Stalin-era deadly judge trios mark notorious anniversary

It is 75 years since Joseph Stalin instituted the notorious “NKVD Troikas” – trios of judges who would mete out swift sentences to those accused of political crimes – which led to the needless suffering of many.

The Troikas were a commission of three members of the NKVD secret police, created by Joseph Stalin to quickly sentence those accused of political crimes.

A lack of a fair trial may be shocking to most today – but even worse was the lack of evidence.

“So far, we have a list of around three million people who fell victim to Stalin's Purges. But that list is far from complete. We think the actual number is going to be around 12 million people,” says Alyona Kozlova from the non-governmental organization Memorial.

The figure is twice as many people as the Red Army lost during the Second World War. As such, virtually every single family in Russia lost someone in the repression.

Dmitry Kantaev is one of the few lucky ones to have survived the labor camps.

“They took my father away one night with no explanation,” he recalls. “They wanted to take away the whole family, but legally, they couldn't arrest a young mother until her child was six months old, so they waited until I was of that age, and took us to prison. From there, we were moved to a labor camp. I was taken away after a few years, by my grandparents – but my mother stayed there for eight years. My father was executed, and it took us years to find his remains.”

For people like Dmitry, recent attempts to present Joseph Stalin in a positive light are an outrage.

“Think about it. Maybe he did something good for someone – but he is a murderer nonetheless. A murderer and a criminal, who brought so much evil to our people that it will take decades to overcome it,” Dmitry Kantaev says.

Preserving the memory of those who perished in the Stalinist repressions has led to some Muscovites literally wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

Tags with names of people killed in the Great Purge are available for sale. It is a throwback to the days of the repressions, when tags similar to those would be sewn onto prisoners’ clothes.

Those behind the tribute hope the tags will remind people they should not become prisoners of a falsified image – and should never forget the millions of those who perished for nothing.