Memory Wars?

A lengthy article about the POW execution theory in Russia’s Kommersant newspaper (7 September 2018) is even-handed and thorough. It needs little more than the following passage, however, to show the “new hypothesis of Karelian historians” for what it is:

“Officially, there is no data to show that the Finns carried out mass executions at Sandarmokh. Mr Verigin also confirmed for us that Finland has not transferred any information to Russia about sites where shot POWs are buried in Karelia. The historian further confirmed to Kommersant that he has not yet examined Finland’s historical archives”.

Bodies of 5 Soviet POWs, supposedly, at Sandarmokh (Sergei Markelov)

Five bodies are discovered, allegedly Soviet POWs shot by the Finns,
during the Continuation War, 1941-1944 (photo, Sergei Markelov)

While the official RIA Novosti / Russia Today news agency has given prominence to the story, it has not bothered to translate its reports about Sandarmokh — unlike so many issues it covers — into any other language.

Finnish and Swedish media outlets rejected the new “theory”, after consulting historians in Finland who have long studied wartime atrocities during the Continuation War (1941-1944). Two items published on Friday, 14 September 2018 in the leading Finnish daily newspaper Ilta Sanomat deserve particular mention. (They have now been translated into Russian and posted on Facebook today, 18 September 2018.) In her article Arja Paananen tells, “This is where Finland buried POWs during the Continuation War“. The same journalist, in a separate item, offers the response of  Professor Lars Westerlund to the new claims (“Finnish researcher: Facts are needed about the bodies dug up by Russian investigators — Finland could have helped”).

Where Soviet POWs were buried (IS, 14 Sept 2018)

“Where Finland buried Soviet POWs”, Ilta Sanomat, 14 September 2018

Five days before Paananen’s article and interview with Westerlund, Dr. Julia Takala, one of Verigin’s fellow academics from the history department at Petrozavodsk University, suggested in Ilta Sanomat (8 September 2018) that any executed Soviet prisoners found at Sandarmokh could well have been shot by their own side.

The distortion of the history of Sandarmokh and the military history of Finland will continue, Dr Takala concludes, until all researchers, not just a chosen few, are guaranteed access to KGB archives:

“Until the archives are opened the history of our country will be interpreted as best suits the authorities. The rules governing the  use of secret archives are being tightened all the time, and many documents have disappeared.”

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PS — The first hearing in the new trial of Yury DMITRIEV has been re-scheduled for Thursday, 27 September at 2.30 pm (local time). Today’s hearing under Judge Alexander Merkov was postponed because the accused had not yet finished reading the new case materials, reports the 7×7 news website.