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Selections by J. Arch Getty
We have selected a substantial number of documents from the Stalin Digital Archive related to Stalin's role in the terror and repression in the 1930s. A team of archivists and historians have identified for transcription virtually every known Stalin document on the terror. The selected documents are identified, introduced and annotated with a scholarly commentary placing them in historical context and locating them in relation to other documents.
The SDA has digitized opis 11 of fond 558 (known as Stalin's "personal archive") at the RGASPI archive which contains a vast amount of new material on Stalin's role in the terror. This material includes letters and telegrams to and from Stalin, official reports he received, and reports of arrest and transcripts of interrogations, among others. In addition to telegrams, letters, and instructions he authored, the documents contain his marginalia. Examples from police reports he received include "arrest him at once," "these scum should all be arrested," and (to police officials) "what are you doing about this?"
In addition to "smoking guns" about Stalin's role in the terror, these archival materials provide information on the actual level and type of control he exerted, as well as information about the roles of others. Sometimes arrest reports bear his notation, "that's quite a lot," or "let's run this by the prosecutor." Some documents show, for example, that sometimes Stalin's lieutenants were more bloodthirsty than he was.
Many of the transcribed documents were also selected for translation with a view toward classroom use in undergraduate courses. Because the scholarly annotations are "detachable" from the documents themselves, students can be presented with documents of original archival materials in English and asked to analyze them themselves. Later, for classroom discussion, the scholarly commentary can be introduced for comparison with students' work and for further discussion.
Selections by Geoffrey Roberts
An aspirant Bolshevik intellectual, Stalin was an avid reader. His reading focussed naturally on left-wing publications but from an early age he devoured the classics of Russian and western fiction - Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Chekhov, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Schiller, Heine, Hugo, Thackeray and Balzac. In the 1920s much of Stalin’s reading concentrated on the writings of his rivals in the struggle for the succession to Lenin – Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin. Another preoccupation was the history of revolutionary movements in other countries. In the 1930s his attention switched to Soviet literature – to the post-revolutionary writings of Maxim Gorky, Alexander Fadeev, Aleksei Tolstoy, Iliya Ehrenburg, Isaac Babel and Mikhail Shokolov. Aside from revolutionary writings and fiction, Stalin also had enduring interests in History, Philosophy, Economics, Linguistics, Science and military affairs. After the Second World War he made a number of notable interventions in debates about genetics, military strategy, socialist economics and linguistic theory. Read more ...
Selections by Sarah Davies and James Harris
The release of millions of archival files generated by the Communist Party and its leaders has opened a wealth of new opportunities to grasp, as never before, Stalin’s thought, his vision of the Soviet Union and the world, the nexus of political ideas and political action. The Stalin as Editor project examines Stalin’s interpretation of the information he was receiving on a daily basis. Comparing that material with the decisions he subsequently took makes it possible to see the outlines of his vision of the world: how he interpreted it – how he perceived and misperceived it. One can then see the sometimes far-reaching consequences of those misperceptions. Among other things, the documents show how Stalin and others in the leadership developed a grossly exaggerated sense of the foreign threat. Similarly, the documents in this selection indicate how the regime came to convince itself that it had been thoroughly infiltrated by wreckers, saboteurs, spies, and other agents of counter-revolution. A third theme explores how Stalin’s hard line on plan fulfillment created a strong disincentive to full and accurate reporting on the situation in the economy. Stalin never seems to have grasped that the dvurushnik—the official who praised central policy in public, but worked to undermine it in private—was not a variant of the counter-revolutionary wrecker, but was rather a product of Stalin’s command economy.
Selections by David Wolff
A focus on Stalin and the Far East as a research category is quickly undermined by its heterogeneous parts. For this list, even limited to the main countries on Stalin’s playing field, we have a wide range of partners, topics, considerations, etc. Since materials in Stalin’s personal foreign policy archive in opis’ 11 of fond 558 were mostly organized into country files, my selection comes mainly from these, chosen both for historical importance and usefulness in showing how Stalinist foreign policy was conducted. There are still many “blank spots,” whole files that have not yet been declassified. There is no reason to expect them anytime soon. “Korea,” for example, has not been opened, so below I provide no materials on Korea. On the other hand, China, Japan, India and Mongolia are all well-represented, showing off various phases and styles of Stalinist diplomacy. Read more ...
Selections by William Chase
The rich and heterogeneous array of materials in the Stalin Digital Archive, specifically in fond 558, opis’ 11, make impossible any effort to present a ‘definitive’ or ‘representative’ selection of documents that encapsulates how Stalin viewed the international communist movement. In part, that is due to the nature of the international communist movement, which was in fact never a singular, unified movement. From the founding of the Communist International (Comintern) in 1919 to its dissolution in 1943 on Stalin’s recommendation, the interests of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Soviet government predominated in that so-called headquarters of world revolution. Such was also the case with the Comintern’s postwar incarnation, the Communist Informational Bureau or Cominform, which was founded in 1947. In the years after 1917, virtually every independent country had a Communist Party that affiliated with the Comintern. The materials on many of these parties indicate that Stalin not only sought to remain informed—routinely or as the situation warranted—about their activities, but also about how the Comintern’s leaders advised and managed those parties. In the case of some parties, the documents make clear how Stalin sought to influence their affairs; other documents make clear that they often sought his advice The Comintern, Cominform, and national Communist parties represented the best organized and funded groups within the international communist movement. Read more...
Selections by Justus Hartzok
Partial inspiration for this project comes from an event that took place in June of 1933, when the Society of Old Bolsheviks made a decision to organize at their club an exhibition in honor of Stalin’s accomplishments during the Civil War. After formally requesting a number of photographs and archival documents from the Central Archival Administration, archival administrators wrote directly to Stalin for his permission to release the materials. In his distinctive blue pencil, Stalin responded, “I am against it, because similar undertakings are leading to a reinforcement of a ‘cult of personality’ that is harmful and incompatible with the course of our Party” (see f. 558, op. 1, d. 4572 in this collection to examine the entire exchange). Stalin’s blunt rejection reflected, at least on the surface, the belief that heroism and devotion to the cause of socialism did not emanate from a single individual, but rather from the people themselves. Despite such rhetoric, however, it became apparent that a personality cult centered on the exploits of Stalin as an infallible father figure had coalesced in the popular consciousness by 1929. By the late 1930s, Stalin emerged as the most visible figure in the state-sanctioned narrative of the Russian Civil War. The following collection of documents provides a deeper understanding of Stalin’s actual involvement during the Civil War, and reveals his personal hand in directing the construction of a sanitized history of the conflict that emerged during the 1930s. Read more...
Selections by Peter A. Blitstein
The digitization of the Stalin archive presents scholars of Soviet history with a wealth of materials that can provide insight and, in some cases, discoveries, about politics and policy in the Stalin era. Owing to the serendipitous quality of the collection, which brings together Stalin’s writings, his correspondence, materials of the Politburo, and other documents over several decades, and it’s sheer size, what one finds in part depends on what one is looking for. And just as there are insights and discoveries, there are disappointments and absences. The collection offers value to the study of nationality policy, by which we mean not merely policies, practices, and discourses affecting the non-Russian populations of the Soviet Union, but rather those that specifically address the multiethnic character of the Soviet state and how to manage it as such, but researchers seeking groundbreaking discoveries will no doubt disappointed. Read more...
Selections by David Brandenberger and M. V. Zelenov
Short Course on the History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), the central text of the Stalin-era canon, was compulsory reading for people throughout the USSR between 1938 and 1956. Over forty million copies of the textbook circulated during those years, with hundreds of thousands more being issued by publishing houses in eastern Europe, Communist China and even the western world. But despite the breadth and depth of this textbook’s impact on the twentieth century, it is only recently that the Short Course has become a subject of scholarly interest—either as a text or within its larger historical context. This digital collection of documents from Stalin’s personal archive and other former Soviet archival repositories makes a wide array of materials associated with the textbook accessible to internet-based audiences for the first time. Read more...
Selections by Jeffrey Rossman
Selections by Jeffrey Rossman