For decades Cold War spies gave their lives for a glimpse of Soviet documents. Now more than 2,500 microfilmed reels of secret Communist Party records going back to 1903 have been deposited in the official U.S. government library.
"The documents filmed will fill in major gaps in our knowledge of the Soviet period," said James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress and an expert on the former Soviet Union.The archives do not contain all the Soviet secrets. The documents now in American hands have all been inspected and declassified by the Russian government of President Boris Yeltsin. He used to be secretary of the Soviet party's ruling Central Committee.
Declassification is far from complete and many scholars have complained that it goes too slowly.
Beginning next month the reels now in Washington will be available six days a week at the library. They include records of the Central Committee from 1903 to 1965. In 1903 it was still the ruling body of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, a highly suspect group to the government of Czar Nicholas II.
There are also archives of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs - better known as the OGPU and the NKVD, ancestors of the KGB. They cover the years from 1917, when the party took power, to 1930.