President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Today is the Remembrance Day of Victims of Political Repression. Eighteen years has passed since this day was inaugurated as such in our calendar.
I am convinced that the memory of national tragedies is as sacred as the memory of victories. And it is extremely important that young people have not only historical knowledge but also civic spirit. That they be able to empathize with one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Russia. Regretfully, it is not always so.
Two years ago, sociologists conducted a survey and nearly 90 percent of our young citizens aged 18 to 24, failed to name famous people who suffered or died during those years of repression. And this, of course, cannot but be disturbing.
It is impossible to imagine now the scale of terror which affected all the peoples of our country and peaked in the years 1937–1938. The Volga river of people's grief, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn called it, the endless stream of repressed at that period.
For twenty years before the World War II entire strata and classes of our society were eliminated. The Cossacks were virtually liquidated. The peasantry was expropriated (or 'dekulakised') and weakened. Intellectuals, workers and the military were subject to political persecution. Representatives of absolutely all religious faiths were subject to harassment.
October 30 is a Remembrance Day for millions of crippled destinies. For people who were shot without trial and without investigation, people who were sent to labour camps and exile, deprived of civil rights for having the 'wrong' occupation or 'improper social origin'. The label of 'enemies of the people' and 'accomplices' was then pasted on whole families.
Let's just think about it: millions of people died as a result of terror and false accusations – millions. They were deprived of all rights, even the right to a decent human burial; for years their names were simply erased from history.
But even today you can still hear voices claiming that those innumerable victims were justified for some higher national purpose.
I believe that no national progress, successes or ambitions can develop at the price of human misery and loss.
Nothing can take precedence over the value of human life.
And there is no excuse for repression.
We pay a great deal of attention to the fight against the revisionist falsification of our history. Yet somehow I often feel that we are merely talking about the falsification of the events of the Great Patriotic War.
But it is equally important not to sanction, under the guise of restoring historical justice, any justification of those who destroyed our people.
It is true that Stalin's crimes cannot diminish the heroic deeds of the people who triumphed in the Great Patriotic War, who made our country a mighty industrial power, and who raised our industry, science and culture to top global standards.
The ability to accept one's past for what it is, is the mark of mature civic culture.
It is equally important to study the past and to speak out against indifference and the desire to forget its tragic aspects. And we can only do this ourselves.
A year ago in September I was in Magadan where the Memorial Mask of Sorrow by Ernst Neizvestny made a deep impression on me. It was built not only with public funds but also with donations.
We need such commemorative centres to pass on the memory of historical experiences from generation to generation. Of course we should continue to work to find mass graves, recover the names of the victims and when necessary to ensure their vindication.
I know that subscribers to my blog are very concerned about this topic.
Without an understanding of our complex history, of the contradictory history of our country, we cannot grasp the roots of many of our problems and the difficulties of today's Russia.
But once again I would like to say: only we can resolve these problems. We need to bring up our children and foster their respect for the law, for human rights, the value of human life, and moral standards which originate in our national traditions and our religion.
Only we can preserve this historical memory and pass it on to future generations.