On 19 August 2019, when the barbarous excavations of the Military History Society were well under way, a large group of students from the Moscow International Film School arrived at Sandormokh. They brought with them 16 unique plaques they had made themselves, listing those shot and buried there, from first Solovki transport and the prisoners of the White Sea-Baltic camp complex.
The kids attached the plaques to the stakes, read aloud from the biography of these victims, and cleared up the rubbish from around the immediate area. This was part of their compulsory educational programme.
“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.
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.
Rewriting the history of the Great Terror
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”.
Excavations by Russian Military History Society, August 2019 (photo, 7×7 news website)
Collage by Kirill Shuchalin (7×7)
Just as 80 years ago, arbitrary and lawless acts today define Sandarmokh.
At a press conference in Moscow, activists and public figures have spoken out in defence of the Karelian memorial to the victims of Stalin’s Terror.