishing these Soviet archives is because they are afraid that their elected State officials whom they cling to might be recognized, through the Soviet principles of political action that these officials espouse, as the Soviets that they are by the young, innocent and not-yet-Sovietized.

    Except they wouldn’t be so recognized – for the reason de Tocqueville gives and for the compound reason of purposefully accelerating intellectual retardation in schools, universities and in government.

  • Perhaps for the same reason that many people – like Ms Berlinski herself – take no interest in specifying the particular agent(s) of a given action or lack thereof, preferring instead terms such as “anyone”, “everyone”, “no-one” and that superlative abolisher of the individual: “one”

    Yes, because in spite of a veritable litany of named names in Berlinksi’s article, her article is actually worthless unless the names, the home street addresses and ideally a high rez scan of the finger prints of all the publishers and media company editors in the western world, ideally with their facebook pages linked, is included in her article.

  • Anyway, not so fast. Berlinski’s response here.

  • Tim: I think I’ll start collection of my qualifications for this position…nothing else seems to gather me employment in the last year.

    It’s better to be feared than pitied…

  • I didn’t say her article was worthless and nor did I imply that. Her outrage is well placed but her apparent surprise is… surprising.

  • Kim du Toit

    I would suggest that a similar plundering of revealing documents from, oh, the Bush II or Reagan years would have New York publishers clambering over each other’s bodies to have the honor of publishing them.

    Face it: the Commies have never recovered from the publishing of the Black Book of Communism or of the Venona transcripts, which showed, once and for all, the vile depths of depravity which were routinely plumbed by the Soviet Union and other Commie regimes. (And, in the case of the Venona transcripts, we all saw that yes, Virginia, there WERE Soviet spies like Alger Hiss in the U.S. government, despite all the efforts of various Commiesymps to deny that fact.)

    The broadstrokes have been established and proven beyond doubt. What remains seems to be the bureaucracy: the equivalent of scrutinizing the Nazi railway schedules to Auschwitz and Treblinka.

    Are these endeavors commercially appealing? Probably not; New York publishers are more concerned with giving multimillion advances to celebrity authors like the Clintons.

    Publishing of historical documents is the kind of thing which used to be the meat and drink of the university presses — but good luck getting today’s academia to approve the publication of documents which debunk their cherished utopia.

  • Paul Marks

    Why the lack of interest in looking at the Soviet Records?

    They have not been “scrubbed” enough – too many friends of the current President of the United States would turn out to have been Soviet agents.

    “You paranoid……..”.

    Yes, just as “1+1=2″ is “paranoid”.

    By the way the many people connected with the outgoing government in Britain (although not Mr Brown) had a pro Soviet past also (including getting money from Soviet sources). But it was considered “rude” to bring it up.

    James has asked a question and the above is the true reply.

    The establishment (in Britain, the United States and so on) contains too many people with pro Soviet connections for the Soviet records to be something that is considered suitable for polite company.

    After all to call Communists, Communists is “McCarthite” and Senate Joe McCarthy’s name has been an insult (even among conservatives and some libertarians) for more than 50 years for the “crime” of calling Communists (and only Communists in government employment – Hollywood and so on was a matter for the House committee not the Senate committee of the “evil” McCarthy) – see M. Stanton Evans “Blacklisted by History” (Random House, New York, 2007).

    Today people who try and expose Communists in high government positions strongly deny that they are “McCarthyites” (although for once the left are correct, they are McCarthyites – for that is all he tried to do), but this will not stop the establishment (both Communist and those who think it is rude to expose Communists to the ignorant Redneck population) destroying such people – just as they destroyed Joe McCarthy.

    That is why these files are of little interest.

    The establishment do not want them to get wide attention – and should anyone succeed in bringing them to public attention the establishment will deal with them (the people who do the expossing) in the same way they dealt with Senator McCarthy.

    They will be hounded by all the instruments of power (both govennment and media) they will be attacked till they break down (into the abuse of booze or whatever) then to their deaths. And then their very names will be turned into an insult – even by people “on the right”.

  • Paul Marks

    Very few people are prepared to be hounded to mental collapse and death, and then to have their very names turned into insults (subjected to lying Hollywood films and so on – even decades later).

    So very few people are going to take up this issue James.

    The powers-that-be do not wish the matter to be brought to public attention (for various reasons) – and the fate of anyone who does so will be as a I describe above.

  • Some very nice ideas here. I enjoyed the article and thanks for the wonderful information.