Public Outcry As Authorities Dismantle Crosses Honouring Victims Of Stalinist Purges

Heavy machinery has been spotted dismantling wooden crosses set in memory of the victims of repressions in Kurapaty, a Stalin-era mass execution site on the outskirts of Minsk.

Seventy crosses were installed by Belarusian activists last summer to pay the tribute to the memory of the executed. Access to Kurapaty is currently limited, TUT.BY reports.

Plain-clothes police officers say that the forestry enterprise is working at the site. The press service of the Ministry of Forestry declined to comment on the issue.

Pavel Severinets, the politician, co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian-democratic party arrived at Kurapaty where he was detained by riot policemen.

The head of The Young Front Denis Urbanovich (who was later detained) and the member of the movement Dmitry Dashkevich were trying to get through the barriers.

Up to 15 people were detained at Kurapaty, the Department of Internal Affairs of Minsk City Executive reported to BelaPAN.

“Planned environmental improvement works are currently taking place in Kurapaty.

We put up fences and dismantle illegally installed structures (the crosses – BelarusFeed note),” the head of the Borovlyansky special forestry farm Alexander Mironovich told BelTA.

Since late May, the group of activists has been protesting against ‘dancing on the bones’. The activists stand against the Poedem Poedim restaurant which is in the close vicinity of the mass grave.

According to the protesters, its construction and opening at the very place were illegal. Activists first asked the authorities to interfere with the situation, and then decided to act independently.

Police repeatedly detained and drew dozens of protocols against the activists who had blocked the restaurant’s activity.

Kurapaty is the national memorial and a mass grave of the victims of Stalinist repression. Belarus’s Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich were among many who condemned the dismantling.

“One thing is clear, the state attacks the people’s initiative. It wants to take everything under control, without realizing it’s impossible. These crosses will still remain in our memory.

This is an attack on the civil initiative. I think Kurapaty was a symbol of national independence, people’s memory. And the state doesn’t want to put up with it, especially before the elections.

Kurapaty is a unique national monument. The people came up with its form, they fought for it and won it. I have never seen anything like that in the world.

And they (*the authorities) think that they can put this piece of stone and people will go cry there? No, this will never happen. And that is why it is a crime. “

By various estimates, Stalin’s secret police (NKVD) might have killed 30,000 to 250,000 people in the 1930s. Since 1993, it has also been a site of historical and cultural heritage.

Each year in November, on Dziady (the day when Belarusians commemorate their deceased), hundreds of people visit this site of crimes of Soviet political repression.

The situation is developing, the article will be updated.