O 5 December, Memorial presented the updated 5th edition of its database in Petrozavodsk, containing the names of political prisoners and forced settlers who were executed during the Soviet period. The new version was being launched, noted ALEXANDER DANIEL of Memorial, at the very same time in other cities across Russia: Tomsk (Siberia), Syktyvkar (Northwest Russia), Perm (Volga Federal District), Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“Why did “Memorial” choose to launch this new edition in Petrozavodsk?” asked Daniel. “Because Karelia is one of the few parts of Russia where the lists of victims are more or less complete. There are hardly any other regions like it. And that is thanks to two wonderful people: the late IVAN CHUKHIN and YURY DMITRIEV. “I think you all know where Yury is today. Petrozavodsk is the city where Chukhin worked, where Yury Dmitriev worked, and where Dmitriev will continue to work in the future.” (Full version of report, overleaf)
MEMORIAL LAUNCHES NEW VERSION OF ITS DATABASE IN PETROZAVODSK
On 5 December, in Petrozavodsk, Memorial presented the updated, fifth, edition of its database, containing the names of political prisoners and forced settlers who were executed during the Soviet period. Two board members of the International “Memorial” Society came from St Petersburg to the Karelian capital to demonstrate the updated electronic version of this resource: IRINA FLIGE of the Memorial Research and Information Centre, and ALEXANDER DANIEL who, with Flige, is joint chair of the Memorial Society in St Petersburg.
“Thirty years ago, people took to the streets and demanded that all the lists of those shot in the USSR should be published. Since 1998, thanks to the efforts of enthusiasts in Russia, many Books of Remembrance have been published,” stated Irina Flige. “Someone collected twenty names, others gathered a thousand, or ten thousand, names of the executed. All these individuals were then brought together in this database. It is a credit to society, not to the State: this is the result of joint efforts,” Irina Flige said, opening the event.
The database was being launched launch in Petrozavodsk, noted Alexander Daniel, and simultaneously in other cities across Russia: in Tomsk (Siberia), Syktyvkar (Northwest Russia), Perm (Volga Federal District), in both Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“Why did “Memorial” choose to launch this new edition in Petrozavodsk?” asked Daniel. “Because this is one of the few parts of Russia with complete lists of victims. There are hardly any other regions like it. And it happened, thanks to two wonderful people — the late Ivan Chukhin, and Yury Dmitriev.
“I think you all know where Yury is today,” said Alexander Daniel. “Petrozavodsk is the city where Chukhin worked, where Yury Dmitriev worked and where he will continue to work in future.”
Following these introductory remarks, Flige and Daniel spoke about the database itself. The “Victims of Political Terror in the USSR” database was first released on CD in 2001. It contained 130,000 names from 26 different parts of the former Soviet Union.
Six years later, the Memorial society released a fourth version. By now it contained more than 2.6 million names and was also available online. The latest and 5th edition of the database contains information from 120 regional Books of Remembrance, published over the last ten years, as well as certain unpublished sources. It lists more than 3.1 million specific acts of repression against specific individuals; the names of half a million have been newly added.
“Until spring 2018, the database will be working in test mode. We decided to make it openly accessible now, as it already fulfils its main function. Our database is not intended for researchers or statisticians,” explained Alexander Daniel, “but permits any individual to search for a particular person. It is for those who are trying to find out what happened to someone.
“The new version can be searched not just by surname and first name, but many other criteria as well: year of arrest and rehabilitation, nationality, and level of education. The main task of the database, however, is to permit a search for particular individuals.”
There are certain other features, Daniel noted, that distinguish the new version from its predecessors. It used to be difficult, for instance, to add new information to the database or to correct something. Now additions can be made continuously.
“Before people would ring me up and say, ‘You must add my grandfather’s name!’” added Irina Flige. “Then it was impossible. The flexibility of the latest version is a fundamental change.”
The speakers from Memorial noted that there is still a lot of work to do, updating the database and searching for more lists of the victims of political repression. The 1991 Law on The Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression embraces the whole period since the Bolshevik takeover on 25 October 1917 (Old Style): it covers an estimated 12 million people. Today there are 3 million names in Memorial’s database.
“The work could have been completed in a few years, if there had been a State programme, and orders had been issued to collect these arrest lists from every departmental archive,” commented Daniel. “Instead, the archives have become less accessible during the past 12 years. So, we should not rely on the State.”
After the launch, those attending discussed what was involved in preserving these individual names. They expressed views as to how and why such databases and lists should be compiled, and how to make people more aware of this information.
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