Publication Date

December 1, 1996

Hoover Institution Takes Issue with Getty Interpretation of Russian Archive Situation

To the Editor:

J Arch Getty's contribution to the May/June1996 issue of Perspectives broadly canvasses the state of the Russian Archives and gives particular attention to the Hoover Institution’s work with the Russian State Archival Service (Rosarkhiv). Unfortunately, much of what he says about Hoover’s involvement in these matters is either false or seriously misleading.

First, Professor Getty confuses Hoover's microfilming project with a completely different project in which the institution collaborated with the Research Libraries Group (RLG). This latter project, which has linked Russian repositories electronically to bibliographic databases in the United States, won a peer-review competition administered by the National endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and was partially funded by the NEH. Hoover's microfilming project, on the other hand, was financed entirely by foundations with long histories of support not for Russian projects as such but for the Hoover Institution. To suggest, therefore, as Getty does, that Hoover's microfilming project and the Hoover /RLG electronic records crowded out other equally worthy Russian projects is simply spurious.

Second, Getty is badly misinformed when he writes that Hoover intended to microfilm the entire holdings of the three Russian repositories—in exchange for which the Russians were to receive a substantially smaller number of microfilms from Hoover. The facts are these: at no time did Hoover propose or intend to microfilm the entire holdings of the three Russian repositories. Such a project, as Getty must know, would be grossly impractical, for those repositories hold uncounted hundreds of millions of pages of documentation.

Hoover's actual project goal was to produce 25 million images, and to give to Rosarkhiv an equal number of images from Hoover's collection. To date, 8 million images have been produced from the Russian archives. Rosarkhiv has received about 4.5 million images from Hoover, and is in the process of deciding precisely what it wishes to receive in fulfillment of the remaining balance of its entitlements. Hoover has offered Rosarkhiv a choice: 3.5 million microfilm images either from Hoover collections or from U.S. Department of State records on Russia available on microfilm from the U.S. National Archives.

Third, Getty accepts as fact a statement from an unnamed official in one of the participating repositories to the effect that his agency has received "not one kopek" from Pikhoia (the head of Rosarkhiv), Hoover, or Chadwyck-Healey (the British publisher that is marketing the microfilms). This statement is demonstrably false. Rosarkhiv received an initial payment for start-up costs and an advance on royalties. All subsequent payments went directly to the repositories.

Hoover already has paid over $200,000 to cover all staff and overhead costs (including administration, utilities, and space), and Chadwyck-Healey to date has paid over $300,000 in royalty payments-all going directly to the individual bank accounts of the three participating repositories. None of this money passed through Rosarkhiv. As Chadwyck-Healey sells microfilm copies, additional royalties-at a rate of 27 percent of gross sales (the usual rate for such projects is 15 percent)-will be paid directly to the repositories. Moreover, the repositories received at Hoover's expense two microfilm copies of their holdings at no cost, and at the conclusion of the project will keep equipment worth $250,000. It would be hard to imagine a better deal for the Russian repositories.

Fourth, the notion that "Russia's cultural treasures" are being sold to America—an objection briefly raised some years ago by the ill-informed—is nonsense. The actual originals of all the microfilmed material remain, of course, in Moscow. Moreover, two copies of the microfilms (a preservation negative and a positive use copy) are being sent—not "eventually, maybe," as Getty suggests, but as soon as they are processed. A microfilm copy of the entire lot is also being deposited at the Novosibirsk State Archives for use by Russian scholars in that region of the country.

Fifth, Getty gives credence to the strange complaint, sometimes heard in Russia, that access to Russian archives for American scholars is inherently unfair to Russian scholars, because Americans have the financial resources to take greater advantage of such access. When Professor Pikhoia announced the opening of the Soviet Communist Party Archives in 1992, he proclaimed that the materials would be accessible on an equal basis to all the world's scholars without regard to citizenship. This was, and remains, a noble goal-one that has long been enthusiastically endorsed by scholars in the United States and elsewhere. Restricting access by the Americans in order to offset a disparity in economic resources would ultimately be harmful to Russian as well as American scholarship.

Sixth, the Moscow gossip Getty repeats deserves only the comment that similar reports attribute to Getty and his associates the very malpractices he alleges against Hoover-Le., monopolizing materials and obtaining American visits for clients. It is odd, too, that Getty praises certain projects without revealing the fact of his own involvement and interest in same. I cannot let pass the malicious gossip, repeated by Getty, that Rudolf G. Pikhoia misappropriated project funds. In all my dealings with him, financial and otherwise, Pikhoia conducted himself in accordance with the highest standards of personal integrity.

Seventh, Getty characterizes the Hoover-Rosarkhiv project as being in a state of complete collapse, stating that the governing board of Rosarkhiv "rose up in rebellion against Pikhoia and Hoover … denouncing him and the Hoover project." This is an exaggerated half-truth. While it is a fact that the governing board of Rosarkhiv voted to end the project in December, that same board approved a "memorandum of mutual understanding" on January 12 that continued the project for another six months and affirmed a desire to negotiate a new agreement. In the memorandum, all parties noted “the importance and value of the Agreement concluded between them on 17 April 1992 in expanding and raising the effectiveness of archival documentation." Now that the Russian presidential elections are behind us, I fully expect a new agreement satisfactory to all parties to emerge from our continuing discussions.

Getty criticizes Hoover for concluding an agreement with Rosarkhiv rather than directly with the three repositories holding the party archives. I remind him that Hoover was in competition with other bidders for this agreement and that Rosarkhiv was the Russian entity authorized to hold the competition. I remind him further that the project-involving as it did three separate repositories required the kind of coordination and consistency of policy that Rosarkhiv was in a position to insure.

The Hoover project, despite the outcries of all its clamorous critics, has been a remarkable success. No other international project in Russia has produced as much-8 million images on 9,000 reels of microfilm of the Soviet Communist Party Archives. The Hoover Institution has insured the preservation and distribution of this immensely important collection of materials. With its own resources and efforts, it has made the collection widely available on microfilm not only in its own archives in Stanford, California, but also in Moscow, in Novosibirsk, and now in Washington, D.C., at the Library of Congress.

Finally, I must point out that Professor Getty, in preparing a report that reflects so inaccurately and adversely on the Hoover Institution, failed to communicate with anyone at Hoover about it. Had his intention been to present a full and fair report of the matter, he certainly should have done so.

Charles G. Palm
Hoover Institution

J. Arch Getty Replies

To the Editor:

I am sorry Mr. Palm did not like my article. I still think, as I wrote, that the Hoover Project is a "promising development" and a "valuable project" whose continuation "is in the interests of American historians and of Russian-American cultural relations." I also regret that he chose the tone he did in misinterpreting my piece.

First, a couple of minor points can be cleared up. Of course I did not confuse the Hoover Project with other efforts by the Research Libraries Group or Chadwyck Healey; I characterized the projects as "several discrete projects." Moreover, the notion that I or any other American scholar could somehow "monopolize" archival materials in Moscow or "obtain" American visas for Russians is, as Mr. Palm must know, absurd. Only large, well-funded and well-connected organizations can do such things.

Mr. Palm's letter accuses me of “giving credence" to and "accepting as fact" the Moscow "gossip" surrounding the Hoover Project. I certainly did not do this. The views I presented were carefully labeled as those of "Russian scholars and archivists," "Russian critics," the "Russian press," and "Moscow archive directors." His project, as I accurately reported, ran afoul of a series of Moscow political struggles, turf wars, and whisper campaigns. Mr. Palm probably does not like to have these intrigues aired, but it was impossible to describe the situation-and its implications for historians- without discussing the views of people in Moscow close to archival affairs. The point is that whether they were accurate or not, these were the views that ran the Hoover Project aground. Mr. Palm has the right to set the record straight, as he sees it. He does not have the right to shoot the messenger.

There is something else that needs explaining. If, as Mr. Palm says, it would be hard to imagine a better deal for the Russian repositories, why was the deal canceled as the result of lobbying by the directors of those repositories? If Mr. Pikhoia did so much for the archives, why did all the directors on the Rosarkhiv council sign a letter of protest and force him out? Why, at one time, did he maintain a staff of over 300 archive bureaucrats (who did not work in any archive) when he was unable to pay the pitiful salaries of the archivists in the collections themselves? If the Russian archives were getting so much money from the Hoover deal, why were they turning off the lights and shutting down their elevators to save on their electric bills?

The Hoover Institution answer, of course, was that there were communists at the gates. But the friction and struggle between archival bureaucrats and the archives themselves had begun long before the communists were a threat. It was anti-Communist democrats who first criticized the project, canceled it, and dissolved Rosarkhiv.

Although Mr. Palm disagrees with the opinions I reported from Moscow, it is arguable whether they are unreasonable from the Russian point of view. The core of the Hoover archives consists of manuscripts, memoirs, and documents brought out of Russia by emigres and Westerners who worked there at some time. Much of it has been published. Is it really nonsense to wonder if these documentary snapshots (however valuable they are individually) are equivalent to the national archives of the country itself? Despite Hoover's generous depositing of its new microfilms in several locations, are there not valid questions to be raised here about the privatization and commercialization of archives? (Hoover is not a public organization, and Chadwyck-Healey is a private firm.) These are issues on which honest people can disagree and it is not unreasonable to air them publicly.

Russians are going through a national crisis, an unprecedented and shocking collapse of their country. They are rightly worried about the fate of their cultural heritage, of which archives are a part. To some of us they may seem to be hypersensitive: "What's not to like?" we might ask. After all, the Hoover Project is partly an effort to preserve their documents. In our understanding, it seems a fair and mutually advantageous deal, honestly made between independent contractors.

Some Russians see things differently. They see a commercial transaction based on their cultural artifacts. From their point of view, here come the rich Americans and their man Pikhoia preaching open access, frame-for-frame trades, free microfilm copies, and the promise of profits. Yet they also see the West ending up with more valuable “goods” than they do, and American scholars benefiting much more than their own impoverished researchers and repositories. They wonder what exactly is a fair and equal deal between a rich person and a poor one. To some of them, our vaunted open access is like Victor Hugo’s sarcastic remark about capitalism, where the rich and the poor have the same right to sleep homeless under a bridge.

I am not "giving credence" to this view or "accepting as fact" the Russian concerns. Of course, we in the West have no obligation to subsidize Russian archives Russian scholars. We are not responsible for their situation; they can do business with us or not. We cannot reasonably be expected to adopt their cultural view and cannot expect them to incorporate ours, and relations between us will be delicate for a long time. In my opinion, however, these relationships might well be seasoned with a bit more understanding than Mr. Palm's view of Russian patriotic concerns as "ill informed" and "nonsense." Such a view of the situation goes a long way toward explaining why the Russians seem to have gone against our conception of their self-interest.

Finally, Mr. Palm errs when he claims that I "failed to communicate with anyone at Hoover" about my article. I can remember, for example, an angry Moscow telephone call to me from a very senior Rosarkhiv official who, on the eve of his American junket, told me to stop asking about the Hoover deal. In fact, I did speak with a number of Americans and Russians working on the project both in California and Moscow. It is perhaps characteristic of them situation that without exception each of them asked that I not use their names.

J. Arch Getty
University of California at Riverside

Film Studios Have Legal Basis for Controlling Permissions

To the Editor:

In her letter in the October issue of Perspectives, Kristin Thompson chastises me, as editor of Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies (Holt, 1995), for acquiescing in the payment of substantial permissions fees to film studios.

Thompson says that scholars should not pay such fees. I agree. She says that the studios claim a right to which they are not legally entitled. I agree. She says that the studios have "no legal basis" for controlling permissions rights they do not legally possess. I disagree.

A single lawyer constitutes ample "legal basis"; the phalanx of lawyers that guards the baggage trains of the film studios is the rough equivalent of one or two clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The studios may not possess the legal right; they do possess the lawyers.

I showed Thompson's letter to top executives and editors at Alfred A. Knopf, the Free Press, Houghton Mifflin, Little Brown, and Norton. None said that he or she would publish a book with film stills and enlargements without first acquiring permission from the studios. Thompson rightly notes that some university presses will do so. Seek them out, she advises historians. If more authors would ignore the studio's claims, the claims would wither away.

I'm unpersuaded by this sotto voce gradualism. The studios may not crack down on what they don't see, or what they regard as mere pilfering, but it is doubtful that this inattention means much legally. Meanwhile, this scurrying around to find publishers who will not draw the legal ire of the studios tends to marginalize film studies.

I suggest that film scholars (and historians interested in the depiction of the past in film) consider a more direct confrontation with the studios. Several strategies come to mind. The most obvious is to campaign for an explicit extension of "fair use" to film images and copyright laws. Several movie directors and publishers have expressed a willingness to join such a campaign, but we scholars must firmly commit to such a course.

That the problem cannot be finessed has been further confirmed since my Perspectives article was published last May. The upcoming paperback edition of Past Imperfect includes several new pieces, including Bob Woodward’s essay on Oliver Stone’s Nixon. We contacted Disney to acquire permission to use film images of Hopkins. Disney required Stone’s written approval and then Hopkins’s. Both complied. The company then indicated that while it might grant U.S. rights, it would withhold international rights (a provision that effectively made it impossible to publish the book in secondary markets). Stone personally intervened with the studio; yet the permission did not come. The paperback, consequently, will include no visual images directly from Nixon.

Mark C. Carnes
Barnard College, Columbia University

Editor's Note: The following letter by William Rosenberg, the vice president of the AHA Research Division, was published in the Washington Post on October 15. It is reprinted with permission from the Post.

Shredding the Pieces of History

The recent revelation that Dick Morris managed to circumvent White House strictures on confidentiality in contracting for his memoirs may have jolted the Clintons, but because of loopholes in the Presidential Records Act, the broader public may benefit from this further bit of sleaze. Like many of his predecessors, President Clinton has resisted any judicially enforceable means to prevent his advisers from destroying or removing their records as they leave office. The only remedy can corne from new legislation. Congress must take action, or the whims of a Dick Morris will spin the historical record if the Clintons leave office in November.

Presidents covet confidentiality, and for good reason while they are active in political life. The problem is in ensuring the opportunity for historians to analyze and construct an appropriate historical record, something even politicians concede is vital to the nation's knowledge of itself.

Calvin Coolidge systematically destroyed most of his presidential papers during his final months in office. Chester Arthur burned his in White House garbage cans. Richard Nixon's decade-long effort to have the Watergate tapes sealed as "private property" found at least pale imitation in George Bush's insistence that all White House e-mail communications belonged personally to him. Untimely disclosure can destroy the integrity of decision making, but concealment wrecks historical understanding.

The problem lies in the current legislation. After Watergate, Congress changed a long tradition by which laws on the preservation of federal records were not applicable to the White House. The resulting Presidential Records Act required each president and the executive offices that serve him and his advisers to preserve their records, but omitted provisions for enforcement.

In the case brought against President Reagan by the American Historical Association, the American Library Association, and the National Security Archive, among others, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled in 1991 that courts lack authority to review executive branch compliance with the Presidential Records Act.

As a result, although the preservation of presidential records is mandated by law, this mandate is not enforceable. Two years after this ruling, departing Bush officials sought to clean the slate by purging their own electronic records but were stopped by the fact that their computers contained other clearly protected records as well.

The Clinton administration has taken full advantage of this ruling and has sought to expand its implications. Recently, it further convinced the Court of Appeals that the National Security Council is not a government agency. The destruction of NSC records is therefore not even subject to judicial review.

By this ruling, most of the NSC records on Iran-contra could have been shredded with impunity. And even with Clinton's appointment of his longtime political friend and former governor of Kansas to the position of national archivist-in viola tion, in the view of the American Historical Association and others, of legislation requiring a nonpartisan, fully professional appointment to this office-the Clinton administration has opposed judicial review of the archivist's handling even of those presidential records that are transferred to the archives when the president leaves office.

The Presidential Records Act, along with other preservation legislation, rightly accommodates legitimate concerns against premature disclosure; all of us have an interest in candor and recognize its particular importance to an effectively functioning White House.

But no administration should be permitted to clean the slate by permanently destroying records that chronicle its conduct, whether by means of paper shredders or delete keys. What Congress now has to recognize is that unless it amends the Records Act with a clear provision for judicial oversight, there will be no guarantee that historically vital presidential records, and hence a full and accurate national history, will be preserved. © The Washington Post.

William Rosenberg
University of Michigan

Correction to “Who Owns History?"

To the Editor:

In my recent essay "Who Owns History: History in the Profession” (Perspectives, November 1996), I pointed out that fair-minded ethnographic comparison between European and non-European cultures had an antecedent in Michel de Montaigne’s “Des Cannibales,” “where the songs of the Brazilians remind him of the songs of Gascony, … “ Here I was conflating two texts. Montaigne’s actual comparison of the Brazilian songs was to Anacreonic verse, even more favorable an association than with that of his native Gascony. It was the travel book of Jean de Lery, a main source for Montaigne’s essay, that compared the funeral songs of the women of Brazil to the laments of the women of Beam.

Natalie Zemon Davis
Princeton University

Appreciation for Music Article

To the Editor:

I appreciated Alex Zukas's article on using music in history classes, as I recently tried using music in a course on southern Africa since 1970 and found it worked very well. I used a variety of music, from traditional mbira (thumb piano) recordings, to Thomas Mapfumo’s chimurenga music from the liberation war in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, to more recent anti-apartheid songs, including the powerful anthem Nkosi sikelel'i Afrikn. A useful source is Christopher Ballantine’s Marabi Nights: Early South African Jazz and Vaudeville (1993), which comes with, tape and is a fine illustration for a discussion of urbanization and urban culture in the 1930s.

Kathleen Sheldon
University of California at Los
Angeles

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