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.

Ivan was sentenced to death, shot early in 1933 and buried with others in an unmarked grave in Moscow’s Vagankovskoe cemetery. Simeon was given a ten-year sentence, sent to Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk Region where he worked in the sub-polar Norilsk camp complex until his release in 1944. Sergei was given a 5-year sentence, immediately reduced by a third, and he was released in 1935 from the Temnikovsky camps in Mordovia.

Alexander was sent to the Solovki special camp in the White Sea. There, without any further investigation, he was included in the 10,000 Gulag quota for execution (NKVD labour camps), taken to the mainland and shot at Sandarmokh on 1 November 1937.

Alexander Pokrovsky, 1912-1937