Moscow’s Gulag History Museum, a museum studying Soviet prison camps, said on June 8th it had discovered a secret Russian order in 2014 instructing officials to destroy the registration cards of prisoners, a move which, “could have catastrophic consequences for studying the history of the camps,” it said.
According to AP, case files of the Gulag prisoners were often destroyed but their personal data was kept on registration cards, which are still held by police and intelligence officials.
Up to 17 million people were sent to the Gulag, the notorious Soviet prison camp system, in the 1930s and 1940s. At least five million of them were convicted on false charges.
Alexander Makeyev, the museum’s archive expert, told the Interfax agency they discovered that the cards had been destroyed in one region, the remote Magadan oblast in the Far East of Russia, home to some of the Soviet Union’s biggest prison camps.
The Gulag History Museum said it has appealed to the Russian presidential human rights council to look into the secret order. The leader of the nationalist Liberal Democrat Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, said on social media that historical “archives should be opened to the public, not destroyed” and that Russians should be able to know the truth about their past.