Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Butovo - the killing ground

From Sukhanovo it is less then ten kilometres to a place called Butovo, where in the 1930s there was an NKVD firing range, or полигон ("polygon"). In 1937, at the time of the Great Terror, Nikolai Yezhov, the successor to Yagoda and Beria's predecessor as head of the Soviet secret police, started shooting people on a huge scale at this site, which was then in woodland fifteen miles or so from the then southern edge of Moscow. Many of the prisoners who had been tortured and/or tried at Sukhanovka prison, were transported the short distance east to Butovo where they were shot and their bodies shoveled into mass graves. One of them is shown in this picture. The heaped ground, perhaps fifteen feet wide and a foot high, stretches fifty yards or so through the trees. In total, there were nearly 21,000 people shot here between early 1937 and late 1938. The place is now a memorial ground, and was visited by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in November 2007.