KGB report (Semichastny). Change in procedures for informing relatives about prisoners’ date of execution in the Stalin era (4 pp). [R 25 December 1962, 3265-S]
[page one of three]
USSR Committee for State Security [KGB]
of the USSR Council of Ministers
25 December 1962, No. 3265-S
To the CPSU Central Committee
In 1955, with the knowledge and consent of the relevant authorities and in agreement with the USSR Prosecutor’s Office, the Committee for State Security issued Instruction No 108 ss to all KGB bodies, with the procedures to be followed when processing citizens’ inquiries about persons who were shot in accordance with the decisions of extra-judicial authorities (the former OGPU Board, the OGPU-NKVD-UNKVD troikas, and the NKVD Commission and the USSR Procurator). In accordance with that Instruction, KGB bodies inform the convicted persons’ families that they were sentenced to 10 years in corrective-labour camps and died there; if need be, when dealing with lawsuits concerning property and other claims, the death of a convict is placed on record at the registry office and the applicant is issued a certificate with the date of death kept within 10 years from the date of arrest, and with fictitious causes of death.
The reason for establishing this practice was that a large number of individuals were unjustly convicted during the period of mass repression , and information about their real fate, therefore, might have a negative effect on the position of their families. Furthermore, it was considered that informing family members of those who had been shot of the true fate of their relatives might be used by certain hostile elements to the detriment of the interests of the Soviet State.
The existing practice of giving out fictitious information for the most part concerns those Soviet citizens who were innocent and shot on the decision of extra-judicial bodies during the period of mass repression.
[page two] 2.
As a result of the re-examination of criminal cases from 1954 to 1961 about half of the total numbers shot by extra-judicial decisions have been rehabilitated. Relatives of the majority of them have been told details of their deaths, which supposedly occurred where they were detained, and these details do not correspond to reality.
After the work of the CPSU Central Committee to expose the unlawful acts committed during the period of Stalin’s Cult of Personality, we believe it necessary to change the existing procedures of processing citizens’ inquiries about their relatives.
Providing citizens with fictitious dates and causes of death of their dear ones puts the state security bodies in a false position, especially when the dates of death of people previously held in esteem by the Party and State are published in the press. Moreover, the registration of the deaths of individuals shot by the decisions of extra-judicial authorities with fictitious terms in places of confinement, places their families on unequal terms with those of persons sentenced to death by a court of law when determining their pensions.
Soviet people have been informed about the mass violations of socialist justice, and the reasons for instituting in 1955 the procedures for notifying the relatives as to what happened to the repressed members of their family are no longer valid.
In view of the above, we believe it expedient: to verbally notify citizens enquiring about the fate of relatives, sentenced in extra-judicial fashion to be shot, of the actual circumstances of the death of those people; and to record at registry offices their death as the date of execution without specifying the cause of death, as is the practice of the Military Board of the USSR Supreme Court
[page four – page three is a duplicate of page two] 3.
with regard to persons sentenced to be shot in accordance with a court verdict.
At the same time, we shall not extend these procedures to persons about whom answers were given in accordance with the currently effective procedures for processing such inquiries.
Notification of citizens about the true cause of death of convicted persons will be made to members of their families, who have the right to a pension due to the loss of breadwinner, and provides entitlement to apply for this pension on preferential terms as relatives of a person who died in an accident at work or was killed in the line of duty.
It should be noted that the numbers of inquiries about persons convicted in extra-judicial fashion have been decreasing each year (56,225 in 1959 compared to 8,018 registered during 8 months of 1962).
In our view it is not expedient to alter the procedures established by the 5 December 1959 Resolution of the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers (Minutes No 37): notifying the dates of death of those sentenced to be shot in accordance with the circumstances of each case, but not earlier than the date of execution and not later than 10 years from the day of arrest.
This proposal has been agreed with the USSR Procurator’s Office and the Supreme Court of the USSR.
We request your consideration.
Chairman of the Committee for State Security [KGB]
 “period of mass repression”, a euphemism referring to the Great Terror from August 1937 to November 1938 when 1.5 million were arrested, over half of whom were convicted by extra-judicial bodies in their absence and without legal representation and then shot and buried in concealed locations.
1. Notes and additions by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
2. Text added by hand is indicated in italic script;
3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been inserted
in a previously typed document it is indicated by underlined italic script.
Translation, GS & JC