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Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Political Repression in Sandarmokh

Official delegations from the Baltics, Poland, Ukraine, Germany and the USA visited the memorial event, unlike Russian officials

On August 5, the 21st International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions of 1937–1938 was held at the Sandarmokh Memorial Graveyard. By a modest computation, more than half a thousand people participated in mourning ceremonies. Besides official delegations from Poland, Estonia, the United States, Ukraine, Germany and Finland, representatives of many diasporas and nationalities arrived in Karelia, whose compatriots were shot and buried in the mass graves of Sandarmokh 80 years ago. Many arrived — the descendants of the repressed, mostly grandchildren or even great-grandchildren. More about the event — in the report of «7x7».


Sandarmokh of Yury Dmitriev

The days of remembrance in Sandarmokh are traditionally, since the foundation of the memorial in 1997, opened with a short rally. Speakers always say words that are important for local residents — accidental eyewitnesses of the terrible events of 1937–1938, who for many years kept the memory of them and started searching for the firing holes after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and for those who sought and found this place, studying the archives of special services, — the employees of "Memorial". These words are no less important for the descendants of the repressed. Usually the speakers try to restrain their emotions, but they do not hesitate to express it. It was in those years when the meeting was held by Yury Dmitriev, one of the founders of the memorial complex in Sandarmokh. And this year, it was the same, when Dmitriev, who was under arrest, was recalled by almost every speaker, and those present applauded.



"The second year we meet here in the absence of a person who undoubtedly must be here, — Yury Dmitriev. Last year we fervently hoped that this year Yura would be here. We were wrong. And I ask you all to continue to wait and hope that in the next year Yury Alexeevich will be here with us," said the member of the board of the International "Memorial" Society Alexander Daniel. Then he announced a minute of silence in memory of those killed in Sandarmokh.


Alexander Daniel


The writer and human rights activist Alexander Arkhangelsky noted that the work to find and publish the names of those shot in Sandarmokh, performed by Yury Dmitriev and his colleagues from Memorial, helped to transform the historical memory of repression from evil to good.

"Victims become heroes when we give them names. For this to happen, you need the personal courage and responsibility of those who do this work. Courage to take responsibility for the history of your country. This is the civil feeling that unites us, such different people. Thanks to Yury Dmitriev. I am sure that next year he will speak here," continued talking about the significance of Dmitriev's work Alexander Arkhangelsky.


Alexander Arkhangelsky


The head of the "Returned Names" Center of the Russian National Library, friend and associate of Dmitriev Anatoly Razumov, asked local residents and journalists to pay attention to the plans of the Russian Military Historical Society in late August. Formally, they are going to conduct a study that can confirm or disprove the hypothesis put forward by some historians that during the Second World War and the Finnish occupation of the Medvezhiegorsk district, Finnish soldiers buried here the bodies of the Red Army soldiers killed in captivity.

The hypothesis appeared six months before the first arrest of Yury Dmitriev, and many researchers — both in Russia and in Finland — consider it unscientific, and the credibility of the Russian Military Historical Society in professional community is extremely low. This, however, did not prevent the Karelian Ministry of Culture from granting permission to the Russian Military Historical Society to conduct a study.

"We [the Russians] are ashamed that it was said in the direction of the friendly, intelligent, neighbouring Finland on our behalf. This is a bad, deceptive tendency that was obvious at the memorial in Katyn, in the "Medny" [memorial complex in the Tver region], and now adapts itself to Sandarmokh," concluded Razumov.


Anatoly Razumov


Daughter of Yury Dmitriev Katerina Klodt said that she had recently visited her father in St. Petersburg. The doctors are conducting another forensic psychiatric examination:

"Dad feels great to the extent possible in this situation. He sent regards and deepest gratitude to you. To the fact that people who come here help to preserve the country's historical memory and make meaning to his work."


Sandarmokh of Solidarity

The co-director of the St. Petersburg Memorial Irina Fliege, who together with Dmitriev found mass graves in Sandarmokh in 1997, called the memorial a place of solidarity "with today's political prisoners", a place of internal Russian and international solidarity. Solidarity within Russia was not a success.


Irina Fliege


One of the numerous Cossacks, who marched to the memorial service of the local chapel, first loudly resented Fliege's words that the modern Russian government inherited the crimes of the Soviet power and continued them. And then he attacked the Petrozavodsk activist Alexey Trunov, who was distributing samizdat with Dmitriev's interview close to them. However, the incident did not develop, and subsequently the Cossack was seen assiduously praying.



Nor did any representative of federal, regional or local authorities come to Sandarmokh to promote Russian solidarity. This "tradition" started three years ago. Then, representatives of the regional government did not come to Sandarmokh for the first time after 15 years of active participation. But last year, the commissioner for human rights in the republic participated in the memorial events. Today — not one official person. Despite the fact that a few days before the need for cooperation was discussed during a visit of the chairman of the Human Rights Council under the Russian President Mikhail Fedotov. As a result, a small wooden pedestal with a portable stereo served as a stage for the rally.



It seems, nothing prevents international solidarity in Sandarmokh. Where else in modern Russia can you see the flags of Ukraine or Lithuania or a representative of the US embassy, ​​calmly and even condescendingly explaining to journalists of the state television channel, why his arrival here should not be taken as an interference in Russia's internal affairs? It was obvious that even for Izvestia.ru provocative questions to American and European diplomats were not the main goal of the visit.


American diplomat Thomas Leary with descendants of repressed American Finns


Those who came to Sandarmokh on August 5 noticed that every year more and more young people take part in the Days of Remembrance. These are grandsons and great-grandsons of the repressed, who continue to keep family memories of relatives who were shot in these places. Many of them call Yury Dmitriev a "sacred figure" and thank him and his colleagues from Memorial for the work done. Together they are hoping that Sandarmokh will continue to be not only a place of memory for the tragic past but also a place of people's and international solidarity in the present and in the future.



Gleb Yarovoy, photo by the author, «7x7»


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