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InsiderOnline Blog: May 2010

European Integration’s Inconvenient History

Two significant caches of documents relating to late Soviet history have been tragically ignored by Western journalists and researchers. So reports Claire Berlinski, whose casual mining of the documents shows that some might prefer the information to remain obscure. One such nugget comes from the reports of Vadim Zagladin, who was deputy chief of the Central Committee’s International Department until 1987 and then Mikhail Gorbachev’s advisor until 1991. “According to Zagladin’s reports,” writes Berlinski: 

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. Coates, says Zagladin, explained that “creating an infrastructure of cooperation between the two parliament[s] would help … to isolate the rightists in the European Parliament (and in Europe), those who are interested in the USSR’s collapse.” Coates served as chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights from 1992 to 1994.

In Berlinski’s words: “Europe was taking advice about human rights from a man who had apparently wished to ‘isolate’ those interested in the USSR’s collapse and sought to extend Soviet influence in Europe … .”

The Zagladin documents are among a cache stolen by Pavel Stroilov from Mikhail Gorbachev’s foundation in 2003; another dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky, copied thousands of documents from the Russian state archives in 1992. Both sets of documents have been acknowledged as authentic; they are available but not easily accessed. Stroilov’s 50,000 documents exist primarily on his computer while Bukovsky’s copies are available in Russian only in an un-indexed, non-searchable format at Bukovsky-archives.net.

The problem, says Berlinski, is that no reputable library has shown interest in housing the materiel. That’s a shame because the documents appear to provide other tantalizing details about Soviet efforts to promote and guide the project of European integration. See Berlinski’s “A Hidden History of Evil,” (City Journal, Spring 2010) for a summary of what else the documents have revealed so far.

Update: Several historians have challenged Berlinski’s contention that the Stroilov and Bukovsky archives contain significant materiel not available in other public archives—in particular the Fond 89 collection published by the Hoover Institution in 2001 and the archives of the Gorbachev Foundation. In a rather lengthy response to a critical piece from Ron Radosh, Berlinski points to specialists she consulted who say that there are major omissions in those collections, stemming from efforts by Russian state security to block the release of sensitive materiel.

Posted on 05/18/10 04:45 PM by Alex Adrianson

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