1 May 2010, 12:14

Butovo massacres – a tragedy to remember

Butovo massacres – a tragedy to remember

On May 1 Russia is remembering the victims of one of the most horrific episodes in its history - the mass Stalinist purges known as the Great Terror.

On May 1 Russia is remembering the victims of one of the most horrific episodes in its history - the mass Stalinist purges known as the Great Terror. Early this morning Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducted a memorial service at the Butovo Range south of Moscow where on August 8, 1937, the first mass executions were carried out by the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, the secret police organization responsible for Stalinist political oppression).

At a secluded military testing site, still surrounded by a fence and barbed wire, tens of thousands of people including many prominent clergymen, were mown down by firing squads in the Soviet era repressions of the 1930-50s.

Including, among many others, Metropolitan Seraphim of  Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). Ignoring the Metropolitan’s old age (he was 82) and failing health, the NKVD agents placed the bed-ridden prelate on a stretcher and put him before a firing squad at Butovo, along with several other senior clerics. 

During the late 1990s Metropolitan Seraphim and more than 300 other clergymen executed at Butovo were canonized. During the Soviet years the Butovo range was declared a restricted area by the authorities eager to make sure the word of the terrible crimes committed there never got out. In the early 1990s justice finally had its day though and the place where the cream of the Russian society had once been wiped out finally opened up to the public eye.

The Butovo range was opened to the broad public in 1993 when they installed a memorial plaque there and in  the following year we set up a wooden cross to pray for all those who died here, says Kirill Kaleda, Father Superior of the Temple Of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. In 1996 we built a wooden church right here in Butovo, Father Kirill adds.

During the 1990 a special synodal commission was set under the Moscow Patriarchate which has since canonized 1,200 victims of the Butovo massacres.

What happened at Butovo is a lasting reminder of one’s duty to stand up against a criminal power, and if we remember this we will never again allow ourselves to  stray away from the moral and religious values, will learn to treasure and respect other people’s opinion and other people’s life, Father Kirill said.

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