Alexander Bogopolsky

Alexander Bogopolsky was born on January 16, 1902 in Astrakhan and died on November 4, 1938 in Krasnodar, in a city prison.
The name Alexander is a non-Hebrew name, but used by Jews, and has a very interesting origin, going back to Alexander the Great. See the sidebar for more.

Alexander became a doctor, married twice, and had a son, Maior (Meyer, Meir), who served as Shipmaster in the Russian Merchant Marine. Alexander was denounced during the Stalinist purges of the Great Terror and subsequently shot.

From 1919 to 1921 Alexander served in the army. In 1922 he became a student at the Astrakhan State Medical Institute. He graduated from the institute in 1927.

In all likelihood, Alexander was a very active person. During his studies at the institute, he was a member of a football team, and worked as a correspondent in a newspaper.

Alexander married Graina (Grune) Peysakhovich on November 18, 1925 in Astrakhan. Graina was 2 years older than Alexander. According to our sources, she did not work, but was a housewife. On August 25, 1930, Alexander and Graina divorced. Unfortunately, we do not know the reason for the divorce. After the divorce, Graina returned to Astrakhan. On January 11, 1931 Meir was born in Astrakhan. Graina never remarried. According to Meir, he and his mother were very poor and led a hard life. But in that period their situation was not unusual, and many people lived extremely hard lives in the Soviet Union. Alexander lived in Kislovodsk for a few years and later moved to Novorossiysk. His relationship with his son deteriorated, but we have few details.

Although Graina’s name is not Jewish, we know for sure that Graina was Jewish and that information about her birth is indicated in the official records of Jewish births. Graina is possibly an Irish name. For example:áinne

At home her family called her Grunya or Grune, a name found among both Jews and Russians. Therefore, at a time when being a Jew could be dangerous, such a name was very neutral.

Meir was probably named in honor of Meir Gorokhovsky, the grandfather of Golda Bogopolsky, Alexander’s mother. The meaning of the name Meir is “emitting light”. But possibly in order to remove the Jewish connotation, he used the name Major, as in the military rank.

After graduating from the medical institute, Alexander and Graina moved to Novorossiysk. Alexander was a doctor and worked in a clinic. We have many photos of Alexander, Graina, Isaac and his wife in Novorossiysk. From the photos, it seems they had a good life.

After the divorce, Alexander married again. Unfortunately we do not have a date. His second wife was named Antonina. They lived together until the Alexander’s arrest and subsequent death in 1938. They had no children. After his divorce, Alexander apparently did not communicate regularly with his siblings and parents, and the family only found out about his second wife after his death. In fact, they did not even learn what had happened to Alexander when he first disappeared. We do not know why this break occurred. Perhaps because Antonina was not Jewish, and therefore the marriage would not be approved of by his father and mother.

Alexander was trained as an epidemiologist. In 1937 or 1938 he was denounced by someone and accused of having drugs (state property) in his home. On March 16, 1938, at the height of Stalin’s purges, Alexander was arrested. He was also accused of being a spy and having transmitted secret information to the intelligence services of England, Greece and Italy. Many years after his death, he was exonerated, and, like so many others, the charges against him were nonsense. What secrets would a doctor know that three countries would pay to obtain? From March to November 1938, Alexander was in a Krasnodar prison. None of the family knew about his arrest, he simply disappeared. According to our information, Antonina gave up her married name after Alexander’s arrest, probably to avoid being arrested herself. Grune and Meir were spared any consequences of their association with Alexander, probably as a result of the divorce.

On October 4, 1938, a special court completed the trial and found Alexander guilty of espionage, and sentenced him to death. On November 4, 1938, Alexander was shot. He was 36 years old.

1937-1939 were years of terrible repression in Russia. A huge number of people were shot, even more people were sent to internal exile in the Gulag, a system of special prisons in Siberia. There, they were worked to death, or died of hunger, cold or disease.

In 1953, Meir began a search for his father. Someone told him that perhaps Alexander had been arrested and shot. 1953 was the year of the death of Stalin. After his death, many people began to look for their murdered or missing relatives. In 1960, the Military Tribunal re-examined the criminal case of Alexander Bogopolsky. His testimony was checked and the court came to the conclusion that there was no evidence of his guilt. And Alexander Bogopolsky in 1960 was posthumously acquitted by the court.

This court was a very important matter. Thousands were posthumously acquitted and rehabilitated for crimes they had never committed. In Alexander’s case, it took seven years of requests by Meir to the Prosecutor’s Office to achieve a review of this case.

By that time it as widely known that in 1937-39 thousands of illegal court decisions were made. In addition, it was very important for Meir to prove that his father was not a spy, because living in the USSR with the status of the son of a spy was itself very dangerous.

Unfortunately we do not know anything about the fate of Alexander’s second wife. And, other than the above, we know very little about Alexander, about his life, his youth, his education and his time as a doctor.

We have several official documents from KGB archives concerning Alexander’s arrest, sentencing and execution, together with his eventual exoneration. In the future we hope to be able to offer translations.


Alexander as a Jewish name

According to one story, when Alexander ruled the Levant, he had a rule (later emulated by the Romans). In all temples of the occupied countries there had to be a monument to him. For the Jews, this was impossible. The temple could contain nothing but the altar to Yahweh. They would prefer to die, rather than accede to this demand. For Alexander, this also presented a problem. The refusal of the Jews could be seen as defiance and he could not afford to allow it.

At this point the priests of Israel offered a solution to the impass. As a sign of respect, they offered to name all boys who were born in the year of Alexander’s occupation of the country with the name Alexander. For Alexander, this was acceptable and he allowed the Jews to keep the temple as it was.

Other stories repeat the same theme with variations, usually centered around the ancient quarrel between Jews and Samaritans. For example, Alexander arrived first in Samaria, where he gave permission to the Samaritans to destroy the temple at Jerusalem. Simon the Just, hearing this, appears before the king, at which point Alexander bows before him. Astonished, the Samaritans ask why, to which Alexander answers that he has had a vision of Simon and that Simon’s God has promised him victory. He then turns the Samaritan priests over to the Jews, who murder them horribly, and promises that their religion and practices will be protected. In thanks, the rabbis decree that boys born in that year will be named Alexander.

Either way, the presence of someone named Alexander in a Jewish family harkens back to an ancestor who was born in the year of the capture of Israel by Alexander the Great.


Alexander – Documents

With the help of Alexander’s descendants, we are in the process of assembling photos, documents and other information about his life, his arrest, execution and eventual rehabilitation.

Alexander – Photos

With the help of Alexander’s descendants, we are in the process of assembling photos, documents and other information about his life, his arrest, execution and eventual rehabilitation.