Remembrance (3): Four brothers

Alexander Pokrovsky and his three brothers were born in a village in what today is Russia’s Oryol Region. By the early 1930s, they had moved to Moscow.

There in summer 1932 the OGPU (predecessor of the NKVD) arrested them and by October that year all four were convicted of Counter-Revolutionary Crimes under Article 58, specifically espionage and terrorism.They were, it is said, attempting to create an underground anti-Soviet organisation; they wanted to spy for France and rob the Soviet State; worst of all, they were preparing to assassinate Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich and OGPU chief Yagoda.

With the exception of Ivan Pokrovsky, the eldest, they had each found work: Alexander at a factory; Sergei at a workshop; and Simeon building the new airport at Monino. This reflected the opportunities provided by the forced tempo of industrialisation during the First Five Year Plan; the city also offered them a welcome anonymity, perhaps, because their father Nikolai was an Orthodox priest.

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“Special” Settlements, 1930-1933

Dispossession, imprisonment, deportation and famine

After experimenting in Siberia the previous autumn and winter, the November 1929 plenum of the Communist Party Central Committee decided to proceed with the forced collectivization of the countryside and the “liquidation of the kulaks as a social group” (a process also known as “dekulakization”).

The collectivization campaign supported a double objective: one, it would “extract” – the term used in confidential instructions — all elements prone to actively oppose forced collectivization; two, it would “colonize” vast inhospitable regions of the Russian North, the Urals, Siberia and Kazakhstan through the resettlement of entire “kulak” families.

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The Great Terror, 1937-1938

Over sixteen months (August 1937-November 1938), more than one and a half million people were arrested in the USSR and sentenced in their absence by regional tribunals — the extra-judicial troika (“three-member commissions”), dvoika (“two-member commissions”), and Special Board — or came briefly before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court in Moscow. No defence was offered.

Half of those arrested were sentenced to death. They were shot and buried all over the Soviet Union in killing fields like those discovered and investigated in Karelia by Yury DMITRIEV (Krasny Bor and Sandarmokh), or like Kommunarka and Butovo near Moscow. The other detainees were sent to the Gulag for up to ten years of forced labour.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2020. Sandarmokh

Some photos taken at Sandarmokh by Svetlana Kulchitskaya.

The images show: Irina FLIGE laying carnations on a collective memorial; a plaque commemorating Pyotr Didushok-Gelmer (1889-1937 shot); a stone bearing the words “Do not forget these Swedes!”; a plaque commemorating Xenia Djikayeva (1902-1937 shot); and a view of part of the memorial complex.