The documents range from a declaration signed by Empress Catherine the Great in 1792 to orders signed by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev; none appears to reveal any secrets but some give a glimpse into the lives and styles of the country's leaders.Reportedly, of 4,000 items stolen from the Russian national archives, approximately 3,500 have been returned.
James McAndrew, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent, said the investigation that led to the papers' recovery began in 2003 when he was contacted by a scholar who had concerns about the provenance of a document being offered for sale.
Eventually, agents found 80 suspicious documents at two companies that deal in antiquities and historical material, he said. He declined to identify the companies, but said they are located in Connecticut and Las Vegas.
After working with Russian archival officials to determine that the documents had been stolen, agents seized the papers, he said.
"The SWAT team didn't get all ramped up, but there was resistance" from the companies' officials, he said.
No arrests in the United States have been made in the case.