Monday, May 28, 2018

Correspondence of Last Tsar Remains Classified Possibly in Aid of His Canonization

Paul Goble
            Staunton, May 28 – Among the many archival documents in Russia which remain classified are the letters of Nicholas II to his wife and orders he issued during World War I, quite possibly the result of the efforts of those who want to canonize him, according to journalist Sergey Kuzmitsky.

            He  points out that documents can be kept classified far longer than the law normally allows if that is necessary to protect state secrets “or at the request of relatives of the people who figure in the papers” (

                This grows out of Soviet-era practice. Already in 1918, the Bolsheviks began to be concerned with preserving tsarist archives and keeping ordinary people from having access to them.  In 1938, this control was identified when these archival documents were put under the administration of the NKVD which decided to classify most of them.

            These documents remained under the control of the secret services until 2016, when they were transferred to the office of the Russian president, himself a former KGB officer.  And thus Vladimir Putin has the last word on the declassification of the tsarist documents and other archival materials now classified secret.

            Among the archival papers that are still classified secret in most but not in all cases are the archives of the KGB and its Soviet and tsarist predecessors, some of the papers concerning the purge trials of the 1930s, and the personal papers of prominent people like Vysotsky, Solzhenitsyn and Ryzhkov. 

            “It is possible,” Kuzmitsky says, “that many of the old Russian secrets have significance even today and must be preserved in that state. But many simply haven’t been declassified only because earlier there were so many secrets that it will require a great deal of effort to make decisions about them.”

            However, there are compelling reasons to declassify as much as possible of these older documents, he suggests. Otherwise, Russians will be confronted with a situation in which their past will be defined by those with an agenda rather than on the basis of the facts that can be learned from the archives.

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