Important Stories. The Russian Army in Ukraine is accused of destroying archives on Soviet and Nazi crimes [Spektr.press]
Soldiers of the Red Army and Wehrmacht during a joint parade in Polish Brest on 22 September 1939. Source: WikiMedia Commons

4 December 2023

Russian soldiers are destroying or stealing Ukrainian historical documents from archives in the occupied and front-line territories. So writes Important Stories citing a report by the the Arolsen Archives, the International Center on Nazi Persecution.

Source: Spektr.press


Russian soldiers are destroying or stealing Ukrainian historical documents from archives in the occupied and front-line territories. So writes Important Stories citing a report by the the Arolsen Archives, the International Center on Nazi Persecution.

According to Unesco information, the Russian Army has destroyed 331 historically or culturally significant structures in Ukraine. This includes 29 museums, 13 libraries, and one archive. The Arolsen Archive asserts that at the present time at least five archives in the country have suffered: in Chernihiv, Mykolaiv, and Kherson, as well as in Velyka Oleksandrivka and in Vysokopillia in Kherson Oblast. A building in the last of these was mined and cannot be entered. It has been half-looted.

The documents describe the Nazis’ crimes during the occupation of Ukraine in the years 1941-1944, including the looting of Ukrainian cultural treasures, crimes of the Holocaust, the forcible relocation of Ostarbeiters, and also Wehrmacht administrative files and documents about the actions of Soviet authorities in Ukraine in the postwar period. 

They note that the surviving documents in the buildings damaged by bombings might be lost for good this winter due to mold and destroyed in the snow and rain. At the same time, the equipment for digitizing documents is often stolen by Russian forces, too.

In February of this year, the Kherson Oblast military administration reported on Russian soldiers looting the State archive in Kherson. According to Irina Lopushinskaya, director of the Kherson Oblast State Archive, Russian soldiers removed archive documents over the course of a week, for which they used eight 20-ton trucks. State Archive employees were able to rescue some of the most valuable documents and hide them in their homes.

The fact that Russian troops are destroying archives in Ukraine has been asserted as well by the Ukrainian journalist and historian Olena Pryimach, who lives in Sumi. According to her, a bomb fell on the archive where she was working, studying documents from the times of the Stalin terror.

Pryimach notes that in Ukraine the archives are open, and she was given access to NKVD files by the SBU [Ukrainian Security Service]. According to the researcher, during the Great Terror, 42 people from an underground organization were executed in Sumi. In another case, 20 Jews were repressed.

Pryimach decided to perpetuate the memory of those repressed, including in cases in which a troika issued the decisions. She collaborated with Last Address, a Russian organization, in the work of installing memorial plaques on buildings where repressed people had lived. In Russia, however, since the war in Ukraine started, the Last Address plaques have begun to be taken down.


Translated by Marian Schwartz

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