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"All the names must be said." Karelian people’s opinions on Stalin's terror

Sergei Markelov
"To the victims of political repressions"
Photo from 7x7’s archive

On October 9, the authors of the Trudnaya Pamyat’ (‘painful memory’) Project discussed Stalin's terror with residents of Karelia. They asked the people whether these events should have been discussed, included into the school curriculum, whether to condemn the executioners, and how to talk about those who had been executed by shooting illegally. 7x7 made an opinion survey of what the online meeting’s participants — historians from Karelia and St. Petersburg, residents of the region, and natives of Karelia who emigrated to Finland — think of the problem.

Should we speak or remain silent about the difficult past?

  • Speak up and target young people.
  • Elderly people do not want to hear negative things anymore.
  • Discuss and talk about the difficult past on the example of particular people who suffered, whose lives were ruined.
  • Other countries have come this way on their own, and Russia also has its own way.
  • People should be involved in the discussion of the purges through their family history, through their personal involvement: when they internalize this, when they are internally horrified by this, when they begin to pray for those on whose bones things have been built and constructed, then it passes their heart, not their mind, and this path is more correct.
  • Children ask the best questions about our history.

Should we condemn or forgive the executioners?

  • All the names must be said.
  • Whether to judge a person in court or out of court is an individual matter.
  • The problem is that the main executioners and informers are buried front and center in Red Square, and we do not really understand what to do about it.
  • The entire cemetery at the Kremlin, along with Lenin's Mausoleum, should be moved to the cemetery in Mytishchi, the federal military cemetery, and let this Soviet Pantheon remain there.
  • The third way to solve the problem: victims are in its own right, executioners are in a separate list.
  • To judge is to divide society, to divide memory, and we have everything in our memory: both good and bad.
  • Forgiving is a matter of a human soul’s maturity.
  • You cannot make a soul forgive or accept immediately. The soul matures gradually.

Prospects and projects for working with the difficult past

  • The most effective "project" recently that has attracted attention to the problem of Stalin’s terror is Dmitriev’s case, and it is not ours.
  • There is no major work on education in this regard in Karelia at the moment.
  • Historians do write and research something. But, first, there are very few historians who write about repressions in Karelia. Mass media have almost stopped covering these problems, because there is almost no free mass media in the republic.
  • There is no extensive public dialogue we are talking about and which is, of course, necessary at the pleasure of those who control our lives.
  • For some reason, we do not talk about the main thing, about historical memory at the state level, and it is impossible to solve these dilemmas at the level of public conversation between concerned people. They cannot be solved that way.
  • At the moment, any prospects for the development of Trudnaya Pamyat’s projects are debatable, because there are few opportunities for this.
  • We do need to know the experience of other countries, but Russia will still go its own way, with its own pitfalls.
  • We need to talk about how to expand this framework (this space for dialogue in society) and how the state should behave if it is concerned about its future.
  • The museums in Medvezhyegorsk, Segezha, and Kem’ can be a major support for this discussion, but it requires people - people who know, who can, and who have no fear. It's all about people, enthusiasts, and state historical memory. There is no way without this.
  • We cannot teach people not to be afraid. All human beings want to live.
  • 41% of those repressed during the Great Purge were Finns who survived and left. And things might have been very different if these people had stayed here.


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