Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) — The Hoover Institution Press, in partnership with the Hoover Library & Archives, has released Documenting Communism: The Hoover Project to Microfilm and Publish the Soviet Archives. In it, former Hoover Institution deputy director Charles Palm writes about his twelve-year effort to secure, microfilm, and eventually publish more than ten million pages of documents from the Soviet archives.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 presented a rare opportunity: a new regime ready to unlock the secret archives of the former Soviet Communist Party and state. The Hoover Institution, whose own archives document a century of war, revolution, and peace, worked quickly to seize the moment.

Among the ten million pages Palm led efforts to secure were records of the central organs of the Communist Party; the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), which regulated the ordinary lives of the Russian people; the GULAG, the secret police department that ran the forced labor camps; and the 1992 trial of the Communist Party.

In this memoir, Palm details how he and his colleagues secured a historic agreement with the Russian Federation, then launched and successfully carried out the joint project with the Russian State Archives and their distribution partner, Chadwyck-Healey Ltd.

Palm describes many of the hurdles the project faced as he and his colleagues navigated the unstable political terrain that prevailed in Russia during the 1990s. Achieving success for the project hinged on gaining the trust of wary Russian officials, winning a contentious competition, facing down a suspicious and hostile Russian media, and managing technical and communications difficulties across three continents.

Beyond these challenges, Palm and his partners rode the wave of a turbulent decade in Russia and became unwitting participants in a persistent conflict—between an optimistic nation willing to open its archives and face its tragic history and a second Russia embittered by defeat, its dark history defiantly dismissed.

The Hoover Institution’s decisive action during a brief window of opportunity preserved on microfilm—and provided worldwide access to—the records of Soviet Communism and helped bring to account one of the most consequential ideologies of the twentieth century.

In addition to Palm’s account, Documenting Communism features a checklist of microfilmed records, a sixteen-page photo section, a foreword by former secretary of state and current Hoover director Condoleezza Rice describing the continuing relevance of the Soviet records to scholarship and to the mission of the Hoover Institution Library & Archives; an introduction by renowned historian Stephen Kotkin placing the events of this book within the larger context of Hoover’s collecting activities and the history of the Soviet Union, including its eventual collapse; and a supplementary narrative by British publisher and project partner Charles Chadwyck-Healey, the project’s sales and distribution partner who made the microfilm globally available.

“Scholars, including perhaps most importantly scholars from Russia, will be using these materials for many decades. . . . It’s a fantastic story.”

—Michael McFaul, director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and former US ambassador to Russia 

About the Authors

Charles G. Palm is the deputy director emeritus of the Hoover Institution, where he was an archivist and librarian for thirty-one years, the last eighteen directing the Hoover Institution Library & Archives. His published works include Milton Friedman on Freedom and Guide to the Hoover Institution Archives.

Condoleezza Rice (foreword) was the sixty-sixth US secretary of state under George W. Bush. She is currently the director of the Hoover Institution.

Stephen Kotkin (introduction) is the Kleinheinz Senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford. His books include Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941 and Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928.

Charles Chadwyck-Healey (appendix) is founder of the Chadwyck-Healey Group of academic publishing companies, now part of ProQuest.

Click here to order Documenting Communism.

For coverage opportunities, contact Jeffrey Marschner, 202-760-3187, jmarsch@stanford.edu.

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