Every year, on 29 October, thousands of people gather near the Solovki Stone in Moscow to read out the names of those who were shot during Stalin’s reign of terror. “We call on our readers to join them this Sunday on Lubyanka Square,” writes the online Meduza website.
(A photo accompanying the text shows speakers against the background of a buildng that dominates the square. Since 1918, it has been the headquarters of the secret police, including the post-Stalin KGB and today’s Federal Security Service, the FSB)
Meduza offers its readers FOUR reasons why they should go:
#1 — “Restoring the Names” is a grass-roots demonstration. The State had no part in establishing this tradition and it is, therefore, free from all official “pathos”
It was the Memorial Society which thought up the event and it first took place in 2007, being held ever since on 29 October, the day before the Day of Commemoration for the Victims of Political Repression. Official persons may appear at the Solovetsky Stone: Tatyana Moskalkova [attended 2016], for instance, Russia’s human rights ombudsman, or Mikhail Fedotov [attended 2017], head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights. The State has not brought this commemorative event under its control, however, unlike the Deathless Regiment, an event conceived by journalists in Tomsk and similar in spirit to “Restoring the Names”.
#2 — “Restoring the Names” brings people together
It’s unlikely any of our readers would disagree with the simple theses on which the event is based:
- History is not simply a list of victories and achievements;
- Acts of repression (arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, extra-judicial execution, etc) are evil;
- In order to prevent such evil recurring it is important to remember that such events once happened here;
- The victims of that senseless cruelty must not be forgotten.
There are no banners or placards at “Restoring the Names”, no one gets in a fight there or is arrested. It is not an event directed against anyone else; it is a Day of Commemoration.
#3 — “Restoring the Names” helps us to take a different view of history
Millions of people suffered during Stalin’s time. It is one thing to look at those figures in a school textbook or a history book, and quite another to get up and read aloud at the microphone something like this:
“Victor Platonovich GUSEV. 35 years old, driver for the Tula Home Trust,
shot on 2 September 1937.
“Mikhail Platonivich GUSEV, 29 years old, driver for the Tula Home Trust,
shot on 2 September 1937. …”
#4 — “Restoring the Names” lets us see the individuals behind the statistics — to realise that each of them had a life and destiny of his (her) own
Many come to the event in order to read out the names of their relatives who suffered under Stalin.
“Restoring the Names”, 29 October 2016 (uncut 12-hour recording)
Alexander Polivanov, Meduza, 28 October 2017