The Unquiet Dead

Scattered across the length and breadth of Russia (see Map of Memory), and neighbouring Kazakhstan, are hundreds of neglected or concealed burial grounds . Some 1,500 are currently known, three hundred more than in 2019; others still await commemoration or discovery.

Belbaltlag prisoners’ cemetery, discovered by Yury Dmitriev in August 2003

They are the last resting place of those who died a long way from home, deported to “special” settlements, now often abandoned, or to the Gulag’s numerous camps. Others were executed and buried in mass graves not far from local population centres, during the 1920s and especially in the sixteen months of the Great Terror, in the secret and unmarked killing fields of the Cheka-OGPU-NKVD.

Some of these burial grounds are today places of remembrance. Few have official recognition as such or the protection of the regional, city or federal authorities. In 2014, over four hundred of these sites in Russia were identified and described in detail by the Joffe Foundation.