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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Stalin's Killing Fields: The Russian Golgotha? We think not.

As is always the case where Russia is concerned, when there is one step forward there are always at least two steps back. The New York Times documents the opening of a new memorial to victims of Stalin on Moscow's outskirts, and this is good news, yet it quotes a Russian visitor saying "This place is our Russian Golgotha. There is Golgotha in the Holy Land, where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins. All of Russia was Golgotha in the 20th century." Do Germans refer to Auschwitz as "their Golgotha"? Do Americans talk about the Japanese camps this way? In fact, this is the exact opposite of the truth. Russians were not suffering for the sins of mankind, but for their own sins, and they were as much inflicting suffering as receiving it. Not only did they sit idly by while Stalin carried out his purges, many informed on their neighbors and benefited from the purges. The complicity of the Russian people themselves in the atrocities of Stalin is not recognized in this neo-Soviet memorial, nor is it reflected in the comments of this Russian or any other mainstream person in Russia today. Those, like Starovoitova and Politikovskaya, who dare to make such points find themselves pushing up daisies. Only a Russophile flight of egomania could possibly allow one to analogize the Russian people to Jesus Christ. Abraham Lincoln made a similar comment about American suffering during the Civil War, but in America the suffering was between two fully armed groups of rivals fighting over coherent political ideologies. In Russia, the armed state attacked the unarmed population on the ad hoc basis of preserving its power, and the vast majority stood by doing nothing. That's not Golgotha, it's just gross.

Worse still, the Orthodox Church, which bore the brunt of the attacks for which this memorial was created, is currently complicit in the rise of a neo-Soviet state, a Holy Russian Empire, and is condoning the persecution of rival religous groups. A proud KGB spy governs the nation, and he has rehabilitated Stalin, the KGB and even the Soviet anthem. It does not appear that Russians have learned anything positive from the Stalin era.

BUTOVO, Russia — Barbed wire still lines the perimeter of the secret police compound here on the southern edge of Moscow where more, perhaps far more, than 20,000 people were shot and buried from August 1937 through October 1938, at the height of Stalin’s purges. Now, gradually, Butovsky poligon — literally, the Butovo shooting range — is becoming a shrine to all of the victims of Stalin’s murderous campaigns. Grass-covered mounds holding the victims’ bones crisscross the pastoral field, which is now dotted with flowers and birch trees.

Searing portraits from victims’ case files found in the archives of the secret police are displayed, along with a grim month-by-month chart of executions, in front of a small wooden church in the field. “This place is our Russian Golgotha,” said Andrei Kuznetsov, 34, a social worker, making the sign of the cross recently in front of a newly built white stone church near the site, the Church of the Resurrection and the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. “There is Golgotha in the Holy Land, where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins. All of Russia was Golgotha in the 20th century.”

The killing ground is a symbol of a much larger, bloodier conflict in Russian society, that between the Bolsheviks and the Russian Orthodox Church. One thousand of those killed here are known to have died for their Orthodox faith. More than 320 have been canonized as “new martyrs” of the church — bishops, monks, nuns and lay people who were victims of Soviet rule. The new church was consecrated on May 19 as part of the celebration of the reunion of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Church Abroad, an émigré group that broke away in the 1920s. The walls of the church are filled with icons of the new martyrs, including one depicting their executioners shooting them. Glass cases in the lower church are filled with their personal items, like an executed priest’s prayer book and his violin.

The names of the victims are engraved on plaques lining one of the fences around the field. The fence overlooks dachas that were built in a parklike setting for officials of the K.G.B., the secret police agency was a successor of the Stalin-era N.K.V.D. and endured until the collapse of the Soviet Union. “They say the strawberries grew especially large at these dachas,” said Galina Pryakina, 70, nodding at the mounds of bones as she traced her finger across the plaques and found the name of a monk, now a saint, killed on the same day as her father, June 4, 1938. She visited the site this year on the fourth Saturday after Easter, a day that Patriarch Aleksy II of the Russian Orthodox Church has chosen in recent years to commemorate Butovo’s martyrs. “I spent 66 years looking for him,” Ms. Pryakina said of her father. She was an infant when he was arrested, supposedly as a Romanian spy, and she and her mother were sent into exile. Three years ago, she journeyed to Moscow from her home in southern Kazakhstan to find her father’s burial place. She headed for a cemetery in the city’s north, but a woman at a bus stop — Ms. Pryakina is convinced that it was a vision of the Virgin Mary — directed her to Butovo. Within minutes, her father’s name was tracked in a database here.

The Rev. Kirill Kaleda, rector of the Church of the Resurrection and the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, has a tragically intimate connection to the parish. His grandfather Vladimir Ambartsumov, who was a priest, is one of the new martyrs. He was arrested in 1937 and sentenced to “10 years without the right of correspondence,” the official euphemism for a death sentence. The Kaleda family spent decades searching for him. “I remember very well how when we were little, after our morning and evening prayers, we would add a prayer asking to find how our Grandpa Volodya died,” Father Kaleda said. “It seemed that hope of learning the circumstances of Grandfather’s death had almost vanished. We had thought he died somewhere in the camps.”

Mikhail Mindlin, a concentration camp survivor who devoted his retirement in the 1980s and 1990s to systematically studying Soviet repression, fought to have the existence of the Butovo killing ground recognized by the state. Eventually, thanks to sympathetic K.G.B. officials, files with the names of those executed on the orders of Stalin’s henchman Nikolai I. Yezhov were found in secret police files.

The scope of the killings is staggering. Butovo’s victims ranged from peasants and factory workers to czarist generals, Russian Orthodox hierarchs, German Communists, Latvian writers, invalids and even Moscow’s Chinese launderers, dozens of whom were executed as enemies of the people. Ultimately many Soviet officials, including Yezhov and other N.K.V.D. officials who carried out the purges, were gunned down at Butovo and elsewhere as the revolution consumed its creators. Some objections have been raised to the Russian Orthodox focus of the memorial, given the wide variety of victims buried here. But Arseny Roginsky, the chairman of Memorial, an organization that works to catalog Soviet crimes and help victims of repression, said the church had stepped into a void left by the state. “It’s a bit strange that this is a purely Orthodox place, but nothing tragic,” he said. “I don’t really like this. I think this should be a multicultural place. “But it’s better that there be something than nothing. If the state is not ready to understand the meaning of terror in its history, the role and place of terror in its history, it’s not so terrible that the Orthodox Church took it upon itself.”


Anonymous said...

Kim, you are one sick puppy. You don't have a clue.

The person who made the Golgotha reference ("...All of Russia was Golgotha in the 20th century.")was condemning the entire Soviet/Communist system as a place where people suffered unjustly. How can you make the idiotic analogy to Auschwitz? The simple fact that this display and church exist are testimony to the great strides that have been made. The Russia Orthodox Church has recognized thousands of New Martyrs of the Communist Yoke, saints who gave their lives for, who suffered for, the simple fact of their faith in their Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. And many more died due to the sick, cruel and inhuman policies of the Evil Empire in general, which condemned noble Russian traditions, and even devoured its own revolutionaries, an empire which, thank God, no longer exists. The ROC calls for repentance, both personal and national. And you seem to forget that a Red-White Civil War was fought. To condemn an entire people for simply surviving during the terror of the Soviet period is grossly unjust. You would have to do the same for all nationalities of the former Soviet Union in order to be fair.

I once made a study of percentages of Communist Party membership for a paper when I was a student. I was surprised to note that, at that time, the Union Republic with he highest percentage/proportion of Communist Party members was actually Georgia !

Complicity with Communist atrocities was an equal opportunity employer, and not confined to any one nationality or ethnic group. To say otherwise is a gross miscarriage of justice, and a result of chauvinistic demagoguery.

It goes without saying that the majority of those millions who suffered under the Soviet system were Russians, since they were the majority population. How else can one come up with the figure of 60-80 million who perished? The Soviet legacy is a terrible legacy, and it is so unfair and unjust and untrue to place ALL the blame on just the Russians. Unfortunately, this is what most Russophobes do. That's why they are called Russophobes, notwithstanding your own warped definition. ALL nationalities and ethnic groups suffered, and ALL nationalities and ethnic groups also were complicit to one extent or another, or had their own who supported the alien Soviet Communist internationalist socialist system.

Get a life !

La Russophobe said...

SLAVABEZ: Do you seriously think your comment would be likely to educate us, convince us to alter our views or make us take you seriously? If so, you must be a Russian moron. If not, then you have even less "life" than we do, idiot, because you're just a lowly commenter on our blog. You're a classic manifestation of why Russia loses nearly 1 million people from its population every year.

Anonymous said...

This is Hector,

Once again the typical bourgeois tears for the counter-revolutionary Orthodox Church. What about Stalin's murder of good Communists like Leon Trotsky, Jaan Anvelt, Christian Rakovsky, Adolf Warski, Henryk Walecki, Wera Kostrzewa, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Georgi Pyatakov, Grigory Zinoviev, Bela Kun, Franz Koritschoner, Karl Radek, and others dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism?????

Anonymous said...

Just read her(LR) answer to SLAVABEZ!
The reasonable, knowing man in polite words tried to convince her that she had been wrong (which is obvious for any unbiased reader), and what he got in response?
"Russian moron", "idiot..."
I always said that an intellegent, well brought up person could not be a russophobe.

Anonymous said...

An intelligent, well brought up person could possibly try to be a "phobe" at all. In any case, I mostly agree with the comment above. When la russofoba has no counter-arguments, she just starts "moroning" and "idioting" to everybody. By seeing her responses to criticism, that seems to be her overall worth anyway.

La Russophobe said...


Dude, you have serious mental issues. You claim to be condemning personal abuse while you indulge in it. You claim to be condemning lack of substance and then set forth none at all. Our comments are merely our response to our readers, which we could simply ignore entirely.

Instead of complimenting us on allowing diverse viewpoints to be expressed here, you attack us. In other words, you're a classic Russophile idiot and hypocrite.

The substance of our commentary is set forth in the posts themselves, which are meticulously researched and speak for themselves. This is the #1 English-language Russia blog on the planet, you fool.

Anonymous said...

Give me an instance, when I apostrophed you with an offensive word.

YOU always do it: indeed your vocabulary doesn't seem to exceed the words "moron" and "idiot", maybe sometimes "coward".

I don't comment, because I don't want to repat thing that have already been said, but if you're interested, I more or less agree with the first commenter.

Why should I compliment you? Since you're such a defender of democratic values, it's your duty to publish all comments which aren't spam, don't contain swearing, pornography etc...Otherwise you wouldn't be better then those who you so harshly criticise, would you?

Why should I be a "classic Russophile idiot and hypocrite", just because I express my criticism on the point you make? I just don't see the link.

You claim your points are well researched, yet you never adressed me when I destroyed all your points (being them mainly unsubstantial) on the "Why aren't you a russophobe" page?

"1 English-language Russia blog on the planet"...Yeh, whatever. Has it occured to you, that many of your readers actually don't like/agree with the hate propaganda you often publish?

N.B.: By hate propaganda I don't mean your criticism of the Russian government.

No.1 blog, right? Yes, of course, that's according to the most comprehensive blog-activity-tracker-site in the whole world, Technorati.

By the way, are you trying to say that Technorati ratings make YOU somehow authoritative? Don't make us (people who read your fanatism) laugh.

Yes, I could quit reading you, but I don't want unaware readers to be distorted by your misrepresentings on Russia's people and culture. And you often (intentionally) misrepresent them.

La Russophobe said...


Listen dude, if you're not even going to read the things you write in your own comments, then we're simply going to ignore you. Probably that's best, and then your sick mind can believe you've "won" because we "have no answer."

If you care to read your own comment on this post, you called us "unintelligent" and "badly brought up." Whilst doing so, you did NOT SAY ONE SINGLE WORD about the first comment on this post, which calls us a "sick pupppy" and instead express agreement with it. That's simply disgusting hypocrisy.

You should compliment us to give an example of "appropriate" behavior and to show you are fair-minded. Instead, you yourself do EXACTLY what you accuse us of, and hence we are not influenced at all by what you say.

An intelligent, well brought up person would realize that the only reason to comment on this blog is to influence our future content, and would realize that nothing you've said is even remotely likely to do so. Hence, it's a stupid waste of time.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to influence you, since I know it's impossible.

You never showed signs of open-mindedness towards people who DARED to disagree with you, you just attacked everybody, even the people who tried to start a polite discussion. You would certainly treat everybody with respect if they kissed your butt by agreeing on every single word. And don't come with the same boring stuff "people are hypocrites, because they're the first not to repsect me". You're always the first to call anybody, even a polite person, a moron or idiot, so what do you expect in change?

I'm basically writing for other people who might read this blog and who have the patience to read the comments.

I don't care about your opinion, since you clearly showed to everybody that you're stuck with your own, which you believe is universal, undebatable truth. Where's the room for discussion with such a person?

You could certainly start to censor me, but that wouldn't make you any different from the people you criticise.

Since you deduced from my words, that I called you "unintelligent" and "badly brought up" (which, in fact, I haven't), why didn't you deduce that I agree with the substance in the first comment, not the personal attacks against you?

By the way, why are you so offended? You called me many times "moron", without any prior provocation.

And you persist with the Plurale Maestatis. Once you've accused me of having a big ego. What kind of ego can have a person who contiuously uses Plurale Maestatis?

Anonymous said...

(I thought this was posted around 18 June or so. Either it was "spiked," or didn't go through due to technical reasons. This is another try.)


Please refrain from character assasination and back up your comments with substance. You have not even tried to refute any of the points I made, just dismissing them out of hand, and reverting to name-calling. (I'm sorry, but to use the terms "you are one sick puppy" and "Get a life!" can hardly be equated to your terms of "moron" and "idiot" as any reasonable person can see and notice the great difference.)

Why do you insist on assassinating the character of an entire nationality/ethnic group? Just use the same words you use to describe Russians in describing African-Americans, Arabs, Jews, Kenyans, Kazakhs, Kazakhstanis, Israelis, Kurds, the French, Italians, Ukrainians, any group at all, and you would never get away with it.

You refuse to address the very logical comments made about Russians suffering more than any other ethnic group under the Soviets, numbers-wise. You refuse to recognize that the Whites fighting the Reds was a tremendous effort, and that if others had been prescient enough to see the danger, they would have united to fight the Red Terror. But it's pretty hard to fight terror. Look at Iraq now, and look at the brave Cuban people and what they have had to endure under Castro. Do you condemn Cubans for putting up with Castro, or for losing to him? You have no clue what it was like living under communism, it seems. Such myopic comments are a great disservice to the supposed idealism that you claim to espouse. How old are you, Kim? Did you ever experience life under communism, by any chance? Pavel Khlebnikov, tsarstvo yemu nebesnoye, murdered for his actions and beliefs, was a great Russian and American patriot, and he would have never supported your views.

I remember the great Ronald Reagan, who knew the difference between Russians as a people and the Soviet communist, not Russian communist, system that bankrupted the country/region, and has left such a sorry legacy.

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is the BEST antidote to losing nearly 1 million people a year. Under the Soviets, abortion was the most common form of birth control, at one time, the average woman in the USSR had 7 abortions over the course of a lifetime ! That in itself is a kind of genocide. The ROC preaches against abortion because it is a grave sin. The ROC preaches against alcohol abuse, which is one of the greatest tragedies of the Soviet legacy. If most Russians returned to their spiritual roots, Russia will surely rise on its own merits all for the better. It starts with each individual, with each family, with each church parish. There was a recent article I read about Fandorins starting to pop up all over Russia.

The ROC preaches national repentance, recognizing that God in some way allowed Russia to suffer, to atone for its sins, especially the sins of the intelligentsia in abandoning their Christian roots, thus ushering in the Red Tide in the form of an alien Western and internationalist socialist outlook, Marxism-Leninism. The ROC also teaches that, if national repentance does not occur, that the benefits the Russians could expect will not materialize. Russians still have a long ways to go, but there are numerous signs that there is a religious rebirth. Any group is going to have its vocal crazies, but I can assure you that the majority of Russian Orthodox believers go about their daily lives quietly serving the Lord, and many are supporters of true democracy and human rights. By the way, it may interest you to know that quite a few Jews in Russia have converted to Orthodox Christianity. This is a phenomenon that actually fulfills Biblical prophecy.

I repeat, complicity with Communist atrocities was an equal opportunity employer, and not confined to any one nationality or ethnic group. Do you refute this statement? If so, on what grounds?

I repeat, it goes without saying that the majority of those millions who suffered under the Soviet system were Russians. Do you refute this statement? If so, on what grounds?

I repeat, ALL nationalities and ethnic groups suffered under the Soviets, and ALL nationalities and ethnic groups also were complicit to one extent or another, or had their own who supported the Soviet Communist system. Do you refute this statement? If so, on what grounds?

I wouldn't dare to attempt to "educate [you], convince [you] to alter [your] views." I'm just trying to understand how a warped mind like yours can come to such illogical and unsound conclusions when describing the Russian people as a whole. And what is wrong with being "just a lowly commenter on [your] blog." How do you know who I am? I could be a son of Solzhenitsyn or follower of Sakharov for all you know, or even a US State Dept official, a CIA agent, or Vladislav Surkov under a pseudonym !

Why do you say I am "a classic manifestation of why Russia loses nearly 1 million people from its population every year."? I make no excuses for abortion, AIDS, alcoholism, etc. in Russia. I condemn all of that, and I know that the ROC fights against all of the things that support this decline.

You are a very unfair and disturbed individual, Kim. Too bad.