In May we received an email from a colleage about the website Pamyat Naroda (Memory of the People).
The site was created by the government of the Russian Federation in anticipation of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and within the site are the military archives of the soldiers of the Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, etc).
The very first thing we did when we opened the site was to put in grandfather's name. Grandpa was trained to speak German and he served in the Special Forces during the war. He often went on reconnaisance patrols behind Nazi lines and on occasion kidnapped Nazi officers for interrogation on the Soviet side of the border.
We found his record within 60 seconds and in it we found his enlistment record, unit assignments, war medals, discharge date, even an enlistment photo of him! We also see that his record was marked Secret (probably because of his role in the Special Forces) and was only declassified in 1997. While purely speculation on my part, it is possible that a lot of the World War II records were declassified in order to include them in this site and unveiling in 2000.
A click on one of grandpa's units pulled up the unit history and copies of its log books (unit journals). In the log books we find weekly and monthly talies of the units strength, disposition, location, battles, maps, charts, and more.
The image above is the actual battle map drawn by one of the members of the unit for battles fought against the Nazis on New Year's Eve, 1943/44. It and many others were found in the unit's log books.
From each member's record are found links to the units served in and in additon to the unit journals there is also a map that lays out a plot of the location where each journal was made in order that you can follow the unit's progress during each movement in the war.
The site is done very well and in my estimation rivals Ancestry.com or Family Search in terms of its information and document integration. As I reviewed grandpa's unit roster I found that each name on the roster was hyperlinked and a click would take me to the record of that soldier. You can also download the images and save them to your computer.
Looking further at each record that was attached to grandpa's page we found the orders for each of the medals that he was awarded. I was able to find each medal in Wikipedia or other Soviet military sites and read the criteria for them.
We then searched for grandma's record and found it in minutes. She was attached to a Special Forces unit and she worked as a fires coordinator. The modern title in the US military for this job is a JTAC (Joint terminal attack controller, pronounced "jay-tack"). Her unit's mission was to coordinate artillery notifications from the front line units back to the artillery units in the back. The use of radios was impossible: as soon as your radio position was triangulated you would be on the receiving end of an artillery barrage. Instead, spools of wire were run all the way up to the front line where controllers who were trained in ordering artillery fire would call strikes on Nazi positions when enemy units were spotted. Because the front lines shifted you might find yourself laying wire to a unit that is no longer there and has been displaced by an enemy unit. It was a dangerous job.
Grandma survives to this day and is 98 years old as of this writing. She received a medal from the government earlier this year (75 year anniversary medal) and she was one of only a few to receive it.
We next looked up the uncles and found them all without trouble. I was very impressed with how many records were included. The site has sub-pages for:
* Heroes (veterans)
* Combat operations
* Military Graves
* War Units
* Unit documentation
* User's Histories
On the user's histories pages families can create a memorial for their ancestor:
Because almost every military-aged man served in World War II, and many women too, this website is likely to have many (most) of the men who lived within the borders of the Soviet Union in the years 1939 to 1945. Those dates are not inclusive, we found other records prior to World War II and some in the 1950's. The site is for World War II but some of the personnel records we found pre and post-dated the war. I haven't finished my search(es) yet so I don't know how far back this site has records for.
I have linked to the English version of the home page but most of the records and pages are in Russian. If you don't speak Russian, I recommend a translation plugin or else copy and paste each URL to the Google Translate page.
If you have any relatives that fought in the war on the Russian or Soviet side, this website is a wonderful genealogical research tool. Good luck in your searches!
I hope that some will find this post helpful. I will update the Slavic Roots Project and its sub-projects to include this valuable resource.
Edit to add: I forgot to mention, the website is absolutely FREE!