by Allison L. Ryall
The 1930s were a very conflicted decade in the history of the Soviet Union. The eyes of the world were upon Joseph Stalin and the party leaders as they made decisions that affected not only the Soviet Union but also the world. Stalin implemented his five-year plans, rapidly industrializing and modernizing the country and leading to major social and economic transformations that impacted all levels of society. The great purge filled forced-labor camps known as the Gulag and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and possibly even millions, of people. This arduous decade was the period that gave birth to the familiar Soviet system.
The US Department of State was established by a 15 September 1789 Act of Congress that replaced the old Department of Foreign Affairs. Part of the Executive Branch, it assists the president and government officials in foreign policy decisions. During the 1930s, the Department of State documented a wide variety of activities and issues relating to the Soviet Union’s internal policies and practices. These official documents cover diverse topics including, but not limited to communist activities, Soviet government policies and practices, living conditions, treatment of Americans living within the Soviet Union’s borders, collective farms, economic matters such as Stalin's five-year plans, army maneuvers, emigration and immigration, and the Soviet government's punishment practices. This collection of documents consists of letters, telegrams, and official reports.
Many of the documents contained in this publication were originally restricted and were only declassified in the early 1980s. The vast majority of the documents were declassified according to the guidelines in Section 3-402 of Executive Order 12065, issued on June 28, 1978. This section of the executive order permits the original classifying body, in this case the Department of State, in conjunction with the Archivist of the United States to declassify documents automatically at the end of twenty years from the date of original classification unless the document had been assigned a specific declassification date at the time it was created.
The vast majority of the documents in this collection are written in the English language, but occasionally a document written in Russian is included. The Russian-language documents usually were submitted as evidence and attached to an official report that was prepared by an agent of the Department of State. When a Russian language document was attached to official correspondence, a translation of the document was usually provided. The English translation either appears on the same page or on adjoining pages (original, translation).