In my previous post, I briefly mentioned criminal cases. This time I want to write more about them. What are criminal cases and where to look for them?
Criminal cases or political cases?
Many families have stories about a relative who disappeared without a trace in 1940 or someone who was arrested in the 1950s and sent to a camp in Russia. For many, it was only after independence that they were able to find out about the fate of their relatives. However, the finer details of why they were arrested and convicted are often unknown.
We're talking about Latvian residents who were accused and arrested for various types of resistance against the Soviet regime, starting from 1940. According to Soviet legal terminology, all these people were accused of criminal offenses, therefore the cases are often referred to as criminal cases. In reality, these are political trials, as people were accused of "crimes against the Soviet state."
If there is someone in your family who was arrested in 1940 or immediately after the war, you may be able to find them in the Index of Arrestees.
Unfortunately, criminal files are not available online and many are subject to data protection. To see the files in person at the Latvian State Archives on Skandu Street in Riga, you will need to prove your relationship to the accused.
Exceptions are if 100 years have passed since the person was born or you have proof (death certificate) that the person died 30 years ago.
List of the Arrested
Short information about when they were arrested and what they were convicted for, as well as the archive case number, can be found in the book “From NKVD to KGB. Political Trials in Latvia 1940-1986” (In Latvian only).
Currently, the index of the accused published by the Latvian History Institute is available in the LNB Digital Library, but it might soon become unavailable due to copyright restrictions. During the pandemic years, many books were publicly available online, but this practice is no longer in place.
The book includes the following information about the accused:
Year of Birth
Place of Birth
Date of Arrest
The original cases are in Russian, often handwritten, and can be quite extensive. Especially when several people are tried in one process, the case can be in several volumes.
There you will find interrogation protocols, not only with the arrested but also with a number of witnesses. You can follow on which days and at what times (often until late at night) the accused were interrogated.
The files usually also contain a photograph of the arrested person, the verdict and information on the execution of the court decision. For example, if the death penalty was imposed, there are details of when and where the sentence was carried out. Finally, there are rehabilitation decisions from the 1990s, when many cases were reviewed and falsely accused were rehabilitated.
Although it is physically and morally difficult to work with criminal cases, what we have learned can provide some clarity and comfort.
Contact the archive
Before going to the archive, be sure to contact and check if the case is available and if you have all the necessary documents to view it.