The Associated Press
Published: July 5, 2007
MOSCOW: The United States on Thursday formally turned over 80 czarist- and
Soviet-era documents that had been stolen from Russian archives and found at American 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
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 material, he said. He declined to identify the
companies, but said they are 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 Russian agency that oversees cultural objects’ protection said
czarist-era documents typically sell for at least US$5,000 (E3,700) 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.