Project Description


Welcome to the “Trapped in Archives of Repression: Personal Letters in ex-KGB Archives” webpage. This webpage provides access to the top secret documents related to postal control over private correspondence in the USSR: instructions for postal censors, monthly reports, special reports, and special summaries of military censorship units and political control (perlustration) units, mostly covering the period between 1938 and 1947. Most of them have never been published or even used by scholars before. All archival materials published on this page are currently housed at the Sectoral State Archive of Security Service of Ukraine (Галузевий державний архів Служби безпеки України, HDA SBU).

This webpage is part of a project that originated in 2020 as a collaboration between the Kule Folklore Centre (KuFC), the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), and the Sectoral State Archive of Security Service of Ukraine (HDA SBU). Over the years, this project was supported by the Kule Institute for Advanced Study (KIAS), the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta (MLCS), and the Alberta Society for Advancement in Ukrainian Studies (ASAUS).

The collapse of the communist regime in Central and Eastern Europe, and the opening of its secret service archives, led to a profound and paradigmatic shift in historical research focusing on the region. Informed also by recent fundamental changes in human communication within the digital domain, this profound shift in the production of historical knowledge triggered unparalleled interest in personal records once confiscated by secret services of socialist states. Especially growing is the interest in the repressed personal letters research. On one end, the 21st-century researchers are eager to engage with the repressed documents of the socialist past. “Trapped in Archives of Repression: Personal Letters in ex-KGB Archives” is the first phase in the long-term team initiative that aims to generate new analytical tools and framework for the analysis of state-confiscated personal correspondence still in possession of various former state-security archives in the countries of the former USSR. The core practical goal of the project is to facilitate access to archival holdings related to postal control over private correspondence through the digitalization of documents and the creation of online access points. It is also essential to provide English translations for scholars working outside of the area of Slavic or post-Soviet studies, as well as the general public.

Types of ex-KGB archival documents related to personal correspondence
Between 1938 and 1947, two different postal control systems were practiced by the Soviet security services: military censorship and the so-called “PK”. Military censorship existed between 1940 and 1946: it was introduced after the Finnish-Soviet war broke out in 1939 and cancelled in 1946 after the end of WW2. After 1946 it continued to monitor the correspondence of military personnel. Military censorship was catchall (applied to all correspondence), it was also open (overt) and after monitoring every letter was marked with a special stamp. “PK” (standing for “political control” and often also referred to as “perlustration”) was secret (covert) and selective. Every month each postal control site, be it military censorship or “PK”, confiscated thousands of letters. The confiscated letters were kept only for a few months, after that, they were destroyed. A scholar interested in postal control of private correspondence and working at the ex-KGB archives typically has access to censorship instructions, “monthly reports”, “special reports”, and “special summaries”. Monthly reports were compiled by the head office of security services (in our case, the NKGB and later the MGB of the Ukrainian SSR) reporting to the head office in Moscow. The monthly reports typically contained numerous excerpts from letters subject to confiscation in Russian translation. Special reports were usually dedicated to one or a chain of confiscated letters, they contained excerpts from confiscated letters in Russian translation, or, in some cases, full letters in translation or original. Special summaries reported on particular themes, e.g. “On the facts of response to fascist aggression” (1938) or “On persons who cohabited [had intercourse] with the German occupiers” (1944). This webpage provides access to a selection of documents from each group housed at HDA SBU.
What is published on this page?

One of the practical goals of “Trapped in Archives of Repression: Personal Letters in ex-KGB Archives” was to assist in providing online access to the documents housed in Sectoral State Archive of Security Service of Ukraine (Галузевий державний архів Служби безпеки України, HDA SBU) and related to the postal censorship of private correspondence in the USSR. The location of the documents in the HDA SBU is given in the following format: # of the fund – number of the inventory – number of the file, page numbers.

On this webpage, we publish documents collected during a 4-year work on the project. For all documents, the originals (pdf files) are provided. The documents were collected at different project stages and with different purposes, they range between 1938 and 1991. We also provide transcripts and English translations for the majority of these documents. The translations were also created at different project stages and with different purposes; they range from fully prepared for publication to interlinear translations. All the translations are true to the originals and could be used to access the content of the documents published on this webpage.

List of abbreviations
Contact Us

All files are available upon request. 

Please contact Jelena Pogosjan ( or Natalia Khanenko-Friesen (