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Biographical note

Sergey Mironenko, Head of Research of the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF). Historian, PhD in Historical Sciences, Professor, Associate Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS).

Director of GARF since May 1992. Head of Research at GARF since March 2016.

A Panel Member of the Federal Archival Agency of Russia. Head of the 19th to early 20th century Russian History Department at the Faculty of History, Lomonosov Moscow State University. Member of the editorial boards of the journals ‘Istoricheskiy Arkhiv’ (History Archive), ‘Rodina’ (Motherland), and ‘Voyenno-Istoricheskiy Zhurnal’ (Military Historical Journal).[1]

 

[1] Quoted from the GARF website: Mironenko Sergej Vladimirovič

Naučnyj rukovoditelʹ Gosudarstvennogo archiva Rossijskoj Federacii < https://statearchive.ru/446> [accessed September 28, 2021]

 

- Mr Mironenko, you were the director of the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), one of the most important Russian archives, for a very long time. However, there are many other archives in Russia: the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI), the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA) and others. Why are there so many archives? Why are the archival holdings in Russia scattered among various archives, unlike in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe? Is this a legacy of the Soviet era?

- On the eve of the Great Patriotic War in 1941, a new system of central state archives was introduced in the USSR. At the time, the Central State Archive of the October Revolution, the Central State Archive of Ancient Documents, and the Central State Literary Archive were established. These archives existed until 1991, i.e., until the collapse of the USSR, and most of them still exist today. Historically, for the Soviet Union, the national archive was a set of these central state archives: military, literary, etc. For the new, post-1992 Russia, the national archive is the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF). Let me repeat, this is the archive for the state of the Russian Federation, which emerged in 1992. This has been taken note of and recognised by the international community of archivists: GARF is a category A member (national archives) of the International Council on Archives (ICA).

- To what extent have archives been transformed in the new Russia? Have they changed?

- The 1990s witnessed an ‘archival revolution’ in Russia mainly due to the fact that millions – let me emphasise – millions of files and tens or even hundreds of millions of documents were declassified. One of the most closely guarded secrets in the Soviet Union was – as strange as it may seem at first glance – the secret of national history, which could not be studied freely and which the Soviet people received in a censored version following strict guidelines. First, the ‘Short Course of the History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks)’ appeared in 1938, followed by textbooks on the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and other similar publications. The archival revolution and its consequences transformed Russian archives, which are fundamentally different from those of the Soviet period.

- It is true that in the 1990s a huge number of documents were published and many interesting studies appeared. However, the ‘Law on the Archives’, which introduced the term ‘personal family secret’, was adopted in Russia in 2004. This is the term that is referred to in order to retain the classified’ stamp on documents concerning the activities of NKVD officers. To what extent did this law change the process of declassification and publication of documents? Did it simplify the process of access to documents or, on the contrary, complicate it?

- I have raised this issue on numerous occasions and my position remains unchanged. Russian legislation, like the rest of Russian life, is very contradictory. For example, the law on state secrets stipulates that documents shall be classified for 30 years. What does that mean? Well, it is 2021[1] now, and if we follow a strict interpretation of the law, all documents classified before 1991 should be automatically declassified. In fact, that was the point of introducing a 30-year period of protection of state secrets.

It has been well known since Soviet times that it is impossible to keep scientific discoveries secret for a long time. Our outstanding mathematician Mstislav Keldysh spoke[2] about this at a meeting of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences. He believed that modern science is so international that it is simply impossible to keep secret any important discovery for more than six months. That’s why the law on state secrets introduced a 30-year period after which documents with restricted access are, in theory, automatically declassified. By contrast, the law on criminal intelligence and surveillance operations and other regulations created a very complex and extremely costly system of declassifying documents.

I can explain this using the example of GARF. We store records of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. A large number of ministries were involved in the development of any resolution of the Council of Ministers. Dozens of departments drafted, negotiated, and reviewed them. To declassify any document today we need an expert opinion. If ten ministries were involved in the preparation of a Council of Ministers’ resolution, ten experts had to visit the archive, study it, and then give their opinion. This is an incredibly cumbersome and costly way of declassifying archival documents. I have said many times that there is one way out: the law on state secrets. There is a 30-year period of classification; so, in my view, we have to introduce a mode of classification instead.

Undoubtedly, a state will always have secrets. Every state has secret files and documents. The difference is in their volume, quantity, and the duration of their classification. I think it would be reasonable if the law on state secrets ruled that all documents aged more than 30 years should be examined, and relevant state agencies should say which ones are subject to further classification. However, they should not be classified forever, but there should be a certain period of time (5, 10, or 20 years) after which documents automatically lose their classification status. This is a common worldwide practice. But Russia is a rich country and it does not have to spare money. Just imagine how many man-hours each ministry has to devote to this work. All over the world, except for our country, it is believed that this work is a waste of money. Therefore, if during the ‘archival revolution’ we were declassifying hundreds of thousands of files every year, now we are declassifying 5, 10, or 20 thousand a year, but the declassification process is not over. We need to understand that. The declassification process goes on, it continues, although not at such a pace as back in the 1990s.

Overall, the number of classified documents in GARF is in line with international standards. It does not exceed 5% of the total number of documents stored in the archive. Moreover, it should be taken into account that GARF is an expanding archive. It regularly receives records from the top legislative, executive and judicial authorities of the Russian Federation to be stored.

- To follow up on this topic, let me ask you about why such huge obstacles are created. For instance, a Polish colleague of mine who worked with the documents of General Leopold Okulicki[3] in GARF discovered that some of them were classified. As you know, General Okulicki’s death is shrouded in mystery. Officially he died of a heart attack, but there is a suspicion that he was murdered. Why can the whole file not be declassified? What kind of information could the classified pages hide? And what is the point of this secrecy?

- This is not a question for me but for those who classified these documents. I have never looked into General Okulicki’s case – never took any interest in his fate. There is a law on criminal intelligence and surveillance operations which bans the public disclosure of the names of unofficial informants and officers who worked undercover. I think this explains why the documents in this case or other similar files are under restricted access or secret storage.

- Let me return to the issue of GARF acquisitions, namely the Archive of ‘White’ Russian Emigration in Prague.[4] It is partly stored in GARF and partly in the National Library in Prague. Some of the collection relating to Ukrainian emigration is stored in Ukraine. It is known for a fact that the records of the Prague archive are divided between different Russian archives. Was there any attempt to collect the documents from this archive under one roof to simplify the work of historians?

- Soviet archival science took pride in its principle of the indivisibility of holdings. In practice, the entire history of domestic archival science is a history of redistribution and relocation of archival records from one archive to another. It is a history of never-ending fission and fusion. Even experts find it difficult to make sense of this whirlwind.

As for the Russian Historical Archive Abroad, we have not touched the issue of actually recreating it. It was important to create an information system that would make it possible to restore this archive.

And, in the late 1990s, we published a special inter-archive directory which identifies all of the elements of the former Russian Historical Archive Abroad that are stored in different places. From my point of view, such directories (all of which are available in electronic format nowadays) solve the issue of reuniting what was once dismantled. This is the right and most painless way.

- Mr Mironenko, I would like to ask you about the Special Archive.[5] This archive has also changed hands several times, and it is now part of the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA). How is the issue of document restitution now being resolved? Which documents are to be returned and under what conditions?

- The recovery of archives is the result of intergovernmental agreements. Some of these agreements were approved by the State Duma and are part of international policy. For example, France regained the Secret Police archives under the condition that copies were made, and we microfilmed all the holdings returned to France. This was done with all the holdings of any historical value for Russia and for world history.

Another example is the archive of the Principality of Liechtenstein, which was seized by the Germans in Vienna. When our troops liberated Vienna, this archive became a trophy of the Soviet Army. It was part of those holdings which were taken away after World War II. It was kept in the Special Archive and returned under an intergovernmental agreement with the Principality of Liechtenstein. This archive consisted mainly of economic documents from the 19th and earlier centuries. This archive was of no particular interest to us, so it was not microfilmed and was transferred to the Principality of Liechtenstein, for which it is a part of their national history. In return, the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II, purchased at a Sotheby’s auction the archive of the investigator Sokolov[6] that was on sale at the time, thus providing us with unique documents that shed light on the fate of the royal family, their execution in Yekaterinburg, and the suppression of traces of this crime.

- Why were the holdings of the Special Archive not transferred to GARF? Why such a complicated path?

- The issue of merging the Special Archive with GARF has never been considered. If you have ever been to RGVA, you know that the two archives are located in two adjacent buildings. That is why we decided not to mess with it, especially since there was no spare storage capacity in GARF. Mind you, even now we are facing problems with storing new acquisitions. A new building is under construction for this purpose. I hope that when it is completed, we will proceed with acquisitions of the complete holdings.

- Where are these holdings kept at the moment? Are they kept as some sort of reserve stock?

- No, to date they have been stored at state agencies. Of course, we accept some of them. For example, the documents of the USSR Council of Ministers, which were kept in the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (formerly the Archive of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), are some of our latest arrivals. These are the documents of two Special Committees established under the Council of Ministers that were dealing with the atomic bomb and missile industry. Now these holdings are in our possession.

In 2009, we organised a landmark exhibition here, at Bolshaya Pirogovskaya Street,[7] dedicated to the first atomic bomb test in the Soviet Union. We even borrowed documents from the Harry S. Truman Library Archive in the United States. We cooperate with other archives and do our best to exhibit collections that come not only from Russian but also from foreign archives.

At a recent exhibition on the history of the alliance of the three great powers in the fight against Nazism in World War II, a unique document from the UK’s National Archives was displayed. It was a sheet of paper torn from a notebook featuring Churchill’s notes concerning which part of South-Eastern Europe would be in whose sphere of influence. This sketch was made during his meeting with Stalin. As a rule, our colleagues do not refuse us access to documents. For obvious reasons, nowadays we are talking about copies of documents, but an electronic copy is not much different from the original.

- As far as I can tell, the 2014 international conflict had no effect on Russia’s cooperation with foreign archives? Am I right?

- I think you are right. In any case, in my practice we have not met with any refusals when we have asked our colleagues to make the necessary documents available. If we know that documents that can play an important role in an archival exhibition are stored at certain premises, we request them and receive them. Similarly, we do not refuse our colleagues access to our documents. The only thing is that COVID has interfered with cooperation a bit. In 2021, a large exhibition about the Trans-Siberian Railway was planned to be held at the UK’s National Museum of Science and Industry. I hope this exhibition will take place in 2022, and we will present our originals. Thus, international cooperation between archives continues.

You are a renowned expert on 19th-century history. Recently, the Rothschild family acquired the correspondence of Alexander II and handed it over to GARF. It is also a well-known fact that Boris Savinkov’s relatives[8] handed over his documents to GARF. How often do philanthropists, big business people, or relatives donate something to the archive?

- The Rothschilds bought the correspondence between Alexander II and his morganatic wife, Princess Yurievskaya. That was over ten years ago. We got a whole suitcase of letters between Alexander II and Yurievskaya at that time. One researcher embarked on the gigantic task of reading these letters and published a study of the relationship between the emperor and Princess Yurievskaya based on their correspondence.

It is not uncommon for large companies to acquire certain documents that come up at foreign auctions and donate them to us. The most recent purchase was that of Admiral Kolchak’s Archive. Leonid Mikhelson’s company Novatek helped us with that.

Two volumes of documents, entitled ‘Admiral Kolchak’, have just been published.[9] The first volume, which was prepared jointly with our colleagues from the Russian State Archive of the Navy, presents Kolchak as a naval commander, naval officer, and Arctic explorer. The second volume presents him as the Supreme Leader of Siberia. Most of these documents have been published for the first time.

I cannot avoid mentioning Viktor Vekselberg, who purchased extremely interesting documents of the Yusupov family at an auction in Paris. They were placed on auction, and some of the most valuable and interesting items were bought by Mr. Vekselberg and transferred to GARF. [10]

Konstantin Malofeev once bought some of the diaries of Duchess Xenia Aleksandrovna of Russia, the sister of Emperor Nicholas II. They were part of his private collection for some time. Later on, I persuaded Konstantin to donate them to GARF, which has a rich collection of Xenia Aleksandrovna’s items. Now these diaries are stored in GARF, and we are preparing them for publication.

Many people donate documents to the state archive. Unfortunately, the archive has no budgetary funds to acquire records, but the search for benefactors generates positive results. The Federal Archival Agency of Russia helps us immensely with this. Of course, this does not happen every day, but it is not every day that rare collectors’ items pop up at auctions either.

- After all this, who is it that comes up with the initiative? Does the archive initiate the process or do business people approach you of their own volition?

- Undoubtedly, this is the initiative of archivists. How would business people know exactly what to buy? The only exception is Malofeev, who bought Xenia Alexandrovna’s diaries on his own initiative; however, as a rule this is the archive’s initiative. We contact the government, and the government apparently advises certain businessmen to perform a patriotic deed and buy some archival records for the preservation of Russian history.

- It is no secret that there are certain fashions in scientific research. For example, certain topics have lost their attractiveness in recent years. Nowadays, there are practically no researchers who deal with the history of the working class and the working-class movement, and there are few historians addressing economic issues. Therefore, I would like to ask about the topics that are currently not on the radar of historians from Central and Eastern Europe as well as researchers who deal with the history of Russia’s relations with neighbouring states. What other archival holdings are awaiting compilers and researchers?

- Unfortunately, I cannot but agree with you. You are right that many topics which were once very popular are now downplayed. This means not only the history of the working class but also the history of the peasantry. Pre-revolutionary Russia was a peasant country. We have practically no specialists in the history of the Russian peasantry left. It is really out of fashion. So, what can be done about this? This is a big problem!

I don’t agree that researchers have stopped studying economics. They do study economics. The history of economics and the history of the working class are very closely interrelated. Still, there is a definite shift towards economic history. There’s a field in economics which is separate from history. There are now congresses of historical sciences and there are congresses of historians of economic development. They have sort of separated themselves from the science of history. Mathematical methods and interpretation of huge arrays of statistical data have occupied an essential place in the study of economics.

We can observe fashions, but it was like that before. In Soviet days, the focus was on the revolutionary movement. When I started my professional career, the Decembrists were heroes. Now it is said that they are traitors of the Motherland – that they are renegade revolutionaries. I personally fail to understand why they are renegade revolutionaries. Today, little attention is paid to the Russian Liberation Movement (this is a broader term than the notion of a revolutionary movement).

You know our difficult relations with our Slavic brothers, the Poles and the Czechs. The Russian-Polish commission of historians, which was supposed to resolve complex issues in mutual history, has discontinued its work.[11] It is counterproductive to sweep problems under the carpet or to use the ‘takes one to know one’ approach. People need to meet, respect each other’s point of view, debate, and prepare joint publications.

Unfortunately, I learnt from my personal experience that our Polish colleagues were reluctant to work with us even though we proposed compiling collections of documents with a foreword by both Russian and Polish partners for a number of our joint projects which were launched 5–8 years ago.[12] After all, it is possible to present two points of view – two versions of historical events or a historical process. Let the reader decide what he or she prefers rather than announce that ‘I know everything, I am absolutely right'. If a researcher claims that his or her position is the ultimate truth, then he or she is history as a historian. 

You know, Piotr Vyazemsky – the famous poet, a friend of the Decembrists and Pushkin, the one who collected anecdotes in his [Old] Notebook – once wrote that you have to live for a long time in Russia because it takes many, many years to see any results (laughter). I think that history will judge and will put everything back in order, but unfortunately this process takes time.

- Mr Mironenko, could you be more specific about which joint Russian-Polish project it was? What documents were you planning to publish?

- At the moment, we are working on a multi-volume history of relations between the Soviet Union and the Polish political underground movement with our colleagues from the Institute of Slavonic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). The first three volumes have already been published. At the very beginning, our Polish colleagues used to visit us. There were talks about joint efforts, but gradually it all came to naught. Now we are carrying out this project on our own, without our Polish colleagues, but we hope that they will provide us with the documents. Hopefully, there will be no problems in this regard. The problem is in the interpretation and differences of opinion as regards this really complex relationship between Russia and Poland during the pre-war period, and during and after the war.

 

- The interview you gave to Kommersant in April 2015[13] comes to my mind. At that time, you brought up the plot of Panfilov’s 28 Men[14] and noted that fictional heroes were more important than real ones for Soviet historiography. You even delivered a speech on the subject. You entered into a polemic with the Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky, who defended the relevance of a mythologised version. And then the film Panfilov’s 28 Men was released, and more than 3 million people in Russia watched it in the following year. And then this film was shown on Channel One. This situation makes it clear that historical facts take a back seat to the historical myth that goes viral.[15] It turns out that there is no demand in society for historical truth – for objective history. How can one deal with that? Is it possible to modify the demand?

- My position on this issue is very simple: as a child, were you taught to tell the truth and not to lie? I think I was. We were all taught to tell the truth. We were taught that it was wrong to lie. I am addressing those who persist in defending the idea that there were Panfilov’s 28 men. This is a lie. There was no fight at Dubosekovo station. There was no heroic deed by Panfilov’s 28 men, as was confirmed by the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office in 1948. This was clearly stated in the report by Lieutenant-General Nikolay Afanasiev. You can find this document on the GARF website.[16] As a matter of fact, the need to verify whether or not Panfilov’s 28 heroes existed arose because Panfilov’s soldiers began appearing after the war. They should have been resting in peace, but they would appear in the flesh and say, ‘Here we are – we are alive.’ This does not minimise the heroic feat of General Panfilov’s division at all. They are undoubtedly heroes, but at the same time this story exposes the hypocrisy of the Soviet system.

Were there no real heroes? Couldn’t they find real heroes among the hundreds of thousands of people who selflessly sacrificed their lives for the freedom and independence of their homeland? It did not matter for the Soviet propaganda. I have already said this, and I will say it again: the truth will come out into the open sooner or later. No matter how hard one tries to hide it, it will always come to light, and it is necessary to tell the truth.

Why did the creators of the film Panfilov’s 28 Men continue to reproduce the myth? The fact is that the film was very nearly finished when I made this data public. But I was not the first one to raise this issue. The press just hyped it all up, and it turned into a newsbreak. But even before then it was known for a fact that this heroic feat did not happen.

By the way, 10 years earlier we had shot a film with Tatiana Komarova specifically about Panfilov’s 28 men which was shown on Russian TV. For some reason, nobody has mentioned this film. I remember Tatiana visited the Society of the Heroes of the Soviet Union and spoke about it. She was insulted and criticised. Only one Afghan hero[17] stood up and said, ‘You are doing the right thing; it is important to tell the truth; people should know this truth.’ It is important that those who falsify history know that their fabrication will be nailed down. This is my position, in fact. It is quite simple, and it did not waver even slightly after Vladimir Rostislavovich Medinsky said that it was a myth and there were saints who should be venerated. If he wants to worship myths, go ahead! As someone who has lived a major part of his life in the mythologised history of the Soviet Union, I don’t feel like idolising myths.

- And what about the Soviets’ mythologised legacy? After all, all these myths are personified by the growing numbers of monuments. Thousands, tens of thousands of people pass them every day, and they are part of a certain political and historical discourse.

- History will judge. White will be white and black will remain black. That is my deep belief. I am a natural born optimist. You know, the task of history is to restore truth whenever possible. History should be based on facts. History cannot be based on myths. And education cannot be based on myths either. Therefore, I’m profoundly convinced that the history of your small homeland does much more in terms of nurturing patriotism and love for your motherland than any war games. Nowadays, studies of Moscow and the history of various cities is developing; people are engaged in the history of the place where they live and this is the best form of nurturing patriotism from my point of view – not myths which will always be nailed down in the end.

- You have touched upon the subject of historical truth and the exposure of myths and mythologised Soviet history. Currently, the Institute of Russian History at RAS is working on a 20-volume history of Russia and you are one of the authors. Could you tell us about this project? What is the idea behind this publication? Can we say that we are talking about writing a new grand narrative of Russian history? What is the focus?

- Better ask Yuri Alexandrovich Petrov (Director of the Institute of Russian History at RAS – Ed.), who initiated this project and supervises it. I am only responsible for the volume on the history of Russia in the first half of the 19th century. The best national historians are involved in work on these volumes, and the work is nearing completion.

In my opinion, we have come across a huge problem, and I do not know how it will be resolved by the leaders of this project. Does each volume present an author’s view or a summary of what has been done in historical science to date, i.e., a résumé? I have participated in discussions on several volumes, and they are very different from each other. There are volumes in which the editor-in-chief has his or her own view – his or her own conception of the period the volume covers. And there are volumes that summarise everything that has been done by previous historians. These are two different approaches. We should wait to see the final result.

Most conceptions that were created during the Soviet era require revision to a large extent, and everyone understands that. The same goes for the first half of the 19th century: quite a number of events must be revised; for example, an event such as the abolition of serfdom. I could talk about this for a long time, but I will say it briefly: in Soviet historiography there was a clear concept of replacement of one social and economic system with another. In accordance with this concept, the process of the decay of the feudal system began in the last third of the 18th century and this led to a crisis in the first third of the 19th century. The capitalist system was germinating and gradually developing within the feudal formation, which led to the replacement of one formation with another. However, this conception raises many questions, not only because it is Marxist, Soviet, but also because it contradicts the facts.

Where was this capitalist order in Russia in the first half of the 19th century? As a matter of fact, it did not exist. The Marxist theory of the replacement of one socio-economic formation with another presupposes the presence of several preconditions. In this case, one of the main preconditions for the development of capitalism is the replacement of manual labour with mechanical labour. Are you telling me that in the first half of the 19th century manual peasant labour was replaced by mechanical labour in a peasant country? Of course not (laughter). Moreover, the development of capitalism is impossible without a free labour market. Of course, there was no free labour market in Russia at that time and there could not be any. 

There is the important question of why landlords did not want to free their peasants. After all, as early as in the late 18th century, the great economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo proved that free labour was much more productive and profitable than servile labour. Alexander I, who issued a decree on free agriculturalists in 1803 which, for the first time in Russian history, allowed the freeing of entire villages (and not peasants one by one!) and the endowing of former serfs with land was, in my opinion, convinced that he was encouraging the gradual emancipation of peasants. But no, the landlords were not willing to follow the lead. Thus, there was no economic necessity. Thus, there were some other reasons that pushed Russian society and the emperor to abolish serfdom. This requires reflection.

 

- You have mentioned the need to revise the theses and views formed in previous eras – in the Soviet period – but today some state officials can easily label such a position as that of a ‘falsifier’. The state directly or indirectly influences the ethics of scientific research, particularly when it comes to certain periods of Soviet history. How can historians maintain objectivity and professional standards in such a situation? How can we fight this, and can we fight it at all?

- You know, let the cobbler stick to his last. In other words, problems start when someone starts doing things that aren’t his or her field of expertise. I would like everyone to mind their own business: politicians for politics, and historians for history. The less the government tells professionals about the interpretation of our past, the better.

In general, frankly speaking we are facing a huge problem of a lack of historical knowledge among schoolchildren and students. I teach at university and, unfortunately, I can see that there are students who are admitted to the History Faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow State University who do not even have a secondary-school level of history knowledge. One can only scratch one’s head and wonder! And what can one say about schoolchildren?! Did you see that famous poll in the Victory Park (Park Pobiedy), when journalists asked young people, ‘What do you know about the heroic defence of Omsk?’? And one girl answered, ‘Well, of course, it’s a famous battle.’[18] (laughter)

It is terrible that we have such a low level of historical knowledge – that people do not know who Lenin is. Perhaps this is a public response to state violence in this area. It thrusts people back. The state’s pressure in one area or another is repulsive. When a historian from Novosibirsk is summoned to the Investigative Committee and accused of falsifying history[19] after having posted about Alexander Nevsky, that is absurd! That is going back to the 12th century. What will become of us if we use such methods to promote the historical truth? It is impossible and, most importantly, unnecessary.

Interview conducted by Igor Gretskiy and Yana Prymachenko

 

 

[1] This interview was recorded on September 17, 2021.

[2] Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh (1911–1978) was a Soviet scientist in the field of applied mathematics and mechanics, Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1946). From 1953 he was a member of the presidium; in 1960–1961 he was vice-president; and in 1961–1975 he was president of the USSR Academy of Sciences. See: V.M. Millionščikov, Keldysh Mstislav Vsevolodovich  < https://bigenc.ru/mathematics/text/2059304> [accessed October 04, 2021].

[3]Leopold Okulicki (1898–1946) – Brigadier General; from October 1944 head of the Home Army, that part of the Polish armed forces that operated underground in occupied Poland. He was arrested by the NKVD in March 1945 in Pruszków when, together with 15 other Polish leaders, he had been invited for a meeting and negotiations with the Soviet command. In June 1945, he was in ‘The Trial of the Sixteen’, which was held by the Soviet authorities in Moscow on 18–21 June 1945. He was sentenced by the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court to 10 years in labour camps. According to the official Soviet version, he died on December 24, 1946, in prison as a result of a heart attack and his body was burned at the NKVD crematorium at Donskoye cemetery. There is, however, some reliable evidence that the general was murdered.

[4]The Archive in Prague (in 1923–24 the Archive of Russian Emigration; in 1924–45 the Russian Historical Archive Abroad) is one of the largest repositories of documents on Russian emigration. It was established in Prague in September 1923 following the compilation of the records of the Archive of Russian Emigration and the Archive of Czechoslovakia that had been run since February 1923 by the Cultural and Educational Department of the Library of the Prague Zemgor (the Association of Russian Rural and Municipal Officials in the Czechoslovak Republic). On August 14, 1924, it became the Russian Foreign Historical Archive Abroad. It compiled historical documents removed from Russia and related to the activities of Russian emigrés in various countries. It was financed by the government of Czechoslovakia in the framework of the ‘Russian campaign’. Quoted after: L. L. I. Petruševa, The Archive in Prague <.https://bigenc.ru/domestic_history/text/3165883> [accessed October 04, 2021].

[5]The so-called Special Archive, the Central State Special Archive (TsGOA), was created in March 1946 to preserve the holdings and collections of foreign origin removed by the Soviet Army from Germany and Eastern Europe at the end of World War II. Later, the documents of the Archive of the Main Administration for Affairs of Prisoners of War and Internees (GUPVI) of the USSR Ministry of the Interior were transferred to the Special Archive. In July 1992, TsGOA was transformed into the Centre for the Preservation of Historical and Documentary Collections (TsKhIDK) and opened to researchers. In 1999, TsKhIDK was merged with the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA) and ceased to exist as an independent institution. Quoted from the RGVA website: Istorija archiva <http://rgvarchive.ru/ob-arkhive/istoriya-arkhiva.shtml> [accessed September 28, 2021]

[6]Nikolay Sokolov (1882–1924) was a lawyer and an investigator into major cases at Omsk District Court. He was commissioned by the Supreme Leader and Imperial Admiral Alexander Kolchak to investigate the case of the execution of the tsarist family. He later emigrated to France.

[7]The exhibition hall of the Federal State Archives is located in the main building of GARF in Moscow at 17 Bolshaya Pirogovskaya Street.

[8]Boris Savinkov (1879–1925), a Russian revolutionary, one of the leaders of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, member of the ‘White’ movement, writer.

[9] A. V. Kolčak. 1874–1920. Sbornik dokumentov v dvuch tomach, ed by Julija Orlova (Moskva: BLIC, 2021).

[10] For more details see Pavel Gerasimenko, ‘The Yusupov Princes’ Archive Donated to the State’, The Art Newspaper Russia, 14 February 2015 < https://www.theartnewspaper.ru/posts/1292/> [accessed February 28, 2021].

[11]The Polish-Russian Group for Difficult Matters was a commission of historians and experts in international affairs that operated under the Polish and Russian Foreign Ministries in 2008–2013. The group was chaired by former Foreign Minister Adam Daniel Rotfeld on behalf of Poland and by MGIMO Rector Anatoly Torkunov on behalf of Russia. The group met every six months and provided the authorities of both countries with recommendations on how to solve existing problems in relations between the two countries. The work of the group resulted in a comprehensive study: White spots – Black spots: Difficult Matters in Polish-Russian Relations, 1918–2008, ed. by Adam Daniel Rotfeld and Anatoly V. Torkunov (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015).

The most recent joint meeting of the Group was held in Kaliningrad in November 2013.

[12] These were two projects that were to be implemented under the auspices of the Group for Difficult Matters: one of them on the relations between the Soviet authorities and the Polish underground movement in 1943–1946; the other on diplomatic relations between Poland and Russia in 1918–1945. Prof. Mariusz Wołos, who supervised the second project on the Polish behalf, presented an opposite view of the reasons behind the cooperation fiasco: ‘Initially, it seemed that the cooperation was starting well and the original arrangements would bring tangible results. However, this did not happen. From 2014 onwards, the Russian researchers involved in the project began to avoid contact with the Polish team without a word of explanation, despite our inquiries. Perhaps they assumed that the deterioration of the relations between the two states was such an obvious ‘fundamental change of circumstances’ that it did not require embarrassing justifications for withdrawing from the commitments undertaken.’ See: Dokumenty do historii stosunków polsko-sowieckich 1918–1945 [‘Documents on the History of Polish-Soviet Relations 1918–1945’], ed. by Mariusz Wołos and Jan Jacek Bruski, Vol. 3 (Warsaw: Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding, 2020), I (1918–1926), 5.

[13]See Sergej Mironenko, ‘Razoblačenie falʹsifikatora i izgotovlennoj im falʹšivki neizbežno’, Kommersant, 20 April, 2015, Society section <https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2712788> [accessed 28 September, 2021]

[14]The essence of the myth of Panfilov’s 28 men is as follows: On November 16, 1941, not far from Dubosekovo station (Riga direction of the Moscow railway, in the Volokolamsk area of the Moscow region), 28 Soviet soldiers of different nationalities fought 50 German tanks which were heading for Moscow. The political instructor of the division, Vasily Klochkov, inspired the guardsmen and famously said, ‘Russia is a vast land, yet there is nowhere to retreat – Moscow is behind us!’! All the protagonists were killed during the battle, but 18 enemy tanks were destroyed and hundreds of Nazis perished. In reality there was no battle, and this beautiful story was invented by the staff of the Krasnaya Zvezda [‘The Red Star’] newspaper.

[15] Here and below reference is made to falsification and construction of certain historical events to please ideologists and meet political demand. In a broader sense, it is about the instrumentalisation of history. Such an attitude to history was widespread during the Soviet period and is still widespread in post-Soviet countries. Most of these myths are associated with World War II, which was the central event in the Soviet historical calendar. From the scientific point of view, all these myths require refutation and deconstruction.

[16]See Spravka-doklad glavnogo voennogo prokurora N. Afanasʹeva ‘O 28 panfilovcach’ (2015), < https://statearchive.ru/607> [accessed October 04, 2021].

[17]Veteran of the 1979–1989 war in Afghanistan.

[18] There was no heroic defence of Omsk during World War II. See Moy Gorod TV, Opros na znanie istorii Velikoj Otečestvennoj Vojny, online video recording, YouTube, 15 May 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKNzgKhn4As [accessed September 28, 2021]

[19]See Andrey Schwartz, ‘Esli u strany net buduščego, ona kopaetsja v prošlom.’ Istorika vyzval sledovatelʹ SK za post o Nevskom i Sverdlove (2021) <Ошибка! Недопустимый объект гиперссылки.https://www. sibreal. org/a/istorika-vyzvali-v-sledstvennyj-komitet-za-post-o-nevskom-i-sverdlove/31413529.html> [accessed 28 September 2021]

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