The Great Terror
The Great Terror a photographic book by Tomasz Kizny
The Great Terror a photographic book, 1. The Condemned
Nikolay Vasilievich Abramov Russian, born in 1890 in Lukierino village, Moscow District, primary education, foreman in kolkhoz. Arrested on 5 October 1937 Sentenced to death on 17 October 1937 Executed on 2 November 1937
Raisa Samuylovna Bochlen Russian Jew, born 1917 in Russian community in Harbin, China, secondary education, typewriter in The North-East Passage Administration Office. Arrested on 23 September 1937 Sentenced to death on 29 October 1937 Executed on 3 November 1937
Aleksandra Ivanovna Chubar Armenian, born 1903 in Artiomovsk city, Donetsk Province, Ukraine, higher education, consultant in the People’s Commissariat of Light Industry. Arrested on 4 July 1938 Sentenced to death on 28 August 1938 Executed the same day
Aleksandr Kuzmich Lashkov Russian, born 1882 in Pskov city, higher education, chief of the laboratory at the Moscow Aviation Institute. Arrested on 1 November 1937 Sentenced to death on 10 January 1938 Executed the same day
Aleksiey Grigoryevich Zhieltikov Russian, born 1890 in Demkino village, Riazan Province, primary education, locksmith at the Main Metro Workshops in Moscow. Arrested on 8 July 1937 Sentenced to death on 31 October 1937 Executed the following day
The Great Terror a photographic book, 2. The topography of terror
MOSCOW Secret police NKVD special zone “Kommunarka” Execution and burial ground of 6,500 victims © Tomasz Kizny
TYUMEN The “Zodchye” construction company storehouses built on the mass graves of no less than 2,194 victims © Tomasz Kizny
VICINITY OF VORKUTA The remains of an execution camp on Yun’-Yaga River. The condemned were convoyed north-east into the tundra and shot down. Total number of victims unknown © Tomasz Kizny
VORONEZH Dubovka Woods on the outskirts of the city. Burial ground of over 8,000 victims. The human remains exhumed in 2008 © Tomasz Kizny
The Great Terror a photographic book, 3. The eyewitnesses
Yelizavieta Piotrovna Shatalova, born in 1928, retired primary school teacher, daughter of Piotr Pavlovich Pestrakov, a carpenter who was executed in Voronezh on 17 December 1937. His remains were exhumed in Dubovka Woods in 2007 and, together with 47 other victims, identified thanks to the decayed document found inside a leather purse. Quotation: “From childhood, all my life I wanted to know the whole truth – why they killed him, where and how? Now I know where all my beloved rest: where grandfather and grandmother are, where my brother, where my sister... and eventually also where my father is... I can die now, my soul is at peace.” © Tomasz Kizny
Dimitry Semionovich Sukhodolov, born in 1934, retired adviser of the Ministryof Fishing Industry, son of the unskilled worker Semion Prokopevich Sukhodolov,who was executed on 5 May 1938. Dimitry’s two uncles and cousin were shot, too.Since 1989 Dimitry Semionovich has devoted himself to memory endeavors. On his initiative, a memorial stone to the Great Terror’s victims was erected in Vladivostok. Quotation: “My father was shot on the basis of the denunciation of the neighbor who lived across the street. Shortly after father’s arrest he moved in to live with mother and took possession of our household. I abandoned home when I was ten and at fifteen I started to search for father.” © Tomasz Kizny
Nelli Konstantinovna Kalinina, born in 1926, oceanographer, daughter of the outstanding aircraft designer Konstantin Aleksieyevich Kalinin, who was executed on 22 October 1938. Quotation: “He was a man of great nobility and goodness. All my life I have cried for him. Russia, this is a murderous country, just murderous. It is impossible to resign oneself, impossible to forget, impossible to forgive.” © Tomasz Kizny
Zoya Yegorovna Kalashnikova, born in 1929, daughter of the illiterate lumberjackYegor Lavrentevich Kleshchin. She was nine when, on February 1938, an NKVD squad arrived at the remote settlement Argi-Pagi in northern Sakhalin and arrested her father and grandfather. In 1990 Zoya Kalashnikova learned that they were shot on 16 April 1938 and buried in a mass grave aside the road from Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsky to Tymovskoe town, 20 km from her house. Quotation: “Mother used to have dreams about my father, but I dreamed of him only once: in my dream I saw him sitting in the armchair; I knew that he was my father, but his face was in shadow, I could not recognize him.” © Tomasz Kizny
The picture album The Great Terror in the USSR presents the results of a documentary photo project conducted by the author. The book presents pictures of 20th century crimes committed against humanity in Soviet Russia from 1937-38, providing a face and voice to the victims and eyewitnesses in the belief that emotional empathy is one of the principal gates to collective memory.
Although The Great Terror has aroused some interest from publishers, none has yet committed to publishing it. Its publication will seal the need to recognize the face of contemporary history, as was the case for Tomasz Kizny’s Gulag that sold 20 000 copies in six languages.
During the years 1937-38, Stalin used massive repression throughout the Soviet Union, arresting more than 1.7 million people for alleged crimes against the state. Some 700,000 of them were executed and buried in mass graves at secret locations.
The historical photo material consists primarily of portraits of prisoners taken after arrest and before execution; perhaps the most powerful photo-documentary accusation of Soviet totalitarianism.
Acknowledging that The Great Terror is an unfinished historical event that continues to darken the political landscape of contemporary Russia, the book’s second major component includes photographs of the execution/burial places and portraits of second-generation family members of the victims, interspersed with statements culled from interviews the author conducted with survivors and eyewitnesses.
The Great Terror annihilated countless innocent lives and left behind an enormous legacy of pain and sorrow among hundreds of thousands of families in Russia and other countries. These emotional wounds were magnified by the inability of the bereaved to find out what happened and to have an outlet to voice their grief.
During the Great Terror, Stalin eliminated all likely potential opposition to his leadership in the Communist Party and terrorized the entire country, instilling profound, widespread fear as a tool for facilitating social control. By 1938 Joseph Stalin had become the undisputed dictator of both party and state.
The Great Terror is not just a matter of history’s past; rather, in the absence of any official interest or larger social effort directed in present-day Russia at confronting the criminal legacy of the Soviet state and at instigating collective processes of commemoration.
Stalinist terror remains an eminently timely and virulent topic today.
Tomasz Kizny, born in Poland in 1958, a photographer working in the fields of photojournalism and documentary photography, the majority of his work focuses on the visual history of the Soviet totalitarian system. From the late 1980s, he carried out a long-term photographic project devoted to the Gulags in the USSR. The main themes of this work were published in the book Gulag, Paris 2003, Hamburg, Milan, Barcelona, New York 2004, Moscow 2007.
His works have been presented at numerous individual and group exhibitions.
The project has been funded by a grant from the Stiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur and the Gerda Henkel Stiftung for research and photographic work in Russia 2008-2009.The Wiessenschaftskolleg zu Berlin – Institute for Advanced Study supported the author with a fellowship during the academic year 2006-2007 and providing essential help for the realization of the project in coming years.
Dominique Roynette, email@example.com
The Great Terror in the USSR 1937-1938, Tomasz Kizny. A photographic book and exhibition project. In cooperation with the “Memorial” Research Information and Educational Centre of Moscow