“We never learn”

recently, in 2017, Russia greeted the 70th anniversary of the Great terror. President Vladimir Putin inaugurated the “Wall of grief” monument to victims of mass political repressions. Therefore, news of intentional destruction in the archives of the credentials of the Gulag prisoners, many were met with bewilderment and indignation. Whether so it actually and how many people suffered in the years of Stalinist terror, “the Tape.ru” the Director of the Museum of Gulag history, the head of Fund of Memory of Roman Romanov.

“Ribbon.ru”: When you learned about the problem of security credentials of the Gulag prisoners?

theRoman Romanov: In our Museum for more than two months of running the documentation Centre, designed to help people to search for their repressed relatives. My colleagues regularly send requests to the appropriate authorities with a request to provide the necessary information. When our partner Sergey Prudovsky, studying the fate of the individual, appealed to the AMIA in the Magadan region, he replied that his business was destroyed in the 50-ies, but instead brought the registration card. But it turned out that this card is also destroyed on the basis of the inter-Ministerial order of the Ministry of internal Affairs, justice, MOE, Finance and Ministry of defence, FSB, FSO, ISI and other security agencies. The order was released in 2014 under the heading “for official use”.

so this document could see how it formulated its provisions?

Yes. I can only assume that he’s a little bit about something else, but in the Magadan region it is interpreted that way. We now find out the scale of the disaster, but it’s a very strange story. In other regions similar materials (personnel files, records and other information about the fate of the repressed) we regularly receive without special problems from the interior Ministry and the FSB. And nowhere are these documents not destroyed. Therefore, this case has alarmed us, and now we want to figure out what it really is: a free interpretation of departmental instructions or follow something else. But the sad the fact that due to the destruction of records about a particular person we never find out.

in What way important are these records?

just that. In most cases this is the only document, which can be used to trace the fate of repressed people. If a prisoner died in the camp, his own business was sent on indefinite archival storage. If people lived to be released, the case is destroyed, and instead had a registration card, which indicated personal data and its movement in the places of detention date of release.

How many these cards were to be kept?

Here the question arises: should this primary documentation refer to the archive Fund of Russia? As soon as we found out about this unpleasant event in the Magadan region, sent a request to the Ministry and now waiting for there response. Another letter describing the situation we sent the Manager Council on human rights under the President, the Chairman of the working group on implementation of the Concept of the state policy on perpetuating of memory of victims of political repression Mikhail Alexandrovich Fedotov. He promised to help us.

Is the law you can destroy the source documentation, if other archival sources about the fate of a man left?

Actually, that’s what we want to find out. In this particular case, in the Magadan region registration card of the person destroyed with reference to the interdepartmental regulations that we can’t look.

If this document came out in 2014, is there danger that most of the information about the prisoners of the Gulag can be lost?

I don’t think. I have already mentioned that in other regions, similar information is stored, are digitized and provided to us without any problems. What happened in Magadan, is the first such case of hundreds of similar requests. As for the relatives of the disappeared stored in these cards, information is simply priceless.

Most of them know only that grandfather or great-grandfather was arrested in 1937 or 1938, and what happened to him next is unknown. If all these cards to destroy it forever lost a huge amount of information about the fate of millions of our countrymen who have suffered in the years of mass repression. We’re just wasting these people, and with them lose the memory of them.

About how many people is it? How many of them passed through the GULAG?

There is an official figure — 20 839 633 people. However, some were condemned more than once (including while in prison), so the actual number of inmates was somewhat less.

This is for all the years of Soviet power?

No, this is only for the period from 1930, when it was established the chief administration of camps, in 1956. In the years 1938-1939, 1941-1942, and in 1948-1953 years the number of Gulag inmates increased sharply. This was due to the strengthening of repressive policies of Stalin’s power in these years.

This figure refers only to political prisoners?

No, the total number of prisoners during this period. About Gulag statistics can be read a separate lecture. Some political prisoners held at the household or criminal charges (for example, the infamous “Law on the ears”). But there were cases of criminals-recidivists condemned for “anti-Soviet activity”.

it is Known that for the so-called “counterrevolutionary crimes” was sentenced to more than four million people. But to isolate the real number of political prisoners from the vast number of prisoners of Stalin’s Gulag is very difficult. And if records are destroyed, we will never know.

do you think this whole situation with the destruction of the cards is bureaucratic excess individual performers or the sign of a deliberate campaign to erase the memory of the Gulag?

No, I believe that in this case we are dealing with the administrative case. I don’t think we can talk about any campaign. The memory of Stalinist repression still remains in our society so painful that no one comes to mind specifically destroy archival documents. Moreover, we have a Concept of the state policy on perpetuating of memory of victims of political repression, and last year the “Wall of grief” was opened by the President himself.

what does this incident with the destruction of the registration card?

now you need to review the whole concept of archival information. It is necessary to have time to scan and provide storage in a digital format. Now a huge number of archival materials scattered throughout the country in various departmental archives. Often they are stored as necessary, and not properly systematized.

With the successful experience of similar work we have in the country. Managed defence Ministry to digitize a huge array of information about our citizens who participated in the great Patriotic war, and create the websites HBS “memorial” and “feat of the people”. I think the millions of victims of political repression also deserve it.

But for this activity, for example, is a society “memorial”.

“memorial” does the right thing, but it’s still a public organization, where the resources are very limited. Database “Memorial” is based not only on the sources of departmental archives, but also on information from the regional book of Memory. But these Books are often found a huge number of errors. Therefore, the work HBS “memorial” of the Ministry of defence and activities of the society “memorial” — it’s like heaven and earth.

That is our country this problem is not engaged?

Does, but obviously not enough. 2014 developed Federal target program (FTP) to perpetuate the memory of victims of political repression. Mikhail Fedotov, and led by the Council on human rights did exactly that. However, in the end, instead of the Federal program in 2015 government of Russia approved by the appropriate Concept of state policy.

this Concept is something about archives?

of Course. And about their availability, and about otsifrovannogo. But the Concept differs from the Federal target program that it is not a document of direct action with appropriate funding. The concept can be guided in the most General sense — but, unfortunately, nothing more.

In the case of the Ministry of defense there was a conscious government policy: it was decorated with the order of the President, adopted the Federal target program, involved enormous human and material resources. Here you need to go the same way — we simply need to show political will.