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Interview with Andrey Zolotov

Andrey Zolotov, Editor-in-Chief of the Russian Profile magazine, joined RT to comment on  Stalin’s policy of terror and how Russia deals with this horrible legacy.

RT: As the KGB archives are gradually being declassified, do you think we'll see even more shocking figures of those repressed by the Stalin regime?

A.Z.: The KGB archives have been in a gradual process of declassification ever since the early 1990s. Then there were some problems, the process was stopped, and now it has started again. But the numbers have been shocking all the way through. I mean, your correspondent has absolutely correctly used the now widely speculated figure of 600,000 people shot just in several months of 1937 – basically over the  year from 1937 to 1938. But of course, we are talking about millions, tens of millions of people, who were shot or died in camps over the period since 1918 or early 1920s, through to the early 1950s.

RT: Why did it take so many years for official commemoration of all those victims? It’s not about declassification of files, is it?

A.Z.: I think it’s pretty much related to the question you asked your reporter about why the Orthodox Church that is commemorating this? And the answer is very sad. Society at large does not want to institutionalise this memory. Butovo is a place where about 20,000 people were killed in just one year, and the estimate for the entire period when this killing-ground was functioning is 100,000. In any major city in the world, that we would call civilised, a mass grave of 100,000 people would have been a national shrine, where presidents would go, foreign dignitaries would go, schoolchildren would be taken to… We don’t see that!

RT: But that will happen now for sure?

A.Z.: I hope so. I think that this institutional commemoration is very important.

RT: But why did Stalin pursue such a terrible policy against his own people?

A.Z.: This is a question that can take books to answer. It was a terror, an eradication of the nation’s elite. It was a way to control the society. We’ve seen cases in past history when tyrants were terrorising the elites in order to install their rule. Here this took on a different kind of proportion, because they were building a new history, they were building a new nation. They didn’t need those people for that.