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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Hands Over Stolen Documents

MTAdolf Shayevitch, left, Gennady Zyuganov, Vladimir Vasilyev and Svetlana Savitskaya at Spaso House on Thursday.
The United States on Thursday formally turned over 80 tsarist- and Soviet-era documents that had been stolen from Russian archives and found at U.S. antiquities dealers.

The documents range from a declaration signed by Empress Catherine the Great in 1792 to orders signed by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev; none appears to reveal any secrets, but some give a glimpse into the lives and styles of the country's leaders.

Among the latter is a terse note written by Lenin to an apparatchik: "Your request has been considered and I have recommended you."

Also included is a note scrawled by Stalin's daughter Svetlana, in which she imitates the format of an official document, including a five-pointed star seal, reading, "I order you to take [me] to the theater."

"Even though many people in Russia and the United States are always quick to point out the difficulties, the differences between us, today we are witnessing one more important area of cooperation," said U.S. Ambassador William Burns, who made the presentation at the U.S. Embassy.

The documents were stolen during the 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union undermined security at archives.

James McAndrew, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent, said the investigation that led to the papers' recovery began in 2003 when he was contacted by a scholar who had concerns about the provenance of a document being offered for sale.

Eventually, agents found 80 suspicious documents at two companies that deal in antiquities and historical materials, he said. He declined to give the names of the companies, but said they were located in Connecticut and Las Vegas.

After working with Russian archival officials to determine that the documents had been stolen, agents seized the papers, he said.

"The SWAT team didn't get all ramped up, but there was resistance" from the companies' officials, he said.

No arrests in the United States have been made in the case. No estimate was given of the documents' total value, but Viktor Petrakov of the federal agency that oversees cultural objects' protection said tsarist-era documents typically sell for at least $5,000 apiece.

Another agency official, Boris Boyarskov, said some 4,000 documents were stolen from Russian archives in the 1990s, of which about 3,500 have been recovered. He said two people have been convicted of the thefts and that another suspect has been identified in Israel.

n Burns played host to 1,800 guests, including ambassadors, politicans and religious and business leaders, at a U.S. Independence Day celebration at his Spaso House residence Thursday evening.