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Memorial Reaches Agreement With Moscow On Honoring Stalin's Purge Victims

A memorial for the victims of Soviet-era political repression at the Solovky Stone monument at Lubyanka Square in Moscow on October 29, 2016.

The head of the Russian human rights group Memorial says an agreement has been reached with municipal authorities in Moscow to go ahead with an annual remembrance ceremony near the former KGB headquarters for the victims of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s purges.

Ekho Moskvy radio quotes Memorial chairman Yan Rachinsky as saying members of his nongovernmental rights group met with representatives of the Moscow mayor’s office on October 22 to discuss their revocation of permission to hold the ceremony at its usual location -- the Solovetsky Stone at Lubyanka Square in central Moscow.

“Agreement was reached that the event will, in fact, take place at the Solovetsky Stone as usual,” Rachinsky said.

Memorial has held the ceremony at Lubyanka Square every year on October 29 since 2006.

But the group said on October 19 that the Moscow mayor’s office withdrew the authorization it had already granted for the event to take place at Lubyanka Square in 2018.

Memorial said city officials initially suggested holding the ceremony outside the city center, but the rights group said that option was “unacceptable.”

The group said it had received authorization to hold the event by the Federal Protection Services (FSO), the Interior Ministry, and the Central Administrative District.

Memorial insists that the traditional site -- outside the office of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB -- is key to honoring the victims of repression.

In the past, speakers at the Solovetsky Stone memorial have read aloud the names, ages, occupations, and dates of execution for some 30,000 Muscovites -- only a small portion of the estimated 1 million or more killed by Soviet authorities in 1937-38.

The Solovetsky Stone was erected in Lubyanka Square in 1990 to honor victims of political suppression in the Soviet Union.

It consists of a large stone that was brought from the Solovetsky Islands -- the location in northwestern Russia of the Solovki prison camp within the Soviet GULAG system.

With reporting by Ekho Moskvy
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