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October 2, 2012

Hoover Archives’ KGB files examined by Stanford historian Weiner

Stanford historian Amir Weiner's work is drawn from a newly assembled collection
Image credit: L.A. Cicero
Stanford historian Amir Weiner's work is drawn from a newly assembled collection of classified KGB files housed at the Hoover Institution.

Stanford historian Amir Weiner recently examined the newly accessible KGB files housed in the Hoover Institution Archives. Weiner found that “a system of checks and balances in today's Western-style democracies prevents agencies like the FBI from engaging in domestic surveillance at the same invasive scale as the KGB” (Stanford Report). The collection is composed of tens of thousands of documents, including informants' reports, interrogation minutes, and official internal correspondence.  Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the KGB archives are the largest accessible holdings (Russian and Ukrainian holdings are, for all practical purposes, closed) of the Soviet political police, which were left almost intact in Vilnius, Lithuania, after the Soviet Union disintegrated.

Weiner said his findings reveal a “distinct socialist pattern of surveillance" characteristic only of communist societies. This pattern will help us better understand the history of the USSR and the communist experiment.

Weiner, an associate professor of history, intends to publish his findings in a book entitled Getting to Know You: Domestic Surveillance in the USSR, in which he will draw explicit comparisons to the German, British, French, and Israeli equivalents of the KGB (Stanford Report). He discussed his forthcoming book at the tenth annual Hoover Summer Workshop that included Hoover fellows and participants Paul R. Gregory, Tai-Chun Kuo, and Mark Harrison.

Click here for more information about professor Weiner’s lecture at the Hoover Summer Workshop.
Click here for more information about the KGB files.
Click here to read the full article in the Stanford Report.