Earlier this month, I overcame the Moscow archival bureaucracy and received scans of a Personnel File belonging to an Irish Communist whose life I have been tracing for the past year. I knew exactly what would be contained within the folder – a 41 question anketa, a formalised questionnaire that all activists who worked for the Communist International in Moscow were obliged to fill out upon arrival. As Brigitte Studer notes, the Communist International created these documents ‘not only for purposes of administration, but also for selection, supervision and monitoring’. Reading the questions, we can see how the information provided would allow Comintern administrators to funnel new staff into roles in translations, research, administration – or even espionage.

For the curious, I have translated all 41 questions, which you will find below. The anketii provide an insight into how the Communist International expected its adherents to conceptualise their own biographies. Significant events in an individual life were to be framed in the temporal world of Soviet communism, divided between that far off land before the February Revolution and the transformed reality in the wake of October. The extended question on military service also reminds us of the gendered nature of interwar communism’s ‘ideal type’. In spite of its overtures toward gender equality, this was very much a militant movement of the male raised fist.


1 + 2: Name and Family name
3: Date of Birth
4: Where did you live until the age of 20?
5: Party affiliation (Partiinost), in which Party do you belong?
6: If a member of a Communist Party, which country and what card number?
7: How long have you been in the Party?)
8 Have you previously been in a Party? (Name, where, and when)
9: What Party role did you perform:

a) Before the February Revolution?
b) Between the February and October Revolutions
c) Between the October Revolution and the Establishment of the Comintern

11: Also, what role did you perform during the October Revolution?
12: Were you part of a military regiment after the February Revolution, which one and where?
13: Education –

a)In what educational institutions did you study and when did you finish?
c) Specialisation?

14) Main profession?
15) What skills or specialisations do you know, beyond your basic profession? 
16) Nationality 
17) Citizenship 
18) Have you lived abroad, when and where?
19) What countries do you know and how well? 
20) What languages do you know (speaking, writing, reading) and how well?
21) To which class did you belong before the Revolution (Peasant, soldier, worker, etc.)?
22) Have you owned real estate, where?
23) What was the profession of your parents or guardians?
24) How many years have you been in employment?
25) Where were you working, in what roles or with which responsibilities, and how much were you being paid:

  1. Before the February Revolution
  2. Between the February and the October Revolution
  3. From the October Revolution to the founding of the Comintern

26) Where was your last place of employment and reason for leaving?
27) Date of arrival at the Comintern
28) Who provided your recommendation?
29) Have you worked here before?
30) In which union were you a member before you joined the Comintern?
31) Have you been persecuted for political affairs? (When, where and for what; what was your sentence?)

  1. Before the February Revolution
  2. From the October Revolution to the founding of the Comintern

32) Have you ever been brought to trial before the organs of the RSFSR (Soviet Russia)?
33) Have you stood before a Party court (when, why, what sentence)?
34) Have you stood before a criminal court (when, where, why) and what was the sentence?
35) Miltary duty

  1. Were you in the old army? (In which regiment, how long and what was your last rank?
  2. Military education?
  3.  Weapons training?
  4. Were you active during the war 1918-1920 in the White Army and in which role?
  5. Were you in the Red Army (When, where and in what role)?
  6. Were you on the front (on which front and for how long)?
  7.  In what parts and roles?
  8. Were you injured?
  9. Do you have any physical disabilities?
  10. What rank did you have in the Red Army at the moment of your demobilization?

36) Other military service

  1. Year of conscription
  2. When and where were you demobilised, left the army or were invalided?
  3. Which documents can you produce to hand or acquire to demonstrate demobilisation from the Red Army (Document number and when received)?
  4. Are you on the registry of the military commissariat?

37) Familial status (Single, married, widowed)
38) List all members of family by age who are able-bodied and dependent on your income
39) Do any of your relatives serve in the Executive Commission of the Communist International (who, in what department and in what capacity)?
40) Family address?
41) Your address and telephone?
The information given in this questionnaire is correct – SIGNED: _____

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