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Fond 89:
The Soviet Communist Party on Trial

The most revealing collection of documents of the Soviet Union to have emerged since the collapse of the Communist State

Fond 89 is a unique collection of documents. It came into being as a direct result of President Yeltsin’s decision to outlaw the Communist Party, made on 6 November 1992. Not surprisingly, this decision was challenged in the Constitutional Court, resulting in the so-called ‘trial of the Communist Party’.

The government defended its decision to ban the Communist Party on several grounds, the chief being that the party had acted unlawfully throughout its existence by disregarding basic human rights. To prove this, Yeltsin’s representatives drew on a wide range of documents emanating from the highest echelons of the Soviet Party and State. These were selected to show that throughout its existence (the documents cover the period 1919-1992) the Communist Party showed a complete disregard for human rights and the principles of international law.

There are over 3,000 documents in the collection, in all about 10,000 pages. Most are in the form of memoranda or reports made to the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Under present-day legislation no material less than 30 years old can be on unrestricted access. Because the majority of the documents in this collection date from the last three decades, they had to be specially de-classified for the court proceedings. Almost all were previously held in three archives, only one of which is now completely opened to researchers. They are therefore of enormous interest not just because of their content, but because they offer a unique glimpse into the life of the USSR just before the collapse of the one-party state.

The Sources

The Presidential Archive (also known as the Politburo or Kremlin Archive) used to hold the working papers of the Politburo (the most important political body in the Soviet Union), the personal papers of about 50 key Party figures, such as Stalin and Khrushchev, as well as documents which could provide incriminating evidence against the Soviet Party, i.e. the Soviet government. The Presidential Archive remains closed to researchers to this day.

Documents from this archive include a large number of excerpts from minutes of Politburo meetings, reports from the KGB, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others on matters affecting policy formulation, as well as documents from the private archive of Stalin.

Most of the documents from the period after 1952 come from TsKhSD, or the Centre for the Preservation of Contemporary Documentation. This was the working archive of the Central Committee and it still holds the papers of all Central Committee bodies below the Politburo level.

Access to this archive remains strictly limited because of the sensitive nature and recent date of its documentation. Fond 89 contains a large number of memoranda and reports prepared by the Secretariat of the Central Committee (second in importance only to the Politburo) and the Central Committee’s Departments. Among the most interesting are reports of subsidies made to ‘friends’ - foreign Communist Parties - the so-called Moscow Gold.

Documents for the pre-1952 period, such as Politburo agendas discussing the setting up of labour camps in the first years of the Party’s power or reports on sums paid to foreign Communist Parties for the furtherance of world revolution, come from RTsKhIDNI. This, the Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Most Recent History used to be the Central Party Archive. It is now one of the most important centres for students of twentieth-century history and its holdings are almost completely on open access, except, it should be noted, materials on foreign policy of the kind included in this collection.

The sources of the documentation as well as the principle of selection make Fond 89 an invaluable resource for any historian of the USSR and Yeltsin’s Russia. The collection contains microfilm of original documents on Stalin’s purges, the financing of foreign Communist Parties, activities of organs of internal security such as the NKVD, on relations with ethnic minorities in the former USSR, on the USSR’s role in post-war Eastern Europe and many other topics previously undocumented.

Fond 89 is divided into 76 perechni, or thematic groups, and each group is divided into dokumenty, or documents. The microfilm of Fond 89 consists of 25 reels. Reel 1 catalogues the documents and reels 2-25 contain the documents themselves.

Technical Standards

Fond 89: The Soviet Communist Party on Trial is published on positive archivally permanent silver halide 35mm microfilm, conforming to AIIM, BSI and ANSI standards.

Fond 89 is a record group in the TsKhSD archive and part of Archives of the Soviet Communist Party and Soviet State, the joint publication on microfilm of the State Archival Service of Russia (Rosarkhiv) and the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace which is distributed by Chadwyck-Healey. Libraries with standing orders for the complete programme will automatically receive Fond 89.

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