Purge Victims Remembered in Russia

On October 30, Russia marked the Day of Memory of Victims of Political Repressions and the 70th anniversary of the Great Purge.

In 1937, an order to conduct "a campaign to purge the former kulaks, convicts and other anti-Soviet elements" signed by Nikolai Yezhov, People's Commissar (Minister) for Internal Affairs, was enacted, paving the way for mass executions.

According to official records, 4,060,306 people were killed between 1921 and 1953, 799,455 of whom were executed.

The purge reached its climax in 1937-1938, when 1.3 million people were convicted of trumped-up charges in line with the official quotas. Half of this number was executed.

To honor the memory of victims of political repressions, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Butovo Grave Memorial Complex, a former firing range of the People's Commissariat (Ministry) for Internal Affairs just outside Moscow, where mass executions were held in the 1930s and the 1940s.

Between August 1937 and October 1938, 20,765 people were executed at Butovo.

There are five known mass graves of purge victims in Moscow and the surrounding area. Monuments have been created at the Butovo Grave Memorial Complex, the Vagankovskoye Cemetery and the Cemetery of the Moscow (Donskoi) Crematorium. A stone from the Solovetsky Monastery, the site of a notorious prison camp in northern Russia, has been installed in Lubyanka Square in central Moscow.

In 2004, the foundation stone of the Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia was laid in Butovo, and the church itself was completed in the spring of 2007.

In August 2007, a towering wooden cross called a Poklonny Krest (Cross of Worship), consecrated near the walls of the Solovetsky Monastery's Spaso-Preobrazhensky (Saviour Transfiguration) Cathedral, was placed in Butovo.

In 1991, the RSFSR Supreme Soviet (Parliament) passed a law "On the Exoneration of Political Repression Victims" and established October 30 as the Day of Memory of Victims of Political Repressions. Under the law, the civil rights of political repression victims will be reinstated and other consequences of the official arbitrary rule eliminated. Since 1991, the authorities have re-examined about 630,000 cases of individuals convicted during Soviet times and recognized more than 424,000 of them, including 10,000 children deported together with parents, as purge victims.

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