Linda Kinstler, a former managing editor at The New Republic, is a contributing writer for Politico Europe; she has also written for The Economist, The Guardian, The Atlantic, and Times Literary Supplement, among others. (March 2019)
The 4,000 cards in the “Cheka bags” represent a fraction of the more than 24,000 KGB agents recruited in Latvia between 1953 and 1991, and provide a window into the workings of the Soviet security state. Their unveiling, in an online database, was supposed to be cathartic, a kind of national exorcism. “For some, it is experienced as a tragedy, this opening,” a historian told me. But the hope is that publishing the documentary detritus of the KGB will act as a cautionary tale, preventing any similarly repressive surveillance apparatus from rising again.