Staunton, December 10 --- A week ago, Dmitry Kuzmin called for an end to the efforts of the Last Address organization to memorialize Stalin’s victims by erecting plaques on the buildings were they had lived at the time of their arrest (mk.ru/social/2020/12/02/konveyer-poslednego-adresa-nado-ostanovit.html).
Kuzmin said that Last Address must be stopped because it is turning Russian cities into cemeteries, an apparent crank complaint until it was reported that he is the vice president of the influential Union of Russian Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Aleksandr Minkin says (mk.ru/politics/2020/12/10/donos-na-posledniy-adres-zhertv-stalina-nado-zabyt.html).
Minkin who writes frequently on human rights and historical issues observes that Kuzmin is calling for the removal of small even inconspicuous tablets, 11 by 19 centimeters, from the external walls of buildings from which Stalin’s victims were removed to the GULAG and their deaths.
All those whom Last Address has memorialized were illegally repressed and have been rehabilitated by Soviet or Russian judicial authorities, Minkin says. But Kuzmin wants such decisions about putting up these tablets to be taken away from the courts and given to the current residents of the buildings involved.
Their voices, he says, should take priority even though given the passage of time few now living in these buildings know anything about those who were repressed 80 and 90 years ago. But that is how things are in Russia: “the innocent are condemned too often, and the criminals openly laugh at the law.”
But Kuzmin’s argument is defective in more radical ways, Minkin says, especially when he speaks about how these tablets are turning Russian cities into “cemeteries.” Not only are there real sites in Russian cities, like the Butovo killing fields, that may play that role, but there are other reasons as well.
The Last Address organization has been working for six years. In that time, it has put up 1111 tablets, or about 185 each year. During the Great Terror, “more than a thousand people were being shot every day.”
Since the death of Stalin, some five million of his victims have been rehabilitated. If Last Address were to memorialize them at its current rate, it would need 27,000 years to do so. But of course, the number of people interested in doing that will decline as the population ages or if people think what Stalin did was justified or if it should just be forgotten.
Kuzmin ignores the fact that Russian government propaganda is promoting exactly those outcomes, and he also ignores the way in which Red Square is “something like a cemetery” already. There is “a whole cemetery” in addition to Lenin’s mausoleum – 12 graves and 115 urns, each with its memorial sign along the Kremlin wall.
“Who wants this forgetting? Those who have done dark deeds or those who hope that by promoting forgetfulness, they will be able to call black white or those who sympathize with these dark deeds?” Minkin asks. Kuzmin doesn’t provide an answer, but the proposal he is making raises all these troubling questions and more.
Perhaps his article will become the text on his gravestone? the commentator muses.