Yale Builds Digital Archive Of Soviet Dictator's Life

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Russian movie director Sergei Eisenstein was in Mexico in the early 1930s, making his first American, socialist-backed film, when he seriously miscalculated his relationship with Joseph Stalin.

Eisentein, who was working on the film with U.S. novelist and social activist Upton Sinclair, ignored a telegram from Stalin saying that his prolonged absence from the USSR was unacceptable and that he should return immediately.

When that didn't occur, Stalin's security officials in Mexico kidnapped a producer working on the film.

"Sinclair wrote to Stalin asking to save the life of the captured film producer," said Jonathan Brent, the man behind Yale University's online archive for Stalin. "Stalin received the request and could have handed it to a subordinate, but he didn't. Instead he wrote back to Sinclair himself.

"The note essentially said: 'The matter has been put in the hands of the security services and they have disposed of it.'" Eisenstein's producer was never seen again.

It is documents like the dispatch to Sinclair that distinguish Yale's Stalin archive.

Earlier this year, the Andrew W. Mellon foundation gave Brent — the editorial director of Yale University Press' "Annals of Communism Project" — a $1.3-million grant to develop a digital documentary edition of Stalin's entire personal archive, encompassing some 40,000 files.

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