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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Monument to Stalin's Victims

City officials and relatives of people killed by Stalin's regime lit candles and laid flowers at a granite cross Friday at the Vagankovskoye cemetery in central Moscow, the first of a series of monuments to be installed to remember the victims. "This monument will help us learn a humane attitude to human life, the highest value God has given us," said Alexander Matrosov, the engineering minister of the city government, addressing a crowd of about 100 people. Alexander Milchakov, an historian whose father was killed during Stalin's rule, said recent research shows up to 900 people were shot and later hidden in trenches between the tombs at the Vagankovskoye cemetery. Milchakov said the fund which he organized to finance the building of the monument has recently obtained a copy of a letter in which Stalin ordered the execution of thousands of people in 1930. "Why should we waste time with all those little people," Stalin wrote to one of his key ministers, Vyacheslav Molotov, referring to officials at state food distribution agencies. "They must be quickly executed without investigation or trial and declared responsible for the famine," Stalin added, referring to millions of people who starved to death in Ukraine in 1929 and 1930 after its agriculture was destroyed by forced collectivization. Last summer the Security Ministry, whose predecessors carried out the executions, opened two mass graves containing up to 50,000 victims in Butovo, south of Moscow. Konstantin Danilevsky, 66, said his father was shot in 1938 for using the expression "good old times" and for refusing to report on his neighbors and colleagues. "I don't know where his grave is, but I consider this monument to be a monument to him," said Danilenko before laying flowers at the cross. Milchakov said 12 sites of similar mass graves have been discovered in Moscow since human rights groups got access to archives of the Soviet secret services in 1989. Large-scale executions and imprisonments between the late 1920s and the early 1950s are believed to have claimed up to 60 million lives.