Russia's Interior Ministry says it is digitizing thousands of registration cards of prisoners caught up in the Soviet-era gulag camp system, not destroying them as historians warned.
The ministry released its statement on June 13, about a week after a Russian researcher first made the charge that the records were being destroyed.
According to historians, the registration cards contain key information about people caught up in the sprawling prison camp system that existed for decades during the Soviet era.
The Moscow-based Gulag History Museum, considered the country’s foremost exhibition of the prison camp system, said earlier this month that researcher Sergei Prudovsky had discovered a directive from 2014 ordering the destruction of the cards.
The issue caught the attention of the Kremlin-backed Presidential Human Rights Council, whose chairman said such a move would be "barbaric."
There was no immediate reaction to the Interior Ministry’s announcement by the history museum.
Concern about the archival records comes as Russian authorities have downplayed the horrors of the Soviet camp system, and the system of repression overseen by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
President Vladimir Putin has openly lamented the demise of the Soviet Union, and sought to highlight positive aspects, such as the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
As many as 17 million people were sent to the camps, with an estimated 2 million being held at their peak in the 1930s and 1940s.
Among the best-known accounts of the camps' horrors was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s epic history The Gulag Archipelago.