On October 0, celebrating the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression, we were once again convinced that the unlearned lessons of history lead to its repetition. The organization that preserves the memory of Soviet political terror was liquidated by the Russian authorities, and more and more often, especially in the last year, we have to face sad parallels between the times of Stalin’s lawlessness and what is happening before our eyes.
Activists of “Last Address” install a plaque dedicated to him on the wall of the house where the man who was shot during the Stalin years lived. On November 5, such a sign was erected in Moscow at house 43 in Starokonyushenny Pereulka in memory of Varvara Brusylova, who was sentenced to be shot three times by the Soviet authorities. Historian and political prisoner Yury Dmitriev was engaged in the search for her burial and the restoration of her memory for many years, which was reported by Radio Liberty, among others.
A torn memorial plaque is also a sign of memory. In memory of our time, or rather, timelessness
When I think about “The Last Address”, an unpleasant but telling incident, which I became an eyewitness, pops up in my memory every time. Then the first plaques were installed in the center of Moscow, members of the “Memorial” society (not yet liquidated at the time) and journalist Sergey Parkhomenko, one of the initiators of the project, took part in the solemn event… Everything had been agreed with the residents of the house a long time ago, they had already taken out a drill to drill holes in the wall to strengthen the plaque… Suddenly, loud cries of protest were heard from somewhere: “Stop! I don’t want to see this every day!” It turned out that an elderly woman from the neighboring house, sitting lovingly by the window, was outraged. The tablet, if it appeared in her field of vision, would spoil her mood. It was necessary to move the place of installation of the sign by a couple of meters. This incident is reminiscent of Bulgakov’s Frida from “The Master and Margarita” and her handkerchief. And also about a woman from fascist Germany who lived not far from the death camp, but did not suspect it. When she was asked how she could not notice the clouds of smoke above the crematorium, she replied that she had never looked in that direction. Apparently, she knew well where not to look.
In 2023, someone began to tear off the “Last Address” signs, and scars-prints remain on these places. They throw themselves into the eyes, demonstrating that it is impossible to erase memory. After all, a torn memorial plaque is also a sign of memory. In memory of our time, or rather – timelessness…
To the same trend, I attribute the ban on holding the “Return of Names” memorial event in Moscow, when people read aloud the names of those shot during the Great Terror from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the square near the Solovetsky stone on Lubyanskaya Square. At the origin of this event was Arseniy Roginsky, the Chairman of the Board of the International “Memorial”, who ped away on December 18, 2017. It’s probably a good thing that he didn’t live to see the liquidation of the organization and to the current black time.
As part of the “It’s Right Here” and “Topography of Terror” projects, participants of educational excursions around Moscow are told about the connection of time: what was once here, what happened during Stalin’s repressions, what is in this place now. Among the points of one of the routes are the Ivanovsky Monastery and the Morozov mansion. During the era of the Great Terror, there were concentration camps here. This term (as well as the word “hostage”) was then officially used without any hesitation, calling things by their proper names, in contrast to today, when they prefer Aesop’s language and Orwell’s new language (“special operation” and similar euphemisms).
In Moscow during the Great Terror, the German actress, the star of Bertold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, Carole Neher, and her husband, engineer Anatoly Bekker, were arrested. Anatoly Bekker was shot on May 12, 1936, and Carola Neher died of typhus on June 26, 1942, in the transit prison in Sol-Iletsk, which later became the “Black Dolphin” colony. Alexey Pychugin, who has been behind bars longer than any of the political prisoners living today, is being held there for the second decade. Another ominous parallel between Stalin’s times and the present.
The Russians did not feel, did not speak, did not reflect on our terrible past, and therefore it returned to the nightmarish present, with torn “Last Address” signs, the installation of monuments to Stalin, Dzerzhinsky and the other executioners, long-term prison terms for pacifists, m crimes on the territory of Ukraine and the friendship of the Russian the state with the leaders of Hamas, who staged a macre in Israel… They say that history develops in a spiral, but in Russia it moves in a closed circle that cannot be broken.
Vera Vasilyeva – Moscow journalist, presenter of the Radio Liberty project “Freedom and Memorial”
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