Russia Update: Activists Commemorate Political Prisoners’ Day; Police Intercept Marchers

October 31, 2015
A young man in St. Petersburg holds up a sign that says: "Here at no. 53 Vosstaniya St. lived Georgy Genrikhovich Gagen, a navigator and hydrologist at the All-Union Arctic Institute, arrested February 18, 1938 and executed April 9, 1938. October 30 is the Day of Commemoration of Victims of Political Repressions." Photo by Dave Frenkel

This time of year Russians have several days of activities to mark the mass murder of civilians in the Soviet era.

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Russian Activists Commemorate Political Prisoners’ Day; Police Intercept Marchers in St. Petersburg

This time of year Russians have several days of activities to mark the mass murder of civilians in the Soviet era.

October 30 has been
honored as “Political Prisoners’ Day” ever since Russian astrophysicist Kronid
imprisoned for his work in the Chronicle of Current Events
reporting on human rights violations started the celebration to mark his
own conviction October 30, 1972 to five years of labor camp. In the
Yeltsin era, the date was declared an official government Day of Remembrance
of Victims of Political Repressions.

Yesterday, October 29 activists gathered by the Solovki Rock, a stone brought from the Solovki monastery used as a prison in the GULAG system in the Soviet era, to commemorate the victims of Stalin’s repression.

Members of Memorial Society, devoted to researching the victims of totalitarianism participated in their annual action, “Returning the Names,” and read out the names of those who were executed or who disappeared into the camps, Novaya Gazeta reported.

In Moscow alone, from 1937-1938, about 725,00 people were executed throughout the USSR, more than 40,000 people in Moscow alone, with tens of millions of people passing through the GULAG.

Translation: Commemoration of victims of the swings of history. Andrei Rudalyov on the Immortal Gulag action.

Returning of the Names action in commemoration:

Novaya Gazeta reported that In St. Petersburg, activists from the Vesna (Spring) youth democratic movement staged an event titled “Immortal GULAG,” in deliberate imitation of “Immortal Regiment,” a commemoration of the fallen soldiers of World War II begun by Tomsk TV producers in 2013. The TV station was later closed by authorities and the event coopted with even President Vladimir Putin taking part to honor his father, who was a wounded NKVD veteran.

The idea for the event was conceived by Andrei Desnitsky who wrote on his Facebook page in May (translation by The Interpreter):

likely something will start to change seriously when “Immortal
Barracks” follows after “Immortal Regiment” with the photographs of
those who were murdered in execution pits, who died in the labor camps
or simply went through them.”

A group in Nizhny Novgorod has made a web site to collect photographs for the “Immortal Barracks”.

In the GULAG version of the concept, demonstrators marched with portraits of their relatives who suffered as a result of Stalin’s terror to an address in the center of town where 56 victims of the repressions of the 1930s lived.

But police intercepted the marchers soon after they got started, reported.

The demonstrators quickly converted their action into “solo pickets” which are permitted by the law on rallies, spacing themselves out 50 meters apart as is acceptable under the law.


Even so, police grabbed and ripped some of the posters of people’s relatives.

Photojournalist Dave Frenkel has a report on Flickr.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick