Remembrance (4), “No smoke without fire?”

The OGPU investigation of the Pokrovsky brothers in summer 1932 helps us put faces to four names. Ivan was executed in Moscow, one death in the maelstrom unleashed by the forced industrialisation of the USSR and the dekulakisation of the countryside. Alexander was shot four years later at Sandarmokh, a victim of the Great Terror.

Ivan’s last resting place was uncovered in the early 1990s by researchers from Memorial working in the Central Archives of the FSB (post-Soviet successor of the Cheka, OGPU, NKVD and KGB). In 1994, a memorial was erected by the entrance to the Vagankovskoe cemetery. It reads: “To the victims of political repression, 1927-1937. May they never be forgotten!”

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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)

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.

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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.)