Site for Stalin-era mass murders in Karelia. Photo: Gleb Yarovoy,

A visit to Sandarmokh

Members of the Russian Human Rights Council pay visit to the White Sea-Baltic Canal and Sandarmokh ­– places of execution and mass burial of victims of the Great Terror of the 1930s.
February 14, 2017


Text: Gleb Yarovoy

The visit by Council member Sergey Krivenko and Leonid Nikitinsky, both involved in the Human Rights Council’s mission to Karelia, took place on February 8.

They were accompanied by the head of the Regional State Committee for Protection of Cultural Heritage Yulia Alipova, head of the the governor’s administration Anatoly Moiseyev, and Petrozavodsk State University scientists, researchers, experts and representatives of “Memorial”.

Most of the trip reminded a guide tour: the guests heard about the Canal’s operational principles and its strategic importance, were taken to the church of St. Nicholas, built recently in the village of Povenets in memory of the canal builders.

Irina Fliege, who together with the Karelian historian Yuri Dmitriev found the mass graves in Sandarmokh in 1997, admitted that the purpose of the trip was not entertaining:

«Since 2015, there has been a strange disregard of the International day of remembrance of victims of Great Terror of 1937-1938 in Sandarmokh on the part of the republican authorities of Karelia», she says. «In Russia, it is the only one that is not regional, not national, but an international day of remembrance of terror. People come here from different cities and countries, sometimes up to a thousand people», she adds.


«This year we mark a round date – it is 80 years from the beginning of the Great Terror and the 20th anniversary of the opening of the cemetery and then a memorial here, — we will not just ask, but also require that this memorable date is included in the official events’ plan of the Government of Karelia for 2017, so that we could properly hold solemn ceremonies.»

One of the canal chambers at the White Sea Canal. Photo: Gleb Yarovoy, 7x7-journal

Member of the Human Rights Council Sergey Krivenko summed up the trip:

‘”Tomorrow at the final meeting, first of all, I will thank the leaders of the republic, because they have done much to perpetuate the memory of victims of repression. Sandarmokh was opened with support of the government, Yuri Dmitriev worked with support of the government, and Karelia can become an example for other regions. Secondly, we intend to prove to the leadership of the republic that even in the current difficult political conditions, including foreign policy, memorial days should be supported, they should not be afraid of international status and that representatives of Ukraine and Azerbaijan and other countries will visit Sandarmokh on August 5. So far, we have no mutual understanding, but tomorrow I will insist that commemorative events should be conducted jointly with the Government of Karelia and under the auspices of our Council. Then it will be the level that Sandarmokh deserves.»

During their visit to Karelia, the members of the Human Rights Council headed by Chairman Mikhail Fedotov in Karelia, also visited the Sunsky pine wood and Sandarmokh, discussed the problems of protection of the rights of prisoners, met with the students and leadership of Petrozavodsk State University and representatives of non-profit organizations, and also held a reception for the local population. Based on the results of the visita, there will be a written report on the situation of human rights in Karelia.


This story is originally posted on the and re-published as part of Eyes on Barents, a collaborative partnership between media organizations in the Barents region


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