Memorial to the Great Purge

KurapatyforestgravesnearMinsk,Belarus_%2Today is Dziady in Belarus, which is both a Slavic feast day and the day Belarusians commemorate hundreds of thousands killed in St

Today is Dziady in Belarus, which is both a Slavic feast day and the day Belarusians commemorate hundreds of thousands killed in Stalin’s Great Purge during Soviet control of the nation.

Not long before the collapse of the Soviet Union, historian Zianon Pazniak revealed the extent of the executions in the Kurapaty forest near the capital city, Minsk.

At least 30 000 people were killed in Kurapaty between 1937 and 1941, but some estimates put the number as high as 250 000.

People who attended the first commemoration – in 1988 – were attacked by the police, and to this day Kurapaty is not publicly mentioned by the pro-Russian government (run since the 1990s by dictator Alexander Lukashenko).

Pazniak fled the country in 1996 and was granted political asylum in the United States.

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On this day: Dressing a Communist

Italian fashion designer Angelo Litrico cutting fabric for a jacket for the secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev. 26th October 1957

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26th October 1957: Italian fashion designer Angelo Litrico is photographed cutting fabric for a jacket for Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev held the title of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 until 1964.

The designer, born the eldest of twelve children in Sicily in 1927, found international fame dressing political figures on both sides of the Cold War standoff.

Russian Orthodoxy – GONE!

ANDRIY BARANSKYY

The Lavra in Kyiv

In a centuries’ overdue move, and one that is going to lead to more Russian aggression in Ukraine, the Constantinople Patriarchate approved Ukraine’s split from the Russian Orthodox Church overnight. It is being called the biggest split in all of Christianity in a thousand years.

Russian Orthodoxy was forced on Ukrainians over several centuries, finishing with the forced conversion of my family’s Ukrainian Catholic villages in the west of the country when Churchill gifted the country to Stalin after the Second World War (thanks for that, Winston!).

What will happen now? Well, in anticipation of this move, the Russian military has already stepped up attacks in Ukraine’s east, with people being killed in record numbers again. It has to be understood that Russia’s Church – in the past decade or so – has become a weaponised political party that effectively runs the country, behind only Vladimir Putin.

Additionally, experts are predicting staged attacks on Russian churches, so that Putin can blame them on “fascist Ukrainians”, and attack and invade even more.

What I’m worried about is attacks on the thousand-year-old Orthodox monasteries and cathedrals in Ukraine, such as the Lavra complex in Kyiv. I sure hope they’ve stepped up security at those locations.

This move removes a major aspect of Russian colonialism from Ukraine.

I’m not sure why Russia never comes up alongside the likes of France and Britain and Spain in discussions about colonialism and cultural appropriation (because people think Russia is romantic?). The Russians were just as brutal as anybody else (see the Holodomor). And – unlike other nations – their behaviour is ongoing (see the annexation of Crimea, the invasion and occupation of eastern Ukraine, the ongoing invasion and occupation of one-fifth of Georgia, and the illegal occupation of Moldova).

The next few weeks are going to be chaotic for Eastern Europe.

On this day: the death of a Russian imperialist

Муравьёв-Виленский_литографияCount Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov 12 October 1796 in Moscow – 12 September 1866 in Saint Petersburg) imperial statesman forced

In 1865

Count Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov, a Russian imperial statesman infamous for his policies of forced Russification across the empire, died on the 12h of September, 1866.

Born in Moscow in 1796, Muravyov worked hard in what is now Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus to suppress nationalism by targeting religion and language. Catholic churches were torn down, and schools teaching in Polish and Lithuanian languages were closed. Russian teachers were brought in from elsewhere to take over the education system.

St_Joseph_Church_demolitionSt. Joseph the Betrothed Church in Vilnius being demolished by the tsarist authorities in 1877 to enforce Russification policies. Lithuania Russia cultural gen

A Catholic church in Vilnius being torn down in 1877.

Additionally, the Roman alphabet was banned, and replaced with Cyrillic.

Similar policies were put in place by Russian officials in other regions – particularly Ukraine – and continued to be used by the Soviets.

Muravyov was recorded as saying: ‘What the Russian rifle did not succeed in doing, will be finished off by Russian schools.’

Nineteen Years

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Today is the nineteenth anniversary of the start of the Russian apartment bombings, when Vladimir Putin orchestrated a series of attacks that killed hundreds of citizens across Russia in order to boost his popularity and win the presidency.

Before the first apartment bombing, a shopping mall in Moscow was attacked on the 31st of August.

The first apartment attack occurred in Buynaksk, where sixty-four people were killed and 133 were injured. The two bombings in Moscow that followed killed over 200, and an attack in Volgodonsk killed 17.

In total 293 were killed and over a thousand were injured.

Putin blamed the attacks on a group from Dagestan, and used it as an excuse for a second war in Chechnya, boosting his approval ratings and helping him to power.

Three key people trying to reveal the truth about what happened were assassinated in the years that followed: Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Alexander Litvinenko – who defected to Britain and was infamously poisoned by Russian agents in a London restaurant in 2006.

Additionally, Mikhail Trepashkin spent years in a Russian prison for his role in the investigation.

Bombing at Guryanova Street in Moscow, where 94 were killed.

These tactics were also used by the Soviets, such as when they blew up their own people at a border post as an excuse to start the Winter War with Finland in 1939. The result of this was that Finland fought with the Nazis in the Second World War.

In the past few years, with Kremlin manipulation of internet search results, factual reports of the apartment bombing incidents are harder to come by. Just like with news about anything else (e.g. Ukraine), these days top English-language (and Spanish and French etc.) Google results usually link to sites like RT (Russia Today), Tass, and Sputnik – all of them Kremlin-backed propaganda agencies.

Ten Years

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Russian invasion of Georgia. Russia still occupies parts of the country, and landowners on the fake new borders report having more of their property stolen every day – it’s a slow motion invasion the world has completely forgotten about.

As with Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, ethnic cleansing is taking place in occupied Georgia, and the Russians are destroying all evidence of local people’s culture and history. Historic buildings are being torn down. (A Crimean Tatar set himself on fire in protest the other day – on camera; nobody in the world reported it.)

Georgia was Putin’s test run for his invasion of Ukraine. Taking place just after Obama came to power, he learnt that world leaders wouldn’t act on Russian aggression.

Even though it’s not really needed for diplomatic purposes, Georgia maintains an embassy here in Canberra, to remind people in the South Pacific why they shouldn’t be doing trade with the Kremlin (Fiji and New Zealand, I’m looking at you!).

Four Years

Kyiv Ukraine Euromaidan Memorials Sonya Heaney May 2016

A memorial to the dead I photographed in 2016.

Today is the fourth anniversary of the end of Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution. On the 20th of February, 2014 pro-Russian snipers took to the streets and shot and killed as many civilians as they could manage.

pro-russian-snipers-shooting-ukrainians-in-kyiv-ukraine-20th-february-2014

Snipers in the same spot the memorials are now.

The revolution resulted in overthrowing the corrupt, dictatorial oligarch in charge of the country, but he fled to Russia and paved the way for Putin’s invasion shortly afterwards.