Kommunarka Controversy (Pt 2)

“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 chelyabinsk

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.

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Russia arrests second historian of Stalin’s Terror

It is becoming dangerous in Russia to investigate the crimes of Stalinism, writes Halya Coynash. A second Karelian historian, Sergei KOLTYRIN has been arrested and is facing charges almost identical to those now brought against political prisoner, Yury DMITRIEV.

Sergei Koltyrin (sea background)

Sergei Koltyrin

While the possibility cannot be excluded that there are real grounds for these new charges, the chilling similarities between the two cases are of immense concern. So too is the timing, with this second arrest coming soon after Koltyrin publicly rejected attempts to rewrite history about the mass graves of victims of the Terror at Sandarmokh in Karelia.

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Museum director detained “on suspicion of paedophilia”

Sergei KOLTYRIN, director of the Medvezhyegorsk district museum, has been detained “with an accomplice” on suspicion of paedophilia, a source within law enforcement told the local Respublika website. This was later confirmed by the Investigative Committee of Karelia.

Sergei Koltyrin

Sergei Koltyrn, director of Medvezhyegorsk district museum

Koltyrin has been heavily involved with the Sandarmokh memorial complex, which lies within the area covered by his museum, and spoke out against the recent excavations there by the Russian Military Historical Society. He has been director of the Medvezhyegorsk district museum for the past 27 years.

He is being investigated under Article 135 (Depraved Actions), concerning sexual relations with a minor. This is an offence similar to that which was added to Yury DMITRIEV’s charge sheet after his re-arrest at the end of June. (The details of the new charge against Dmitriev have yet to be clarified.)

Source: Respublika website
Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Memory Wars?

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”.

Bodies of 5 Soviet POWs, supposedly, at Sandarmokh (Sergei Markelov)

Five bodies are discovered, allegedly Soviet POWs shot by the Finns,
during the Continuation War, 1941-1944 (photo, Sergei Markelov)

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“They were in a great hurry”: The Russian Military-Historical Society presents its findings

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.

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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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Politically-motivated excavations

Russia has turned to politically-motivated excavations to rewrite the history of the USSR in the late 1930s, writes Halya Coynash, after jailing a major historian of Stalin’s Great  Terror yet again.

(left) Sandarmokh — “People, do not kill one another”
(right) Yury DMITRIEV, acquitted in April 2018, now in custody once again

A new attempt to rewrite the history of the Great Terror in the Soviet Union appears to be under way in Russia. This renewed offensive is ominously linked with the re-arrest and imprisonment on fabricated charges of Yury Dmitriev, a world-renowned historian and the head of the Memorial Society in Karelia.

Dmitriev and colleagues from Memorial played a key role in uncovering and identifying the mass graves in eastern Karelia that have since become known as Sandarmokh. Unsubstantiated claims that Sandarmokh could hold the graves of “thousands” of Red Army soldiers taken prisoner by the Finnish Army in 1941-1943 have coincided, over the last two years, with attacks on both Dmitriev and Memorial.

Despite the lack of any hard evidence, and pleas from the children and grandchildren of those whose remains lie buried at Sandarmokh, Russia’s Military History Society has begun to carry out excavations at the site.

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