The Belarusian authorities have set up a memorial sign in Kurapaty, a Stalin-era mass executions site near Minsk.
It is placed in the centre of the so-called Kurapaty’s Golgotha. By various estimates, Stalin’s secret police (NKVD) might have killed 30,000 to 250,000 persons in the 1930s. The installation works sparked a debate among Belarusians.
The state that declares itself the successor of the Soviet government ought not have erected a memorial sign to the people shot down by Stalinists, most Kurapaty defenders believe.
According to sculptor Syarhei Ahanau, the team wanted the memorial sign to group in the landscape and be in harmony with the remembrance crosses.
However, Kurapaty defenders stress that Golgotha is a place for crosses; they proposed to install the sign near the ring road.
But in case of rescheduling the event or re-placing the sign there are concerns that the project will wait rather a long wait, Alyaksandr Miksha, a representative of the commissioner – the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, said.
On the night of 29-30 October 1937, NKVD killed more than 130 representatives of Belarusian national elite in the present-day KGB prison. Belarusian poets, writers, scientists were killed one by one. Opposition activists have long pushed for making October 29 the Day of Remembrance of the victims of Stalinist repression, but the authorities does not seem to agree to that in the near future; the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) refuses to open up the secret files of the executed to the public.
On November 6, the representatives of embassies of Poland, Lithuania, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States arrived at Kurapaty to pay the tribute to the victims. The delegation was led by a representative of the European Commission.
“The diplomats of the European Union and the United States lay flowers here at the turn of October-November; this year, representatives of the EaP – Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia – have joined is. It is of high importance. Kurapaty is a symbolic place for Minsk, Belarus, for us,” Polish diplomat Marcin Wojciechowski told Belsat.
Kurapaty, a place on the outskirts of Minsk, is not just the national memorial and a mass grave of the victims of Stalinist repression; since 1993, it has been is a site of historical and cultural heritage.
Since late May, the group of Belarusian activists is protesting against ‘dancing on the bones’, i.e.the activity of Let’s Go And Eat restaurant in the vicinity of the mass grave under the passive eye of the local authorities. According to the protesters, its construction and opening at the very place was illegal. Activists first asked the authorities to interfere with the situation, and then decided to act independently. They are trying not to let cars to the territory of the restaurant. The Minsk police have already drawn dozens of protocols against activists who had blocked the restaurant that opened at the site of the massacre.