Memorial’s archive collections
(contact information and opening hours at the bottom of the page, click here to access them directly)
Memorial’s main sub-archive consists of a collection of over 60,000 personal letters, documents and memoirs of those who were repressed, shot, sent to the gulags, exiled and/or dispossessed by the Soviet government in the first half of the twentieth century. This archive also contains a subsection of its own, the Collection of Memoirs and Literary Works, which you can read more about below.
The items in this collection deal directly and explicitly with Soviet repression. They include both originals and reproductions of official documents, such as arrest warrants, search protocols, pages from archived criminal and concentration camp court cases, prisoner transfer lists, paperwork related to criminal sentencing, testimonies about death in the gulags and information about the victims’ release and eventual rehabilitation. There are administrative documents from individuals, such as petitions from the imprisoned and their relatives, seeking reexamination of their cases. There are documents originating from the prisons and camps themselves: descriptions, poems, posters relating to camp activities, certificates of merit, homemade postcards, sheet music and even personal notes. There are also examples of personal correspondence between the imprisoned and their loved ones, which, having passed through prison checkpoints, often bear the marks of the camps’ censors. Although a smaller part of our collection, there are also letters that made their way both in and out of the camps illegally: news of “special” trains, notes written on diverse fabrics and hidden in the seams or clasps of clothing.
The personnel files also contain documents describing the public and private lives of the victims before their arrests: birth certificates, diplomas from high school and university, membership cards for various organisations, records of service, merit and award sheets, letters, photos of families and workplaces and many other items. Similarly, the collection contains documentation detailing life post-Gulag: letters, memoirs, recollections of arrests and imprisonments, details of the fight for rehabilitation and information about the victims’ lives following their release.
The Collection of Memoirs and Literary Works: This subsection of The Archive of the History of Political Repression in the USSR contains over 600 works of unique personal testimony about life in the Soviet Union. It contains descriptions of arrests, investigations, concentration camps and exile, reflecting the entire history and geographic range of the camps; from Solovetsky in the 20s to Dubravlag in the 60s; from Vyzemsky in the West to Kolymsky and Chukotsky in the Siberian east. Besides personal memoirs, the collection also houses letters, diaries, essays, articles, bibliographic reviews and even literary and sociopolitical works, the majority of which have never been published.
The diaries and literary works written in the camps themselves are of particular value. Among these works are the handwritten satirical anthology, Cat House, written by the doctors of a Kolymsky camp hospital between 1943 and 1954 (compiled by F.K Langeld), a collection of poems written from memories of the Orlovo-Rozovo camp between 1945 and 1947 (compiled by V.F Berseneva and C.C Potresova) and a collection of recollections from participants of the Orenburg State University’s Ukhtinsky expedition in 1932 (compiled by V. Hadezhdin). The collection also includes recollections from employees of the government’s punitive bodies, both those of employees whose means of expression were suppressed (e.g., M.P. Shreider) and those of individuals who forged successful careers in the administration (e.g., Y. Kulerman) and supervision (e.g., Bamlag guard I.P Chistyakova, whose diaries, covering the years 1934 to 1936, feature in the collection) of the gulags.
Memorial is in the process of organising many these documents into projects around specific themes, such as the audio programme A Woman’s Memory of the Gulag and A History of the Family. The Twentieth Century.
Similarly, a large amount of material from the 1930s and 40s has been compiled, looking at the fate of the CSIR [members of the families of so-called “traitors of the homeland”], including documents about the guardianship of children after the arrest of their parents and descriptions and photographs of pupils in children’s homes. Among the most interesting collections in this programme are the drawings, diaries and letters which CSIR children sent to their mothers in the concentration camps.
Besides personal affairs and memoirs, this archive also houses several separate collections, including the editorial portfolio of the 1970s’ historical publication Memory [Leiningrad] as well as the historical anthology of Branches, both of which were prepared by Memorial at the end of the 1980s. There are also materials from Tolstoy’s communes of the 1920s and 30s (both personal documents and recollections from Y. Dragunovsky, D. Morgochev, I. Bautin, B. Mazurin and others) and a significant amount of the collection is comprised of materials about the creation and activities of the Memorial Society, from the end of the 1980s up to the present day.
Since 1994, Memorial have been working to compile an electronic archive of the history of repression. At the start of 2015, this electronic digest contained more than eighty-five thousand entries. The data in the electronic archive is formed from more than sixty of the main constituent areas of the archive and features biographical data, information about public and professional activities and details of types and incidences of repression. The database also serves as an archival catalogues and allows Memorial to respond more easily to the many requests from researchers and others looking to access the archives.
Head of the Archive: A. G. Kozlova
This archive is the largest collection of documents about the history of dissent in post-Stalinist Russia and one of the largest in the world. It contains 84 endowments and 43 collections, as well as a photo archive and a collection of rare and less widely circulated publications. The entire archive contains around three hundred thousand pages and is based on three main endowments:
- The Chronicle archive, founded in New York in 1973 by V. Chalidze, E. Klein and P. Redavej
- The personal archive of journalist and human rights defender Kronad Lyubarsky, based on materials from the journal Country and World, the bulletins of Taken from the USSR and The List of Political Prisoners in the USSR and
- The Leningrad Collection: a collection of literary and human rights publications collated in the 1970s
The rest of the collection includes the personal archives and materials from similar groups, such as documents from the Committee of Human Rights, the Moscow Helsinki Group, the Foundation for the Aid of Political Prisoners, the Workers’ Commission for the Investigation of the Use of Psychiatry for Political Goals and the Christian Seminar of A. Ogorodnikov and V. Poresh.
In addition to these and the many more like them, the collections featuring personal information contain letters, diaries, memoirs, drafts of articles and other material from dissenters such as A. Amalrika, Y. Galanskova, P. Grigorenko, A. Eselnina-Volpina, A. Kosterina, V. Krasina, Y. Kiseleva, A. Marchenko, V. Nekipelova and F. Svetova. This archival record of personal affairs contains documents from over 350 individuals connected with dissent in the Soviet Union.
The archive also contains photocopies of around 13,000 registration forms from political prisoners in the Mordovsky and Permsky camps and the Vladimirsky prison (all of which solely contained individuals convicted of political and dissent-related activities after March 1953). This collection forms an important source for researchers of political and public opposition activity and the repressive policies in the USSR from the 1950s through to the 1980s.
Many of the archive materials related to dissent are available in multiple formats: typewritten, photocopied, in illustrated homemade albums, etc.. The archive also contains unique examples of letters from exile printed on diverse fabrics, tape recordings secretly made in the camps and similar clandestine means of communication. Additionally, the collection houses some 5,000 photographs.
Head of the archive: T. M. Khromova
This archive is a collection of the materials used by Memorial’s Polish Programme, which looks at the repression of Poles and Polish citizens from the 1930s through to the 1950s.
This programme is a joint project of Memorial and the CARTA Centre [Poland]. Its electronic archive will, on completion, contain around 130 thousand pieces of biographical information.
Head of the Archive: A. E. Guryanov
This archive contains a collection of materials related to the activities of Memorial’s Victims of Two Dictators programme, which is dedicated to the fates of those Soviet citizens forcibly sent to work in Germany during World War II. This archive contains information on around four hundred thousand former Ostarbeiter [individuals dragooned into forced labour in the Third Reich upon the occupation of states formerly to the east of Germany], many of whom were then also subject to repression after their return to the USSR.
This archive contains biographical information on the Ostarbeiter, their letters and memoirs, documents handed out by the German administration (identification, books with employment records, certificates, travel documents, etc.), documents regarding their repatriation, information from the USSR’s state and departmental archives, details of the investigations carried out by the International Red Cross and more personal documents, including photographs, letters and postcards sent home from the camps.
The materials in this archive also form the basis of a separate database, containing information on the living arrangements and work of the Ostarbeiter within the territories of the Third Reich.
Programme Coordinator and Head of the Archive: S. N. Tsibulskaya
Since 1999, Memorial (together with the Union of Russian Historians, the Department of Regional History and Local Studies at the Russian State University for the Humanities and the D. S. Likhachev Foundation [St. Petersburg]) has held an annual national competition for senior students called The Individual in History. Russia in the Twentieth Century. This historical research competition is part of of the Eustory network of international historical competitions and the competition’s best works are published and added to Memorial’s collections.
The archive contains around 20 thousand student projects from 87 different regions within Russia and in many cases the projects also include collections of unique documents from state and family archives. As part of the competition, students have written down thousands of recollections from people who witnessed or participated in the drama of the twentieth century. Often, the students involved have been able to create audiovisual records, which have then been included in the archive.
This archive also houses a database containing information about the projects’ authors and subjects.
Head of the Collection: A. G. Papovyan
The Centre of Oral History and Biographies collects, researches and publishes information on the oral history of the USSR. The centre’s main foci are political repression under the Soviet Union and the Third Reich, everyday life within these regimes and gender and gender history during this epoch. Educational seminars are often held using the centre’s resources and its employees participate in conferences and other projects related to the centre’s thematic strengths. Materials collected by the centre are passed on to the main archive.
Two of the centre’s projects, A Woman’s Memory of the Gulag and Children of A.L.Z.I.R, contain around 200 interviews, thousands of documents, photographs, memoirs, letters and diaries, illustrating the fate of the wives of “traitors of the homeland”, who were sent to concentration camps without trial and whose children were forcibly separated from their families and made to grow up in children’s homes. These materials, in particular the oral testimonies, offer us an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the history of mothers in the gulags and the effect their imprisonment had on the lives and fates of their children, allowing us a glimpse of the traumata faced by those Soviet families who were deemed to be hostile to the regime.
The Survivors of Mauthausen and Forced Labour in National-Socialist Germany projects are dedicated to collecting data and information on those who were driven into forced labour in Germany. In the last few years, Memorial has been able to record approximately 300 audio and video interviews with former concentration camp prisoners and Ostarbeiter, discussing not only the tragic upheaval they endured during the war, but also their continued discrimination and degradation in the post-war period.
Memorial also runs The Last Witness project in association with Memorial Germany. This project carries out a series of interviews with the victims and witnesses of Soviet totalitarianism, whose recordings are then published on the project’s site.
Head of the Centre: I. L. Sherbakova
The Collection of Audiovisual Materials began in the early 1990s and contains over 2,000 items. Among these items are discussions of Memorial’s activities and interviews with historians, former political prisoners and other public and political figures. Memorial are in the process of developing an electronic catalogue for this collection and hope to be able to offer digital access in the near future.
Curator of the Audiovisual Archive: Y. V. Reifsheinder.
Contact information and opening hours:
The Memorial Society’s main archive:
Address: 127006, Moscow, Karetny Ryad, building 5/10
Archive of the History of Political Repressions in the USSR
Visiting Hours are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 to 19:00.
The reading hall is open weekdays from 11:00 to 19:00.
Please endeavour to make a preliminary appointment before visiting this section of the archive
Archive of the History of Dissent in the USSR
Open weekdays from 14:00 to 18:00
Access by prescheduled appointment only. Please use the contact information below