Victims of Soviet Communism: 1st Episode of ‘Reclaiming Memory’
Execution lists and reports, and Soviet plans for the mass repression of Ukrainians. Until 2015, documents of these sorts were inaccessible. As part of Ukraine's broad decommunization efforts, these archives are now open to the public. In the first report from our new series 'Reclaiming Memory', UATV learns more about the victims of Soviet Communism
Achievement certificates and letters of gratitude with Stalin’s portraits did not save Volodymyr Kulikov from execution for alleged anti-Soviet slander.
His case is in one of the folders.
“If his descendant ever finds it, it might be the first time they see their great-grandfather,” Deputy Head of the Sectoral State Archive of the Ukrainian Security Service Anatoliy Khromov said.
Personal, criminal, and monitoring cases, protocols, and sentences — the Ukrainian Security Service’s archives comprise 225,000 items from the Soviet period. In Europe, archives are measured by kilometers — according to the length of the shelves.
In here, there are 7 kilometers of declassified documents. Across Ukraine, there are 120 kilometers.
“This is an indicator that can clearly show things. Cases can range from a few pages to several volumes. The size of a folder is standard,” Khromov said.
For dozens of years, these documents were kept classified. But now, years later, it’s public, even for foreigners.
“The archive of Ukraine’s Security Service is considered to be the leader in openness and accessibility to KGB documents. We don’t ask for any proof of kinship. You can search for information about any person. A huge number of documents of republican significance that, in fact, duplicate what is still classified in Russia are stored here,” Khromov said.
Most of the preserved documents are from the times of the Great Purge. Archivists suspect that when purges in repressive institutions began, there was no time to destroy the evidence of crimes.
“Here is one of the protocols of the NKVD Triumvirate of December 3, 1937. By this one protocol, 150 people were sentenced to be shot,” Khromov said.
Each folder contains five or six protocols — around a thousand people who were sentenced to death. For the years 1937–1938, there are several dozen folders. And this is just in the Kyiv city and region. This is how Bolsheviks were building Soviet society.
“You can find only one in 200 cases, in which the accused could adhere to anti-Soviet stance. There were quotas against “Kulaks” or wealthier peasants, Poles, Germans… The NKVD directorates had certain plans. If they did not fulfill them in time, they recorded Ukrainians as Poles. A German teacher could also become a German person,” Khromov said.
It takes several days to find information on someone. This repository is one of the 80 collections of the Ukrainian Security Service archive. Boxes are assigned numbers according to descriptions of the papers — they are sorted by topic and date.
“Each store has a topographic map, and you know that the 5th collection and this box is here. Sometimes a request contains only the last and the first name. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. There are a lot of coincidences. It is also desirable to know the birth year,” Khromov said.
The cases of the repressed feature the information on their family composition, origin, and profession. Reports and protocols contain the details of interrogations, the names of accusers and executioners, and the exact date of death. The burial place was not mentioned in the documents. The last address defines where the person was arrested.