In a pine forest north of St. Petersburg, investigators have discovered a mass grave of victims of Joseph Stalin’s 1937-38 purges. More than 1,100 people, many of them among the elite who disappeared during the Great Terror, were shot and buried at the site.
The discovery came after a search that lasted nearly a decade. The location was pieced together from clues found in archives of the former KGB secret police and its forerunner, the NKVD.
“That grave has tremendous significance - these are representatives of the elite of that time, who just disappeared,” said Venyamin Yofe of the St. Petersburg chapter of Memorial, a group dedicated to uncovering Soviet-era crimes.
Among those executed at the site, he said, were four Russian Orthodox archbishops, 30 Catholic priests, 300 Ukrainians including prominent nationalists and intellectuals, 20 Tatar political figures, a Gypsy king, Belarusan leaders and many St. Petersburg literary and scientific figures, as well as factory and shipyard workers.
While it is known that 1,111 prisoners were executed, it is possible that the number of victims buried there is far larger from similar executions of other prisoners who built the White Sea Canal, one of Stalin’s slave-labor projects of the early 1930s.
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