From the Solovki to Butovo: How the Russian Orthodox Church Appropriates the Memory of the Repressions

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Veronika Dorman

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Abstract

In Russia today, keeping the memory of the Soviet regime’s political repressions alive is a struggle waged by a few in the face of general indifference. In addition to human rights activists and victims of the repressions, Orthodox believers are now actively involved, and the Russian Orthodox Church is increasingly monopolizing commemorative activities. This study analyzes a procession that carried a giant cross from the Solovetsky archipelago in the White Sea to the Butovo firing range near Moscow, along canals dug by Gulag prisoners. This procession was the only large-scale, non-local commemorative event to take place in 2007, the 70th anniversary year of the purges of 1937. It attempted to establish a link between different sites of the Gulag as well as a chronology. Initially attracting little attention, the procession became a major public event when it reached Moscow. In the wake of the procession, Butovo has become a lieu de mémoire, a site of memory, yet one that does not speak to society at large because it gives pride of place to Orthodox victims. In Russian, extensive summary in English.
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