Acton Institute Powerblog

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

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I want to second Marc’s article recommendation from earlier today. The phrase “a must read” is badly overworked, but in this case I can’t help myself: Claire Berlinski’s A Hidden History of Evil in the latest City Journal is a must-read. A few excerpts:

Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.

For evidence of this indifference, consider the unread Soviet archives. Pavel Stroilov, a Russian exile in London, has on his computer 50,000 unpublished, untranslated, top-secret Kremlin documents, mostly dating from the close of the Cold War. He stole them in 2003 and fled Russia. Within living memory, they would have been worth millions to the CIA; they surely tell a story about Communism and its collapse that the world needs to know. Yet he can’t get anyone to house them in a reputable library, publish them, or fund their translation. In fact, he can’t get anyone to take much interest in them at all.

Then there’s Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who once spent 12 years in the USSR’s prisons, labor camps, and psikhushkas—political psychiatric hospitals—after being convicted of copying anti-Soviet literature. He, too, possesses a massive collection of stolen and smuggled papers from the archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, which, as he writes, “contain the beginnings and the ends of all the tragedies of our bloodstained century.” These documents are available online at, but most are not translated. They are unorganized; there are no summaries; there is no search or index function. “I offer them free of charge to the most influential newspapers and journals in the world, but nobody wants to print them,” Bukovsky writes. “Editors shrug indifferently: So what? Who cares?”

Stroilov claims that his documents “tell a completely new story about the end of the Cold War.” … They suggest, for example, that the architects of the European integration project, as well as many of today’s senior leaders in the European Union, were far too close to the USSR for comfort. This raises important questions about the nature of contemporary Europe….

According to Zagladin’s reports, for example, Kenneth Coates, who from 1989 to 1998 was a British member of the European Parliament, approached Zagladin on January 9, 1990, to discuss what amounted to a gradual merger of the European Parliament and the Supreme Soviet.

Zagladin’s records also note that the former leader of the British Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, approached Gorbachev—unauthorized, while Kinnock was leader of the opposition—through a secret envoy to discuss the possibility of halting the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear-missile program.

“We now have the EU unelected socialist party running Europe,” Stroilov said to me. “Bet the KGB can’t believe it.”

Bukovsky’s book about the story that these documents tell, Jugement à Moscou, has been published in French, Russian, and a few other Slavic languages, but not in English. Random House bought the manuscript and, in Bukovsky’s words, tried “to force me to rewrite the whole book from the liberal left political perspective.” …

In France, news about the documents showing Mitterrand’s and Gorbachev’s plans to turn Germany into a dependent socialist state prompted a few murmurs of curiosity, nothing more. Bukovsky’s vast collection about Soviet sponsorship of terrorism, Palestinian and otherwise, remains largely unpublished.

No one talks much about the victims of Communism. No one erects memorials to the throngs of people murdered by the Soviet state….

Indeed, many still subscribe to the essential tenets of Communist ideology. Politicians, academics, students, even the occasional autodidact taxi driver still stand opposed to private property. Many remain enthralled by schemes for central economic planning. Stalin, according to polls, is one of Russia’s most popular historical figures. No small number of young people in Istanbul, where I live, proudly describe themselves as Communists; I have met such people around the world, from Seattle to Calcutta.

The full 3000-word essay is here. It’s well worth the time.

Jonathan Witt


  • Felix

    The reason that the leftist “mainstream” media does not care is that these documents implicate their leftist idols who were in collusion with the evil Soviet regime. These documents also document the evils of an ideology the leftist media still favor.

  • Roger McKinney

    Felix, exactly! The people who should be interested in these archives are journalists, intellectuals and academics. Yet those groups are overwhelmingly Marxist. Why would they want to disparage their ideology? Besides, they never blame the ideology for those crimes. Those were Stalin’s crimes, not Marx’s. They refuse to see the connection between the ideology and the necessity of the crimes, as Hayek tried to make them see.

  • Norman Clemo

    The answer to the question can be found in :


    The Decade of the Great Liberal Death Wish

    by Malcolm Muggeridge

    Excerpt :

    I was fortunate enough myself, while still in my late twenties, to be presented with a demonstration of the great liberal death wish at work, so manifest, so incontestable in its implications, and, at the same time, so hilariously funny, that I have never subsequently felt the smallest doubt that here lay the key to the tragicomedy of our time. It happened in Moscow, in the Autumn of 1932 and Spring of 1933, when I was working there as correspondent for the, then, Manchester Guardian. In those days. Moscow was the Mecca for every liberal mind, whatever its particular complexion. They flocked there in an unending procession, from the great ones like Shaw

    and Gide and Barbusse and Julian Huxley and Harold Laski and the Webbs, down to poor little teachers, crazed clergymen and mil-lionaires, and driveling dons; all utterly convinced that, under the aegis of the great Stalin, a new dawn was breaking in which the human race would at last be united in liberty, equality and fra-ternity forevermore.
    Stalin himself, to do him justice, never troubled to hide his con-tempt for them and everything they stood for, and mercilessly suppressed any like tendencies among his own people. This, how-ever in no wise deterred them. They were prepared to believe anything, however preposterous: to overlook anything, however villainous ; to approve anything, however obscurantist and brutally authoritarian, in order to be able to preserve intact the confident expectation that one of the most thoroughgoing, ruthless and bloody tyrannies ever to exist on earth could be relied on to cham¬pion human freedom, the brotherhood of man, and all the other good liberal causes to which they had dedicated their lives. It is true that many of them subsequently retracted; that incidents like the Stalinist purges, the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the debunking of Stalin at the Twentieth Party Congress, the Hungarian and Czech risings, each caused a certain leakage among liberal well-wishers. Yet when the dust settles, the same old bias is clearly discernible- It is an addiction, like alcoholism, to which the liberal mind is intrinsically susceptible—to grovel before any Beelzebub who claims, however implausibly, to be a prince of liberals.
    Why? After all, the individuals concerned are ostensibly the shining lights of the Western world; scholars, philosophers, artists. scientists and the like; the favored children of a troubled time. Held in respect as being sages who know all the answers; sought after by governments and international agencies; holding forth in the press and on the air. The glory of faculties and campuses: beating a path between Harvard and Princeton, and Washington. D.C.; swarming like migrant birds from the London School of Eco¬nomics, Oxford and Cambridge into Whitehall. Yet I have seen their prototypes—and I can never forget it—in the role of credulous buffoons capable of being taken in by grotesquely obvious decep¬tions. Swallowing unquestioningly statistics and other purported data whose falsity was immediately evident to the meanest intelli¬gence. Full of idiot delight when Stalin or one of his henchmen yet again denounced the corrupt, cowardly intelligentsia of the capitalist West—viz.. themselves. I detect in their like today the same impulse. They pass on from one to another, like a torch held upside down, the same death wish. Editors come and go, newspa¬pers decline and fold, Labour Governments form and unform; after Roosevelt, Truman and then Eisenhower; after Kennedy, Johnson and then Nixon; but the great liberal death wish goes marching on.

  • Roger McKinney

    Nice post, Norman. Thanks!