“Light in the darkness” (II)

On Wednesday, 22 July at 2.30 pm (Moscow Time), Judge Merkov will announce the verdict in the Dmitriev case at the Petrozavodsk City Court. Yury DMITRIEV was arrested in December 2016 and has spent most of the time since then in prison.

As shown by The Search for Sandarmokh, a book published last year,  the background to the trial reaches back more than 80 years into Soviet history to the late 1930s. Its author Irina FLIGE outlines and analyses the unfolding drama of that history.

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“Light in the Darkness” (I)

This website has already published excerpts from Irina Flige‘s 2019 book about Sandarmokh: The Search for Sandarmokh. What follows is from a review in the January 2020 issue of Novy mir, the literary magazine (Moscow).

“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.

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The Search for Sandormokh (contd)

SOLOVKI

From a list to biographies

To compile biographical profiles and confirm the information they contained we sent questionnaires to those regions in the USSR where the prisoners on Solovki had been arrested and sentenced.

Solovetsky Islands (map)

Meanwhile, we engaged in more active communication with the family members who took a keen and constant interest in our work – they longed to find out more about their relatives. They themselves began to draw up questionnaires and study the case files, bringing copies of the documents and photos to our archive at Memorial. Sometimes, on the contrary, we became  acquainted with the children of executed prisoners from Solovki as a result of studying the case files of their relatives.

Veniamin Joffe and I were establishing what had happened not to abstract victims of the Great Terror but to real people, we were uncovering the circumstances in which they had met their end.

An excerpt from Irina Flige‘s The Search for Sandormokh (2019)

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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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