Soviet / Russian secret police files
During the Soviet period in Russia, millions of people were arrested, exiled and executed. Most of these arrests, exiles and executions took place during Stalin's repression of the 1930s. An overwhelming majority of those repressed were not guilty of any crime. The OGPU-NKVD* compiled false "proof" of crimes using legal and illegal methods. People were forced to plead guilty and to testify to the guilt of others as a result of torture and the threat of repression against relatives.
The names of the organizations which brought people to trial changed many times throughout the years. Listed by date, these organizations are listed below.
ChK - Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-revolution and Sabotage. Years 1917-1922.
GPU State Political Administration. Years 1922-1923.
OGPU - Special State Political Administration. Years 1923-1934*.
NKVD -Popular Commissariat of Interior Affairs. Years 1934-1943*.
NKGB - Popular Commissariat of State Security. Years 1943-1946.
MGB - Ministry of State Security. Years 1946-1953.
MVD - Ministry of Internal Affairs. Years 1953-1954.
KGB - Committee of State Security. Years 1954-1995.
FSB - Federal Security Service. Current Bureau.
Investigators often tried to attach many people to the same case in order to compile a common bill of indictment. Since there were many false accusations, Secret Police documents cannot be recognized as objective sources for genealogy information. However, files of a particular case may contain specific information about many people. File documents often contain personal and family information, such as: questionnaires of the person arrested, personal documents taken as "material evidence", results of medical examinations, verdicts and certificates about case results.
The Stalin repression system was censured in the Khrushchev period. During this time, relatives began to apply to the Supreme Court for rehabilitation of the accused (mostly posthumously). During the Gorbachev period, a mass process of rehabilitation of repressed people (sometimes without inquiries by relatives) started and continues today. As a result, certificates about rehabilitation are in the same archival files as some of the case documents. If rehabilitation was initiated, it is possible to find names, addresses and other information within these documents.
The following is a list of a few surnames of persons accused of being members of religious philosophic societies (circles), which existed in Leningrad in the late 1920s. At that time only the Marxist philosophy was official. Thus, it was not possible to publish any articles inconsistent with this ideology. These people gathered together in private apartments to discuss their philosophy. According to a decision by the OGPU dated October 8, 1928, members of a few such circles were accused of criminal behavior, labeled as "socially dangerous elements" and condemned to four to five years in labor-corrective camps.
The bill of indictment affirms that in fact this was a well-conspired monarchic organization which had the goal of agitation of religious education of young people. This particular case was continued and members of other philosophy circles (75 persons total) were accused for the same reason. Blitz Information Center was hired by one of the persons accused to research this first case file holding 35 names of accused persons. As a result of this research, an article was published in a St. Petersburg Newspaper. The surnames found during research with this file are listed below.
The files with documents of such criminal cases are kept in the Archives of the FSB (Federal Security Service) located in the same city in which the person was arrested. In Russia, the term of confidentiality of personal information for all archival documents is 75 years. Currently, a large portion of such documents are now becoming available to researchers.
There are several ways to access files held at the FSB. This Archive will answer inquiries by relatives and from those with a certificate which contains general information, such as; dates of arrest and rehabilitation, the verdict and its execution, data and place of death (if the person died in exile or was shot.) In order for a researcher to receive permission to work with the documents in these Archives he or she needs to apply to the authorities of the appropriate FSB office with a petition in which the goals of the research work are stated. It is better if a researcher can provide the archive with a document compiled on behalf of an Institution, such as a university doing a study or scholarly work on this subject, but not always necessary.
Blitz Information Center has been successful in accessing and conducting research in the FSB archives. Blitz researchers have become adept in navigating thru the paperwork and authorization to gain access to the archives. Blitz was able to locate extensive information for one US client who was researching the disappearance of his uncle. This work required access to search FSB archives and resulted in locating documents ordering his arrest and deportation to the Solovetski prison camp in Northern Russia.
Article written by Elena Tsvetkova
Edited by Kristin Nute