70 Years After Stalin's Purge, Candor Has Its Limits
By Masha Lipman
Wednesday, August 22, 2007; Page A17
A woman kneels before a wooden cross erected near the Butovo church in memory of the victims of the 1937 purges. (By Mikhail Metzel -- Associated Press)
MOSCOW -- This month marks 70 years since the drastic surge of Stalin's terror: In 1937 the Kremlin butcher scrapped even the faintest appearance of court procedures. The infamous "troika trials" -- a system of justice by rubber-stamped death sentences -- killed more than 436,000 in one year. The anniversary observances were intended to honor the victims. But the ceremony held earlier this month at Butovo, the site of mass killings on the outskirts of Moscow, revealed the government's desire to keep the public's mind off reflections about terror and its perpetrators.
The Russian Orthodox Church oversaw the ceremony, a religious service focused on the martyrdom of the executed, not on the crimes or who committed them. In an interview about three years ago, the superior of the Butovo church said he thought it best not to differentiate between those who were shot and those who shot them: "One shouldn't search for who was right and who was wrong."
Such forgiveness may be appropriate for the church -- as a secular person, I am not in a position to judge --