Staunton, February 28 – Perhaps there is no better example of what some call “the Streisand effect” than what has happened with the Kremlin’s efforts to hide the evidence of Stalin’s crimes at Sandarmokh, efforts that have had the effect of drawing far more attention to those crimes than ignoring efforts to expose them would have achieved.
Indeed, Tamara Eidelman says that now and largely as the result of the Kremlin’s own approach to the issue, “everyone remembers Sandarmokh,” one of Stalin’s killing fields that only a handful knew about until Moscow began its ham-handed effort to ensure that no one did (theins.ru/opinions/eidelman/239689).
Last week, an appeals court held up the absurd sentence of the main investigator of Sandarmokh, Yury Dmitriyev, to 13 years in the camps. In response, more than 400 cultural figures and thousands of his fellow citizens spoke in his defense and thus in defense of the memory of Soviet repressions at that site, the historian continues.
Thus this latest effort to hide those crimes is resulting in their exposure and making Sandarmokh, a place few had heard of until recently, into “a most important place of Russian historical memory” and ensuring that the Dmitriyev case is not at an end but only beginning for him, for the authorities and for Russians concerned about their past and future.
“Today,” she writes, “Sandarmokh is associated above all with the name of Yury Dmitriyev who has devoted much of his life to creating here a memorial complex and identifying those who were shot there.” But now, on top of this “old tragedy” has been placed another, that of Dmitriyev himself.
But as this has happened, something else has become obvious as well. Sandarmokh now as in the past is not about one individual but about many. So many were killed and an ever-growing circle of people now are seeking to recover the memory of them. This attention now is “unbelievably important.”
That is because it serves as “a magnet drawing to itself dozens of people who are also searching in the archives, collecting reminiscences” and taking other actions so that the past will be restored and life now and in the future will be possible, Eidelman continues. That isn’t what the Kremlin wants, but it is what it has achieved.