This article is part of a larger guidebook by RuNet Echo to help people learn how to conduct open-source research on the Russian Internet. Explore the complete guidebook at the special project page.
There are numerous free and open information portals and databases available for researching individuals in Ukraine and Russia, whether you are investigating a public figure or a private individual. Information about ordinary Russians and Ukrainians can be hard to find on these databases, and sometimes the best way to locate data about such people is to look on social networks, as detailed in a previous installment to this guide. This eighth and final entry in RuNet Echo’s guide to doing open-source research on the RuNet looks at the portals and databases you can use to learn more about public figures and big-wig individuals, even if you have little or no knowledge of Russian or Ukrainian.
Information on Organizations
A handful of websites provide information about organizations registered in Russia, including non-profits, LLCs, and other companies. The website SBIS.ru is one of the best available online resources, providing information about the individuals who hold leadership positions in these bodies and the owners of the organizations. SBIS relies on public data for each category of information. For example, the “Court records” section (Суды) derives its information from the Federal Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation.
To find out what the organizational affiliations of a specific individual, search for that person’s name (with patronymic, if possible) using Google with the search parameter of “site:sbis.ru,” restricting the results to this site. For example, when searching for the Russian basketball player Andrei Kirilenko, some of the results are clearly tied to him, including details about Kirilenko serving as the president of the Russian Basketball Federation. If you speak Russian, most of this information will be fairly clear, though a bit thick in bureaucratic language. If you do not speak Russian, the categories of information are detailed below.
The website Nomer.org holds a vast amount of information, but its results are often outdated, full of gaps, and somewhat unreliable. Regardless, if you are looking for information about an individual in Russia or Ukraine, you may find some success with this site.
Nomer.org hosts a database with the addresses and dates of births of millions of Ukrainians, though much of this information is outdated and now incorrect. From the site http://nomer-org.net/allukraina/, you can input information into the green fields to refine your search:
Testing this out, we can input the name of the Ukrainian president, Petro Alekseyevich Poroshenko. In this case, Nomer.org returns accurate information:
From left to right, the information given is the person’s name, listed telephone number (Poroshenko does not a listed number), date of birth, city of residence, street, street number, building number, and apartment number.
Nomer.org also hosts a limited directory of Russian citizens, accessible by clicking the correct city or region on the website’s main page. Also available is a limited directory of the license plates in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Rostov-on-Don, and Moscow. To find information in these vehicle directories, either search within the Nomer.org search engine, or use Google, by searching the person’s name, address, license plate number, or telephone number, adding the search parameters “site:nomer.org” or “site:nomer-org.net.”
A post-Maidan anti-corruption law requires all Ukrainian public officials—including legislators, judges, prosecutors, and others—to declare their incomes. However, the law does not specify that these income declarations must be published electronically. That’s where the Declarations.com.ua project, ran by journalist and anti-corruption activist Denis Bigus and his colleagues, comes in. Relying on crowdsourced efforts, the site provides electronic copies of officials’ paper income declarations.
Unlike the sites previously described in this guide, Declarations.com.ua is written in Ukrainian, not Russian. It is nevertheless quite easy to navigate and has an intuitive interface. To search for an individual, enter their name (in Ukrainian, but the name may be recognized in Russian, as well) into the search bar, and choose their name if they come up in the auto-complete. Below, we’ll try searching for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko:
This search produces three results: Poroshenko income declarations for 2011 (when he was a presidential candidate), in 2013 (when he served in the parliament), and in 2014 (by which time he assumed the presidency). By clicking any of these records, we see his digitized income declaration, along with a scan of the original document (accessible via the red PDF button in the upper right).
While this project is ambitious and quite useful, there are obvious limitations: Ukrainians without official governmental roles will not be represented in this database, and the database is still incomplete, as there is still an ongoing effort to digitize a massive number of paper records.
There are two noteworthy websites that allow you to search for missing persons in Russia and Ukraine. The first is a Russian national service called Жди меня (Wait for Me), which can be found at at http://poisk.vid.ru/. This service is a partner to a television show with the same name, which features stories about searches for lost loved ones in Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, and other post-Soviet countries.
To search for a person in the database, go to the Найти человека (Find a Person) option, and then enter the necessary information into the search fields:
Ukraine’s national missing-person database is also quite easy to use. From the search page, input the known information about the person you are searching for:
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If searching for open-source information about a particular Russian or Ukrainian individual, it’s quite possible that you won’t be able to find any useful information, aside from the information available on social networks. For most people, the social-network route is by far the most fruitful way to find information about their education, employment, and family history. However, depending on the person’s status or importance, it is quite likely that one of these special resources will provide more information, especially if the focus of the investigation concerns financial connections or corruption.
By Aric Toler, Global Voices