Ukraine’s Security Service has provided free access to the documents of the Soviet punitive agencies. The recent laws on decommunisation became the basis for disclosing the secrets of the past. In Belarus it is not possible yet.
In a country where, according to different estimates, up to half a million people became victims of Stalinist purges, the Communist terror remains a closed issue.
What does the nation know about the places where Bolsheviks-Communists executed Belarusians? Not much. For example, Kurapaty, a place on the outskirts of Minsk, became a grave for over 200,000 people killed by Stalin’s executioners. And the Communist party repeatedly attempted to shift the blame for shootings on Nazis.
We are nine kilometers from the Belarusian city of Homiel. At the moment it is impossible to publish the precise number of people buried here because Belarus’ KGB archives are sealed. Local ideologists tried to convince Belsat TV journalists that there were no mass graves in Homiel and the neighbourhood. But Ukrainian research workers prove the contrary.
“I know that there are such cases in the archive, for example that of a native of [Ukraine’s] Chernihiv region. He was executed in Homiel in the years of repressions,” says Raisa Verabey, an employee of Chernihiv regional archive.
It is the case of Viktor Golubov, who was arrested in 1937 for ‘anti-Soviet activity’. It was investigated by officers of the NKVD in the Belarusian SSR. The arrestee was kept in Homel prison until the final verdict. Golubov was shot dead on March 13, 1938 in Homiel.
“There are good grounds for believing that there might be more cases like that. And taking them into account, researchers will be able to prove that people were killed in Homiel (and not only there). Having proper documents, one can find places where people were executed or brought to be buried,” says historian Alyaksandr Yasenchuk.
Now we also have the opportunity to learn the names of Belarusians on whom reprisals were taken in the Ukrainian SSR. Working on archival materials of the NKVD will continue in the near future, Ukrainian experts say.