MOSCOW -- After decades of Soviet denials that they existed, Russia Thursday released its original copies of infamous Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union carving up Eastern Europe before World War II.
The documents were no different than those published in 1948 in the West based on German originals, but the Russian government said the release from the Moscow archives was another example of the Kremlin's new committment to illuminate 'black spots' in Soviet history.
Gen. Dmitri Volkogonov, who heads a government commission on the previously secret archives of the Communist Party and Soviet government, said the nine documents, including a map with 'spheres of influence' clearly marked, were discovered recently in routine searches of party files.
The secret documents, collectively known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, were signed in 1939 as addenda to a German-Soviet non-aggression treaty. They essentially allowed Stalin to take over the Baltic republics and part of Romania while allowing Hitler unimpeded access to Poland.
For decades the Soviet government refused to acknowledge the existence of the agreements signed by dictator Josef Stalin's foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, despite the fact that they had been released and published in the West.
Even under Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of openness, Soviet officials claimed they could find no record of the agreements in searches of official files. The first official Soviet acknowledgement of their existence came in 1989 when Gorbachev confidant Alexander Yakovlev revealed the discovery of a note referring to the original documents.
The actual Soviet originals of the documents, kept together marked 'special, top secret,' were never publicly shown until a news conference Thursday.
'Truth cannot be hidden forever,' Volkogonov said, adding that the documents included 'material that the whole world already knew about but we needed documentary proof...with all the stamps, signatures and seals.'
Volkogonov said there was clear evidence of only three Soviet officials having seen the documents since the 1970s -- former Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in 1975, a deputy foreign minister in 1975 and Communist Party official and Gorbachev adviser Valery Boldin in 1987.
There was no evidence that Gorbachev had been told of the documents, Volkogonov said. The prominent mention of his adviser's access, however, echoed other recent attempts by the Russian government of Boris Yeltsin to show that his rival Gorbachev was not as committed to openness as he claimed.