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Alexander Vassiliev's Notebooks and the Documentation of Soviet Intelligence Operations in the United States, 1930-1950

Christian Ostermann, Woodrow Wilson Center; Alexander Vassiliev, journalist and Former KGB officer; John Earl Haynes, Library of Congress; Harvey Klehr, Emory University; Mark Kramer, Harvard University; Katherine Sibley, St. Joseph's University; James G. Hershberg, The George Washington University

Date & Time

May. 20, 2009
3:00pm – 5:30pm ET


The Vassiliev Notebooks are an important new source of information on Soviet intelligence operations in the United States from 1930 to 1950. Though the KGB's archive remains closed, former KGB officer turned journalist Alexander Vassiliev was given the unique 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.

The Wilson Center's Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) will host a scholarly conference on 20-21 May 2009 to examine the contents of the notebooks and their implications for our understanding of 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, contributors to a June special edition of the Journal of Cold War Studies, as well as other intelligence history specialists. For more details download the conference agenda.

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

Alexander Vassiliev has donated his original copies of the handwritten notebooks to the Library of Congress with no restriction on access. They are available to researchers in the Manuscript Division. Electronic copies of the original notebooks, transcribed Russian versions, and translated English versions are available for download free of charge from the Wilson Center Digital Archive


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Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

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