Four brothers (contd.)

Part One, see “Four brothers

Arrest and Interrogation

By 2 October that year the OGPU had convicted the four brothers of “Counter-Revolutionary Crimes”, RSFSR Criminal Code, Article 58: specifically “espionage” (58-6) and “terrorist acts” (58-8). They were charged with attempting to create an underground anti-Soviet organisation; wanting to spy for France and rob State institutions; and, worst of all, preparing to assassinate the Soviet leaders on Red Square: Stalin, Kaganovich, Voroshilov and the OGPU chairman [Yagoda].

The interrogation of the oldest brother Ivan (Investigative file R-15930) sheds some light on this case. He witnessed part of the brutal collectivisation of agriculture, for instance:

“My anti-Soviet feelings began to develop from autumn 1931. They were prompted by my lack of material comforts and my disagreement with the actions of certain Soviet organisations. I saw how all the cows were taken away from the peasants under the pretence of ensuring meat supplies. I saw how children, women, men and even Communist wept to see it. It left a dreadful impression on me …”

“When talking of the Bolsheviks I believed that although their programmes were different they were no better than the Fascists,… One lot clung to their dictatorship, so did the others …

“I denied the intention of commiting an individual terrorist attack on Stalin. I was convinced it would change nothing; Stalin would be replaced by Kaganovich or someone else. The simultaneous murder of several leading figures among the Bolsheviks and the Soviet government could lead to the collapse of the Soviet regime …”

At first sight the tale seems clear enough. Here was a terrorist, and from a priest’s family, moreover. Ivan Pokrovsky was an improbable assassin, however. He had only one leg and was a full-time resident of a home for disabled people. He drank too much, would kick up a fuss and say a great many unwise things in public: Memorial’s Lists of Victims includes the comment that Ivan had been “frequently prosecuted for anti-social behaviour”. This time it was altogether more serious.

Three of the brothers were sent to the Gulag. Ivan was sentenced to death and was shot at the beginning of 1933. His body was buried with others in an unmarked grave in Moscow’s Vagankovskoye Cemetery.


Ivan’s three younger brothers were scattered to the camps of the constantly-expanding Gulag: Simeon was sent to Siberia, Sergei was allocated to a camp in the Urals; while Alexander was sent to the Solovki special camp in the White Sea.

Before his arrest Simeon Pokrovsky worked as a foreman, on the building site for the airport at Monino. After being convicted of crimes against the Soviet State, Simeon was sentenced to 10 years in a concentration camp and was sent to the Krasnoyarsk Region in Siberia. There he worked in the Norilsk corrective labour camp until his release on 19 December 1944 on completion of his sentence.

Before his arrest Sergei Pokrovsky worked in Moscow as a // of the // workshop for the Friends of Children’s society. After being convicted of crimes against the Soviet State, Sergei was sentenced to five years in a concentration camp and served his sentence at the Temnikovsky corrective-labour camp in Mordovia. He was released on 5 August 1935.

A victim at Sandarmokh

The four brothers were all rehabilitated on 10 September 1960. The Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court decided that they had committed no crime.

What more do we know

At least three organisations and, doubtless, many selfless individuals have contributed to the “restoration” these particular names.

Drawing on other sources, the Immortal Barrack (founded in May 2015) has publicised the fate of these four brothers. One wonders about their parents or sisters, if they had any.

Ivan is among those buried secretly at the Vagankovskoye Graveyard in western Moscow. “From 1926 to 1935 the bodies of those shot in Moscow by the OGPU-NKVD and of those who died in the capital’s prisons were secretly buried in the Vagankovskoe Graveyard (west Moscow),” says the entry in the Map of Memory.

“May the victims of political repression, 1927-1937, never be forgotten”

The evidence for these burials “is confirmed by documents from the investigation files preserved at the FSB central archive and in the archives of the FSB departments for Moscow and the Moscow Region.” For several years researchers from Memorial in Moscow combed through the archives and in 1995 published a list of almost eight hundred names; the society erected a monument at the entrance to this large graveyard the year before, commemorating those buried in unmarked graves.

The lists of those shot and buried at Sandarmokh were compiled and published in 2002 by Yury Dmitriev.

Finally, in 2014 Vozvrashchenie, a small publisher specialising in literature about the Gulag, issued a second book by Israel Massus. Following his 19// memoir of his own time in Stalin’s camps, Massus gathered together information about youth resistance to the Soviet regime in various groups, study circles etc between 1926 and 1953. All four brothers Pokrovsky can be found there.

Israel Mazus, 1929-2016