I have been lucky that my mother kept letters from my grandfather to my father and made time to translate the dozen handwritten letters.
It’s been a struggle to research some of the details my grandfather writes about in his letters. My grandpa Pavel did not give enough details on some of his experiences for me to find documents in archives.
Luckily, my grandfather sent a clipping of an article written about him in his local newspaper. He participated in the 1958 Всесоюзной сельскохозяйственной выставки (All-Union Agricultural Exhibition) in Moscow as an exhibitor of his prized grapes.
It took awhile to understand the importance of the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition because not many websites have information on the event. When I read the page on Wikipedia about the event, it was so exciting to learn my peasant-born grandfather participated in such an important national event.
I tried for two years to figure out how I could get documents from archives on my grandfather’s participation. I finally found that the Russian State Archive of the Economy in Moscow has records on the event by using keywords All-Union Agricultural Exhibition, Moscow and participants in Russian on Google.
The search results on Google sent me to the location of records at Russian State Archive of the Economy- Фонд 7857 (Fund 7857). I thought I would quickly get a response from that archive when I provided the fund number, my grandfather’s personal details, a scan of the newspaper article on him and my address.
But that was not enough to spark a response from the Russian State Archive of the Economy six months after I sent the archive an e-mail message. So I e-mailed my cousin in Moscow to contact the archive.
I got a response within two weeks of my cousin calling the archive, which wanted me to send within an e-mail message “payment is guaranteed,” a scanned signature and my mailing address. I had no idea how large of a bill I would be promising to pay so I asked for a bill estimate.
The archive estimated that the research and document copies will cost about $42-$69 in U.S. dollars. This sounds a lot but this expense will be well worth it if documents are found on my grandfather.
My cousin will submit my request because the archive only takes payment directly to its bank account. My bank requires foreign bank transfers to be at least $100. I cannot use Western Union because it only can send money to a Western Union store in Russia.
So now, I will wait patiently for the archive’s research results. I will be so thrilled if documents of my grandfather will be found.
This experience has taught me to ask for estimates and information on payment methods when sending research requests. Then I will send scans of my signature and a statement that “payment is guaranteed” after I get a response.
Hopefully, this method will increase the chances that archives will respond to my requests. It takes awhile to figure out how former USSR archives operate.