Hari Vasudevan, the Soviet Archives and the Left Establishment: Sobhanlal Datta Gupta

This tribute to Prof HARI VASUDEVAN by Prof SOBHANLAL DATTA GUPTA, who passed away in Kolkata recently, is being reproduced here, courtesy Mainstream Weekly.

Thereafter, as we proceeded in our work on the publication of the texts of the documents, we began to face insurmountable resistance, quite surprisingly, from a section of the Left establishment in West Bengal. We were threatened, maligned and discouraged not to proceed with this work any further and ridiculed for our research on documents which were described as “fake” and “doctored”.

It was May, 1995, exactly 25 years ago. Hari Vasudevan (Calcutta University), Purabi Roy (Jadavpur University) and I myself (Calcutta University) were in Moscow for two months, working as a team sent by The Asiatic Society, Calcutta in connection with a project of collection of documents from the newly opened Soviet archives on Indo-Russian Relations : 1917-1947. This project was the result of a Protocol signed between The Asiatic Society, Calcutta and Moscow’s Institute of Oriental Studies. With extremely limited funding we were expected to prepare catalogues of as many documents as possible and bring home photocopies/microfilms of those documents which we considered most important, depending, of course, upon their accessibility. It was a Herculean job, since we had no idea of the materials we had to handle. Working on hundreds and hundreds of documents, catalouging and copying them (in many cases because of paucity of funds and since we had no laptop, quite often we had to take down a document by hand) demanded a division of labour. While Purabidi worked in the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF), Archives of the Ministry of External Affairs (MID), Russian State Military Historical Archive (RGVIA), Hari and I worked in the former Central Party Archives, Institute of Marxism-Leninism (now known as Russian State Archive for Social and Political History or RGASPI ).

In Moscow Hari and I stayed together in the same apartment. Every morning normally we used to leave for our destination by 9AM so that we could catch the metro on time. I was struck by his culinary skill, since I was a complete novice in the art of cooking. A person of fine taste and a connoisseur of food and drinks, his presence was always so enviable everywhere ! His proficiency in Russian language and his familiarity with Moscow greatly facilitated our stay. Extremely jovial as he was, he had many friends, especially among the journalists in Moscow. He had very good contacts in the Indian Embassy too. This greatly helped us in booking our return flight to India in July, since our open ticket posed a big problem in the summer rush. Read the full article here

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