Friday, February 14, 2020

Moscow’s Acquisition of Kolchak Archive Part of Broader Effort to Control History

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 7 – At the end of last year, at the encouragement of the Russian government, a group of wealthy Russian businessmen and cultural figures outbid an American collector and purchased at auction the family papers of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, the leader of anti-Bolshevik forces in Siberia during the Civil War.

            The Russian businessmen spent more than three million euros (3.7 million US dollars) for the collection which provides an invaluable glimpse into Kolchak’s life and activities ( and

            The cache of 391 documents first came to public notice about a year ago when Kolchak’s grandson died in Paris at the age of 85, and his family decided to sell it at auction. It is currently housed in the Moscow-based Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad, although parts of it may end up in private or otherwise inaccessible Russian archives.

            Nearly 50 years ago, when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was living in exile in Vermont, he formed the All-Russian Memoir Library with an eye to ensuring that archives such as this one would not disappear or be destroyed. In making the announcement at that time, the writer said that he hoped that these materials could sometime be returned to a free Russia.

            One can only be pleased that these materials are being saved at all: All too many such documents have disappeared.  But there is a risk that in their return to Putin’s Russia, they may disappear in another way, with the Moscow authorities limiting access in order to promote the current regime’s view of history rather than allow for a more objective one.

            And such archives are important not only for Russian history but for that of other countries as well. Even as the House of Russia Abroad was making this announcement, scholars published an article about the relations between Kolchak and the Kazakh national movement, the Alash Orda (

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