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Russians remember victims of Stalin’s mass purge

Josef Stalin. (A. Oshurkov/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The memory of thousands of people executed during communist dictator Josef Stalin’s Great Terror is being marked in Moscow and other cities across Russia in an annual ceremony.

Thousands of people lined up at the Solovetsky Kamen memorial on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square on October 29 to pay their respects at a daylong ceremony called Returning The Names organized by the Memorial Human Rights Center.

Participants — relatives of the dead, rights activists, and others — read aloud the names, ages, occupations, and dates of executions of some 40,000 Muscovites — a fraction of the estimated 1 million or more Soviet citizens killed in 1937-38.

Memorial has held the ceremony every year since 2006 at the site in plain view of the building that was the headquarters of the Soviet KGB and now houses the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), its main successor.

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Many participants called for the release of Yury Dmitriyev, the head of Memorial’s branch in the Karelia region and a historian who has worked for decades to expose crimes committed in the region by the Soviet state.

Dmitriyev is under arrest on charges of sexual assaulting his adopted daughter. He and his supporters say the accusation is in retaliation for his efforts to expose a side of history that challenges the Kremlin’s current push to glorify the Soviet past.

Memorial said that Returning The Names ceremonies are being held and will be held in 35 cities and towns in Russia and annexed Crimea on October 29 and on October 30 — the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions in Russia.

According to Memorial, similar events will be held in Warsaw, Washington, New York, Minsk, London, and Prague.