Forgotten or Remembered

“Recently, for one reason and another, I’ve visited different villages in Russia,” writes Yury MIKHAILIN (an administrator of the Dmitriev Supporters’ Facebook page).

“In many of them there stands a memorial to soldiers who died in the Great Patriotic War [1941-1944] and in almost every case it is not simply a monument. Names are carved on a plaque, recalling those who left the village to fight at the Front and never came back. “In each of these villages, I have been thinking, there is a similar list of those who were arrested in the 1930s and also never returned.”

Mikhailin’s words were prompted by the comments made by Tatyana Kosinova in a video clip just posted (21 September) on YouTube:

Tatyana KOSINOVA director of Cog!ta publishers and staff member of the Memorial Research Centre (St Petersburg)

Yury Mikhailin (continued)

Those names are recorded somewhere, but in our world, as a rule, they have not been gathered together, far less carved on a plaque (I’m drawing a comparison – I’m not sure a plaque would be appropriate) or preserved anywhere else, for that matter. Probably this thought is not original because we all understand, That is how things are. The issue is thrown in the clearest relief once you get to know Karelia.

There, thanks to the efforts of Ivan Chukhin (1949-1997) and Yury Dmitriev (and to others, doubtless, but they are the foremost in this case) it is known who was taken from each village and when. This is not artistic licence on my part — literally each and every village in Karelia. The information contained in Chukhin and Dmitriev’s Karelia’s Lists of Remembrance (2002) and in Dmitriev’s The Motherland remembers them (2017) is organised by district, and in every district each village and hamlet is named, even the tiniest, even those that no longer exist. Everywhere it is indicated where a solitary person was arrested (and who he or she was) and where two hundred were rounded up and taken away.

It is an extraordinary, unbelievable, titanic and, at the same time, very humane work. Today every place in Karelia where people live, or once lived, “remembers” those others.

[Note: When relatives of those arrested and imprisoned or shot first saw Dmitriev’s published work many were taken aback and demanded to know why he had not organised the lists by surname in alphabetical order. Unruffled by this criticism, Dmitriev gave his habitual reply: “People should know where they come from” (ed.)]

These thoughts returned to me as I watched Tatyana Kosinova speaking. We filmed her words over a year ago, but only edited the video and posted it online today. Sometimes it’s better that way. With hindsight you understand what people are telling you more clearly.

the Day of Remembrance at Sandarmokh

“The Days of Remembrance [held at Sandarmokh], including the most recent of them, have been very successful. The form they take is not repeated anywhere else in Russia. <…> Karelia has proved better at memorialising the repressed and restoring the memory of the Gulag, and in its search for the places where people lie buried. This is due to the work of Ivan CHUKHIN whom we are to thank for the extraordinary discoveries in the archives. His cause was then continued, as а field worker, by a very successful researcher, Yury DMITRIEV.

“The prosecution of Dmitriev in the 80th year since the Great Terror is symbolic. His treatment is directly linked to the aforementioned success. For there are few regions that can compare with Karelia. Even St Petersburg has not been so fully described and researched as Karelia – neither can Moscow compete in this respect. No other part of Russia has repeated what Yury Dmitriev achieved. Thanks to his efforts, an incomparably greater number of mass burials have been located – from those holding several hundred bodies, the secret and barely accessible burial grounds like that next to Lock No 8 [on the White Sea-Baltic Canal] to Sandarmokh itself, which was found thanks to his extraordinary sixth sense and intuition.”