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

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