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Russia Honors Victims Of Soviet-Era Political Repressions

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A woman rings a bell made of a rail at the monument to the victims of political repression, the Wall of Grief, as she commemorates victims of political repression in the Soviet Union in Moscow on October 30.

Russians across the country are honoring the millions of victims of Soviet-time political repression.

The event, called the Bell of Memory, was being held all day on October 30 near the Wall of Grief memorial in Moscow.

Presidential human rights council head Mikhail Fedotov, former Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, Gulag History Museum Director Roman Romanov, and Memorial society head Yan Rachinsky opened the ceremony by striking a piece of rail hanging on a chain, which represents the symbolic bell at the Memorial.

Fedotov said that October 30 had been chosen as the official Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions in 1991 because on that day in 1974 political prisoners in the Soviet Union penal camps in the regions of Perm and Mordovia started a mass hunger strike.

People laid flowers or lit candles at the memorial in Moscow, while similar actions were held in other Russian cities and towns.

The Wall of Grief, sometimes called the Wall of Sorrow, was opened a year ago at a ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin, who said that the "horrific past" of Soviet-era government oppression must not be forgotten and cannot be justified.

Some human rights activists and Kremlin opponents spoke out against the memorial at the time, saying it was hypocritical of Putin's government to unveil such a monument while carrying out what they called its own political repressions decades later.

As of 10 p.m. (1900 GMT/UTC), when the Bell of Memory event was to wrap up, Putin had neither attended nor made any statement marking the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions.

A day before the Bell of Memory event, thousands of people took part in a daylong ceremony in Moscow and other Russian cities called Returning the Names.

Relatives of the dead, rights activists, and others read aloud the names, ages, occupations, and the dates of executions of an estimated 1 million or more Soviet citizens killed by the communist regime in 1937-38.

Several participants in that ceremony also pointed to what they said were oppressive measures by Putin's government and called for the release of what they said are political prisoners in Russia today.

With reporting by Interfax
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