New Soviet Era database releases free documents on more than 1 million citizens

The past of the former Soviet Union is coming alive in 2020 to the benefit of genealogy. A new database is displaying free documents on more than 1 million citizens of the former USSR.

For years, I have read books about the awards to Soviet citizens who worked their heart out for Soviet achievement goals and received awards for their hard work in agriculture and industry. Finally, a database with free scanned records has been posted online for those who received the awards from 1939 to 1990.

Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy Fund and Library Archive has posted its scanned archives here and more scans are expected to be posted later this year.

The information provided in this database cannot be found anywhere else online. 

Here is a video on how to use this database without knowing Russsian.

The database can be searched by surname, given name, patronymic name (middle name derived from father’s first name), place of employment, region of the USSR where the award was received, type of award and date of award.

For those who don’t know Russian, here are simple instructions on how to use this database.

  1. Download Google Translate web browser app or a comparable app onto a desktop or laptop computer to view the website in English.
  2. Type the keywords in English on Google Translate, Yandex or here for a Russian translate.
  3.  For those not using a translating web browser app, copy and paste the keywords into Фамилия (surname); Имя (given name);  Отчество (patronymic name); Организация/Предприятие (organization/ enterprise); Регион (region where the award was received); Вид награды (type of award); Дата постановления с (resolutions starting from); and Дата постановления по (resolution date).
  4. Click on найти to start the search.
  5. The results will appear in a list. The information provided in the list will include full name, award and the date received, organization where the person worked, and region and district of the award presentation.
  6. Reduce the number of keywords if too few results appear or add keywords to reduce the number of results.  Remember town and region names change over time before eliminating a match.
  7. Once a link is clicked from the results page, the scanned documents will appear on the right.
  8. If a user wants to change the keywords from the results page, click on the red button уточнить (clarify) on top right and the keyword search page will appear.
  9.  Remember to download any scanned records that have potential in having information on relatives and ancestors. Plenty of Facebook genealogy groups are available to translate documents.

It is well worth searching every known surname that appears in your family tree and exhausting all keyword combinations before giving up. This is a simple website for building skills to understand how to use Russian language databases.

The potential in breaking down genealogy brickwalls is knowing how to use these databases. More information will come through the years. Be ready for the challenge when that breakthrough comes for you.

Remember to follow this blog with the top right button to catch the newest databases and latest updates for available databases.

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Database gives closure on anti-Polish terror victims of the USSR

Finding information on Polish relatives and ancestors hurt by the anti-Polish terror in the Soviet Union can take a lot of effort, but one website has made it as easy as a few clicks.

The Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding and the Institute of National Remembrance created a portal to give closure to relatives of anti-Polish terror victims.

“Moscow Memorial Association says at least 139,835 people were repressed, of whom no less than 111,991 were shot in the back of the head and 28,774 were sentenced to stay in the labor camps,” according to the portal.

Sadly, Russia doesn’t want to release all records on the Polish terror victims but this portal is the most complete database online.

Here is how to use the portal for searching. Imię is first name; Nazwisko is surname;  Imię ojca is father’s first name; and Data urodzenia is birthdate (day/month/year).

Once the information is entered, click on wyszukaj to search the database. If results don’t appear, try different spellings and fewer search criteria.

For those who don’t know Polish, the portal also can be searched in Russian. Имя is first name; Фамилия is surname; Отчество is father’s first name; Дата рождения is birthdate (day/month/year); and поиск is the search button.

Anywho who doesn’t know Russian nor Polish can copy and paste the results into Google Translate to view them in English.

Once results are found, don’t be shy about searching for further information on Google in Russian or Polish to see whether more information is available.

Related posts:
Database of political terror victims in the USSR explodes past 3 million
Declassified file reveals relative’s full story on journey to the gulags
Secret files help complete the life story of five brothers

Declassified file reveals relative’s full story on journey to the gulags

So far, I’ve had a general idea about the experience of my grandmother’s first husband being sent to the gulag from family stories, books on the gulag and an extraction of information from the regional Office of the Federal Security Service.

A researcher who has been visiting archives in southern Russia told me so much more can be uncovered on his case since 75 years have passed. The researcher herself viewed her own relatives’ cases and was willing to do the same for me.

Nothing shocks me after what I have read about the gulag but the file read as if it came from Gulag: A History” by Anne Applebaum. The first husband of my grandmother, Vladimir, was arrested with his half-brother, Ivan, in 1932.

Here’s how the investigators got the husband’s confession:

Vladimir: I did not conduct anti-Soviet activities.
Ivan: My brother is hostile to the Soviets and, like me, conducted anti-Soviet agitation.
Vladimir: My brother is lying.
Ivan: Vladimir, I am your half-brother and I have confessed everything. I am your brother and cannot lie to you and you must confess everything.
Vladimir: Yes, now I plead guilty. I conducted anti-Soviet agitation. I was in a counter-revolutionary organization. Before, I gave false testimony, but now I will tell the truth.
Letters from abroad really came to me. In 1926, there was a letter from Bulgaria from a former white officer with the rank of ensign, Stefan Ivanovich Stublienko. He wrote that he lives badly, where his brother and father are missing.

The crimes of these brothers were being possession of 1,000 rubles of the gold currency from tsarist minting, expressing to acquaintances their intention to flee abroad and communicating through the postal mail to a foreign-living relative.

It didn’t help Vladimir that my grandmother didn’t support him, a typical situation during the Stalin era, when he was father of her two kids.

“I can hide the ends in the water. I have always secretly told my bank director, Vasiliy, about upcoming strikes, meetings among bank employees, and the latter was always warned about it in due time and, however, no one until this day knows anything about it,” my grandmother told investigators about an alleged conversation with her then ex-husband (who isn’t my grandfather).

For their crimes, the brothers were sentenced to three years at Lodeynoye Pole in St. Petersburg Region, one of the worst camps. Luckily, Vladimir was released a year early at age 56 after spending two years chopping trees down for firewood and other products. He made the hall of fame for productivity in the camp.

Then three years later, he was arrested again. This time, he confessed: “I carried on my counter-revolutionary activities more actively, spreading rumors about a quick war and the destruction of Soviet power.”

Vladimir also confessed that he expressed regret about the Soviet government killing of Chief of General Staff Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky.

Those confessions cost Vladimir another 10 years of his life to a gulag in Siberia  near the border of China. He was forced to build the Baikal–Amur Mainline of the Trans-Siberian Railway. A year later, he wrote a letter, begging to review his case, but a confession was a confession.

Sadly, nothing in Vladimir’s file reveals whether he survived his last sentence. He would have been 68 years old if he served the full sentence.

My researcher contacted the Federal Penitentiary Service in Moscow for more information. The office responded only relatives who can prove ancestry with documents can receive the information. That means I can’t learn more about him until the law changes.

His story is not forgotten for his family. I found Sergey, a great-grandson of Vladimir and Ivan’s brother, Vasiliy, on social network ok.ru. Sergey is thrilled to learn the details of the cases and all the biographical information collected by the NKVD on his great-great-uncles.

Thanks to this project for the photo of the Lodeynoye Pole gulag.

Related posts:
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Free database on WWII soldiers grows by more than 5 million records

Anyone researching their relatives and ancestors who served in World War II for the Soviet Union has more hope to find military records online for free.

More than 5 million records recently have been added to the Memorial database for soldiers who died, went missing or became prisoners of war. The website doesn’t require any registration.

Each entry on soldiers can include their full name, birthdate or birth year, place of birth, date and place of recruitment, last place of service, military rank, and reason service ended. The records of soldiers can be saved as jpeg or pdf files. Directions are listed at the end of this post.

Yes, the database is in Russian but there are free online translator programs that can switch the Russian to English (keep on reading). The search page has the keyword box titles in English but the keywords must be in Russian. An English version of the database nor any database on USSR WWII veterans don’t exist anywhere.

Here is an example of results that will be missed for those who don’t want to try a Russian website:

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

  1. Download the Google Translate web browser application for Chrome here and Firefox here.
  2. If you don’t use that application, open the next browser window into Google Translate for easier switching between windows.
  3. Type your relative’s or ancestor’s name and birthplace into Google Translate and have it translated into Russian. If Google Translate doesn’t work, try this website instead.
  4. Copy and paste the keywords into the proper keyword boxes and then click on search.
  5. The results will appear in Russian for those not using the Google Translate web browser application. Copy and paste the results into Google Translate.
  6. Once you see a potential match, click on the link and then copy and paste the text into Google Translate.
  7. The document below the text providing details on the soldier can be saved as a jpeg file by clicking on the disk symbol or saved as a pdf file by clicking on the file symbol with PDF written in red. The link to the individual soldier’s page can be copied by clicking on the link symbol.

Once that information is downloaded, the next step is to search for relatives and ancestors in the Memory of the People database, which has information and records on recipients of WWII medals and other honors. The same steps taken on the Memorial database can be used for this database, in addition to free databases here.

This all takes some effort but it is well worth the effort when the documents are posted online for free. Getting used to combining language translator programs with Russian military websites is a great skill worth maintaining.

The Russian government is determined to post online as many WWII records and soldiers’ information as possible. The updates to WWII databases will continue on a regular basis to honor the soldiers who made the sacrifices for the USSR.

Follow this blog with the top right button to learn about new and updated databases.

Related posts:
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Unsealed records unveil the bigger story behind a family’s persecution

For years, relatives have repeated the story that my grandmother’s five brothers were sent to prison during the communist era for possessing a foreign technical journal on a train.

But that is so far from the possible truth. My grandmother’s brothers were really accused of making an invention that was possibly sold to the Germans, according to files removed from an archive’s volt.

A cell companion of my oldest grand-uncle said he repeatedly heard from other prisoners that my relative said the People’s Commissar of the Navy requested him to make the invention. The signed statement of the cell companion doesn’t say who sold the invention to the Germans.

An accusation that my grand-uncle made an invention worth selling isn’t far-fetched. My researcher carefully looked at the records that were fading and crumbling. The information is a bit shocking.

My researcher found drawings and documentation of nine inventions made by my three grand-uncles. All the writing was in German. These inventions could have helped the military in wartime.

The shocking part isn’t that my grand-uncles had the knowledge and ability to make these inventions. Their father had several inventions for explosives, which were used in mining.

It is hard to understand why they chose to write everything in German. Maybe that was the order from the People’s Commissar of the Navy. I wonder if my grand-uncles even had a choice when this order came to them.

But what is the real truth?  Did their invention really get into the hands of the Germans? Their 57-year-old widowed mother wasn’t afraid to stand up for her sons to Andrei Vyshinsky, the prosecutor of the USSR.

“I beg you to treat fairly the business of my sons. Do not allow certain careerists and overcautious persons to cast a black shadow on the great and awesome name of People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs which is not needing at all those actions which are applied to my sons, the gone too far careerists and actually the Trotskyists who addressed in great People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs for data of the personal scores and for commission of the dirty Trotskyist work,” she wrote to Vyshinsky in 1938.

She was inspired to write Vyshinsky because her oldest son sneaked out a letter written on toilet paper to her. My grand-uncle hid his letter in a saucepan to tell his mother that he and his brother haven’t eaten edible food in six months, were punished by being held in a hot cell for a month and have been beaten terribly for not signing confessions.

Soon after my great-grandmother sent this letter, her other three sons were charged with unknown crimes. This only left a daughter as her only child who was not in prison. Not until my researcher dove into these records, I didn’t understand why the grand-uncles were arrested at different times.

The five brothers were thrown into a stream after being severally beaten and aging much more than the three years that were taken away from them. They saved their lives by not signing any confessions. They returned to their families and made a successful plan to escape the USSR three years later.

The details of this story ends here because the archive is hesitating to release any more records on this case. But the fight to fully tell this story will continue at the archives of a regional Federal Security Service office, where my researcher will open more files on this case.

Follow this blog to see this story continue by clicking on the top right button.

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