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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reformers Hail Historian's Last Stand

A new book on former Soviet leaders by a historian famous for revealing the truth about Communist Party repressions should be a lesson for the present regime, prominent liberals said Tuesday.


"The Seven Leaders" is the final work of Dmitry Volkogonov, the military historian and one-time aide to President Boris Yeltsin who died last month of cancer.


"At this moment of confusion and a waning of the democratic process," a book about the political careers of communist leaders can teach current leaders important lessons, said Alexander Yakovlev, author of Mikhail Gorbachev's democratic reforms.


Yakovlev presented to journalists the two-volume book of profiles on leaders from Vladimir Lenin to Gorbachev.


Volkogonov's book "shows how we must not live," said Sergei Filatov, Yeltsin's former chief of staff who stepped down last week in a Kremlin reshuffle. "Unfortunately, many things happen precisely the way they should not," he said, clearly meaning the Kremlin's recent policies that many observers said steered away from reforms.


Volkogonov wrote more than 30 books. Best known are his biographies of Lenin, Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky, written in recent years on the basis of newly opened archive materials. He had extensive access to Soviet military archives and was one of the first historians in Russia to make public the extent of the Communist repressions.


One of his most dramatic findings was that the purges began immediately when the Bolsheviks took power in 1917 and were launched by Lenin himself.


"The Seven Leaders" is based on those materials as well as other documents from archives, memoirs and other sources in Russia and abroad.


Rudolf Pikhoya, former head of the State Russian Archives, another liberal who retired last week, praised Volkogonov's tireless search for the truth. "This book is the first real work on the history of the Soviet political structure."


In the preface, Volkogonov wrote that the hardest thing was to battle his own old views. "Perhaps the only thing I have really accomplished is to break up with the things to which I prayed for years," he wrote about communism.


"I have a share of common guilt. And I intend to express my repentance by modest work to pacify the disturbed society that needs accord most of all."