INTRODUCTION TO "THE KGB IN AFGHANISTAN" -- A NOTE ON SOURCES (EXTRACT)CITATION SHARE DOWNLOAD
get citationCWIHP note on the Mitrokhin sources, first published in the introduction of Mitrokhin's working paper, "The KGB in Afghanistan.""Introduction to "The KGB In Afghanistan" -- A Note On Sources (extract)" July, 2002, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Published as part of the introduction of CWIHP Working Paper No. 40 - "The KGB in Afghanistan." http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/112823
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Most of these materials consist of notes which Mitrokhin had copiously assembled over several years, while he worked in the archives of the KGB First Chief Directorate in Yasenovo outside Moscow. Mitrokhin had moved from the operational side of the FCD to its archives in late 1956, where it was his job to respond to requests by other departments. Influenced by the bloody suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 and the dissident movemen--all of which he could follow through the files he administered as well as Western records--Mitrokhin became increasingly disaffected with the KGB. By the early seventies he had decided to compile his own account of the KGB's foreign operations, a project that became feasible when he was put in charge in 1972 of the movement of the FCD archives from the KGB's headquarters at Lubyanka in central Moscow to Yasenevo southwest of the capital Moscow.
In charge of checking, compiling and indexing the records in the process of the transfer, which began in 1974, Mitrokhin soon conceived of the idea to create his own archive. Starting in 1977, he used every opportunity to take notes of the documents he saw. Working in complete secrecy, he first took these notes in longhand while working in the archives and later, once safely in his dacha, sorted and transcribed them. Though based on these notes, the Afghanistan manuscript was written by Mitrokhin after he retired from the KGB in 1984. He revised and rewrote the Afghanistan manuscript in 1986-87; and destroyed the original notes. According to the author, the manuscript is "based exclusively on information from the Soviet KGB."
Vasiliy Mitrokhin would be the first to point out that his notes captured only a small part of the totality of documents; his decade-long work in the archive was a "massive filtering exercise," with a flood of documents coming through his hands on a daily basis. The documents he saw were mostly informational cables from the First Directorate to the Politburo and Foreign Ministry, a copy of which went to the archives after a month. By no means is the manuscript therefore a complete record. Moreover, while striving to stick to the facts, Mitrokhin has stated that "I wrote it in a hurry, and as a result certain notes which I wrote to accompany my account took on an emotional tone, creating a rather unbalanced narrative." This, the author explains, was "a way of expressing my personal perception of events and my rejection of the criminal intentions, calumnies and deeds of the Soviet nomenklatura."
According to the introduction to his 1999 book, the publication of these notes has taken Vasiliy Mitrokhin full circle: "The KGB files which had the greatest emotional impact on Mitrokhin were those on the war in Afghanistan," writes his co-author Christopher Andrew: "The horrors recorded in the files were carefully concealed from the Soviet people. The Soviet media preserved a conspiracy of silence about the systematic destruction of thousands of Afghan villages, reduced to forlorn groups of uninhabited, roofless mud-brick houses; the flight of four million refugees; and the deaths of a million Afghans in a war which Gorbachev later described as a 'mistake.'" By engaging in a conspiracy of his own--which has allowed us to see some of those materials--the former keeper of the secrets may have atoned for the shame he felt over his country's actions.