Sunday, October 18, 2020

All Stalinist Killers and Their Victims Must Be Named, Karelians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 16 – That many people in the Russian Federation have a more positive image of Stalin now than they did a decade ago because of the passage of time and the efforts of the Putin regime to achieve that is beyond question, but the shift at least in some parts of the country is far smaller than is sometimes assumed.

            A new survey in Karelia by the Difficult Memory group finds that people there continue to have an extremely negative view of the Soviet dictator and believe that it is absolutely necessary that all Stalin’s killers and all their victims must be named and remembered (

            Not only does that suggest there is significant popular support for imprisoned historian Yury Dmitriyev and his work on the Sandarmok killing fields but that there is at least in Karelia little willingness to accept the Kremlin’s efforts to whitewash the Soviet dictator’s crimes against humanity.

            The Difficult Memory group collected comments by Karelians and others who took part in online surveys. Some of these were reported in Nikolay Eppl and Boris Grozovsky’s book, An Inconvenient Past: Memory about State Crimes in Russia and in Other Countries (in Russian, Moscow: NLO, 2020).

            The 7x7 regional news agency extracts some of the answers from Karelia about three questions: Should one speak or remain silent about the past? Should the killers be judged or pardoned? And, finally, what are the prospects there for dealing with the difficult past of that republic?

            Among the answers are the following: To the first, “people as they age don’t want to hear negative things,” “people must be involved in the discussion of repressions through family histories and personal involvement,” and “children ask the very best questions about our history.”

            To the second, “all names must be named,” “whether an individual should be judged or forgiven must be a separate decision in each case,” and “a major problem is that the chief killers and snitches lie in Red Square in Moscow in a prominent place and we do not know what to do with them.”

            And to the third, Dmitriyev has done important work but “there are too few historians” working on this issue in Karelia, museums can help but knowledgeable people willing to talk are more important, and “during the Great Terror, 41 percent of those repressed consisted of Finns who survived and fled. The picture would be entirely different if they had remained here.”

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