The activities of the Krasnoyarsk "Memorial"

The activities of the Krasnoyarsk "Memorial"

(Preparatory material to make an application for a grant)

The activities of "Memorial" are based on the gathering of information on political reprisals during the Soviet era. As sources of such information serve the archives of the UVD (Administration of the Interior) and the UFSB (Administration of the Federal Security Service), court and State archives, publications, statements made by witnesses and participants of events in connection with mass reprisals (either by people that were oppressed themselves or by their family members). There are plans to make expeditions to former places of internal exile and concentration camps (Kraslag, Construction Project 503). All these information are recorded, compared, classified and entried in index cards and data bases. Copies of documents, photographs, letters that were sent from camps and prisons, as well as other historic materials, have been inventoried and are being kept in the archives of "Memorial".

At pesent, the card indexes and archives of the Krasnoyarsk "Memorial" branch comprise information materials on more than 20.000 people, who were persecuted under the Communist regime for political reasons - mainly persons oppressed in the region of Krasnoyarsk, who served a sentence in a prison or camp or had to live here in internal exile. The gathered information and historic documents form the basis of our enlightenment work and lectures, the organiztion of exhibitions and publications in the press. Due to our existence and intervention several hundred former prisoners and exiles succeeded to receive their rehabilitation documents. At the moment we are mainly contracted by former exiles and children of victims of reprisals, who ask for our help. On an average we send about 50-70 inquiries or formal equests per month to different authorities, in different regions (not including applications or petitions to the regional public prosecutor for the acknowledgement of the status of being a victim of political reprisals, for which we issue blank forms that were elaborated in 1993 in coordination with the district attorney).

The aim of the project is to render practical help to the victims of political reprisals and their family members to restore their rights in accordance with the Law of the Russian Federation "on the rehabilitation of victims of political reprisals". This includes the receipt of official documents about the rehabilitation of the victims and their family members or about the acknowledgment of being a victim of political reprisals, the ensuring of financial support (special allowances), the payment of compensations for means and property that were taken away from them as a consequence of the reprisals, as well as payments to former prisoners to compensate the factual time of their emprisonment.

The necessity of this kind of support arose from the fact that many victims of political reprisals and their family members are in lack of all documents indispensible for the obtaining of information about a possible rehabilitation and the acknowledgment of being a victim of political reprisals. In many cases the people are confronted with considerable difficulties regarding the procurement of the needed documents, because they do not know, who to contact. In order to apply for one's rehabilitation or acknowledgment of being a victim of political reprisals or to make an application for compensation payments in connection with the loss of property,it is absolutely important to be in possession of a suitable number of the documents in question. In some cases people who have been granted the right for special allowances in accordance with the Law "on Rehabilitations" have to wrestle with great problems when finally intending to make use of these special rights, usually for the reason of an insufficient competence of the charitable institutions and municipal authorities, but sometimes also, because there obviously exists a lack of willingness to act according to law. In such situations it becomes inevitable to give some additional explanations on the issued special laws (either to those, who enforce these rights, or to the corresponding authorities, and in case of a direct violation of the prevailing law by the institutions, it is even imperative to contact the organs of the public prosecutor's supervisory board.

1) Determination of the group of persons in need of "Memorial's" help.

Since the beginning of "Memorial's" existence, i.e. since 1988, victims of political reprisals have either contacted us personally or in writing: those, who served their sentence in camps, displaced persons, exiles,people who were kept in prison (without condemnation) and others, as well as the children (or other relatives) of oppressed and executed persons or of those who were killed in prisons and camps during their internal exile. Most of these people that contacted us did not dispose of any rehabilitation papers at that time - for different reasons, but mainly because they simply did not know, who to ask or see and how to proceed.

A similar situation occurred with the children of the victims, who in most of the cases did not know anything at all about their parents_ fate after their arrest (even though they had earlier received some information about their rehabilitation). Through those, who contact us, we usually succeed in finding other people, as well, who need our assistance in solving the above-mentioned problems.

Since the beginning of the year 1994 the number of inquiries has increased considerably, for the Office of the District Attorney, in connection with the passing of the 2nd "Law of Rehabilitation", started to give information about the acknowledgment of people as victims of political reprisals. At present we are contacted by 100-200 people every month (30-40 of them addressing themselves to "Memorial" for the very first time). About half of them are referred to us by the Office of the District Attorney.

2) The search for documents needed for the rehabilitation procedure or (this concerns the children of the victims) for the acknowledgment as victims of political reprisals.

In case the person who was oppressed or suffered damage from political reprisals is not in possession of any rehabilitation papers (their own or the documents of their parents), the usually, there are no hints or data about their condemnation or about the organs that decided about such reprisals. It is also not known, whether this decision has ever been looked into again. The biggest problems occur, when the victim was arrested during the time of his military service. In this case it is difficult to find out, in which criminal archives they are keeping the corresponding files, which - in all remaining cases - are kept in the place of arrest. It sometimes turns out that these papers were kept in the place of birth, in the place, where he received the call-up order or in one of the archives of the Ministry of Defense. For that reason, in order to accelerate the search, we have to address the inquiries "fan-wise". To receive compensation payments for the period of imprisonment (para 15 of the Law of Rehabilitation) and to achieve a new calculation of the pension payments, additional inquiries have to be made with the archives concerning the factual term of confinement, or, if available, some suitable information about camp attestaions regarding the release, since there usually are no entries in the camp files about the arrest (except for the Rechlag and Dubravlag). The most difficult question occurs, when the victim was not sent into internal exile after his stay in the camp, and he himself does not exactly know, which camp he served his sentence in (the official camp designations were not known to the prisoners). In such cases we also have to proceed "fan-wise".

In cases when the camp detention was followed by internal exile, it turns out to be most successful to make inquiries with the UVD archives in the place of exile. Similar (but by far more complicated problems) come up, when searching for the documents proving that the person concerned perished in the camp. These documents are needed to acknowledge their children as children of victims of reprisals, provided that their father (or mother) had already reached full legal age upon their arrest. Much time and effort is often needed in connection with repeated inquiries, when the criminal records or camp archives contain faked family names (or other wrong entries). The kind of forgery is entirely unpredictable, even with simple Russian surnames, not to mention foreign (Ukrainian, etc.) names.

The receipt of documents connected with the deportations of the 1930s (the mass exile of farmers, the "Kirov" affair and others) is so difficult, because the archives of the special commandants' offices that were in charge of this specific category of reprisals were abolished in the 1950s, based on some directives of the "Center". The Declaratory decrees about factual reprisals can be obtained at the law court, however, one has to present witnesses. Sometimes we succeed in helping former victims of reprisals to find such witnesses. We also writes search inquiries to the law courts to have them determine the facts of the reprisals in question.

Archival materials about deportations from the Baltic states, the West-Ukraine and the Western parts of Belorussia in the 1940s and 1950s were sent from the territories of the special settlements to the places of exile in 1965. In these cases the documents about the rehabilittion, as well as archival information about the terms of exile are available from the Baltic states, the Ukraine and Belorussia. When working with victims of the Krushchev exiles (as a consequence of the "prasite ukase"), when the activists of different religious confessions were increasingly exposed to reprisals, it usually turns out that the only document preserved (which confirms the use of compulsory measures) is being kept in the State archives. It is therefore very difficult to convince the legal authorities that this category of victims has to be included in the "Law of Rehabilittion".

3) The recipt of rehabilitation certificates or documents acknowledging a person as a victim of reprisals.

Having found out the places, where the arcival criminal files are being kept and being in receipt of information or summarized reports from the KGB / FSB administration in charge of the matter, we are able to say, whether a certain file has already been re-examined and, if so, from where the application for rehabilitation has to be made. In case the file or case has not been re-checked yet, the application will be done in accordance with 7, 8, 9 of the Rehabilitation Law.

The application sent in order to receive the official confirmation of being acknowledged a victim of political reprisals (as instructed by the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Russian Federation) is to be done in the applicants place of residence (or in the place where the victim's children live). However, due to some rash (in our opinion) formulations in 8 of the Rehabilitation Law, the only person authorized to hand out the acknowledgment of being a victim of political reprisals, is the public prosecutor in the place where the archival criminal files are being kept. As a consequence of this legislation the public prosecutors started refusing to accept the delivery of such applications and petitions from other regions. In case the person to be rehabilitated (for having served a sentence in a camp or for having lived in internal exile) lives in the RF, he has to follow the Ukrainian or Baltic States legislation and present the documents to the welfare institutions in official language, i.e. in Russian. In such cases we take on the job of translating these documents and have them certified by a public notary (because, in accordance with the notarial legislation, the translator cannot represent the person directly concerned). In our practical work (although this does not happen very often) we are confronted with rejected rehabilitations (and, as a rule, they usually do not give sufficient explanations and reasons for their refusal). In these cases we introduce measures, which are also embodied in the Rehabilitation Law, enabling us to proceed further in this matter by means of an appeal.