Crowds gathered in Moscow and in other Russian cities over the weekend to remember those who died as a result of Stalin’s purges in the 1930s and 1940s. The commemoration in Moscow took place in Lubyanka Square, where the memorial stone, a large granite boulder sourced from the Solovetski island home of many prisoners, is located. Activists were invited to read aloud the names of the estimated 30,000 victims who were purged in the capital city alone. Although the annual commemoration event traditionally has state backing, its key organiser, the voluntary group Memorial, established during the years of Gorbachev’s perestroika to promote civil and human rights, has recently been identified by the Russian government as a ‘foreign agent’ and is facing an investigation into its activities and funding.
Similar commemorative events are held on different days in other countries of the former Soviet Union and in the Eastern bloc, and the remembrance of the victims of political repression in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe takes many different forms. Along with my colleagues Dr Kelly Hignett (Lecturer in History at Leeds Beckett University), Prof Dalia Leinarte (Director of the Gender Studies Centre at the University of Vilnius, Lithuania) and Corina Snitar (PhD student at the University of Glasgow), I have recently signed a contract with Routledge for a book examining Women’s Experiences of Repression in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. My contribution examines the experiences of women who were the ‘secondary victims’ of the purges and the longer term legacies of the Great Terror. Dalia compares the deportation experiences of women from the Baltic States and Poland in the early 1940s. Corina’s study focuses on women partisans and students in the wake of the disturbances in Romania in 1956 that mirrored the events of the Hungarian rising. Kelly’s work explores women’s experiences of repression in Czechoslovakia after the communist takeover. Look out for the book’s publication towards the end of 2017.