Commentary on the Archive
Stephen Bates: The Book Bukovsky Can't Publish
Claire Berlinski: A Hidden History of Evil - the unread Soviet archives
How the Archive was STOLEN from Moscow
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Bukovsky – who had been exiled in 1976 and settled in Cambridge, UK – saw an opportunity to get at confidential Soviet archives which he had sought to get at, one way or another. Bukovsky was already renowned for having obtained the psychiatric records of dissidents who had been diagnosed fraudulently and institutionalized (a way to jail critics without seeming to be silencing dissent), while locked up himself.
Bukovsky was invited back to Moscow in 1992 by Boris Yeltsin, President of the newly established Russian Federation. Yeltsin asked Bukovsky to testify in a trial brought by former members of the Communist Party, who had charged Yeltsin with illegally banning their party and confiscating property they had acquired under the Soviet regime. Bukovsky consented, letting Yeltsin think that it was Bukovsky who was being played.
In Judgment in Moscow, Bukovsky explains what he did:
Foreseeing that I would not be allowed to make any copies – because no photocopier was available, supposedly, or special permission was needed for every scrap of paper, or for God knows what other reason – I took the precaution of acquiring a portable computer with a hand-held scanner. This piece of high tech, a miracle of Japanese manufacture, had only just appeared in the West and was completely unknown to our naïve Russians. I was able to sit and scan piles of documents, page after page, right under their noses, with no worries about curious onlookers, who kept coming up to admire my machine.
"Look at that!" exclaimed the leaders of democratic Russia, peering admiringly over my shoulder. "That must have cost a few bucks!"
Nobody realized what I was doing until December 1992, when the Court hearing was almost over. Then, suddenly, one of them was struck by a horrible thought and yelled loudly enough to be heard all over the building:
"He's been copying everything!!!"
There was a deathly hush. I kept scanning, as though I had not heard.
"He'll publish everything OVER THERE!!!”
I finished work, packed up my computer and headed calmly for the door, looking neither left nor right. From the corner of my eye I could see the horrified faces of Yeltsin's elite, frozen in disbelief, and Pikhoya’s childishly hurt features which seemed to say: "Let him! Serves you all right!"
Nobody said a word as I made my way to the door. They were probably busy calculating what untold millions I would make in the West.
... And that is how the pile of classified documents marked "Secret", "Top Secret", "Of Particular Importance" and "Special File" came into my hands. Several thousand priceless pages of our history.
THE ARCHIVES TODAY
In 2016, John Crowfoot, a British native who had worked as a translator in Moscow for years and had gotten to know many dissidents both there and back in the UK, created an updated website with further translations.
bukovsky-archive.com holds more than 700 files totaling more than 4,500 pages of Soviet archives.