03.08.2007 | Halya Coynash

Terror to plan


In this seventieth anniversary of the beginning of the Great Terror, it seems hardly appropriate to highlight any particular date.  Of course there are personal dates for those who know them, and by no means all do. On a larger scale, let historians decide which trials, executions or other atrocities “warrant” their attention.  It is not for us to judge the relative “value” of a human life, still less to determine by numbers.

And yet there are events which in their stark, unrelenting horror must stand apart and which cannot fail in these days to be remembered.

One began with a monstrous document issued by NKVD Head Nikolai Yezhov on 30 July 1937.  This specified the procedure, periods and scale of repressive measures against “anti-Soviet elements”. There were two categories – one facing execution, the other – labour camp for 8-10 years.

This Terror was unleashed on 5 August 1937, and all to plan.  That is, not simply the timing, but the number of “anti-Soviet elements” to be eliminated (shot), how many were to be sent to labour camp.

Tatyana Skrypnyk, member of the Kyiv Vasyl Stus “Memorial” Society comments: “Grotesque when you realize that these were quotas on repression. You have fixed amounts of construction material, things, but not human lives. They approached Stalin asking to increase the quotas, given the number of bourgeois nationalists in Ukraine, and generally enemies of the regime.  There are documents about this, raising the figure by 6,000.”

Such quotas also existed in the labour camps, as did those zealous to “over-fulfil the plan”.  1,111 prisoners from the Solovky Labour Camp were shot over three days in the forest clearing in Sandarmokh, in the south of Karelia.  290 of the victims were Ukrainians.

It is there this weekend that thousands of people will gather to remember their relatives and all victims of the Terror.

A group from Ukraine is already on its way there, for many this is an annual journey of remembrance. 

This year the International “Memorial” Society is also holding Days of Remembrance on 4 and 5 August at Sandarmokh to honour the memory of all victims of the Great Terror of 1937-1938.

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