28 March 2010

Communists Plan a Monument to Stalin in Zaporizhzhia

The Communist Party of Ukraine is reportedly planning to erect a monument to Stalin in Zaporizhzhia in time to mark Victory Day on 9 May. Although local authorities officially refused to allot land for this purpose, the CPU is going ahead regardless -- with a private plot of land. According to the historian Viktor Gudz, it is estimated that over 30,000 died in the Zaporizhzhia oblast' alone during Holodomor, the 1932-33 famine for which Stalin was responsible.

Photo: AFP

11 March 2010

Battle over Bandera (Continued)

Alexander Motyl has published an even-handed assessment of the Bandera controversy in today's Moscow Times. An excerpt:

Bandera became especially popular as the noble ideals of the 2004 Orange Revolution were progressively tarnished by the heroes of that revolution, Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The more unpopular Yushchenko became, the more he promoted Bandera and the nationalists in the hope that some of their idealistic glow would rub off on him. Unfortunately, Yushchenko’s ill-considered conferral of Hero of Ukraine status on Bandera threw a wrench into a more or less even-tempered discussion of the nationalists and their legacy. Yushchenko’s critics — among them Putin and other top Russian officials who have indirectly rehabilitated Stalin — added fuel to the fire with their irresponsible accusations of fascism. At this point, a sensible discussion is almost impossible in the highly politicized atmosphere surrounding Bandera.

The objective, even-handed accounts of Ukrainian historians, who see Bandera in all his complexity, will eventually seep into the public realm, but only after Ukrainian identity is consolidated and Ukrainian fears of a neo-imperial Russia subside. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych could promote this shift by unifying the country around a common identity and history, vigorously protecting Ukrainian interests vis-a-vis Moscow and eschewing Yushchenko’s proclivity for provocation. Europe could help by opening its doors to Ukraine, and Russia can assist by rejecting Stalinism. And we should not forget about Western historians in this equation, who can do their part by refraining from simple-minded analyses.

The full article can be read here.

03 March 2010

The First Island of the Gulag Archipelago

The prison of the Trubetskoi Bastion in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg was infamous during tsarist times. And today eager guides will lead tourists through some of the former cells and tell them about Dostoevsky, Gorky, Trotsky and Lenin's older brother, Alexander, who were all held here at some point.

Less well publicised is the fact that the Bastion was also the first political prison of the Bolshevik regime, used by the Petrograd Cheka - the organiser of the Red Terror - during the Civil War. Memoirs and eyewitness reports name the Fortress as a site of mass executions; it has always been suspected that the territory contains mass graves.

In 2009, human remains were found, for the third time since 1989, at a site earmarked for a car park. Now a group of archaeologists and staff from the Museum for the History of St Petersburg are working there; the remains are awaiting forensic analysis. However, no government funding is forthcoming for the archaeological work, nor indeed for further excavations on the territory of the Fortress.

And the issue of the car park has not been resolved either.

Click here for a detailed article

For the history of the Bolshevik prison in the Fortress click here