It is far from easy to find information about repressions in Belarus. However, we can change the future only by knowing the fate of our ancestors.
"I sent 20 letters and received one answer"
Dmitry Drozd, historian-archivist, has been looking for information about repressed relatives for 10 years and created a single search engine for repressed citizens last year as well as started classes dedicated to this topic open for everyone. "EuroBelarus" Information Service talked to the researcher about how one can find needed information in the conditions of classified Belarusian departmental archives.
- I began to search, wrote 20 letters to various information centers in Russia and received one answer that my ancestors were deported to the Arkhangelsk region.
According to Dmitry, it is very difficult to find information about the repressed Belarusians, because there’s almost no documentation left.
- Village council would receive a plan: you need to get 10 kulaks. And it was decided right there whom to call kulaks this time. They would come and take people at once, or would give a day at best to get ready.
The historian explains that even if village councils had any documents about dekulakization they were usually kept for a short period of time. The main papers would be made directly at the place of exile.
Vaccination against Stalinism
Besides the kulaks there were also people executed by a firing squad. It is even more difficult to obtain information on this category of people in Belarus.
- It is an absolutely wrong and illegal situation that citizens have to go to the archives and request a case, which has been kept for more than 75 years and thus, according to the law "On archival activity", is no longer classified. It is high time the government transferred these documents to public archives, where everyone has the right to see them, regardless of whether they are a relative of the repressed or not. It's just the reluctance to let citizens be active, - believes Dmitry Drozd.
The historian managed to get rehabilitate all the members of his family. At the same time, he noted that, although after the The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union there were rulings to rehabilitate the repressed, a lot of them still did not receive this status.
- We will never know the exact number of the repressed as their families suffered as well. Therefore, we can speak about a repressed society. For this reason, I strongly believe that there is no justification of Stalinism. And when I noticed that the Stalinists began to get popular in Belarus and in Russia, I decided to create a school of search for the repressed citizens, because the knowledge of one’s family's fate is the best vaccination against Stalinism.
"Repressions broke the backbone of our society"
- I see the single search engine for repressed as a great achievement. You can simply type a surname and get information about the person. The system has all the information about the repressed available on the Internet: the databases of "Memorial", "Open list", "Radio Svaboda", Leanid Marakou and others, but we must keep in mind that it is perhaps 10% of the information, we need to digitize the rest.
The archivist has also organized workshops, where people can learn to work with files and interact with the authorities. So far, several dozen people come to the school of search of the repressed citizens. Dmitry hopes to expand the school activities. So far, the majority of students is in the process of correspondence with various authorities, and it is too early to talk about any definite results of the training yet.
- It can take months to obtain a simple reference document. I think the authorities understand what people ask for perfectly well, but do not want to admit citizens to this information. There must be pressure and interest to the topic on the part of the society.
- Unfortunately, the modern Russian and Belarusian society is interested in justifying the totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. It is very easy to awake fear in people, - explains Dmitry Drozd.- It's been over 70 years, but the sister of my grandfather still told me a couple of times: "You must not interfere, drop it." Repressions broke the backbone of our society.
In any case, it is impossible to hide any documents for ever, we will return to this question in 5 - 10 years and for sure our society will go through desovietization and decommunisation.