KGB report (Semichastny), approved by Central Committee. Change in procedures for informing relatives about prisoners’ date of death in the Stalin era (4 pp). [R 25 December 1962, 3265-S] Excerpt.
[A 1955 instruction stated that citizens inquiring about the fate of those executed by the decision of extra-judicial bodies were to be told that their relatives had been “sentenced to 10 years in a corrective labour camp and died in a place of detention”.]
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 the members of the families 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.
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.
[Semichastny did not suggest that the Central Committee now admit it had been lying and tell people the whole truth. He merely recommended that those now requesting information “be told in person the real circumstances of death”. In any case their number, he wrote, was decreasing year by year. From now on “the registry office record of their death would indicate the date of execution without specifying the cause of death, as the Military Board of the USSR Supreme Court and military tribunals do when recording deaths of persons executed after a verdict in court”.]