Names of Stalin's Dead Echo Off KGB's Square

MTSchoolchildren waiting to read out the names of victims of Stalin's purges during a 12-hour vigil on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad on Wednesday.
"Kokarev, Alexander Danilovich, 30 years old. Expelled from the communal farm for being a kulak. Shot Jan. 31, 1938."

"Kokkinaky, Grigory Georgiyevich, 50 years old. Member of the council of defense attorneys. Shot March 8, 1938."

The names of the dead echoed softly off the face of the former secret police headquarters on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad on Wednesday as people young and old stepped up to a microphone to read off a handful of names from a list of those killed during the Stalinist purges.

Reaching the end of her list, Lyudmila Kazantseva's voice cracked, and she added one more name -- a name scribbled in by hand.

"And my father, Kazantsev, Yakob Yegorovich, 33 years old. Shot June 22, 1938. Don't believe that these crimes could not be repeated. Please, never forget," she entreated a small crowd of readers and observers.

On the eve of Thursday's Day of Victims of Political Repressions, the human rights group Memorial decided to hold a solemn ceremony on the square to read aloud a list of 30,000 people killed in Stalin's purges. The list was comprised solely of Muscovites who died in 1938.

Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, the first reader at 10 a.m. Wednesday, called for the creation of a national memorial commemorating the victims of Soviet political repressions.

Igor Tabakov / MT
People reading off names of people killed in Stalin's purges Wednesday.
"It is good that we frequently recall the heroes of World War II. ... But remaining in the shadows is a no less enormous, monstrous layer of victims of political repressions," Lukin said.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Memorial head Arseny Roginsky have suggested that a monument or museum be erected at Moscow's Butyrsky prison or near the Moscow-Volga Canal, built by gulag prisoners between 1932 and 1937.

"This is a question for public consideration, but, in my opinion, it must be created in Moscow," Lukin said.

Yelena Zhemkova, the executive director of Memorial, said in an interview that she favored turning Butyrsky into a museum of the repressions and purges.

Some 300 people were expected to read out names by the time the ceremony ended at 10 p.m., Zhemkova said.

A steady flow of people showed up to read throughout the day, including the family members of those killed, like Kazantseva, as well as groups of university students and schoolchildren.

"Everyone knows what happened, but there is little exact information," said Viktoria Boguslavchik, 19, a student who volunteers with Memorial.

The sentiment was echoed by Kazantseva, 70, whose father was taken to Siberia and shot when she was only a few months old.

"I'm afraid people will forget, not because they are better off now and not because of the financial crisis, but because there is no information," Kazantseva said.