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Using the online Moscow files

Please note that, as of early 2020, RGASPI have rearranged their website. I have put together a new blogpost that should help you locate the files you’re after.

If you are looking for information on one of the 2500 or so British and Irish volunteers for the Spanish Civil War, it’s well worth considering tackling the RGASPI Archives, held in Moscow. In an amazing piece of good fortune for researchers, all the personnel files (or those that exist, at least) now seem to have been placed online. The majority of the documents are in English, though quite a few are in Spanish and a smaller number in French and German. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the website itself is all in Russian. However, if you know how to use the web, it’s not that difficult to negotiate. (And if you use Google Chrome, you can download the Google translate extension and convert the Cyrillic to English with a click.)

First, go to the home page of the 545/6 series here. You should be presented with something like this:

The first page of RGASPI’s 545/6 files

As you can see from the image, the files are in numerical order, with up to 50 listed on each page. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you will notice that you are looking at page number 1 of 33. The first of the British personnel files is on page number 3: file number 100, covering surnames from Aa to Ai (though the numerous lists contained in files 87-99 might also be worth looking at). Clicking the name of a file will take you to a summary, as shown in the screenshot below.

N.B. Top tip: if you intend to look at a number of different files, don’t left click on the file number from the index page. Instead, right click the link and select ‘Open Link in New Tab’ or ‘Open Link in New Window’. That way you keep open your original index page, rather than being returned to the first page each time. I found that this saved me a lot of time and hassle.

Summary of each file (here number 100 Aa-Ai)

From the file summary page, click on the link halfway down the page marked ‘”Cyrillic text” 84’, which will take you to the first of five pages. From there it’s really just a process of browsing through until you find the individual you’re looking for. While some volunteers have extremely large, detailed files, others consist of little more than a mention. In general, the later they arrived in Spain and the longer they were there, the more detail there will be. Not so good if you’re looking for one of the many volunteers killed at Jarama in February 1937, unfortunately.

Copying files is a slow and laborious process I’m afraid as, as far as I can see, it has to be done one image at a time. If you find a better way, do please let me know!

p.s. For those looking for other nationalities in the predominantly English-speaking 15 International Brigade: Australian & New Zealander files begin at 545/6/67, Irish at 545/6/439, Canadians at 545/6/534 and Americans at 545/6/845 (though the first personnel file, Aa-Ai, is not until 545/6/855)

Good luck!


David Convery

If using google chrome you can download Google translate as an extension and then voila, with one click the Russian becomes English.


That is an even topper tip. Thanks!

Brian Curragh

Use of the Translate extension opens up some wonderful research opportunities – thanks of that.


Glad to be of help! BW, Richard

Gus Daubenspeck – Frank and Elizabeth

[…] find out a bit more about Gus Daubenspeck from these files myself, and so  – using the very helpful guide from Richard Baxwell’s website – I have just had a look through the information held there about […]

Raymond Hoff

Great Tutorial, Richard.

One note for those who might get frustrated, Opis 5 is only available as an index and the photographs are not on line. However, many of the photos of the Russian archive are available through the ALBA archives:

Opis 1-3 are tiered: Opis 1 are documents at the IB Command level (largely Andre Marty and Luigi Longo’s correspondence to and from), Opis 2 are documents from the Albacete base command (largely Bielov and Vidal) and Opis 3 are command documents of the individual units of the 35th and 45th Divisions. The latter are very useful to place the individual units day by day.

Josh Flinton


I have been trying to access these sources recently but have been having some trouble with the website. A different page loads up from the link and I cannot seem to find a way to the documents. I wonder whether it is no longer possible to view these online.

I would be very grateful for any assistance you can offer.


Pratyay Banerjee

Dear Sir,
The index of the RGASPI contains a folder entitled V.I. Lenin’s Documents on Activities in the International Communist and Workers’ Movement. This folder contains letter of Abani Mukherjee to Lenin on the political situation in British India. Is it possible to view the document ?
With regards
Pratyay Banerjee

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