TITLE: Soviet Archives

ACCESS: There are several ways to access this resource:

World Wide Web http://sunsite.unc.edu/expo/soviet.exhibit/soviet.archive.html

telnet://marvel.loc.gov login as "marvel" - direct telnet to Library of Congress gopher Marvel is

limited to 15 outside users



The Soviet Archives is a collection of 31 documents and background notes from an exhibit entitled "Revelations from the Russian Archives" that was displayed at the Library of Congress in 1992. The 31 documents were selected from over 500 documents made available by the Russian Archives. The documents span a time period from the October 1917 Revolution to the failed coup of August 1991. The documents are arranged for the purpose of the exhibit in two main sections, "Internal Workings of the Soviet System" covering domestic policy, and a section on "The Soviet Union and the United States" covering foreign policy. According to the introduction to the exhibit written by James Billington, Librarian of Congress, this exhibit is "the first public display of the hitherto highly secret internal record of the Soviet communist rule."

The 32 documents selected for the exhibit include communiques from the KGB, letters by Soviet leaders including Lenin, Kruschev, Gorbachev, as well as documents describing construction problems with Chernobyl. Foreign policy documents include references to The American Famine Relief effort led by Herbert Hoover, World War II POW's, and exchanges during the Cold War between Kruschev and Kennedy during the Cuban Missle crisis. Each document is translated and includes an accompanying background text to put the document in historical perspective.

Using Mosaic one is able to browse the documents and call up images of sample pages from the original document by clicking on the document icons. Next to the document image is a scroll icon that will call up the translation of the sample pages. Because the image of the document is not the complete document, the translation does not necessarily exactly match the document image. However, using Mosaic, one gets more of a feel of moving through the exhibit as it was originally arranged, and an opportunity to see visual images of the documents as the actually exist.

Image files of the original documents are available for FTP transfer, but a GIF viewer is needed. A copy of an online brochure of the exhibit is available for FTP in a variety of formats. The brochure includes a copy of the complete text of the background notes along with the translations of the documents on display. In the "Readme" file available by FTP is a complete explanation of the arrangement of the document, image, and background note files. The identification of the translators and the author of the background notes are not included in the documentation on the exhibit.

As stated by James Billington in the introduction, these documents are just a "small suggestion of what the vast archives of the paper-intensive Soviet era may eventually reveal." If one keeps in mind that 74 years of Soviet history are covered by this exhibit, it is impressive for what it includes, but also leads one to want to see more. While the exhibit may not provide a serious scholar with everything he/she may need, it provides a glimpse at primary sources that provide some insights into some of the significant events during the period covered. As with any exhibit, it cannot be a complete history of the period, but does provide an overall introduction to the inner workings of a society that was controlled by repression and propaganda.

Terri Fishel
Head of Reference
Macalester College
February 21, 1994

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