Statistical reports made by the OGPU-NKVD-MGB-MVD between the 1930s and 1950s are kept in the State Archive of the Russian Federation formerly called Central State Archive of the October Revolution (CSAOR). These documents were highly classified and inaccessible. Amid glasnost and democratization in the late 1980s, Viktor Zemskov and other Russian researchers managed to gain access to the documents and published the highly classified statistical data collected by the OGPU-NKVD-MGB-MVD and related to the number of the Gulag prisoners, special settlers, etc. In 1995, Zemskov wrote that foreign scientists have begun to be admitted to the restricted-access collection of these documents in the State Archive of the Russian Federation since 1992. However, only one historian, namely Zemskov, was admitted to these archives, and later the archives were again “closed”, according to Leonid Lopatnikov.
While considering the issue of reliability of the primary data provided by corrective labor institutions, it is necessary to take into account the following two circumstances. On the one hand, their administration was not interested to understate the number of prisoners in its reports, because it would have automatically led to a decrease in the food supply plan for camps, prisons, and corrective labor colonies. The decrement in food would have been accompanied by an increase in mortality that would have led to wrecking of the vast production program of the Gulag. On the other hand, overstatement of data of the number of prisoners also did not comply with departmental interests, because it was fraught with the same (i.e., impossible) increase in production tasks set by planning bodies. In those days, people were highly responsible for non-fulfilment of plan. It seems that a resultant of these objective departmental interests was a sufficient degree of reliability of the reports.
Between 1990 and 1992, the first precise statistical data on the Gulag based on the Gulag archives were published by Viktor Zemskov. These had been generally accepted by leading Western scholars, despite the fact that a number of inconsistencies were found in this statistics. It is also necessary to note that not all conclusion drawn by Zemskov based on his data had been generally accepted. Thus, Sergei Maksudov noted that although the literary sources, for example the books of Lev Razgon or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, did not envisage the total number of the camps very well and markedly exaggerated their size. On the other hand, Viktor Zemskov, who published many documents by the NKVD and KGB, is very far from understanding of the Gulag essence and the nature of socio-political processes in the country. Without distinguishing the degree of accuracy and reliability of certain figures, without making a critical analysis of sources, without comparing new data with already known information, Zemskov absolutizes the published materials by presenting them as the ultimate truth. As a result, his attempts to make generalized statements with reference to a particular document, as a rule, do not hold water.
OGPU chiefs responsible for construction of the White Sea − Baltic Canal: Right: Frenkel; Center: Berman; Left: Afanasev (Head of the southern part of BelBaltLag).
In response, Zemskov wrote that the charge that Zemskov allegedly did not compare new data with already known information could not be called fair. In his words, the trouble with most western writers is that they do not benefit from such comparisons. Zemskov added that when he tried not to overuse the juxtaposition of new information with “old” one, it was only because of a sense of delicacy, not to once again psychologically traumatize the researchers whose works used incorrect figures, as it turned out after the publication of the statistics by the OGPU-NKVD-MGB-MVD.
According to French historian Nicolas Werth, the mountains of the materials of the Gulag archives, which are stored in funds of the State Archive of the Russian Federation and are being constantly exposed during the last fifteen years, represent only a very small part of bureaucratic prose of immense size left over the decades of “creativity” by the dull and reptile organization managing the Gulag. In many cases, local camp archives, which had been stored in sheds, barracks, or other rapidly disintegrating buildings, simply disappeared in the same way as most of the camp buildings did.
In 2004 and 2005, some archival documents were published in the edition Istoriya Stalinskogo Gulaga. Konets 1920-kh ― Pervaya Polovina 1950-kh Godov. Sobranie Dokumentov v 7 Tomakh (The History of Stalin’s Gulag. From the Late 1920s to the First Half of the 1950s. Collection of Documents in Seven Volumes) wherein each of its seven volumes covered a particular issue indicated in the title of the volume: the first volume has the title Massovye Repressii v SSSR (Mass Repression in the USSR), the second volume has the title Karatelnaya Sistema. Struktura i Kadry (Punitive System. Structure and Cadres), the third volume has the title Ekonomika Gulaga (Economy of the Gulag), the forth volume has the title Naselenie Gulaga. Chislennost i Usloviya Soderzhaniya (The Population of the Gulag. The Number and Conditions of Confinement), the fifth volume has the title Specpereselentsy v SSSR (Specsettlers in the USSR), the sixth volume has the title Vosstaniya, Bunty i Zabastovki Zaklyuchyonnykh (Uprisings, Riots, and Strikes of Prisoners), the seventh volume has the title Sovetskaya Pepressivno-karatelnaya Politika i Penitentsiarnaya Sistema. Annotirovanniy Ukazatel Del GA RF (Soviet Repressive and Punitive Policy. Annotated Index of Cases of the SA RF). The edition contains the brief introductions by the two “patriarchs of the Gulag science”, Robert Conquest and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and 1431 documents, the overwhelming majority of which were obtained from funds of the State Archive of the Russian Federation.
Gray was little affected by the stock market crash of 1929. The strip was more popular than ever and brought him a good income, which was only enhanced when the strip became the basis for a radio program in 1930 and two films in 1932 and 1938. Predictably, Gray was reviled by some for preaching in the strip to the poor about hard work, initiative, and motivation while living well on his income.
In 1935 Punjab, a gigantic, 9mm-wielding, Jimmy Johnson loving, sash-wearing Indian, was introduced to the strip and became one of its iconic characters. Whereas Annie's adventures up to the point of Punjab's appearance were realistic and believable, her adventures following his introduction touched upon the supernatural, the cosmic, and the fantastic.
In November 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President and proposed his New Deal. Many, including Gray, saw this and other programs as government interference in private enterprise. Gray railed against Roosevelt and his programs. (Gray even killed Daddy Warbucks off in 1945, believing that Warbucks could not coexist in the world with FDR. But following FDR's death, Gary resurrected Warbucks, who said to Annie, "Somehow I feel that the climate here has changed since I went away.") Annie's life was complicated by not only thugs and gangsters but by New Deal do-gooders and bureaucrats. Organized labor was feared by businessmen and Gray took their side. Some writers and editors took issue with this strip's criticisms of FDR's New Deal and 1930s labor unionism. The New Republic described Annie as "Hooverism in the Funnies", arguing that Gray's strip was defending utility company bosses then being investigated by the government. The Herald Dispatch of Huntington, West Virginia stopped running Little Orphan Annie, printing a front page editorial rebuking Gray's politics. A subsequent New Republic editorial praised the paper's move, and The Nation likewise voiced its support.
First Little Orphan Annie Sunday page (November 2, 1924)
In the late 1920s, the strip had taken on a more adult and adventurous feel with Annie encountering killers, gangsters, spies, and saboteurs. It was about this time that Gray, whose politics seem to have been broadly conservative and libertarian with a decided populist streak, introduced some of his more controversial storylines. He would look into the darker aspects of human nature, such as greed and treachery. The gap between rich and poor was an important theme. His hostility toward labor unions was dramatized in the 1935 story "Eonite". Other targets were the New Deal, communism, and corrupt businessmen.
Gray was especially critical of the justice system, which he saw as not doing enough to deal with criminals. Thus, some of his storylines featured people taking the law into their own hands. This happened as early as 1927 in an adventure named "The Haunted House". Annie is kidnapped by a gangster called Mister Mack. Warbucks rescues her and takes Mack and his gang into custody. He then contacts a local senator who owes him a favor. Warbucks persuades the politician to use his influence with the judge and make sure that the trial goes their way and that Mack and his men get their just desserts. Annie questions the use of such methods but concludes, "With all th' crooks usin' pull an' money to get off, I guess 'bout th' only way to get 'em punished is for honest police like Daddy to use pull an' money an' gun-men, too, an' beat them at their own game."
Warbucks became much more ruthless in later years. After catching yet another gang of Annie kidnappers he announced that he "wouldn't think of troubling the police with you boys", implying that while he and Annie celebrated their reunion, the Asp and his men took the kidnappers away to be lynched. In another Sunday strip, published during World War II, a war-profiteer expresses the hope that the conflict would last another 20 years. An outraged member of the public physically assaults the man for his opinion, claiming revenge for his two sons who have already been killed in the fighting. When a passing policeman is about to intervene, Annie talks him out of it, suggesting, "It's better some times to let folks settle some questions by what you might call democratic processes."