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  2. Eight memorials to victims of political repression destroyed or damaged in Russia within one year

Eight memorials to victims of political repression destroyed or damaged in Russia within one year

Damaged memorial to the exiled Poles in Tomsk
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Since November 2022, memorials to victims of repression have been vandalized in at least eight regions. The majority of the damaged monuments were those dedicated to exiled Poles and Lithuanians.

Plaques were forcibly removed from the memorials honoring the repressed, crosses were shattered, and icons were stolen. In June, the memorial dedicated to Anna Akhmatova vanished from the Kresty prison in St. Petersburg.

According to researchers from Memorial, the increase in acts of vandalism can be attributed to the fact that, since February 24, 2022, memories of Soviet repression have become more prominent and vivid. Monuments to the victims of political reprisals serve as reminders of the state's crimes against its own citizens. The Memorial staff stated to 7x7 that the concept of preserving the memory of these atrocities cannot coexist with blind obedience to the state's any will.

In their view, the destruction of monuments honoring repressed Poles and Lithuanians aligns with the state's xenophobic rhetoric.

"The monuments found in these cemeteries are a direct result of the imperial policies and ambitions of the Soviet regime, which we still struggle to overcome. If it were not for the imperial wars, individuals from Poland, Lithuania, or Latvia would have never ended up in Tomsk, Irkutsk, the Perm Krai, or Yakutia. The current war's ideologues are attempting to replicate the imperial project of the USSR," the researchers explained to 7x7.

They contend that, in most instances, the destruction of the memorials was orchestrated by regional authorities and lacked widespread support from the local residents. However, these incidents should not be equated with the dismantling of monuments dedicated to fallen soldiers in the former Soviet republics. Memorial representatives argue that in Ukraine and the Baltic states, the objective is not to erase the memory of the actual deceased, but rather to eradicate symbols of Soviet presence, which served as markers of territorial control and the authority of the empire.

In November 2022, several objects in Tomsk associated with the memory of exiled Poles fell victim to vandalism. On November 11, unidentified individuals removed a plaque from a memorial stone dedicated to the Poles. Two days later, another plaque was stolen from the building that once housed a Polish orphanage during the 1940s. Towards the end of November, in the village of Polozovo, unknown individuals broke a cross and vandalized a memorial plaque bearing the names of Poles executed during the 1938 repressions.

In April 2023, a monument honoring Polish and Lithuanian settlers who perished during the repressions vanished from the cemetery in the former settlement of Galyashor in the Perm region. Informational plates were also removed from monuments dedicated to repressed Poles in Yakutsk in June 2023. The authorities in Irkutsk justified the demolition of a Lithuanian cross and a Polish monument in the village of Pivovarikha in May, citing their unauthorized installation. Finally, at the end of June, unidentified individuals destroyed the graves of victims of repression in the Sverdlovsk region.



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