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British Firm Gets Contract to Microfilm, Open Communist Archives

January 22, 1992

CAMBRIDGE, England (AP) _ A British company announced Tuesday that is has won a contract to microfilm the vast archives of the Soviet Communist Party, including many vital historical documents that had been kept secret.

Chadwyck-Healey Ltd. said it is working with Russian archivists to copy millions of documents.

Jana Howlett, a specialist in Russian history at Jesus College, Cambridge, said the archive has been open to Western scholars since the collapse of the attempted coup in August.

Initially, she said the work will involve copying the archives of the central committee of the Communist Party. A party archive in the Kremlin and a presidential archive are expected to be part of the project, but she said the KGB is resisting turning over its files.

The archive is held at the Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Most Recent History, on Pushkin Street in Moscow.

Some of the records had been available to party functionaries, she said, but others such as the archive on Leon Trotsky were kept secret.

Howlett, who is working on Russian cultural history of the 1920s, said the archives hold significant materials on major figures.

For instance, she said the file on Andrei Zhdanov contains private letters from his childhood and documents tracing his rise in the party as an important advocate of Socialist Realism and eventually a senior member of the politburo.

″It describes the man in a way no history will describe it,″ she said.

The archive contains the annual reports of local party committees to the central committee.

Howlett said these local officials may not always have told the truth in their reports.

″They aren’t going to write anything that will get them in serious trouble, but they are ordinary people who don’t always see the implications of what they are saying,″ she said.

Howlett, who is a technical adviser on the project, said workers hope to copy 300,000 documents by May.

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