Barbaric excavations again under way at Sandarmokh

Rewriting the history of the Great Terror

Halya Coynash

New excavations are underway at the Sandarmokh Clearing in Karelia which holds the last remains of thousands of victims of the Great Terror of 1937-1938 [the banner photo of this site shows a view of the Clearing and some of the individual markers erected there by descendants of the victims].

Any pretence that the excavations by a body linked to the Russian Minister of Culture are not aimed at rewriting history has been dispelled by a letter from the Karelian Ministry of Culture. This openly questions the internationally-recognized fact that the mass graves are of victims of the Terror, and, since this “damages Russia’s international image”, asks for another hypothesis, unbacked by any documentary proof, to be “investigated”.

Military history society excavations (August 2019)

Excavations by Russian Military History Society, August 2019 (photo, 7×7 news website)

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What is going on?

The other day the latest hearing in the new trial of Yury DMITRIEV took place. It has been six weeks since the Petrozavodsk City Court, in closed regime, heard more evidence from the prosecution.

This time round, clearly, there is no rush to convict and, it would seem, a preference for people elsewhere, e.g. supporters in Russia who travel to Karelia to wait outside the courtroom or the courthouse in a demonstration of solidarity, to be denied anything to discuss.

That includes curious foreigners.

True, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did respond to a question about the case from a Finnish journalist when he was abroad … The reply was not reassuring. More tomorrow.

JC

Dates Official and Unofficial, 2018

The contest over the form remembrance should take, on what date and in which locations is a crucial part of the Dmitriev Affair. At its heart lies the 5 August Day of Remembrance at Sandarmokh, which is inextricably linked with Yury DMITRIEV and a memorial complex unlike any other. For the last two years Dmitriev has been prevented from attending the 5 August event.

Meanwhile, a concerted attempt was made in many parts of Russia in 2017 to wrest control from the informal groups who have presided for years over commemorative gatherings elsewhere on 30 October. This was notably the case at Krasny Bor, a major killing field not far from Petrozavodsk, where in Dmitriev’s absence his daughter Katya resisted an official takeover.

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A place of execution

“They made a road to Koirankangas from Rzhevka. From our hill we could see clearly: a vehicle went there and then it stopped. A minute passed, perhaps, and then shots were heard. We avoided going that way. Everyone knew they were shooting people there. Murdered people were found there.”

Anni Arikainen (b. 1918), Kuivozi, Vsevolozhsky district,
Leningrad Region (recorded in 1990).

place of execution

“A place of execution”
(photo, Sergei Strukov)

“We children found a man in the woods. He was lying on the ground; it was clear he couldn’t walk. He saw us and said something, but we couldn’t understand. We didn’t know what to do. We weren’t strong enough to drag him anywhere – and where we would take him? We made him a shelter of branches, brought him something to drink and, from what we could find, food to eat. We told our parents nothing. The next day we returned, and he was there. The third day we came, and he was gone. Either he got away or they had found him.”

Mikko Vanganen (b. 1921), Kuivozi,
Leningrad Region (recorded in 1994).

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