Memorial

Political Repression Victims Database

"Memorial" is a movement in Russia that focuses on revealing the historical truth about mass-scale political repression within the Soviet Union.

If you are looking for records of your relatives who were falsely arrested and/or deported then there is a good chance you will have success here.

Having read From Russia With Love our article that discussed the background to Russia apologising to the deportee and their family for it's treatment of them from around 1937 onwards, the next step is to locate the pardon that was given to your relative.

This article will take you through the process of finding the pardon to your relative. And you can see this right now. Exciting stuff! I'm going to take you through it using my own grandfathers case.

Step 1 - Convert The Name From English To Russian

Go to Google translate here: https://translate.google.co.uk/ and type your relatives surname in on the left hand side in English, like this:

Get Relatives USSR Apology 01© www.swoopingeagle.com

In my example above I have put my relatives surname in on the left "Gostik" and the Russian version has been created on the right Гостик because above that box I selected "Russian". Leave the Google translate page open as we will be using it again.

*Note: Some users report that Google translate fails to translate names correctly from Polish to Russian. There are other sites such as www.lingojam.com (and many more) that you could try in order to get a correct translation.

Step 2 - Open Memorial Website

Browse to the "Memorial" website here : http://lists.memo.ru/index4.htm

Get Relatives USSR Apology 02© www.swoopingeagle.com

Step 3 - Go To The Sub-Set Your Relatives Name Is In

About 3 lines down from the top is an alphabetical index to subsets. You need to select the subset your relatives name is in. So my grandfathers name is Гостик and therefore the first 3 characters of his name is Гос. 

In my case I need to select Гос - Гоw. Yours will be different. Here is my subset:

Get Relatives USSR Apology 03© www.swoopingeagle.com

Step 4 - Copy the Russian Text

Now go back to Google translate and copy the Russian name of your relative.

You can do this by highlighting the Russian name, press and hold CTRL on your keyboard and then press the letter C.

Step 5 - Locate The Sub-Set (Within A Sub-Set!)

Return back to the page of Memorial (The one where you selected the subset)

Then you can do a CTRL-F in the page - a find, to narrow in on the name. Use all or part of: i.e Гостик. You will notice the name will be highlighted on the left hand side that lists all same names together. In my example, 2 listings with the surname are Гостик listed.

Get Relatives USSR Apology 04© www.swoopingeagle.com

Step 6 - See The Listings

Now press the name that is highlighted. Here is a screenshot where I have located my grandfathers details.  To locate your relative, follow the next step, you may have to do this one by one until you find your relative (or you could copy/paste the entire listings and work it out from there).

Get Relatives USSR Apology 06© www.swoopingeagle.com

Step 6 - Paste The Cyrillic Text In To The Converter

The text you are viewing in the listings above is Cyrillic. To convert it go to this page: http://translit.cc/ it will look like this:

Get Relatives USSR Apology 07

Now copy paste your Cyrillic text into the white box like this:

Get Relatives USSR Apology 08© www.swoopingeagle.com

Step 7 - See The Text In Polish

Click LATIN because Polish uses the latin alphabet. Now watch as the apology appears in English:

Get Relatives USSR Apology 09© www.swoopingeagle.com

Step 8 - And Here Is My Grandfathers (In Polish)

Gostik Vladimir Aleksandrovich

Rodilsja v 1908 g., g. Belostok; belorus; obrazovanie nachal'noe; b/p; bez opred.zanjatij. Prozhival: g. Belostok.
Arestovan 19 dekabrja 1939 g.
Prigovoren: OSO 27 ijunja 1940 g., obv.: 74 UK BSSR - social'no opasnyj jelement.
Prigovor: 8 let ITL, otbyv.: Arhangel'skaja obl., osvob. 05.09.41 Reabilitirovan 19 ijunja 1989 g. Prokuror Grodnenskoj obl.

Istochnik: Belorusskij "Memorial"

Step 9 - Convert To English

Now using Google Translate, convert the Polish text to English. Here is mine:

  • Gostik Vladimir Alexandrovich
  • He was born in 1908, in Bialystok
  • Belarusian
  • Primary education; b / p; without a definition
  • Lived: Białystok
  • He was arrested on December 19, 1939
  • Sentenced: CCA on June 27, 1940
  • obv .: 74 of the Criminal Code of the BSSR is a socially dangerous element
  • Sentence: 8 years ITL, departure: Arkhangelsk region, excavation. 05.09.41
  • Rehabilitated on June 19, 1989. The prosecutor of the Grodno region
  • Source: Belarusian "Memorial"

Socially Dangerous Element

Many people undertaking this research will find out their relative was a "socially dangerous element" according to the original arrest charges. Please do not worry about this. When you understand the Soviet mentality you will find this charge almost amusing.

Wikipedia tells us that a "Socially Dangerous Element" was a charge under Article 49 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR of 1922 law.

The usual punishment is 3 or 5 years of exile, which was often replaced by camps for the same period. From the mid-thirties, the ESR was sentenced to terms of up to 8 or 10 years ITL.

The term "Socially Dangerous Element" was simply someone who in anyway, shape or form was anti-bolshevist i.e someone who didn't want to be a subservient pauper harshly dominated by Stalin. "Socially Dangerous Element" was a very general terms and was used when no other charge could be raised.

Understanding "Rehabilitation"

The term "rehabilitation", in Russia, is only used for those officially convicted of a crime. In the case of the repression of Poles, "rehabilitation" has been used more as a "pardon" in a manner that restores the persons former good name, restores any rights lost in court and makes non existent any criminal record entries that may have been made previously.

Soviet criminal law defined the term “rehabilitation” as the restoration of an innocent person who was prosecuted unreasonably.

A person who has the right to compensation for harm caused to him in connection with an unlawful or unreasonable criminal prosecution (paragraph 35 of article 5 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation) is recognised as rehabilitated. So, the repressed Poles have recognition that compensation is due to them, but initially it was Poland that provided these monies to the victims, a paltry sum per month at that.

These pardons, for the most part, were made from 1989 onwards (fall of communism) and by then the vast majority of poles who had suffered in the repressions were already dead.

The Law of the Russian Federation “On the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repressions” dated October 18, 1991 No. 1761-1, contains a formulation that fully reflects both the content of this legislative act and further legal acts supplementing it:

"During the years of Soviet power, millions of people became victims of the arbitrariness of the totalitarian state, were repressed for their political and religious beliefs, on social, national and other grounds. Condemning the long-term terror and mass persecution of its people as incompatible with the idea of law and justice, the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation expresses deep sympathy to the victims of unreasonable repression, their families and friends, declares the steady desire to seek real guarantees of the rule of law and human rights. The purpose of this Law is the rehabilitation of all victims of political repression subjected to such in the territory of the Russian Federation from October 25 (November 7), 1917, their restoration in civil rights." Source: Wikipedia

Interestingly, this pardon opens the way for those who lost land & property to attempt to reclaim it back (or even their family to reclaim it as their inheritance). As soon as I have more details on this I intend to post them here so that land and property can be returned to its rightful owners.

In my Grandfathers case, this pardon came post death and no-one in our family was made aware of it. Our family is Polish and yet the pardon is written in Cyrillic on an obscure website. Further, it may be a "pardon" but it is never an "apology" let  alone a restitution. I personally find these facts the final slap in the face from Russia!

Further Reading

If you wish to learn more about "Rehabilitation" i.e the "Apology for wrongful arrest in 1939 onwards" then this resource may interest you: Russia's Law On Rehabilitation of Victims Of Political Repression"