Russians pay respects to victims of Stalin purges

29th October 2013, Comments 0 comments

Hundreds of Muscovites gathered Tuesday at a day-long ceremony to commemorate victims of the purges ordered by Joseph Stalin, reading from a list the names of people killed in the Russian capital.

The so-called "Returning of the names", an event organised by the rights group Memorial, draws a crowd annually for the emotional paying of respects in central Moscow, where people take turns reading aloud the victims' names in a horrifying non-stop litany that lasts from 10 am. to 10 pm.

"My grandmother was shot in 1937 in Moscow. My grandfather was shot in 1938 in the provinces. I think it's absolutely necessary to participate in such events," said Dina Terletskaya, 28.

She was one of the people standing in line to get a copy of the list of names with the victims' ages, occupations, and dates they were executed.

The event takes place on Moscow's Lubyanka square, close to the headquarters of the FSB, the Stalin-era KGB building where many people were shot dead in the basement.

During the Soviet years, the square was home to a monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of the secret police and KGB founder. Its toppling in 1991 by a crowd of protesters is often seen as a symbol of the end of the Soviet era.

The spot is now a tiny green area with a monument to the victims of repressions.

Under Stalin's rule, millions were imprisoned in a vast camp system and hundreds of thousands shot in purges of those perceived as disloyal to the regime. Nevertheless some Russians still revere him, particularly as a wartime leader.

About 30,000 people were executed in Moscow alone in 1937 and 1938, the worst years of Stalin's terror, historians say.

"Unfortunately, there is not a single politician or official who comes to commemorate the victims," said Yan Rachinsky, a historian with the Memorial group. "This topic is considered marginal."

© 2013 AFP

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