Staunton, Dec. 1 – When the Bolsheviks decided to replace two graveyards in Barnaul in the 1930s, they decided to have residents, including children, open the caskets and seize gold teeth from the corpses and hand them over to the state for the benefit of Soviet power, Yekaterina Krasilnikova says. The children were even allowed to play football with the skulls.
The historian at Novosibirsk State Technical University calls attention to that case in a new book about funeral practices in the first decades of Soviet power (sibreal.org/a/kak-i-pochemu-bolsheviki-snosili-starye-kladbischa/29317483.html). Among her other findings and observations, the following are noteworthy:
· Elsewhere, local people were more successful in resisting such outrages.
· During and after the Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks played up funerals of the victims of anti-Bolshevik forces; and later, they celebrated the last rites of senior party and state officials. But interest in promoting attention to mass funerals of any kind waned in the 1930s.
· Throughout the 1920s, despite Soviet anti-religious policies, people were able to have funeral notices of church services published in local newspapers.
“As a result of the almost century-long experiment with historical memory, traditions and rites, including those in funerals and the destruction of everything and everyone,” Krasilnikova says, “today we have what we have.”
“Our present-day state,” she says, “has a memory policy that is inconsistent and amorphous. It is an attempt to unite everything with everything and not draw lessons or repent. The centenary of the revolution has passed, but global measures directed at reconciliation have not occurred.
Instead, the historian concludes, “the present-day state has no ideology and nothing to offer society.”