By Agence France-Presse
Hundreds of Russians gathered in central Moscow on Monday to remember the victims of Stalin’s terror, despite questions over whether city authorities would allow the annual ceremony to go ahead.
Participants in the “Return of the Names” event, which has been running for more than a decade, waited in line to read out the names of those killed during the period of political repression beginning in the 1930s.
Others placed flowers and candles by a rock brought from the Solovki labor camp in the far north that now sits as a memorial outside the offices of the FSB secret police, formerly the KGB.
“I come every year because I feel I have a duty to pay tribute to the victims,” said 55-year-old Sergei Mitrokhin.
“Today, Russia is trying to forget that period,” the Yabloko liberal party member told AFP.
Russia in recent years has seen an official trend to present Stalin’s rule in a positive light while downplaying the repressions and forced collectivisation that killed millions.
Rights group Memorial, which organizes the 12-hour event, said this month authorities had rejected plans for the ceremony to take place at its usual location, but a few days later said it could go ahead.
“We have to remember all of this,” said Anastasia, a 26-year-old student who gave just her first name.
“We can’t find anything out (about this period) in the official media. It all depends on the work of people like those in Memorial who organise this ceremony,” she said.
“What the state does to commemorate the victims is completely insufficient,” said 80-year-old Maria Sakharova, who was visibly moved after reading out the names of several people.
Almost half of Russians aged 18-24 said they had never heard of Stalin-era repressions, according to a survey published by the VTsIOM state pollster this month.
Memorial, which also speaks out about current human rights violations in Russia, has come under increasing pressure in recent years.
In 2016, authorities labelled Memorial a “foreign agent” under a 2012 law that obliges groups deemed to have “political” activities and international funding to submit documents every three months outlining their finances.