“A light shining in the darkness”

This website has already published two excerpts from Irina Flige’s 2019 book about Sandarmokh: the Search for Sandarmokh, parts One and Part Two. What follows is the opening of a review in the January 2020 issue of Novy mir, the literary magazine (Moscow).

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“Two themes run through Irina Flige’s book,” writes Tatyana Bonch-Osmolovskaya. “One is the quest, pursued across many years, for the ‘lost transport’, a search to locate 1,111 inmates of the Solovki Special Prison who vanished in October 1937.”

The other theme, which “embraces and deepens the first”, describes Sandarmokh today, as a place of commemoration and remembrance.

The lost transport

For years researchers, among them Flige herself, sought documents explaining where the “lost transport” had gone and identifying the place where those victims of the Great Terror were buried. In a small clearing in the Karelian forest is a place where executions were regularly carried out. Not just the “lost transport” died there, but also prisoners of the BelBaltlag Camp complex, forced settlers and inhabitants of Karelia. Working with records in closed archives the researchers — Irina Flige, Veniamin Joffe and Yury Dmitriev, among others — restored the names of the victims.

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“Unsolved Mysteries”, A Review

The second front in the Dmitriev Affair

Even before Yury DMITRIEV was arrested in December 2016, an alternative explanation of the mass burials at Sandormokh had appeared (see below, Appendix).

Promoted by two historians at Petrozavodsk University, Sergei Verigin and Yury Kilin, it suggested that among those executed and buried in the forest near Medvezhegorsk were not only victims of Stalin’s Great Terror (1937-1938) but also Red Army soldiers shot by the Finns during the Continuation War (1941-1944).

Recent books about Sandarmokh by Yury Dmitriev and Sergei Verigin

Late last year a slender 86-page volume (with illustrations) by Professor Verigin and fellow author Armas Mashin appeared. Entitled The Mysteries of Sandarmokh: Part One, What lies Hidden in the Wooded Glade, it was published by the controversial Finnish author Johan Backman.

In a review on 27 February 2020 on the Karelia News website, Irina TAKALA of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Karelian Centre discusses this brochure as a piece of historical research, and assesses its contribution to the ongoing debate about the past reality and current meaning of the Sandarmokh killing fields.

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The Search for Sandormokh

“Twenty years ago, it seemed to us that Sandormokh as a place and these acts of remembrance divided the present from the past,” said Irina FLIGE in August 2017, at the Day of Remembrance at Sandormokh. “Today, unfortunately, we must recognise that memories of the Great Terror have not become part of our [shared] memory …”

The previous year two historians at Petrozavodsk University had put forward a ‘new hypothesis’ as to who lay buried in the woods outside Medvezhegorsk; in the Karelian capital, Yury Dmitriev was spending his eighth month in jail.

It took years to locate Karelia’s largest killing ground of the late 1930s. Irina Flige’s account of that long, painstaking quest is described in her The Search for Sandormokh, which was launched in Moscow in July 2019. At the same press conference the proposed excavations by the Russian Military History Society were exposed and condemned. Meanwhile, Dmitriev, acquitted in April 2018,  was on trial for a second time and once again incarcerated in Petrozavodsk’s Detention Centre No 1.

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Excavation in the very centre of Sandarmokh

Anna Yarovaya

Memorial observers of RMH Society excavation
Observers from Memorial monitor the behaviour of Russian Military History Society as it excavates a site at the very centre of Sandarmokh

I can’t look calmly at this photo. In the very heart of Sandarmokh, between commemorative stones and plaques on the trees, they are now digging up the graves.

I have one question.

If someone came along and started digging up a memorial to the soldiers of the Great Patriotic War [1941-1945] would everyone accept it so easily? Or would people pause for thought and decide that you cannot do such things?

The photo was taken by girls from Memorial who have been monitoring this lawless behaviour for four days now at Sandarmokh. [They can be seen to the left of the uniformed Military History excavators.]

Facebook post by the former 7×7 website correspondent who today lives in Finland.

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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