CWIHP Publishes The Vassiliev Notebooks Online

Apr 20, 2009

CWIHP is pleased to announce the online publication of The Vassiliev Notebooks.

The 1,115 page collection of detailed notes on Soviet intelligence activities in the United States from 1930-1950 were taken by former KGB officer and journalist Alexander Vassiliev during his two years of research in the KGB archive. Drawing upon operational files, personnel files, and other KGB documents, the notebooks shed new light upon important aspects of early Cold War history.

Published in original and translation for the first time in their entirety by CWIHP, the notebooks formed much of the basis for the new book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press, 2009), co-authored by John Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev. In addition to Spies, new findings from the Vassiliev Notebooks will also be featured in a special June edition of the Journal of Cold War Studies and discussed at a May 2009 Wilson Center conference entitled Alexander Vassiliev's Notebooks and the Documentation of Soviet Intelligence Operations in the United States, 1930-1950.

The notebooks are available for download from the CWIHP website. The originals have been donated to the Library of Congress by Alexander Vassiliev and are to be made available for researchers in the Library's Manuscript Division with no restrictions on access.

The Vassiliev Notebooks are an important new source of information on Soviet intelligence operations in the United States from about 1930 to 1950. Though the KGB's archive remains closed, former KGB officer turned journalist Alexander Vassiliev was given the opportunity to spend two years poring over materials from the KGB archive, taking detailed notes--including extended verbatim quotes--on some of the KGB's most sensitive files.

Though Vassiliev's access was not unfettered, the 1,115 pages of densely handwritten notes that he was able to take comprise additional evidence on such topics as Alger Hiss, the Rosenberg case, and "Enormous," the massive Soviet effort to gather intelligence on the Anglo-American atomic bomb project.

Given the important as well as complicated nature of the notebooks, and the difficult and controversial access to Soviet intelligence materials in recent years more generally, the Wilson Center's Cold War International History Project will host a scholarly conference on 20-21 May 2009 to examine the provenance and contents of the notebooks and their implications for understanding and assessing Soviet espionage in the United States. Conference participants will include John Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev, co-authors of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, the contributors to the June special edition of the Journal of Cold War Studies, as well as other intelligence history specialists.

With this publication, CWIHP does not endorse any one interpretation of the Vassiliev materials but hopes to facilitate an expeditious and broad public discussion of these new historical sources. The conference proceedings will be webcast live and later on will become available through the Center's video archive. For more details download the conference agenda.

Upcoming Events

Experts & Staff

  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
  • Laura Deal // Catalog Specialist
  • Pieter Biersteker // Editorial Assistant
  • Charles Kraus // Program Assistant
  • Evan Pikulski // Program Assistant
  • Roy O. Kim // Program Assistant
  • James Person // Deputy Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project