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8 May, 2008 01:06

Internet opens window on WW2 victims

A database is being set up to help Russians discover the fate of their family members after WW2. Information on thousands of those who died during WW2 – their military ranks, dates and causes of death, and burial places – is now free

While exact figures vary, at least 30 million Russians died in WW2 – the largest number of casualties from any nation.

A lot of data about the war dead was lost or became classified and many people still don’t know what happened to their relatives.

“Before this database existed, the archive would receive up to a million enquiries a year. But an archive's job is to store data, not to do research. So they could answer the simple queries, but the more complicated ones yielded no results. Now, all this has changed, though our work is never complete,” Andrey Taranov, Deputy Chief of the War Memorial Centre of the Russian Army, said.

The records collected in the Unified Database ‘Memorial’ are not new, but for decades it was difficult or impossible to gain access to them. It took thousands of hours and more than $ US 10 million to develop this unique project.

Now information is free access on the Internet, and relatives can see scanned copies of the documents from archives containing information about their loved ones.