The Memorial International Society’s archive is a collection of documents, bearing testimony to the state-sponsored crimes and political repression of the inhabitants of the Soviet Union. Its materials – donated by the victims and their friends and relatives – document the lives of those imprisoned in the gulags, those who faced Stalinist terror, those who resisted the Soviet regime and the day-to-day difficulties faced by ordinary citizens of the USSR. It contains both written documents – including autobiographies, personal letters and tales of personal experiences – and over 2,000 audiovisual recordings, comprising interviews with historians and former political prisoners, as well as discussions about Memorial’s own activities, dating from the Soviet period to the present day.
The archive itself is divided into several collections. For a more detailed description of each sub-archive, click on the link at the bottom of this page to access a subpage relating to them.
- The Archive of the History of Political Repression in the USSR (1918-1956): Memorial’s main section, with over 60,000 personal letters, documents and recollections from the imprisoned, exiled, and repressed of the Soviet Union, as well as a collection of memoirs and other literary works from within the gulags themselves.
- The Archive of the History of Dissent in the USSR (1953-1987): Russia’s largest collection of information regarding the history of dissent in the Soviet Union. This archive contains materials from numerous organisations that struggled against the Soviet government from both within and without the borders of the USSR.
- Memorial’s Polish Programme Archive: this collection contains material from Memorial’s Polish Programme, specifically investigating crimes against Polish citizens from the 1930s through to the 1950s.
- Memorial’s The Victims of Two Dictators Archive: this collection looks at the fate of the Ostarbeiter in Germany and in the USSR, looking specifically at the fates of the hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens forced to work in Germany during World War II and their lives after the Nazi’s concentration camps.
- Memorial’s school competition archive, entitled The Individual in History. Russia in the 20th Century: a collection which features thousands of student projects from Memorial’s annual historical research competition on the history of Russia and the Soviet Union.
- The Centre of Oral History and Biographies: this centre collects and publishes information on the oral history of the USSR, organising projects around specific themes of interest. Its materials are passed on to other archives at the conclusion of each project.
- The Collection of Audiovisual Materials: Memorial’s collection of over 2,000 interviews, videos and other audiovisual materials, featuring historians, victims of repression and information about Memorial itself.
In addition to the collection and preservation of documents, Memorial’s archive is used for a wide variety of educational and historical activities. The archive frequently lends out its contents to journalists, researchers and Memorial’s regional offices, as well as other public and state organisations. Materials are also often used in Memorial’s projects and exhibitions and the archives’ staffs participate in and organise seminars, excursions and other events for schoolchildren, university students, teachers and the victims of political repression and their relatives.
One of the main functions of the archive is helping others find information about friends or relatives who were victims of Soviet human rights abuses and repression. The archive also offers help and consultations for enquiries regarding evidence of the repression or persecution of relatives, the locations of executions and places of burial and the search for documentation about rehabilitation and/or benefits. The vast majority of the archive’s collections are open access, however, there are a few minor exceptions.
Memorial does not currently have a complete online catalogue for its archive, therefore guests are encouraged to arrange appointments before visiting, so as to ensure that both the Memorial team and the desired materials are available on the proposed date of their visit.