The use of archives for the purposes of surveillance and political repression in the USSR was not the novelty in 1942. Already the dreaded ChK and itsMessage 1 of 1 , Nov 24, 2012View Source
The use of archives for the purposes of surveillance and political repression in the USSR was not the novelty in 1942. Already the dreaded ChK and its successor organization OGPU showed pronounced interest in the archival heritage of various institutions of the ancien regime, enemy governments of the Civil War era and non-Bolshevik parties. Coupled with the employment of secret agents/informers and familiar forms of surveillance that the Bolshevik regime shared with other modern states (census, passportization, perlustration of correspondence etc.),[i] monitoring of the contents of archival documents became an indispensable vehicle for identifying potential sources of opposition from the early years of the Bolshevik rule.[ii]
END NOTES BELOW:
[i] See, for example, Peter Holquist, op.cit.; James Scott, Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998; John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
[ii] Particularly suspicious in the eyes of the OGPU officials were the so-called “former people” (i.e. functionaries of the Tsarist state, nobility, clergy, Gendarmes, policemen, servicemen of the “white” armies, etc.), “bourgeois nationalists,” as well as members of various socialist parties. See Viktor Chentsov, Politychni represii v Radians;kii Ukraini v 20-ti roky, Kyiv: Instytut Istorii NANU, 2000: 101; Iurii Shapoval, Vadym Zolotariov, Vsevolod Balyts’kyi: Osoba, chas, otochennia.Kyiv: Stylos, 2002: 83-85.
archives were gradually integrated into the structure of the Stalinist machinery of repression. Formally, this process reached the stage of completion in April 1938, when the NKVD de jure assumed total control of the archival holdings. By then providing informational support to the NKVD in the mass operations of the “Great Terror” had effectively become the main task of the Soviet archival organs.[ii] The freshly appointed head of the Main Archival Administration captain of state security Iosif Nikitinskii articulated the new conception of the archive during the conference with heads of regional departments of state archives in April 1939.[ii] According to Nikitinskii, the role of archival organs now consisted in “placing in the service of the Socialist state all the archival materials on enemies of the people,-- from provocateurs, fileurs and Gendarmes to Trotskyites and Rightists.”[ii] In charge of coordinating this work was the so-called “sector of classified collections” (otdel sekretnykh fondov), created as a sub-unit of the Main Archival Administration on the initiative of Nikitinskii. Sectors of classified collections at the time also appeared at each and every state archive.
A few months later the ethos and practices of state surveillance were transposed to the territories incorporated into the USSR in the wake of the Red Army’s invasion of Poland in September 1939. In a preview of developments taking place in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation, special task forces of the NKVD, which included professional archivists among their members, used the captured archives of the Polish state to target representatives of the government administration, Polish nobility, members of “bourgeois” parties, and “Nationalist elements.”[ii] In the meantime, personnel of the UGA NKVD in the “old” Soviet territories continued analysis of the documents of the state archives and compilation of the lists of different categories of the “enemies of the people.”[ii] This work never ceased even when the war started and the troops of Axis powers overran large tracts of Soviet territory. Thus archivists from Ukraine continued their work in Zlatoust, Balashov, Aktiubinsk, Ural’sk, Ul’ianovsk and Alga, where the archival documents deemed most important by the NKVD had been relocated in the course of 1941-1942.[ii] For example, just in the first 6 months of 1942, while in evacuation in Zlatoust, personnel of the Central State Historical Archive processed 28.000 newspapers from the years 1917 to 1929 and entered into the card catalogue data on 23.442 individuals. In combination with data derived from other materials concentrated in the sector of classified collections, the number of “counter-revolutionary elements” registered during the 6 month period just by this archival unit reached 39.697 people.[ii] In light of the fact that a large number of individuals from the target groups (“white guards,” “gendarmes,” “kulaks,” “Trotskyites,” “Petliurites,” etc.) had already been liquidated in the mass operations of 1937-1938, the scope and ambition of the continued official efforts to achieve the legibility of the Soviet society become even more apparent.[ii]
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