There is nothing like another night of boredom and being determined to find an exciting Russian archives database. I knew I found something hot when the website’s address was unsecret.rusarchives.ru.
First, I thought it was just a boring list of declassified records of communist-era bureaucratic boards. Who really cares about that stuff unless your family served on those boards? Then, I found the search engine and the real “unsecrets” were sitting there in detail.
I copied and pasted four pages of declassified records’ details into Google Translate when I hit the phrase “Учреждения по делам военнопленных и интернированных”. This translates into institution for prisoners of war and interned.
I cautiously thought this must be just POW records of the USSR during World War II. Nope, it’s not possible. This possibly covers the POWs of WWII but why are the records dated from the 1940s to the early 1960s?
Then I realized the Russian government quietly declassified records of people who were persecuted for talking to foreigners, receiving letters from foreigners or “committing” crimes that never happened and sent to the infamous camps called gulags.
Here’s a sampling of what I found by searching Учреждения по делам военнопленных и интернированных УМВД on unsecret.rusarchives.ru/search.
Burial of prisoners of war in the camps number 190 and number 16; death certificates of prisoners of war; and lists of prisoners of war repatriated to their homeland.
There are already two great websites that list many of the persecuted people of the USSR on Жертвы политического террора в СССР and National database of repressed of Ukraine but the declassified records will answer questions about relatives’ experiences during their persecution.
Unsecret.rusarchives.ru has many more records listed than the linked page above. For non-native Russian speakers, have your relatives’ regions translated into Russian by Google Translate, then copy and paste the translation and the phrase “Учреждения по делам военнопленных и интернированных” into the search box on unsecret.rusarchives.ru/search and click on поиск (search in Russian) for the results.
Have Google Translate open in the next window so results can be copied and pasted for translation to see what records are available at Russian State Military Archives.
Anyone ready to learn about their relatives’ persecutions in files at Russian State Military Archives in Moscow, click here for the guide to make requests.