Moscow’s “Restoring the Names” (2018) in question

For the last 11 years the ceremony of Restoring the Names has been held each year in Moscow on 29 October at the Solovki Stone on Lubyanka Square. Several thousand people queue up to read out the name of someone who was executed during the Great Terror of the late 1930s in a moving event that takes many hours.

View of 2017 event from above (2)

29 October 2017, Lubyanka Square, Moscow

On Friday 19 October, the Moscow city authorities suddenly withdrew permission to hold this year’s ceremony in its traditional location, next to FSB headquarters, claiming that ongoing construction and restoration work made the site unsuitable.

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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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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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Historian Accused Of “Religious Hatred”

YURY BRODSKY sees the far northern Solovki Archipelago as a kaleidoscopic microcosm of Russia – its history, culture, nature, and spirit all brought together in one remote and windswept corner of a vast country. “The most varied people come here and they all need Solovki,” says Brodsky. “It can change your world view. I’m trying to say that Solovki is a reflection of our entire world, of our entire history.”

Recently, his latest book about Solovki was reviewed on an Orthodox website. While the reviewer notes the author’s “feeling of love for Solovki”, he charges that it also demonstrates “a dislike, a surprising dislike, of the centuries-long history of the Solovetsky Monastery and Orthodox Russia.”  Continue reading

Court upholds Bochkaryova’s right to apartment

On Monday, 19th February, the Primorsky (Maritime) district court in the Archangelsk Region ruled in favour of OLGA BOCHKARYOVA in her dispute with the director of the Solovki Museum, Archimandrite Porfiry (Vladimir Shutov).

Bochkareva wins case

Olga Bochkaryova (right) with her lawyer Marina Agaltsova outside the courthouse

This confirms her right of ownership to the two-room apartment where she and her daughter currently live: Bochkaryova does not own or have any other place to live.

In a commentary on the result, defense attorney Marina Agaltsova noted that the statute of limitation for any challenge to the contract transferring the apartment to Bochkaryova had already expired. A counter-claim advanced by Bochkaryova and her lawyer concerned State registration of the contract documenting the transfer of the property.

That application was greatly helped, commented Agaltsova, by the prosecutor who supported Bochkaryova’s argument. The prosecutor applied to the Register and received confirmation that no approval by the Ministry of Culture was required at the time the contract was concluded in 2011.

Since the late 1980s Bochkaryova has been a research associate at the Solovki Museum. In 2016, however, the Gulag section at the Museum was closed and she lost her job.

The coalition of human-rights activists
19 February 2018

Head of Museum’s disbanded Gulag section threatened with eviction

Attempts are being made to turn OLGA BOCHKARYOVA out of the accommodation transferred into her private ownership in 2011 by the Solovki Museum administration.

Bochkareva, Olga

Olga Bochkaryova

On 1 January 2016, the Gulag section at the museum was disbanded and its head, Olga Bochkaryova, was dismissed from her post. Тhe present museum director, Vladimir V. Shutov, who is, simultaneously, Father Superior of the Solovetsky Monastery [as Archimandrite Porfiry], has now asked the courts to declare the 2011 agreement null and void. The case is being examined by the Maritime district court  of the Arkhangelsk Region. A decision is expected on Monday, 19 February. Bochkaryova is being represented by defence attorney Marina Agaltsova.

Since 1988, Olga Bochkaryova has researched the history of the Solovki special purpose camp and run the museum’s section about the Gulag. She created a permanent exhibition about the camp (and prison) in one of the former camp barracks in Solovetsky town. Over the years she has provided advice and information to relatives of those imprisoned in the camp and helped them track down documents concerning their loved ones.

The coalition of human rights activists
16 February 2018

“I’m trying to finish what’s most important” (Golgotha, part 6)

Yury Dmitriev in his own words
(conclusion)

I first met students from the Moscow Film School, it seems, at Sandarmokh. They had come for the Day of Remembrance on 5 August. As it happened, one of the buses I’d laid on was empty and they travelled on it to the graveyard and back. They were greatly impressed and began asking me about local history.

Later they wrote me a letter: “Let us help you in some way.” I took up the offer and we went to Peter the Great’s arms factory. The next year they said: “We’d like to help again.” We worked at the Badger’s Hill graveyard. They wanted to help again, and that’s when we started going to Solovki.

Dmitriev with Film School students

Yury Dmitriev with Moscow Film School students

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“Restoring the Names”, 2017

“From 10 am to 10 pm on Sunday, 29 October, we shall be reading out the names of the victims of political repression here in Moscow,” announces an item on the Restoring the Names page on Facebook. “The Memorial Society has organised this event for ten years, ever since 2007. One after another, people will get up and read from the list. Yet thus far we have barely read half of the names of  the 40,000 people executed in and around Moscow during the pre-war period.”

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Solovki

Solovki, the Special Purpose Solovetsky Camp (or SLON), was the first permanent concentration camp of the Soviet regime.

Solovetsky Islands (map).png

Set up in 1923 on a group of islands in the White Sea, it began with a mixed population of left-wing political opponents of the Bolsheviks (Anarchists, Socialist Revolutionaries) and criminals. Its purpose and the changing nature of the Soviet regime can be easily seen by comparing lists of its prisoners over three distinct periods.

The inmates of SLON

The 1920s

In the 1920s many of those sent to Solovki were released back into society, but often then arrested and imprisoned (or exiled) a second time.

The First Five-Year Plan, 1928-1932

Naftaly Frenkel was a prisoner on Solovki who became a leading cadre in the security services during the First Five-Year Plan.

The mass shooting on Solovki in 1929 described by Dmitry Sergeyevich Likhachov (it forms a key episode in Marina Goldovskaya’s 1987 film The Solovki Regime (Власть Соловецкая) was a sign of the harshening regime.

The mid- to late 1930s

Many of those on Solovki later in the 1930s fell victim to Stalin‘s Great Purge and were shot, either in autumn 1937 at Sandarmokh or on Solovki in February 1938.

Re-classified as a high-security prison in 1936, becoming STON (or “groan”), Solovki was closed in 1939.

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SOLOVKI TODAY

Solovetsky Monastery, 2013