Russia honors founders of the Soviet Terror while jailing historian who uncovered their victims

Historians in the News
tags: Russia, Yury Dmitriev



A museum was ceremoniously opened in Russia recently to Felix Dzherzhinsky, the founder of the notorious Soviet secret police, with the event attended by MPs and members of the FSB, Russia’s modern-day security service.  The week also saw an important development in the latest closed court hearing of the widely condemned trial of Yury Dmitriev, a 61-year-old historian who has devoted most of his life to uncovering the mass graves of the victims of the Soviet secret police and identifying the perpetrators. 

The shift towards rehabilitating the perpetrators of the Soviet Terror and muffling information about the victims began within a few years of ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin’s rise to power.  The results are evident in the record number of Russians who have a positive attitude to the murderous Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and the fact that Stalin’s portrait is found openly hanging in FSB offices.

A vital museum on the history of political repression, located at one of the worst of the political labour camps Perm-36 was forced to close.  It was later re-opened as a shell of itself, which focuses on the architectural details of the place and avoids such sensitive subjects as the Gulag and political prisoners. 

There have been constant attacks and attempts to muffle the Memorial Society, which has helped countless Russians, Ukrainians and other peoples of the former Soviet Union to learn the fate of relatives seized during the Terror.  The circumstances around the imprisonment and trial of Yury Dmitriev suggest that the attack on him is, at least in part, an attempt to discredit Memorial. 

Dmitriev, a historian and the head of the Karelia branch of Memorial, is very well-known far beyond Russia for his work in uncovering the mass graves of victims of the Terror at the Sandarmokh Clearing (Karelia).  It is thanks to him and his Memorial colleagues that we know the fate of 1,111 prisoners of the Solovky Labour Camp, including 290 prominent Ukrainian writers, artists, scientists and others, who were executed ‘by quota’ between 27 October and 4 November 1937.  ...




comments powered by Disqus