Sunday, January 16

He found mass graves with thousands of dead. One of Stalin’s executioners is said to be related to Putin’s adviser.

Russians should not be ashamed of Joseph Stalin’s terror. Instead, they should be proud of the honorable Soviet history, according to the country’s prosecutors.

Yuri Dmitriev was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Critics say the case is politically motivated.

In the White Lake north of Russia are the Solovetsky Islands. Here the first concentration camp of the Soviet Union was established in 1923. It was depicted in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s great work “The Gulag Archipelago”. Conditions on Solovki were unbearable. The inmates were forced to work hard, but received little food. It took little to get punished.

In the summer, one could be chained naked in the woods, as a feast for thousands of mosquitoes. In the winter, prisoners were soaked in water and forced to stand outside in the cold. Solovki is located just 150 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle, and it was often freezing cold. Death came quickly.

On October 16, 1937, the commander of the camp was ordered to gather 1116 prisoners and execute them. The job was given to a captain in the secret police NKVD, Mikhail Matvejev. He transported them to Sandarmokh, a small place outside the town of Medvezhegorsk in Karelia. Deep in the forest he killed them. A total of 9,500 people were killed here and laid in mass graves. Then the place and the victims were forgotten.

It was not until 1997 that the historian Yuri Dmitriev managed to find the 263 mass graves. The killings in Karelia were part of the Great Terror. In 1937 and 1938, 1.6 million people were sentenced to long prison terms. At least 680,000 were executed. In the fall of 2016, the organization Memorial published a list of thousands of NKVD employees who participated in the massacres.

Dmitriyev was the leader of the Memorial in Karelia, and shortly afterwards he received anonymous phone calls with threats. They wanted to stop him from publishing such an overview for the region. He had plans for that, but never got that far. The list included a surname that also has a key employee in the Kremlin.

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