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)