“In August 1937 the most extensive and cruel period of political repression began,” wrote the late Arseny Roginsky in an Afterword to the Kommunarka Book of Remembrance. “In July the NKVD departments across the USSR had already began to set aside special ‘zones’, areas for the mass burial of those they shot. For locals these usually became known, euphemistically, as army firing ranges.
Golden Hill (Zolotaya gora) Chelyabinsk
“This was how the zones that we know today came into being: the Levashovo Wasteland near Leningrad, Kuropaty near Minsk, the Golden Hill near Chelyabinsk, Bykovnya on the outskirts of Kiev, and many others.”
For decades after the death of Stalin in 1953, these sites remained in the hands of the NKVD’s successor, the KGB, and only in the very last years of the Soviet Union did they become known as the burial sites and killing fields of the Great Terror. There were two “firing ranges” on the outskirts of Moscow, at Butovo and Kommunarka.
“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).
“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).
One of the last interviews Sergei KOLTYRIN, the arrested director of the Medvezhegorsk district museum, gave was to Nastoyashchee vremya, the online TV channel:
(Excerpts from a longer text on the website)
“The death of a person’s reputation is perhaps worse than being actually murdered. After such allegations, the person carries on but with great difficulty. It’s hard to live and not everyone can survive such an upheaval in their lives.
“When we speak about Sandarmokh, we must not forget the people at the time when this vile treatment began, and “undesirables” were eliminated. The free-thinkers, those who thought differently to others, who spoke in a different way and did things differently – they were awkward and undesirable [for the regime].
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”.
Five bodies are discovered, allegedly Soviet POWs shot by the Finns,
during the Continuation War, 1941-1944 (photo, Sergei Markelov)
On 4 September, Karelian historian Sergei Verigin and spokesmen for the Russian Military-Historical Society held a press conference about their recent excavations at Sandarmokh.
Their words were widely reported by the official RIA Novosti / Russia Today news agency — but only in Russian. The usual simultaneous publication in English and other languages was, for some reason, lacking.
On 22 April, the Karelian edition of the Rossiya TV Channel’s “Events of the Week” programme included a brief item, mentioning that “this summer” there would be fresh investigations of the burials at the Sandarmokh memorial complex near Medvezhegorsk.
(For those who know Russian,
the item begins five minutes into this half-hour broadcast)
Periodically, the suggestion that YURY DMITRIEV may have misidentified those buried at Sandarmokh or, rather, that the dead there also include Soviet prisoners of war captured and executed by the Finns in 1941-1944, has been given coverage in State-controlled Russian media and, even, in certain Finnish media outlets. Continue reading
Attempts are being made to turn OLGA BOCHKARYOVA out of the accommodation transferred into her private ownership in 2011 by the Solovki Museum administration.
On 1 January 2016, the Gulag section at the museum was disbanded and its head, Olga Bochkaryova, was dismissed from her post. Тhe present museum director, Vladimir V. Shutov, who is, simultaneously, Father Superior of the Solovetsky Monastery [as Archimandrite Porfiry], has now asked the courts to declare the 2011 agreement null and void. The case is being examined by the Maritime district court of the Arkhangelsk Region. A decision is expected on Monday, 19 February. Bochkaryova is being represented by defence attorney Marina Agaltsova.
Since 1988, Olga Bochkaryova has researched the history of the Solovki special purpose camp and run the museum’s section about the Gulag. She created a permanent exhibition about the camp (and prison) in one of the former camp barracks in Solovetsky town. Over the years she has provided advice and information to relatives of those imprisoned in the camp and helped them track down documents concerning their loved ones.
The coalition of human rights activists
16 February 2018
Yury Dmitriev in his own words
“In 1997 I met Veniamin Joffe and Irina Flige from Petersburg Memorial at the FSB archives in Karelia. We agreed to look for the site near Medvezhyegorsk where executions took place.
“Joffe and Flige were on the track of the missing transport from Solovki special prison. They began their search after reading the case file of NKVD Captain Mikhail Matveyev, who oversaw the shooting of the Solovki prisoners in autumn 1937. From reading all the execution reports I knew that an enormous number of people, several thousand in all, had been shot somewhere near Medgora. So, we agreed on a date. If I remember rightly, we arrived there on 1 July and on 2 or 3 July we had already discovered the place [Sandarmokh]. I would be stuck there for ages. The official investigative procedures continued for two whole months.