Persistence and patience pay off with Russian military archives

My grandmother had a habit of telling grand stories of her family. She claimed her brother Dimitri was rescued from the Persian Gulf while serving  in the navy before the Russian Revolution.

Thanks to persistence and patience, I am close to confirming this story. I sent a letter in March to the Russian State Archive of the Navy in St. Petersburg, asking for military service information on my grand uncle.

I provided my grand uncle’s full name, birth date, birthplace, parents’ names, place of address, estimated time of service and the specialized division where he served. It took me two years to collect all the information  I needed  from two archives, a museum and a library to make my request.

Russian military and other federal archives only will answer requests for information when they have detailed information. It is not enough to know your relatives’ full name, birth information and parents’ names. I had to learn this the hard way.

So now, I know that my grand uncle attended two aviation schools in 1915 and 1916, including the Baku School of Naval Aviation, from the archive’s e-mail message this month. Knowing that my grand uncle attended this school, now in Azerbaijan, explains how he could have been attacked  in the Persian Gulf, which is near Baku after going through western Iran.

The next step in this adventure is obtaining the three documents from the Russian State Archive of the Navy. It wants $18 US dollars for the document scans by sending money directly to its bank account. My bank only will send a minimum of $100 abroad so luckily I have cousins in St. Petersburg and Moscow who can help me pay the bill and then I will repay them using Western Union.

Once I obtain scans of the three available records, these documents will have more details that will help me further research my grand uncle’s military service. I am thrilled that the Russian State Archive of the Navy gave me enough details in its e-mail message that I can do some research online while I wait for the scans to arrive.

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