Punished for memorialising Sandarmokh

Russian historian Yury DMITRIEV turned 64 on 28 January 2020. It was his third birthday detained on charges that bear no scrutiny, and, writes Halya Coynash, his arrest coincided with the beginnings of a campaign to rewrite the history of one of the darkest pages of the Soviet Terror – the mass killing by quota of Russians, Ukrainians and other prisoners of the Solovetsky Archipelago at the Sandormokh Clearing in Karelia in 1937.

Yury Dmitriev in April 2018; the entrance to the Sandormokh memorial complex

If the current regime in Russia was hoping to silence Dmitriev, it has failed. The historian and head of the Karelian branch of the Memorial Society has just published a book entitled Sandarmokh: A Place of Memory, providing information about both the victims and the perpetrators of the mass executions in the forest.

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Barbaric excavations again under way at Sandarmokh

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, writes Halya Coynash.

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”.

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“Society must become more humane”, Alexander Arkhangelsky to President Putin

On 21 December literary critic ALEXANDER ARKHANGELSKY spoke, at a meeting of the Council on Culture and Art with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, about the pressure being put on cultural figures and the need to humanise Russian culture and society.

“If such things take place at the federal level, in the glare of publicity, it’s not surprising that in places further from our national media the same kind of thing is happening. It is now one year that Yury Dmitriev, an outstanding historian, the author of classic works about Solovki, has been kept in detention, awaiting a verdict in his trial.

“The court – and this is a rare instance – rejected the results of the expert assessment that seemed to confirm his guilt. The case materials were again sent not to State institutions for expert evaluation, however, but to semi-private companies – a second time, let me emphasise.”

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Russia – Past, Present and Future

THE OFFICIAL VIEW

“As Russia marks the centenary of the October Revolution, President Vladimir Putin has urged the society to end discord over the Soviet era,” reported the TASS news agency[1] on 21 December 2017.

“This year, the centenary of the October Revolution, we have been seeking to encourage the society to abandon confrontation, to see themselves as a single society and realize that we are continuing our common centuries-long history,” Putin told a session of the Council for Culture and Art.

“Whether we like certain years or not, but there was everything there – bad things, but also a lot of good things that should not be forgotten,” he said.

Johnson’s Russia List
2017-#239, Friday, 22 December 2017, Item 1 (Excerpt)

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HOW RUSSIA REPRESSES THE PAST

Nikita Petrov (Memorial)

Every spring, buses covered in portraits of Joseph Stalin appear on the streets of Russian cities. His face replaces ads for cell phones, soft drinks, laundry detergent, and cat food. With each passing year, the dictator gets more handsome and more glamorous; a portrait of him in his gorgeous white generalissimo’s jacket has become especially popular. He casts his stern gaze on the citizens, as if to say, “Remember me? I’m here, I didn’t go anywhere – and don’t you forget it!” 

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Do not support their hypocrisy!

It is immoral to support the hypocrisy of the Russian authorities

An appeal by 37 former political prisoners
concerning today’s opening of a monument in Moscow

As former political prisoners and participants in the Democratic Movement in the Soviet Union, we consider the opening in Moscow of a monument to the “victims of political repression” [The Wall of Sorrow] to be untimely and hypocritical. A monument is a tribute to the past, yet acts of political repression in Russia not only continue – they are increasing.

In sponsoring the opening of the monument, the present Russian regime is pretending that acts of political repression are a thing of the distant past: the victims of such political repression, therefore, may be commemorated. We believe that today’s political prisoners in Russia are no less deserving of our help and attention than the respect and remembrance we owe to the victims of the Soviet regime.

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