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Sandarmokh - Stalin's execution grounds in Russia

Publikováno: 2.3.2024

On February 8, the Ostrava Museum will open the exhibition Sandarmokh — where trees have faces. The exhibition is dedicated to the Sandarmokh memorial site in Russian Karelia, an execution site from the time of Stalinist terror, and its discoverer, the historian Yuri Dmitriev, who is currently imprisoned by the Russian regime. The exhibition is in Ostrava for the first time. Visitors can view it until May 26.

Sandarmokh is a remote place in Russian Karelia near the Finnish border where a massacre took place in the past and was meant to be forgotten. At the height of Stalinist repressions in 1937-1938, over 6,000 people of 56 nationalities were executed there. In addition to many Russians, Karelians, Finns, Ukrainians and other European and Soviet nationalities, six Czechs also perished there. What happenned at Sandarmokh was not forgotten thanks to the hard work of historian Yuri Dmitriev from the Memorial association. The exhibition recalls not only the dark history of Sandarmokg, but also its spillovers into the present and the fate of the discoverer.


15 years in a penal colony


Dmitriev and his colleagues from the St. Petersburg Memorial discovered the execution site in Sandarmokh in 1997, and in the following years they managed to document and trace the names of most of the executed people. The Russian authorities initially supported their work. But after he openly opposed Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014, Dmitriyev was persecuted and given 15 years in a penal colony in a fabricated trial. He is currently placed in camps in Russian Mordovia, where Gulag camps stood in the 1930s and 1950s and where Soviet dissidents were later sent during Brezhnev's rule in the 1980s. The International Memorial organization, which has been dedicated to preserving historical memory and documentation of Stalin's crimes since the late 1980s, was judicially liquidated in Russia in February 2022.


Six executed Czechs


The exhibition will present the history of Sandarmokh, including a significant Czech footprint. In addition to the details of the six executed Czechs, it also details the fates of Ukrainians and Russians who studied in Czechoslovakia in the 1920s and were arrested and later executed after returning to their homeland. Yuri Dmitriev's personal items, which he used during his research expeditions, or findings from uncovered mass graves, will also be on display. Part of the exhibition is dedicated to artworks that are inspired by the theme and reflect the tragic consequences of Russia's unresolved past that lead to the present. The works were created based on an open call to which seven dozen artists from different parts of the world responded. "The biggest surprise for us was the huge interest of artists from Russia, testifying to the fact that the topic of coming to terms with one's own past is still very relevant in the light of the aggression in Ukraine and that not all Russians support the war," says Petra Černoušková from Artists from Ukraine, Czechia, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Slovakia, the Netherlands and the USA also submitted their works. Some of the works were previously auctioned in a public auction, the proceeds of which were donated to humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The opening will take place on February 8 at 5 p.m. The exhibition will be opened by Štěpán Černoušek, chairman of the organization and the Czech branch of Memorial, and Miroslav Karas, director of Česká Televize Ostrava and a former longtime correspondent of CT in Russia. The opening will be followed by a guided tour of the exhibition.

Since last year, the exhibition has traveled throughout the country, and the Ostrava Museum will be its sixth stop after Prague, Brno, Pilsen, Liberec and Opava. The organizers are, the Memorial association (Moscow, Prague), the St. Petersburg Iofe Fund and the Ostrava Museum. The exhibition was created with the support of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. It was sponsored by the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic Markéta Pekarová Adamová, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Jan Lipavský and the Minister for European Affairs Mikuláš Bek.

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Practical info:

Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m

Exhibition Sandarmoch - where trees have faces

9. 2.-26. 5. 2024 / Exhibition opening: 8. 2. 2024 from 17:00 at the Ostrava Museum

More information about the exhibition:

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