Remembrance (3): Four brothers

Alexander Pokrovsky and his three brothers were born in a village in what today is Russia’s Oryol Region. By the early 1930s, they had moved to Moscow.

There in summer 1932 the OGPU (predecessor of the NKVD) arrested them and by October that year all four were convicted of Counter-Revolutionary Crimes under Article 58, specifically espionage and terrorism.They were, it is said, attempting to create an underground anti-Soviet organisation; they wanted to spy for France and rob the Soviet State; worst of all, they were preparing to assassinate Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich and OGPU chief Yagoda.

With the exception of Ivan Pokrovsky, the eldest, they had each found work: Alexander at a factory; Sergei at a workshop; and Simeon building the new airport at Monino. This reflected the opportunities provided by the forced tempo of industrialisation during the First Five Year Plan; the city also offered them a welcome anonymity, perhaps, because their father Nikolai was an Orthodox priest.

Continue reading

Remembrance (2): Shot at Sandarmokh

Alexander Pokrovsky, 1912-1937

Remembrance (1) recalled the efforts of volunteers like Yury DMITRIEV over the past quarter century, thanks to which the names and reputations of some three million victims of the Soviet regime have been restored.

It would be natural to proceed from the discovery of the killing field at Sandarmokh in 1997 to an account of Dmitriev’s subsequent work to create a unique memorial complex there. Natural but unthinkingly triumphal. For behind these long lists of names, with their meagre biographical information, lies a horrific and prolonged period in human history, the facts of which were then denied or concealed for many years in the USSR.

Ocassionally more detailed information is available. Brief glimpses of that bloody past show what happened to families and to individuals. The fate of the four young Pokrovsky brothers is a case in point. The third, Alexander (pictured above), was among the hundreds shot at Sandarmokh in 1937.

This poignant photograph was taken in 1932 when he and brothers were all arrested in Moscow.

(To be continued)

Remembrance (1): Lists and Names

Faced by the grim and relentless persecution of Yury DMITRIEV over the last four years, it’s easy to lose sight of the achievements of the past quarter century, those countless acts of remembrance across Russia and former Soviet states that make any simple return to the past unthinkable.

Yury Dmitriev resumes work, 2018

During the 1990s, volunteers all over the former Soviet Union gathered information from a variety of archives; they listed the names of those deported, imprisoned and shot and compiled Books of Remembrance. Today only a few of the Russian Federation’s constituent Regions and Republics lack such a record.

Continue reading

A second attempt to deny Dmitriev a proper defence

Halya Coynash

After two acquittals and a sentence much shorter than that demanded, new measures were taken in Russia to secure a long sentence against world-renowned historian of the Soviet Terror, Yury DMITRIEV. 

One, the appeal hearing last September at the Karelian High Court came before Alla Rats, a judge whose bias had already been demonstrated. Two, a state-appointed lawyer was brought in, although Dmitriev’s lawyer was in quarantine and had asked for a postponement.  It was this appeal hearing that added an unprecedented 10 years to the original sentence and revoked the acquittals.

The International Memorial Society has now approached the Russian Federal Bar Association, asking them to initiate disciplinary proceedings over the appointed lawyer, Artyom Cherkasov. The latter agreed to act despite Dmitriev’s objection and the fact that Dmitriev had his own lawyer, Victor Anufriev, who had been on the case since Dmitriev’s arrest in December 2016.

Continue reading

A glimpse: 2 April 2021


What an awful picture,” writes Alexander Recoubratsky. “An elderly man in handcuffs, surrounded by guards. This is no villain but the historian Yury Dmitriev who found the burial places of Stalin’s victims in Karelia as he is led to yet another, dishonourable trial. He has already spent almost five years in prison.” (Photo, Natalia Dyomina.)