A new memorial has been erected to commemorate the victims of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s regime of terror. Delivered by boat, a giant cross was transported to one of the most notorious killing fields during the era of repression. Built on the gulag island of Bolshoi Solovetsky, the 12.5 metre high structure was finally placed at Butovo, south of Moscow. There, over 20,000 people were killed and buried in mass graves in the late 1930s. Many of the dead were priests. Acknowledging the horrific events that took place, local religious leader Father Kyrill said the tragedy also created martyrs from among those who suffered. It was 70 years ago this month when top Stalin henchman Nikolai Yezhov issued the infamous order number 00447 for mass executions of so-called “anti-Soviet elements”. It triggered arrests, imprisonments and the murder of state officials and civilians as Stalin strengthened his control. Millions died in the dictator’s purges, mostly in prison or forced labour camps known as gulags, which were spread across the Soviet Union. Enemies to be disposed of were identified by Stalin’s regime everywhere, enemies who it believed wanted to destroy the revolution and its achievements, enemies who it thought wanted to restore capitalism for selfish reasons against the collective interests of the nation. The best-known description of the terror comes from Nobel-Prize winning Russian novelist and long-time exile Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Drawing on his own experience of imprisonment, as well as evidence from other detainees and archives, his work details the horrors of hard labour. Religious and human rights groups, rather than the government, have organised events marking the 70th anniversary of the purge. Some in Russia complain that the authorities are not doing enough to preserve the memory of Stalin’s victims, fearing that the slaughter he perpetrated may be forgotten by future generations.
Huge cross honours Stalin's victims