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5 September – Remembrance Day for those who died in Soviet labour camps

05.09.2007

On 5 September 1918 the Council of People’s Commissars approved a resolution speaking of the “need to safeguard the Soviet Republic against class enemies by isolating them in concentration camps”.

Not the first time that the term “concentration camp” was used, but the beginning nonetheless of what was to turn into the GULAG and claim the lives of millions.

There were millions just in Ukraine alone who were, as Vasyl Stus wrote, “executed, tortured, murdered throughout Solovky, Siberia and Magadan”. 

Vasyl Stus was himself to become a later victim of this regime, as were Yury Lytvyn, Valery Marchenko and Oleksa Tykhy.  Who could name all the victims of those first decades of a war waged against their own people?

In September 1918 Mikhail Krylenko who was shortly afterwards to become Prosecutor and Minister of Justice in the Soviet Union said: “”We must not only punish the guilty. Execution of the innocent spreads fear in the masses”.  The Bolshevik regime worked on this principle. .

The Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] has, as reported here, been working to ensure that the truth is told.  Its Acting Head Valentyn Nalyvaichenko recently called the Terror a crime against humanity. Statements coming out of Russia suggest a different attitude is emerging towards these terrible pages of our shared history.  And yet this history must be confronted - in memory of all its victims and in order that it never ever happen again.

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