A resident of Chelyabinsk in her garden is excavating victims of the repressions of the 30s

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A resident of Chelyabinsk in her garden is excavating victims of the repressions of the 30s
A resident of Chelyabinsk in her garden is excavating victims of the repressions of the 30s
7 September, 18:26SocietyPhoto: Предоставлено Ярославом Щербаковым
The remains of the executed were found during the laying of sewers. The owner of the site decided to raise all the dead from the ground in order to bury them elsewhere.

Alexander Dybin

An unusual search operation will take place in Chelyabinsk. Volunteers intend to open an old gold mine on the outskirts of the city, where the remains of dozens of people were accidentally discovered in 2021. It is believed that those killed are victims of repressions of 1937. Bones and personal belongings were found in the ground in the village of Shershnii in the west of Chelyabinsk, when a sewer was installed to the house. The bulldozer dug a trench from the house and opened the entrance to an old mine, and bones and skulls appeared in the ground. The remains of 51 people were found here. There are others, but it is dangerous to get close to them through the trench, the roof of the mine may collapse, so we decided to open the burial from above and get to the bodies in an open way. In fact, the excavations will be carried out in the garden of the resident who owns the house.

Volunteers-searchers are engaged in these works, who usually look for the bodies of the fallen during the Great Patriotic War in the regions of Central Russia. But this time I had to work at home.

“It is important that the initiative comes from the owner of the site”, - says Yevgeny Gurinovich, chairman of the Chelyabinsk branch of the Russian search society, “It’s not easy for a woman to know that there may be remains under her house. She is a believer, she wants to be buried in a Christian way. It doesn't matter who's in the hole. Some said they were criminals and so on. Now we can only guess about it. From a Christian point of view, it is necessary to bury according to all the canons, and not to lie ownerless.

Через эту дыру поисковики получили доступ к шахте
Photo:Предоставлено Ярославом Щербаковым

Immediately after the discovery of the remains in the trench, they tried to involve the authorities in deciding their fate. But they didn't show much initiative. As follows from the correspondence of the head of the local branch of the Yabloko party, Yaroslav Shcherbakov , with the regional and city authorities, they did not initiate a criminal case, but the check is still underway. And what to do with the bones already found, they answer evasively: when the search work is completed, then we will decide.

“Now the excavations are completed, the pit, where the remains of 51 people were found, will be covered after the installation of the sewerage system. Next year, the volunteers of the search movement promised to do an additional examination of the mine, the entrance to which was found in a pit, human remains are visible in the mine, which, due to the danger of its collapse, cannot be reached, - Shcherbakov said, - everything rests on the enthusiasm of search volunteers and consciousness resident, near whose house everything was found. The issue of reburial of the remains, holding a funeral ceremony and organizing a permanent exhibition in the local history museum was not considered. Further excavations will be - if they are - a private initiative, on private territory, in a vegetable garden. The inclusion of power will be minimal: they promised to help with the equipment.

About the corpses in the mines were silent for decades

Local historians and activists believe that the bodies found in the village of Shershnii belong to the large-scale Golden Mountain complex located nearby. In the late Soviet years, mass graves of executed people were discovered on the western outskirts of Chelyabinsk. Once gold was actively mined in this territory, dozens of small mines were developed. Mining stopped here in 1935. A little later, as it turned out, the mines began to be used for burying the bodies of those shot during the years of great terror. This became clear in 1989, when it was decided to start housing construction on the site. But a man appeared in the local newspaper who, as a child, found bones in the forest. For decades, he was silent about this and decided to talk about it only during glasnost. After that, two years of excavations were carried out here, hundreds of bodies were found, which were reburied in a mass grave. It is believed that the bodies of all those executed in the Chelyabinsk region in the 30s were hidden here, since the sentences were carried out in Chelyabinsk. The number of 12 thousand executed was called. In the 1990s, excavations and research were curtailed. As one of the participants in this work recalled, everything was suspended after some bodies began to be dated in later years: 40s and 50s.

According to the search engine Yevgeny Gurinovich, there may be up to a hundred people in the discovered mine.

Во время раскопок нашли останки 51 человека
Photo:Предоставлено Ярославом Щербаковым

“Judging by how we dug this summer, there may be as much more as it is lifted at the moment”, - he said, “we find a lot of personal items: mugs, a toothbrush, coins, on the 30th, 32nd, 35 th years. A bullet from a Nagant, they found a cartridge case from a Mosin rifle. We found prosthetic legs, it is clear that they are not handicraft, well stitched. Ordinary peasants could not have such things, glasses in a case, gold crowns. All were transferred to the museum. We raised 43 people from there, and before us the investigative committee - 8. The remains are now under examination to clarify the details. Then there will be a reburial, most likely on the Golden Mountain, but when is not yet clear.

As Novye Izvestiya previously reported, the area near the Golden Mountain memorial began to be built up. An Olympic training center for hockey and an ice arena of the Ural University of Physical Education are being built in the forest. Residents are actively opposed to the development. In addition to the argument about deforestation, the townspeople also point to the proximity to mass graves and the possible presence of previously unknown mines with remains here.

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