Friday, August 23, 2019

Western Attention to Stalin’s Victims Justifies Hard Line Against Any Memorials to Them, Karelia’s Culture Ministry Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 20 – Sergey Solovyev, a senior official in the Karelian Republic ministry of culture, has said more bluntly than any other Russian Federation official what is behind the new wave of attacks against those inside the country and abroad who want to remember and honor Stalin’s victims.

            In a letter to the Russian Military-History Society which the authorities have assigned to investigate the Sandarmokh killing fields and bring back a different verdict than historians have (, Solovyev says Western interest in these things is all the justification Moscow needs.

            The letter, which ministry issued in June, has now been published on Facebook ( in connection with the case against Yury Dmitriyev and is excerpted on the Region.Expert portal (

            Solovyev’s words clearly reflect more than just his own opinion, and therefore they deserve the closest possible attention.

“The Memorial Society has promoted the idea of the burial at the Sandarmokh tract of the victims of political repressions in 1937-1938 (the so-called ‘Solovetsky route’), which with the support of domestic and international forces interested in this has become the paradigm for public consciousness both in Russia and abroad. 

“The idea of the burial in the Sandarmokh tract of victims of political repressions is being actively used by a number of countries for destructive information-propagandistic actions in the sphere of historical consciousness.

“Speculation around the events in the Sandarmokh tract not only inflicts harm to the international image of Russia but strengthens in the public consciousness of citizens the baseless feeling of guilt toward the repressed representatives of foreign states, allows for the promotion of baseless claims against our state and becomes as well a consolidating factor of anti-government forces in Russia.”

            In reporting this, the Republic Movement of Karelia notes that Solovyev has said openly what other Russian officials have only implied: “historical memory about Soviet repressions against the citizens of various countries has a ‘destructive’ and ‘anti-government’ character for present-day Russia.”

            By so doing, the Movement says, the Putin regime has acknowledged that the Russian Federation is “a direct continuation of the Stalinist SSR. All that is lacking in this text is the term ‘anti-Soviet’ but it has been successfully replaced in today’s propaganda by the term ‘Russophobic.’” 

            Solovyev’s letter authorized the Russian Military-Historical Society to launch its own investigation at Sandarmokh, an investigation which has already partially destroyed part of the site and involved the exhumation of five bodies which the authorities can be expected to declare to be ethnic Russians victimized by the Finns.

            The precedent for doing that, of course, is the tragic history of Katyn where the NKVD killed thousands of Polish officers only to have the Soviet leadership insist for decades that Moscow was innocent and that the Nazis had committed that crime. “As we see,” the Movement says, “the propaganda methods of the empire haven’t changed since Stalin’s time.”

            What is especially distressing, the Karelian activist group says, is that Solovyev had been a supporter of various Karelian causes before he was promoted to his current position; but now, in order to fit into the power vertical, he has changed his tune and adopted the approach of his Moscow bosses.

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