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Sad Anniversary In Bishkek

A Kyrgyz sculpture commemorating those those who were massacred in Chon Tash
A Kyrgyz sculpture commemorating those those who were massacred in Chon Tash
This week marked a number of memorable events in Kyrgyzstan, in which people celebrated Eid al-Fitr marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the 20th anniversary of the nation's independence and, of course, the beginning of the new school year.

There was, however, one more anniversary -- a rather poignant affair for the families involved: 20 years ago, the remains of dozens of Kyrgyzstan's prominent figures executed during the political repressions of the Stalin era were reburied at the Ata-Beyit memorial site.

Their bodies were discovered in an unmarked mass grave in the village of Chon-Tash outside Bishkek.

Most of the victims were prominent figures in Kyrgyzstan's history, including politicians, intellectuals, and writers branded "enemies of the state" and killed in 1938 by Soviet security services.

For over five decades their relatives did not know what happened to the loved ones who were taken from homes or offices, never to return. Many believed the men were taken to Russia and perished there.

However, there was one young witness -- a daughter of a guard at a Chon-Tash holiday retreat for law-enforcement officers -- who recalled seeing dozens of bodies being buried not far from the estate.

Bubura Abykanova, then 8-years-old, later heard from her father that the men had been shot dead by security services. Horrified by what she saw and heard, Abykanova kept the secret for 53 years before telling it to a retired security officer.

The bodies were exhumed, identified, and reburied on the eve of Kyrgyzstan's declaration of independence in 1991.

Among the men reburied in the memorial site were Zhusup Abdurakhmanov, Torekul Aitmatov, and Bayaly Isakeev -- Kyrgyz politicians who welcomed the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, joined the Communist Party, and served in high-ranking official posts.

In total, 137 victims of the Stalin-era mass extrajudicial execution are buried at Ata-Beyit.

-- Farangis Najibullah