Activists fight for the memory of the victims of Soviet repression

Activists fight for the memory of the victims of Soviet repression
Activists fight for the memory of the victims of Soviet repression

History may be written by the victors, but a small group of Russian activists are doing everything in their power to make sure their battle to keep alive the memory of millions of victims of Soviet repression is not lost, placing one small steel memorial at a time plate from time to time.
President Vladimir Putin has sidelined those who have gone the furthest in investigating the seven-decade-long crimes of communism, perhaps driven by misgivings and fears of drawing comparisons with his own oppression of dissent or trampling on patriotism, the necessary driving force of his war in Ukraine.
The NGO Memorial International (one of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureates – note ed.), which is the leading chronicler of the events, was banned nearly two years ago after three decades of diligent work. However, the participants of the “Last Address” project managed to place twelve hundred commemorative plaques on buildings all over Russia in a few years. Each one commemorates a victim of Soviet repression, with the plaques placed at the last address where those people lived before being executed, sent into exile or left to rot in a penal colony.
On each such memorial plaque measuring 19 by 11 cm are engraved the name of the deceased, his occupation, the date of his arrest, of his internment or of his execution and the date of his official rehabilitation.
“Each plaque is commissioned by someone. We don’t invent names… The commemorative project “Last Address” is the fruit of a public initiative,” says 75-year-old Mikhail Sheinker, program coordinator for Moscow. It happens that some settlements return the plaques in order not to contradict the prevailing patriotism there, or, as they say, not to turn their city into a cemetery. “People who talk about cemeteries forget that our heroes don’t have their own graves,” Scheinker replies. “They are buried in mass graves,” he added.
Memorial plaques are removed and sometimes replaced
Evgenia Kulakova, coordinator of “Last Address” for St. Petersburg, says that 434 plaques have been placed in the city since 2015, and always with the consent of the owner of the relevant building. At least 45 of them were secretly taken down. Some, like the plaque on Vasilevsky Island, have just as mysteriously returned to their place.
“It hung there one day, then someone took it down – no one says who. A week later, a duplicate appeared on the spot. Another week later, someone hung the original next to the duplicate,” says Kulakova.
“Who took down the plate! Who made the duplicate? We don’t know anything. But it means that the project is alive. It means that there are people who want to keep them (the plates – author’s note), even if others against them,” says Mikhail Polenov, for whose grandfather a plaque was made. He has the feeling that the initiative is gaining ground.
“People who don’t need memory are in fashion now,” adds Polenov. His maternal grandfather, enlisted soldier Alexei Peremitov, was shot on July 28, 1937. He was one of thousands accused of espionage and conspiracy at the height of Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge, also known as the Great Terror. Polenov, who has been investigating the case since 1989, expresses his gratitude to “Last Address”.
When he goes to the unveiling of another commemorative plaque this year, he finds out that it is being placed where his grandfather’s plaque stood, removed without his knowledge. “They didn’t tell me anything because they felt sorry for me. When I found out, I would have fainted,” says Polenov.
The 85-year-old artist Vladimir Ovchinnikov had hoped that his museum of political repression, which includes dozens of his portraits of victims, would open in Borovsk, 115 kilometers southwest of Moscow, on October 29, the Day of Remembrance of Victims of Political Repression . However, the local authorities canceled the event. This is not the first time Ovchinnikov, whose grandfather was shot by Lenin’s Bolsheviks in 1919 and his father was arrested during Stalin’s purges, has been thwarted.
“Why should we be silent? Why should we hide the things that happened?” he asks. “Instead of learning from the lessons, we are creating a state of unlearned lessons,” says Ovchinnikov. (BTA)
(Translation from English: Ivo Tasev)

The article is in bulgaria

Tags: Activists fight memory victims Soviet repression


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