Friday, May 28, 2010

History: Secret Documents of an Evil Empire

It was over 25 years ago that Ronald Reagan first publicly referred to the Soviet Union as the evil empire. Certainly on the list of regimes that have done horrific things during the twentieth century the Soviet Union ranks at or near the top. But how evil was it?

A Hidden History of Evil by Claire Berlinski is an article that covers two archives of pilfered soviet era documents. The article itself is based on the assumption that the Soviet Union is an evil empire. There is no equivocating on that score. The article's last paragraph begins:
We rightly insisted upon total denazification; we rightly excoriate those who now attempt to revive the Nazis’ ideology. But the world exhibits a perilous failure to acknowledge the monstrous history of Communism.
Under the occasionally heavy rhetoric is a tale about thousands of documents. Documents from the inner circles of soviet power. The two archives in question are most likely treasure troves of new information on what was going on in the mind of the soviet leadership. They may help clarify and explain lots of actions and decision of a previous era. They also seem to implicate a number of politicians in the west as being overly sympathetic to the soviet cause.

But do they offer a fair picture? And do they give any insight into a bigger question. The question of whether evil exists. Or more precisely - whether Evil, with a capital E, exists.

Which is a question for another time.

Back on the subject of the documents let me leave you with a simpler question. If the private notes, letters, discussions, and behind the scenes wheeling-dealings of your country's politicians were collected in a large pile for all to peruse and read.... how would your country appear? Saintly? Evil? Incompetent? How would your country come across?

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