Purge Victims Remembered

Many more people died under Stalin's Communism than Hitler's Nazism, a fact that is sadly little remembered - even by Russians, 50 percent of whom view Stalin in a positive light as a strong leader who helped Russia to victory in WW2 and not as a murdering tyrant that the sane world sees him as.

Stalin's purges began in the late 1930s when thousand upon thousand of people were rounded up in era marked by paranoia, secret police surveillance and repression. Intelligentsia, political opponents, the bourgeoise and middle classes and many more 'enemies of the state' were summarily rounded up and shot or transported to gulags (where they often perished through cold or starvation) in what can be considered one of the darkest chapters of Russia's history. In total it is estimated that up to a staggering 40 million people died in these purges.

Today hundreds of elderly relatives gathered in Moscow to light candles and lay flowers at a monument to the victims, made from a stone of the Russia's Solovetsky prison camp.

However speaking to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Sergei Volkov, chairman of the Russian Association of Victims of Political Repression, said that "not a single top official" came to lay flowers at the monument, which is located in front of the Federal Security Service's Moscow headquarters.

"There's a law on the rehabilitation of the victims of political repressions that was drafted by us, by public organizations, and was adopted and signed in 1991 by President Yeltsin," Volkov said. "It states clearly that the state recognizes its guilt. Today, for some reason, nobody talks about it."

In fact under Putin little to no admission is ever made of the wrongdoings of previous Russian governments, and indeed his leadership is often criticised for making modern Russia an increasingly repressive and undemocratic society (although only by the bravest of Russian journalists - a record number who have died under Putin's reign - and foreign media). Putin's government meanwhile is more than happy to gain political leverage by reminding Europe of how Russia saved the World from Hitler, conveniently forgetting that it was Russia who invaded Poland at the same time as Hitler's Germany and only began fighting the Nazis when they betrayed their alliance.

Another disappointing episode in connection with the purges was brought to light by Yury Brodsky, the director of the Museum of the Victims of Political Repressions at Solovki, also speaking to RFE/RL, who said it has become increasingly difficult to gain access to archives about the purges in recent years.

"I don't even know if Putin is to blame for that. Maybe it's the people around him. Until a proper assessment of what happened is made, we won't be able to develop further, and there is always a possibility of recurrence of what happened in one form or another."


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