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The fate of missing Americans in Stalin’s Russia

November 8, 1997

The cases of 15 Americans who disappeared in Russia during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s and ’40s were investigated in detail by The Associated Press. Some were American born and others were naturalized Americans. A few had renounced their American citizenship at the time of their deaths. Here is what was learned of their fates:

Arthur Abolin, 28, of Boston, was executed in 1938.

Carl Abolin, 25, his brother, also of Boston, was executed the same day.

Alexander Gelver, 24, of Oshkosh, Wis., was executed in 1938.

Ivan Dubin, 26, of Pottsville, Pa., was executed in 1938.

Lovett Fort-Whiteman, 44, founder of the American Communist Party’s black affiliate, The American Negro Labor Congress, died in a Soviet gulag in 1939, about two years after his arrest.

Julius Hecker, 57, of New York City, was executed in 1938.

Frank Hrinkevich, age uncertain, a U.S. Army veteran who had lived for a time in New York City, was released after one year in a Soviet prison.

Ruth Ikal, 30, of Philadelphia, the American wife of a Russian spy, was exiled to a closed Soviet city in the south and was pleading, as late as 1958, to be alowed to return to America. Her final fate is unrecorded.

Arnold Preeden, 22, of Boston, was executed in 1938.

Walter, Preeden, 24, his brother, also of Boston, was executed the same day.

Joseph Sgovio was arrested in 1938 and spent 11 years in Soviet labor camps. His health broken, he died in Russia shortly after his release.

Thomas Sgovio, Joseph’s son, was one of the few Americans known to have survived the notorious prison camps in the Russian Far East. He was imprisoned for 16 years before his release, was allowed to return to the U.S. in 1960 and died in Phoenix last summer at age 81.

Elias Singer, 59, of New York City, was executed in 1937.

Arthur Talent, 21, of Boston, confessed to espionage after a 38-day interrogation and was executed in 1938.

Marvin Volat, 28, of Buffalo, N.Y., died in 1939 after a year at hard labor in a gulag.

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