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6 Aug, 2007 11:47

1930s purge victims commemorated

Victims of the Great Purge, orchestrated by Joseph Stalin during the late 1930s, are being remembered around Russia. Historians estimate that 700,000 people were killed, with more than 1.5 million persecuted.

In Moscow victims were commemorated in a religious procession which started two weeks ago from Solovetsky Island in north-western Russia, which was the location of some of the Gulag labour camps. A 12-metre high holy cross, which the procession is bringing with them, will eventually be placed in Butovo in southwest Moscow, a place of mass execution.

In 1937 and 1938, mass executions of political prisoners from Solovetsky concentration camp took place in Karelia. Nowadays, relatives of the victims gather every year near the memorial to commemorate the 12,000 people whose bodies were found there ten years ago.

Bishop Mikhail from the Russian Orthodox Church says the communists wanted to destroy all believers.

“The communists persecuted the faithful by charging them with some criminal offence. However, the real reason behind these persecutions was that this godless regime wanted to destroy all believers. Orthodox believers were made outcasts, sent to forced labour camps and even executed. Those of them who had to face the ultimate trial are referred to by the Church as martyrs and confessors, as they testified and confessed their faith to the end,” he said.