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.
This weekend marks the seventieth anniversary of Stalin’s mass deportation of Ukrainians to Siberia. In the west of the country entire villages were cleared of ethnic Ukrainians. In just one day over 76 000 people were deported.
More Ukrainians died under Stalin’s rule than the entire death toll of the Holocaust, with ethnic Ukrainians singled out by Soviet authorities for a genocide barely recognised by the world until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
While everybody knows about the Holocaust, there was another major genocide in Europe in the 20th century that is almost unknown.
The Holodomor, Stalin’s manufactured famine/genocide, is believed to have killed up to ten million people in Ukraine in the 1930s. Still denied by Moscow, this genocide has received little to no attention from the West, and none whatsoever from Hollywood.
A new film is due out now which tackles this topic, focusing on a Ukrainian Cossack couple. Keep an eye out for Bitter Harvest this month.
Aged eighty-one at the time of his execution, Seraphim was ill and had lost most of his mobility. When he was arrested in his home on charges of spreading “monarchist propaganda”, Russian authorities had to carry him to prison on a stretcher.