“There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory.” – Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever.


Clifford Levy’s November 26 NY Times article about renewed control and suppression of the archives in the Putin era chillingly illustrates Derrida’s thesis:

TOMSK, Russia: For years, the earth in this Siberian city had been giving up clues: a scrap of clothing, a fragment of bone, a skull with a bullet hole.

And so a historian named Boris Trenin made a plea to officials. Would they let him examine secret archives to confirm that there was a mass grave here from Stalin’s purges? Would they help him tell the story of the thousands of innocent people who were said to have been carted from a prison to a ravine, shot in the head and tossed over?

The answer was no, and Trenin understood what many historians in Russia have come to realize: Under Vladimir Putin, the attitude toward the past has changed. The archives that Trenin was seeking, stored on the fourth floor of a building in Tomsk, in boxes stamped “KGB of the U.S.S.R.,” would remain sealed.

The article is part of an ongoing series by Levy about repression under Putin; read also the responses to the article posted on a Russian-language blog run and translated with English responses by the Times.

3 thoughts on “Archives, power & memory

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