Secret files help complete the life story of five brothers

The stories of my grandmother’s brothers’ lives have been incomplete since I began  researching them six years ago. Thanks to their “illegal political activity” in the 1930s, their arrest records are filled with gems of information that cannot be found in online databases nor at archives.

I have been wondering about the simple things about their lives such as their military service, work and education. Now, I have learned some stunning facts.

One brother earned the rank of second lieutenant in the Russian White Army. His voting privileges were taken away when Russia became the USSR, thanks to his service in the czar’s army.

Another brother was a volunteer with the Red Army, the army of the USSR, from 1919-1922. That makes me wonder whether he served in the Russian-Polish War.

My curiosity got me moving to contact Russian military archives to see whether his records can be obtained. His daughter didn’t even know he served in the army.

I also learned three brothers worked in the same factory together, while another brother worked at another factory before their arrests. One brother was unemployed.

Four brothers finished their secondary education. Another brother completed five years at a commercial school but didn’t finish his secondary education.

I could have obtained this information six years ago when I made my first request with the Federal Security Service in the Russian region where my grand uncles were arrested. Six years ago, I just asked to confirm whether the family story of all five brothers being arrest was true, which law they “violated” and  where they lived at the time of their arrests.

I knew there had to be more information in their files, beyond name, birthdate, birthplace and address. My curiosity was peaked about what else was sitting in those files when a genealogy researcher asked whether my family was persecuted during the communist era.

Once I told her yes, she gave me the wording needed to obtain the personal family information from their files that I can’t get elsewhere. “My relatives (names and birth years) were arrested as enemies of the people in (town/city) in (year ) and were under investigation until (year, if known). Later they were justified. Please send me extracts from their criminal cases to the above e-mail address. I’m especially interested in ………..(addresses, education, employer, relatives who lived with them, etc.)
Yours faithfully,

I got a response from the Federal Security Service by e-mail in 17 days and the information was free. Most of the personal information was never known by my family.

This is all thanks to false accusations of “participating in a counter-revolutionary organization and carrying out anti-Soviet agitation.” This proves that truth does come from lies.

Related posts:

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Awaiting untold stories from recently opened Ukrainian Secret Service’s archives

SSSHHH!!! Detailed civilian records of Soviet persecution camps declassified………

Guide to requesting declassified records of the former USSR gulags

Also, check under political terror victims on the Free Databases page to search for relatives.

Database reveals names of secret agents for the Soviet Great Terror

Curiosity of relatives from the former Soviet Union is peaked when there is a silence about their life in the old country. What’s the big secret about their life?

More 41,000 men and women from the former Soviet Union had a big secret of their lives- working for the NKVD (precursor to the KGB) during the Soviet Great Terror from 1935 to 1939. Their secret is no longer that, thanks to an online database from Russian organization Memorial.

Anyone who is curious if their relatives served as NKVD agents during the terror years can do it quietly by using this database. Not surprisingly, some of these agents were executed after years of loyal service.

Information on each agent varies but some have their full name, birthdate, birthplace, death date and place of death, in addition to details on their service and awards.

Naturally, this database is in Russian but easy to use for those who don’t know Russian.

Here’s how to use the database without knowing Russian:

  1. Translate family names into Russian by using Google Translate or Transliterating English to Russian in One Step
  2. Click on the link for the correct letters that start the last name on this page.
  3. Once a possible match is found, click on the link, copy and paste the text into Google Translate  to read the material in English.

For those intimidated by using a Russian website, here is another way to search this database.

  1. Translate family names into Russian by using Google Translate or Transliterating English to Russian in One Step
  2. Copy the full name or last name into Google’s search bar and add site: It should look like Иванов site: in the search bar.
  3. Then the results appear in Russian. Copy and paste each page of results into Google Translate to decide which links to click on.

Memorial, which posted this database onto its website, also has a database for victims of the Soviet Repression here. The database was updated in December 2016.

The organization is working on a database of Soviet Union citizens who were forced laborers of Germany. Follow this blog by clicking on the button in the top right corner to learn when that database becomes public.

Related posts:
Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker
Break open the “I don’t know anything” relatives for some genealogy gems