Sunday, September 9, 2018

Moscow’s Moves on Sandarmokh about More than Discrediting Memorial and Dmitriyev

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 9 – New excavations by the Russian Military-Historical Society at Sandarmokh which claim to have found the remains of Soviet soldiers rather than the victims of Stalin’s crimes, as Memorial’s Vladimir Dmitriyev had documented earlier, are about far more than just discrediting the human rights organization and its Karelian activist.

            The society’s activities there have already drawn criticism for that – see, for example, – but it now appears they may be part of a new effort by Moscow to reduce the number of premature deaths ascribed to Stalin by increasing the number of such deaths that can be blamed on Hitler.

            Many have forgotten earlier Soviet efforts to whitewash Stalin by making such shifts, something possible because of the long period between reliable censuses – 1937 and 1959 – and because both figures are based on estimates of premature deaths that are in turn based on estimates of the population during this period.

            If one makes an estimate of the premature deaths in the Soviet population during this period, these can then be allocated within limits either to Stalin’s actions or to Hitler’s. If one wants to minimize Stalin’s crimes, blaming Hitler for more is a useful strategy especially given the centrality of World War II in Soviet and Russian thinking.

            That possibility is suggested in a new article on the Russian World Crisis portal entitled: “The Sandarmokh Tract: ‘The Victims of Stalin’ have Turned Out to Be Red Army Men whom Hitler’s Finnish Allies Executed” ( and

            According to the article, the excavations at the site by the Russian Military-Historical Society, excavations Karelian activists opposed, have determined that the dead there were Red Army soldiers shot by the Finns and shown that “’the evidence’” offered by Memorial and Vasilyev “about bloody Stalin and mass shooting by the NKVD” is disproved.

            The Society’s findings and its criticism of Memorial were presented on Friday at a press conference to the Rossiya news agency. “This led Russian liberals and their Western protectors to extremities” because their version of events has now been thoroughly discredited by serious research. 

                The Putin regime, which is a major backer of the Military-Historical Society, will only be too pleased if it can simultaneously shift the blame away from Stalin onto Hitler and condemn liberal activists for supposedly overstating Stalin’s contribution to Soviet deaths and understanding Hitler’s.

            Both were mass murderers, but from Moscow’s point of view, it matters profoundly who gets blamed for more of the deaths. If the authorities can also suggest that Russian liberals are hiding Hitler’s crimes as part of their effort to black the reputation of Stalin, that will be yet another plus from the Kremlin’s perspective. 

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