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Rights Activists Read Aloud Soviet-Era Victims' Names

A woman pays tribute to the victims of Soviet repression on Lubyanka Square in Moscow.
A woman pays tribute to the victims of Soviet repression on Lubyanka Square in Moscow.
MOSCOW -- Russian human rights activists have commemorated the victims of Stalin-era political repressions in the Soviet Union, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

They read out the names of those who were arrested, sent to the gulag, or killed by Josef Stalin's regime.

The annual commemoration, called "The Returning of Names," was held near Solovki Stone on Lubyanka Square in front of the former KGB, now Federal Security Service (FSB), headquarters in the Russian capital.

For several years now, human rights organizations in Moscow have held the ceremony on the eve of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression, which has been marked on October 30 since 1991.

Anyone can take part, and participants can also pronounce names of their own relatives oppressed by the Soviet regime at the end of the list.

On October 30, 1974, the well-known Soviet human rights activist and dissident Kronid Lyubarsky initiated the idea of marking the day of political prisoners in the USSR. He and several of his associates held a hunger strike that day while in jail.

Arseny Roginsky, a founding member of the Memorial Human Rights Center, said people were remembering the victims in different ways across Russia.

He said that in Voronezh, a reburial was being held for 40 people whose remains were found in a mass grave dating from 1938.

"In the pocket of one of those buried in the grave they discovered a piece of paper with the man's surname.... From that they were able to find the firing-squad list that had this man's name," Roginsky said.

"We cannot identify all 40 people whose remains were found, of course, but at least we are able to put up a plaque saying 'here lie these 40 people.'"

The Moscow-based Memorial has a list of almost 3 million victims of the communist system in the former Soviet Union.