Czechoslovaks in Gulag website now in more language versions

The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (ÚSTR) is launching English, Russian and Ukrainian versions of the Czechoslovaks in the Gulag website. The site is the result of cooperation between Czech, Ukrainian and Russian historians and archivists. It gives people in other countries access to research into documentation on political repression of expatriates (not only Czechs, but also Ukrainians, Germans, Ruthenians, Jews, Hungarians and Slovaks) in the USSR.

“Alongside a brief outline of the history or repression, we focus on the website on portraits of Czech authors of labour camp memoirs, interviews with Gulag survivors, links to specialist and popularising articles, publications, exhibitions, video recordings of discussions, and documentary films produced by ÚSTR. Those interested in the theme will also find links to related projects,” says ÚSTR historian Adam Hradilek, head of the research project on repression of expatriates on the territory of the former Soviet Union. “We regularly update the photo gallery on the site, though it shows a mere fragment of the thousands of documents that we have gathered within the project,” Hradilek adds.

ÚSTR has been mapping the persecution of Czechoslovak citizens and persons of Czech origin in the USSR since its inception in 2008. It has recorded dozens of interviews with survivors and the family members of victims of Soviet repression and acquired a large volume of documents, photographs and manuscripts of memoirs from family archives. Research is carried out at domestic and foreign archives, including those of former Soviet security services in post-Soviet states, particularly Ukraine. With its Ukrainian partners (Archive of the Security Service of Ukraine – HDA SBU, State Archival Service of Ukraine, State Archives of the Transcarpathian Oblast), ÚSTR set up digital work centres in Lviv and Uzhhorod, where it processes relevant documents from all regions of Ukraine. Alongside thousands of persecuted refugees from the Nazis from 1939–1941, this concerns, for instance, documentation on hundreds of expatriates executed during the Great Terror in 1937–1938, victims of the Sovietisation of Carpathian Ruthenia and persons abducted to the Soviet Union from Czechoslovakia after 1945. Research in Russia to date has centred on the state archives in Moscow and the Sverdlovsk Oblast; the NGO Memorial is a key local partner for research into the repression of Czechoslovak expatriates.

The cataloguing, archiving and making accessible of hundreds of thousands of NKVD and KGB documents is the aim of The Digital Archive of NKVD/KGB Documents Relating to Czechoslovak History, a three-year project of ÚSTR and the Department of Cybernetics at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. The project will result in an online archive of documents and photographs from the Soviet Security Services in which it will be possible to conduct searches on the basis of content of documents, names, dates and geographical data.

ÚSTR is also involved in commemorating the victims of repression in the public space. In the Czech Republic it coordinates the project Last Address, which traces the life stories of victims of the Communist regime. In autumn 2018 representatives of ÚSTR and the Czech Embassy in Ukraine honoured the memory of Czechs executed in Zhytomyr in the biggest mass execution of persons of Czech origin on the territory of the former USSR.