…One of my fantasies – along with importing a branch of Marks and Spencer and a Penguin bookshop to Moscow – was that one day the Soviets would…give Western scholars access to the most taboo of Soviet archives, the NKVD’s, so that the scholars would stop slandering this fine institution and see things from its perspective: the Central Committee cadres department reassigning any Gulag officers who showed signs of competence and sending the Gulag administration nothing but duds, the difficulties in setting up native-language kindergartens for Chechen deportees to Kazakhstan, and so on…
On the other hand:
Katyn and coming clean about a mass murderer
Good writing does not excuse moral vacuity. It is revealing to realize that no-one would (at least one hopes) ever be so jocular about the tough lives of those who ran the Nazi extermination camps. There still is a serious double standard in dealing with the monstrous crimes Hitler and Stalin (not to mention Lenin and Mao) are responsible for. Bloodlands is an effort to right the balance–see also this exchange of letters in the LRB.