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7 Aug, 2007 03:30

Commemoration cross erected in Moscow

A cross to commemorate the victims of the Great Purge orchestrated by Joseph Stalin during the late 1930s is being erected in Butovo in southwest Moscow.

It's the site of mass executions where around 100,000 people are thought to be buried.
The cross arrived in Moscow on Tuesday with a religious procession. It started two weeks ago from the Solovetsky Islands in northwestern Russia, where some of the Gulag prison camps were located.
Around one thousand victims of the Butovo executions were Russian Orthodox believers and priests.
“The procession from the Solovetsky Islands to Butovo, along the waterways that prisoners dug, symbolises the heavy price  Russian Orthodox believers had to pay. This kind of cross is to remember the dead and pray to God to forgive their sins. They were usually mounted in places of battles, wars and mass graves. They could be encountered all over Russia and  even in the West. Memorial services were held near them,” says Bishop Mikhail of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1937 and 1938, mass executions of political prisoners from the 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 also said 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.