Everyone has now heard of Sandarmokh

“The events of the last few weeks have been depressing, but it’s true to say that almost everyone knows the word Sandarmokh today; before it was only known in Karelia. No excavations by the Russian Military Historical Society can change that. Only people who do not see the significance of the subject are inclined to believe that Red Army soldiers lie buried there.”

Yury Mikhailin, Moscow International Film School

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Who wants to rewrite the history of Sandarmokh—and why?

Since its discovery in 1997, Sandarmokh has become a place of pilgrimage for the descendants of those killed in Stalin’s Great Terror, for local villagers, for historians and for public figures. An International Day of Remembrance has been held at Sandarmokh every year since then, attended by delegations from various parts of Russia and from abroad.

The “new” hypothesis

Yet in 2016, almost twenty years on, certain Petrozavodsk historians announced that, in addition to those shot in the 1930s, Soviet POWs might have been killed and buried at Sandarmokh during the “Continuation War” with Finland (1941-1944). This suggestion prompted a great debate among academics and was reported in both Russian and Finnish media.  Prospectors, historians, and public figures who had been closely involved in locating, studying and publicising the story of Sandarmokh were bewildered. What new documents had now appeared? Where could they study these declassified papers? The authors of the sensational claim were in no hurry to publish their sources and the atmosphere surrounding the memorial complex grew increasingly tense.

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The Day of Remembrance in Petrozavodsk

On Monday, 30 October 2017, the Karelian capital Petrozavodsk marked the annual Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Political Repression. At the city’s Zaretsky Graveyard and then at Krasny Bor access to the microphone was limited to those who talked about spiritual values, Holy Russia and forgiveness. Your correspondent observed how official Karelia strove not to mention the name of YURY DMITRIEV, one of the pioneers in locating and investigating such sites of mass burial (writes Sergei Markelov, 7×7 – Horizontal Russia).

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