Kurapaty Entrance Sign (in progress). Photograph taken on Remembrance Day (Dzen' Dzyady), 1997.
(Memorial Cross at Kurapaty -- Remembrance Day (Dzen' Dzyady), 1997)
(Memorial Stone with Plaque. Photograph taken on Remembrance Day (Dzen' Dzyady), 1997.)
(Detail showing plaque; photograph taken on Remembrance Day (Dzen' Dzyady), 1997.)
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If one may state the obvious, humankind's capacity to commit atrocities is certainly widespread. But denying that such events took place (and continue to take place) is more than any one of us should have to bear. Only through readily available, detailed, and accurate records can we ever hope to start to limit the reoccurrence of such events.
The current regime ruling Belarus is relentless in its attempts to propagandize history for its own purposes. Among their activities, their current systematic attempt to revise the story of Kurapaty, to attempt to absolve their heroes Stalin and Derzhinsky and themselves of guilt, is one of the strongest examples of the desecration of the graves of the victims. . . .
Today, many people in Belarus still refuse to believe this systematic massacre happened or else blame it on the Nazis. Keep this in mind when considering Human Rights in Belarus today.
- Kurapaty -- Site of Soviet Massacre of 200,000 Belarusians, 1937-1941. (Web site created by Aliaksiej Sierka in 1996).
- Follow this link for information about the source book upon which the Kurapaty Web page is based.
- Go to Web page about US Memorial Bench at Kurapaty
- Go to the Human Rights section of this Web page.
Among the participants were opposition youths, former Gulag prisoners, and activists of the Belarusian Voluntary Society for Historic and Cultural Heritage Protection.
They laid flowers at memorial signs, held a minute's silence, lit candles, and sang Belarusian national revival songs.
Seven police officers and plainclothesmen observed the ceremony.
Thousands are believed to have been executed by the Soviet NKVD at Kurapaty in the 1930s.
Monday's ceremony became the 25th since opposition and civil society activists began holding rallies at the site on the 29th day of every month more than two years ago.
"As long as we hold such events, there's hope that the problem of Stalin terror victims will come to public attention and will be reflected in the government's policy," said heritage activist Uladzimir Ramanowski.
Civil society activists erected a six-point cross at the site of Trastsyanets, a Nazi death camp near Minsk, on December 24 to honor the memory of prominent nationalist Vintsent (Vintsuk) Hadlewski who was executed by the Nazis on that date 66 years earlier. The majestic Cross of Sufferings was put up to commemorate thousands of citizens of Belarus and other countries who were murdered by the Communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes at the site in the years before and after the war [WWII], Mr. Ramanowski said."
It is said in the ministry’s response to the letter of the society concerning the recent acts of vandalism in the memorial area Kurapaty, which was included in the list of historical and cultural object of the Republic of Belarus as the grave site of victims of the political repressions of 1930-1940.
The letter, signed by deputy minister of culture Uladzimer Grydziushka, refers to the article 20.2 of the law “On protection of historical and cultural objects.” According to it, memorial signs, installed by the community in the memorial area, can’t be included into the State List of Historical and Cultural Objects.
Anton Astapovich, head of the Belarusian Voluntary Society of Protection the Monuments of History and Culture (BVSPMHC) said in the interview to BelaPAN, that according to the position of the ministry of culture, all memorial signs, installed by the publicity in Kurapaty, including the Cross of Sorrow and "Clinton’s Bench", mustn’t be protected by the state. "So, one can do whatever he or she wills, on the protected by the state territory, as there are no laws that could prevent it," A. Astapovich stressed.
He thinks, the officials should be ruled not only by laws, but also by moral norms. “Because the situation, when the national memorial in Kurapaty can be damaged with impunity, is abnormal,” A. Astapovich noted.
It should be remembered that after the recent acts of vandalism in Kurapaty the public organising committee on memorialisation the victims of Stalin’s repressions sent an open letter to the President’s Administration, General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the KGB, the Ministry of Culture, and the Minsk City Executive Committee. The document, signed by co-head of the organising committee of BVSPMHC and the public organisation, "Christian Community Kurapaty," contains a number of requirements to the authorities. Among them – protection of Kurapaty, investigation of the acts of vandalism in the memorial area with bringing the guilty to criminal responsibility, and including the installed by the publicity memorial signs in Kurapaty, into the State List of Historical and Cultural Objects."
Cross of Martyrs was installed in Kurapaty 18 years ago on Dziady day. People carried it in their arms through the city from the KGB building to the memorial area. In a few days after the vandals had broken the cross, Zianon Pazniak said in his interview to Radio Svaboda that the cross would be restored.
This year a rally and a meeting to commemorate the memory of the ancestors will take place on Sunday 28 October. The rally starts from the Clock Plant at 11 a.m.
Zianon Pazniak thinks the people who laid hands on the Cross of Martyrs will be punished.
“The facts taken place in Kurapaty are the ordinary criminal, blasphemy, damage of sacred object, liable to criminal punishment. But it is a symbol that can’t be destroyed.
The symbol can be destroyed only by the phenomena analogical, alternative to one, it was created by. That’s why the actions of the good-for-nothing people to break and damage are mean petty criminal. It makes the symbol stronger.
The strength and symbolism of the Cross are so great that by its installing it unites the idea of the whole nation consolidation, the idea of the consolidation before the memory of their suffering. And this great symbolism of the cross is so strong, that it defends itself.
I had life experience, in 1950-60-th I knew the people who destroyed the crosses when the Bolshevics were ruling, fight the religion. All these people ended their lives very bad and very early.
The majority has died. Some become crazy, cripples, lost their sons, daughters. And those who laid the hand on this symbol, this cross, will be punished even if he or she won’t be found by militia. That is the law of the spiritual life, the rustic people ignore it, but it exists” – Zianon Pazniak thinks."
The memorial is the foundation stone of Kurapaty that was damaged in a vandal attack in the fall of 2005. The vandals then took away the metal tablet that was fixed on the stone. The tablet bore a text, “A monument to victims of the 1937-41 atrocities will be built in this woodland under a resolution by the Council of Ministers of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, dated January 18, 1989.”
A new tablet was fixed on the stone this past spring. A group spearheading the commemoration of Stalin terror victims engraved a text on the stone, reading “To Victims of the Stalinist Regime.”
Kurapaty is regularly targeted by vandals. Cross of Sorrows installed by pro-democratic advocates in 1989 was damaged in the most recent attack.
Historian Ihar Kuznyatsow [Kuzniatsaŭ], who co-chairs the group spearheading the commemoration of Stalin terror victims, told BelaPAN that the cross had been damaged by vandals repeatedly in the past, blaming the attacks also on the local police department that refused to open criminal proceedings over yet another vandal attack earlier this year, citing the non-inclusion of the Kurapaty memorials into the list of government-protected historic and cultural heritage.
The group held a meeting on Monday to discuss their activities. They decided to move part of materials of the Babruysk museum commemorating Stalin terror victims to the private museum of historian Anatol Bely. The Belarusian Association of Political Victims that owns the Babruysk museum located in a three-room apartment does not have enough funds to pay the rent."
A group spearheading the work to honor Stalin terror victims petitioned governmental agencies, including the KGB, to establish the committee.
In his reply to the group, KGB Chairman Stsyapan Sukharenka says that the establishment of the committee would entail extra expenses.
The official notes that the names of Stalin terror victims were included in 'chronicles of memory' books published in each district of the country before 1994.
Two state holidays, Radunitsa and Dzyady, can be used for commemorating people executed during Stalinist purges, according to the KGB head.
In an interview with BelaPAN, historian Ihar Kuznyatsow condemned as 'immoral' the government's reluctance to mark the 70th anniversary of the bloodiest purges of Stalin's rule. At least more than 300,000 Belarusians were executed in 1937."
The Youth Front underlines that nobody is allowed to insult memory of thousands of Belarusians shot by the Communist authorities in 1937-38.
As we have informed, recently another act of vandalism took place in Kurapaty. A memorial "To Belarusians from the American people" presented by Bill Clinton was damaged. " (Web Editor's Note: US President William Jefferson Clinton presented the memorial bench to the Belarusian people from the people of the USA during his visit to Belarus in January, 1994.)
"The march, which had been sanctioned by the city and regional governments, ended with a rally at Kurapaty, a site outside Minsk where mass shootings of political prisoners took place in the Stalin era. Thousands of people are believed to have been executed and buried there by the NKVD (Soviet police) in the 1930s. Several new wooden crosses were put up on mass graves by rally participants."
" 'Kurapaty has become a symbol of the Bolshevik regime's crimes as Chatyn (Khatyn) has become a symbol of the Nazi occupation,' Yury Belenky, deputy chairman of the Conservative Christian Party, said at the rally. Twelve years ago, the Belarusian authorities promised to build a memorial at the place but nothing has been done since then, Mr. Belenky noted. According to him, the regime thereby shows that it is the 'spiritual successor of those who shot Belarusians in the back of the head.' Mr. Belenky recalled that Aleksandr Lukashenko has never been to Kurapaty unlike US President Bill Clinton, who found time to place a commemorative sign there during his 1994 visit to Minsk."
"There are reports that officials of the US Embassy visited Kurapaty on October 28 to leave flowers."
"An investigation conducted from 1988 to 1995 established that the Kurapaty mass graves contained the remains of 220,000 to 250,000 people, who were identified as victims of Stalinist oppression."
"In recent years, the Belarusian authorities have made attempts to revise the results of that investigation. A governmental commission revised downward the figure of victims at first to 30,000 people and then to 7,000. In addition, officials claim that it is not possible to establish who were buried at Kurapaty, victims of Stalinist oppression or victims of the German Nazis."
"It is a matter of common knowledge that in 1937-1941, the Soviet totalitarian regime killed tens of thousand of innocent people in the villages of Kurapaty, which presently has up to 585 mass graves on the territory of 21 ha. Under the project, a wooden cross will be erected on every mass grave."
"In addition, the main alley will be marked with a memorial sign in honor of every known location in Belarus where Stalinist repressions took place, and in honor of Belarusian cultural and religious figures executed by the regime. Next to the memorial, two churches, a catholic and an Orthodox, will also be built."
"Spadchyna, the Minsk city educational club, has set up a committee to deal with issues concerning the erection of a monument to victims of Stalinist oppression at Kurapaty near Minsk. The author of the monument, Minsk-based sculptor Ales Mironchik, proposes the installation of a 3-metre cast iron cross featuring Belarusian saints."
"As far back as January 18, 1989, the BSSR Council of Ministers adopted a special resolution providing for erecting a monument to victims of mass repression of 1937-1941 at Kurapaty. Members of the committee believe that the resolution does not require any additional authorization for erecting the monument. The unveiling ceremony is to be held on March 25, 1999, the 81st anniversary of the Belarusian National Republic."
"The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has been outraged by Procurator General Oleg Bozhelko's recent statement that prosecutors have no grounds to identify human remains unearthed in Kurapaty near Minsk as victims of Stalinist oppression." [Refer to Nov. 7th article, that follows.]
"In a recent interview, Mr. Bozhelko said that an investigation carried out in Kurapaty in 1988--1995 had been 'extremely one-sided' and conducted 'under pressure from certain forces.' He said that a state commission overstated the number of victims by saying that there were about 30,000 people in the mass grave."
"The BHC defined Mr. Bozhelko's statement as 'blasphemy against millions of victims of the Communist regime of 1930-1950es,' and 'yet another attempt to whitewash the crimes of the Soviet totalitarianism.'"
"'In the run-up to the national holiday of remembrance of the dead [Dzyady, November 2], the regime is trying to wipe out the memory of victims. Such actions is evidence that the Belarusian authorities have succeeded the policy of the Soviet regime,' BHC's statement says."
"In the opinion of some Belarusian historians, the official version of what happened at Kurapaty, which has recently been published by Belarusian Procurator General Oleg Bozhelko, does not correspond to the facts. Mr. Bozhelko told a news conference on October 23  that his department so far has not established who were buried in the mass grave at Kurapaty near Minsk: either victims of Stalinist oppression or victims of the German Nazi invaders."
"An investigation conducted from 1988 to 1995 concluded that the mass grave contained remains of 220,000 to 250,000 people, who were identified as victims of Stalinist oppression. Mr. Bozhelko pointed out that the conclusion had been hastily made by a team including experts of the Archaeology Institute of the Academy of Sciences led by Zenon Poznyak, currently the leader of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, who "played not a backstage role". Later, a governmental commission revised downward the figure to 30,000 people."
"Mr. Bozhelko said that an additional investigation, which was conducted in 1997-1998, searched 23 alleged graves and unearthed human remains in only 9 of them. After that investigation, the Procurator General's Office once again revised downward the number of estimated victims to about 7,000."
"He said that the investigators were uncertain that only victims of Stalinist oppression had been buried in the grave. He said that the investigation had neither identified remains nor found victims' files in archives. Mr. Bozhelko noted that both the first investigation and excavations carried out later had found razors, knives, and other things manufactured in Europe."
"In the opinion of Mr. Bozhelko, the 1988-1995 investigation was not conducted in an impartial manner and suffered from pressure on the part of certain forces. In addition, it seems strange to the Procurator General why Germany's propaganda machine did not exploit the massacre of Soviet people at Kurapaty, if it really took place, as it did with the killing of Polish army officers at Katyn in Russia's Smolensk region."
"Archaeologist Nikolai Krivaltsevich claims that the last excavation completely confirms the fact that the NKVD carried out shootings at Kurapaty at the end of the 1930s. In his opinion, the current official doubt about who killed at Kurapaty will ultimately grow into the assertion that German Nazis massacred people there."
"Historian Mikhas Chernyavsky believes that the current political regime in Belarus, as the only successor of the Communist past on the territory of the former USSR, would like to whitewash the Stalinist regime."
"Historian Valery Karbalevich claims that the prosecutorial bodies have been instructed to liquidate Kurapaty as the only officially recognized symbol of totalitarianism in the country."
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