Claire Berlinki, whose book, Menace in Europe, was one of the influences for the organization of the first AFA conference in June, 2007, has written an important piece in this Quarter’s City Journal, that everyone should read.
It deals with two Russian exiles. The first is Pavel Stroilov, living in London,who has on his computer 50,000 unpublished, untranslated, top-secret Kremlin documents, mostly dating from the end of the Cold War and which he stole in 2003 before fleeing Russia. The second is Vladimir Bukovsky, another emigre, who possesses a large collection of stolen and smuggled papers from the archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, which, as he writes, “contain the beginnings and the ends of all the tragedies of our bloodstained century.”
Berlinski goes on to explain:
“Within living memory, they would have been worth millions to the CIA; they surely tell a story about Communism and its collapse that the world needs to know. Yet they can’t get anyone to house them in a reputable library, publish them, or fund their translation. In fact, they can’t get anyone to take much interest in them at all.”
Why is no one interested in such a fantastically rich trove of documents about the beginnings and end of a regime that consigned to death over 35 million people? Surely historians would be champing at the bit for an inside view of such a repugnant institution.
Stroilov himself explains the indifference in this way:
“a kind of a taboo, the vague common understanding in the Establishment that it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, not to throw stones in a house of glass, and not to mention a rope in the house of a hanged man.” I suspect it is something even more disturbing: no one much cares.”
An argument could be made that it may still be too early to exhume the corpse of the Soviet Union. After all, the shell shocked First World War generation didn’t begin producing their memoirs for a full decade after the end of the conflict and Holocaust studies did not kick into gear until thirty years had passed from the end of the Second World War.
But I have another explanation. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the repudiation of Communism as an integrated economic, social and political system, came as an embarrassment for the West’s intelligentsia. They, who largely saw it as an important prod to Western greed and expansionism, are still oriented towards socialistic idealism, while clinging to dreams of its revival. Thus many of our politicians, academics, entertainers and social leaders are noticeably uncomfortable discussing the collapse of the Soviet Union since the very subject inspires reflection on the nature of the repugnant and failed system to which it once gave birth.
But failure to confront these realities, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn bitterly pointed out in his last years, encourages a historical numbness,which inevitably erodes our ability to make distinction between righteous and evil systems of government and good and bad economic philosophies.
Someone will, eventually, publish and translate these documents. But it will have to await a time when our intelligentsia has the courage to admit the reality of a collapsed dream and evince a willingness to move on.