The BackShop Journal

A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

The Butovo Shooting Range

In 1991, October 30th was proclaimed as the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions in USSR.  This day is also officially a public holiday in the Russian Federation. The number of victims of the Communist terror is very hard to gauge. The number cited by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in "the Gulag Archipelago" of 60 million is the one that remains most deeply engraved in public consciousness.

One of the places where most victims during the Stalin regime were executed is the Butovo Shooting Range (Russ. Бутовский полигон), just south of Moscow. During Joseph Stalin's infamous Great Terror from 1937 to 1938, more than 20,000 political prisoners were transported to the site and shot. Some of the well known victims include Béla Kun, the leader of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, Gustav Klutsis, a prominent Latvian member of the Constructivist avant-garde in the early 20th century, and Seraphim Chichagov, a Metropolitan bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church.

About 1000 other clerics were killed at the Range, and were later canonised as the New Martyrs. The Russian Orthodox Church took over the ownership of the lot in 1995 and had a large Russian Revival memorial church erected there.

In the detailed investigation of the terror and the executions, 20.761 people who were beyond any doubt shot from August 1937 to October 1938 at the site have been counted. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II called the Butovo Shooting Range "Russian Calvary." In August 9, 2001, by the decision of the Moscow Regional Government, the Butovo Shooting Range was declared a "monument of history and culture of local significance." After 1938, when mass shootings ceased, the Range continued to be used for the burial of those who were shot in Moscow prisons.

This site remains as one of the lasting testimonies to the indescribable crime committed by the Bolsheviks in the last century and the insurmountable tragedy which only time and belief in life eternal can mitigate or erase.

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