Remembrance (4), “No smoke without fire?”

The OGPU investigation of the Pokrovsky brothers in summer 1932 helps us put faces to four names. Ivan was executed in Moscow, one death in the maelstrom unleashed by the forced industrialisation of the USSR and the dekulakisation of the countryside. Alexander was shot four years later at Sandarmokh, a victim of the Great Terror.

Ivan’s last resting place was uncovered in the early 1990s by researchers from Memorial working in the Central Archives of the FSB (post-Soviet successor of the Cheka, OGPU, NKVD and KGB). In 1994, a memorial was erected by the entrance to the Vagankovskoe cemetery. It reads: “To the victims of political repression, 1927-1937. May they never be forgotten!”

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Remembrance (3): Four brothers

Alexander Pokrovsky and his three brothers were born in a village in what today is Russia’s Oryol Region. By the early 1930s, they had moved to Moscow.

There in summer 1932 the OGPU (predecessor of the NKVD) arrested them and by October that year all four were convicted of Counter-Revolutionary Crimes under Article 58, specifically espionage and terrorism.They were, it is said, attempting to create an underground anti-Soviet organisation; they wanted to spy for France and rob the Soviet State; worst of all, they were preparing to assassinate Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich and OGPU chief Yagoda.

With the exception of Ivan Pokrovsky, the eldest, they had each found work: Alexander at a factory; Sergei at a workshop; and Simeon building the new airport at Monino. This reflected the opportunities provided by the forced tempo of industrialisation during the First Five Year Plan; the city also offered them a welcome anonymity, perhaps, because their father Nikolai was an Orthodox priest.

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Remembrance (2): Shot at Sandarmokh

Alexander Pokrovsky, 1912-1937

Remembrance (1) recalled the efforts of volunteers like Yury DMITRIEV over the past quarter century, thanks to which the names and reputations of some three million victims of the Soviet regime have been restored.

It would be natural to proceed from the discovery of the killing field at Sandarmokh in 1997 to an account of Dmitriev’s subsequent work to create a unique memorial complex there. Natural but unthinkingly triumphal. For behind these long lists of names, with their meagre biographical information, lies a horrific and prolonged period in human history, the facts of which were then denied or concealed for many years in the USSR.

Ocassionally more detailed information is available. Brief glimpses of that bloody past show what happened to families and to individuals. The fate of the four young Pokrovsky brothers is a case in point. The third, Alexander (pictured above), was among the hundreds shot at Sandarmokh in 1937.

This poignant photograph was taken in 1932 when he and brothers were all arrested in Moscow.

(To be continued)

Remembrance (1): Lists and Names

Faced by the grim and relentless persecution of Yury DMITRIEV over the last four years, it’s easy to lose sight of the achievements of the past quarter century, those countless acts of remembrance across Russia and former Soviet states that make any simple return to the past unthinkable.

Yury Dmitriev resumes work, 2018

During the 1990s, volunteers all over the former Soviet Union gathered information from a variety of archives; they listed the names of those deported, imprisoned and shot and compiled Books of Remembrance. Today only a few of the Russian Federation’s constituent Regions and Republics lack such a record.

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