Offerings for the Dead, Butovo, Moscow

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Offerings for the Dead

To get an excuse for the sounds of guns in the middle of nowhere they claimed it was a firing range, but in fact it was an execution site. At the end of the 1930s more than 20 000 prisoners, mostly politicals, were shot & buried in Butovo forest near Moscow. The area was later filled with trash, sealed and guarded for a long time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Russian orthodox church bought the place. The land was cleared, and soon unknown fates of thousands of innocent people began to unravel. Some names and fates, though, will remain a mystery forever. Nowadays there is a memorial to the victims of political repression in the middle of the mass graves. In orthodox tradition, people set food, drinks and small gifts to the graves of the loved ones, and same happens at Butovo memorial. It was Easter, so mourners had brought sweet kulich bread to the monument.

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Camp Punishment Cell, Vorkuta, Russia

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Camp Punishment Cell

From 1930s to 1950s Vorkuta was one of the most notorious Gulag camps in the Soviet Union. Situated far away in the arctic tundra, it offered harsh climate, hard work and even harder guards. So it can be imagined that the punishment cell of one of Vorkuta’s lagpunkts was not the most pleasant place in the world.  The former prison served as a some kind of warehouse after the dismantling of Gulag system in the 1960s. Later in was abandoned, but sturdy stone building still stands in northernmost part of the town, Severny. It is a solemn monument of all the grotesque traits of the camp system.

Memorial Tree, Levashovo, St. Petersburg

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Memorial Tree

Levashovo memorial cemetery nearby St. Petersburg is like some twisted enchanted forest. Small wooden area near the military air base of the town is filled with makeshift memorials that the loved ones and relatives of the dead began to build to the forest after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Thousands of people from Leningrad and all over the oblast were buried here in mass-graves, mostly during the Stalin’s purges at the end of the 1930s. After that the area was closed, but the memory literally raised from the grave when Russians could again commemorate the victims of political repression and Gulag. Many trees are full of photographs, icons, personal belongings of the murdered and even copies of their arrest documents. It’s like walking through unwritten page of history.

Two Red Graves, Sandarmokh, Karelia, Russia

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Two Red Graves

The vast forest of Karelian republic at western Russia hides a dark secret under its mossy soil. At 1937 and 1938, as the Great Terror raged, about 10 000 people were brought here. Most came from the nearby Gulag camp of Solovki, others had been doing forced labour around the towns of Medvezhyegorsk and Segezha at Karelia. All of them were shot and buried in mass graves. People from almost sixty different countries and nationalities were killed in the area. At 1997 the burial site was finally uncovered, and it became a memorial for the victims of the political repression of the Soviet Union. There are some official monuments at the tract of forest, but also many unassuming but beautiful smaller memorials scattered here & there, like these two red pillars with the names of the dead.