The end of Soviet communism has given Westerners unprecedented access to Moscow's historical resources. Various archives have been opened and living witnesses to history are suddenly prepared to tell their stories, even in front of foreign television cameras.
The abundance of new information coming straight from the horse's mouth is unlikely, however, to settle American debates about the origins and nature of the Cold War. History is an imprecise science allowing for a variety of interpretations--particularly when those doing the interpreting have a strong predisposition, or even a vested interest, in seeing things a certain way.
Still, the four-part documentary series Messengers from Moscow, shown in the United States by PBS and in Britain by the BBC, represents a powerful blow to two fundamentals of the liberal dogma--namely, that the Cold War resulted from a Western overreaction to largely defensive, even if rather heavy-handed, Soviet policies and that the preoccupation with the communist menace inside Western democracies amounted to a vicious witch hunt. The series, ably directed by Daniel Wolf and produced by Eugene B. Shirley with Herbert E. Ellision as chief consultant, is based on numerous on-camera interviews with Soviet insiders ranging from Stalin's second-in-command Vyacheslav Molotov to Brezhnev's personal physician. The accounts they present are sobering.
Molotov, in a 1972 taped conversation with poet Felix Chuyev, stated point blank that expanding Soviet borders "as far as possible" was his official duty. In Molotov's view, "there could not be a peaceful Germany unless it takes a socialist path." But he cautioned that it had to be accomplished "carefully," without provoking a war with the West.