Russia and Raoul Wallenberg: Unfinished business

14-08-2016 , by Inna Rogatchi

The Presidential Archive and Its Closed Envelopes

In 1990, Russian president Boris Yeltsyn did quite unusual for the Soviet and post-Soviet ruler deed: he admitted the guilt of the Soviet regime. The matter was the massacre of the Polish officers in Katyn by the Soviets in 1941. Yeltsyn was courageous enough to hand to the Polish side highly classified documents from the Presidential Archive, specifically designated body to keep the most sensitive documents throughout the Soviet history safely locked there.

If there is something that Russian authorities are still keeping on Raoul Wallenberg case, the file, most likely, is to be at this very place.

At the time of establishing The Presidential Archive in 1991, in incredible haste and complete chaos amidst collapsing Soviet Union, the main thinking about it was to grab and remove the most important cases – as Katyn massacre and presumably Wallenberg case – from all existing in late Soviet Union archives, including those of the KGB and military intelligence, into the one place, to seal all the most sensitive secrets, and subordinate those explosive materials placed in large sealed envelopes to the only person who would be the arbiter on whenever to unseal the envelopes in question, when, and under which circumstances. That person would be a president of the Russian Federation.

I was a witness of the process, as I was working on many of hastily de-classified for a short period of time documents from all periods of the Soviet Union in a strong team of international researches and diplomats. We regularly saw the documents of extra-ordinary importance piled in disorder all over deserted compound of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Moscow.

We have learned that the Presidential Archive has been established in a hot panic that overwhelmed the Soviet leaders at the abrupt end of the regime. We were explained by readily co-operative and palpably nervous men that the idea of the Presidential Archive is to make it small, compact and easily movable; so only the cases of the extra-ordinary importance had been selected there.

We have learned on the documents with four degrees of secrecy, with stamps on the pages of the originals: Secret ( secretno in Russian), Completely Secret ( sovershenno secretno ), Special Importance ( osobaja vazhnost ) , Special File ( osobaja papka ). The documents bearing all four stamps on its front page were at sole disposal of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, the nerve centre of the Soviet regime.

Yet atop of that, there is also documentation of a superior secrecy. Such documents are stored in a form of sealed packages and this highest form of secrecy in Russia is known as ‘sealed package’. Those packages are numbered. The Katyn package had number 1 written on it by hand. The package that contains the original materials on the Soviet-German pact preceding the Second World War is known as package 34 – which Mr Gorbachev

wanted to destroy, according to his closest aides who did not dare to do such a thing.

The envelope with what’s left in the Wallenberg dossier should be among those numbered sealed packages. In 2000, after the decade of hardly fruitful co-operation of the Russian-Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Working Commission, the Russian officials provided their Swedish counter-parts with the document that meant to be the proof that they did everything possible in order to trace the existing documentation on the case. The document was a protocol of the supposed to be a nation-wide search for the documents related to the Wallenberg case in all Russian archives. All of them, except the Presidential Archive.

There are repeated claims by the Russian officials insisting that the Wallenberg File was destroyed. In the realities of the Soviet security apparatus, however, it was hardly possible to destroy an entire file, a cache of documents. In all probability, such exceptional documents as the original of the letter that poor Raoul had written to Stalin from his cell at the Lubjanka prison, would not have been destroyed under any circumstances.

The idea of establishing in 1991 the archive of inaccessible documents in rapidly collapsing Soviet Union had been quite useful for the country’s leadership, seemingly. In the case of Raoul Wallenberg, it did work for twenty five years by now. Being added to forty six previous years, from the Russian perspective, it worked for them for 71 year and 8 months.

In August 2016, international media has reprinted basically one story about published in Russia in May 2016 diaries of Ivan Serov, notorious head of the KGB and GRU in 1950s and early 1960s, claiming  it as ‘the discovery that would end the mystery of Raoul Wallenberg in Russia’.  It is hasty and naive reaction, playing on the Russian authorities’ hand perfectly.

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