Monday July 22, 2019

Former Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin’s Victims Still Being found 80 Years After The Great Terror in Russia

A group Memorial discovers unrecorded burial sites of the victims of the Great Purge

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November 12, 2016: The Great Purge or Great Terror are terms used to refer to the darkest periods of Russian history. Thousands were massacred in Russia under the suspicion of being enemies of the people of the Soviet Union.

The purge was inspired by the idea of eliminating dissenters and to fortify the authority of Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union. The prosecutions were majorly focused on eminent bureaucrats, military leaders and many other members of the Communist Party. It also affected many other sects of the society. The “fifth column” communities or the national minorities faced number of NKVD (Soviet Secret Police) operations. Most of the purges were explained as precautionary campaigns to eliminate the risk of espionage.

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Victims were accused of being anti-Soviet agitators taking part in sabotaging the country by conspiring against the state. These terrorized victims were reportedly tortured for confessions and many were executed by shooting them or sent to labor camps to work in the poorest conditions possible. Many perished due disease, starvation and exposure to very harsh work environments.

Nikolai Yezhov
Nikolai Yezhov. Wikimedia

Although The Purge was initiated by NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda, it reached its epitome under the supervision of NKVD chief Nikolai Yezhov (September 1936-August 1938).

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Once perceived as an enemy, the fate of the victim was sealed. There are records of mass burial sites where the bodies were dumped. But even today, multiple burial grounds have been discovered which have no existence in the records. This shows that there may have been a lot more casualties than recorded.

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A group called ‘Memorial’ has started collecting evidence and records of the massacres in the 1990s. The group has been trying to document the massacres during this dark chapter of Russian history. The researchers at Memorial have been requesting for documents mentioning the locations of the mass burials and execution grounds but the FSB keeps denying the existence of any such documentation in its archives.

Every autumn, ceremonies are held to pay respect to the victims. Memorial has also launched a program called Last Address in which plaques are placed holding the identities and addresses of the victims of Stalin’s political repression.

– by Shivam Thaker of NewsGram. Twitter: @Shivam_Thaker

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Efforts to Contain Spread of Ebola Virus to Remain Elusive Unless Cycle of Violence is Broken

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus

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Ebola, Violence, WHO
Ebola workers enter a house to decontaminate the body of a woman suspected of dying from Ebola, before the vehicle of the health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo will remain elusive unless the vicious cycle of violence in the region is broken.  Latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2284, including 1540 deaths and 637 survivors.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response Ibrahima Soce Fall says there has been good progress in scaling up operations to contain the spread of the deadly ebola virus in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Fall has just returned from a three-month stint in Butembo, the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in DR Congo.  He says last week there were 79 new Ebola cases, 27 fewer than the previous week.  He says infections are continuing to fall in the major urban centers of Butembo and Katwa thanks to coverage in all 33 health areas.

At the same time, he tells VOA the operation is running into difficulty in the rural areas of Mabalako and Mandima, the new hot spots of the epidemic.

Ebola, Violence, WHO
Congolese security forces attend the scene after the vehicle of a health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

“The access is more challenging.  In the same area, we have some villages where you have both ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) armed group coming from Uganda and some Mai Mai groups,” said Fall.  “So, access needs to be assessed on a daily basis to be able to move up to the intervention.  So, it is really important to take into account this very volatile situation.”

Eastern DRC has been politically unstable since 1998.   There are an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people in the country.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says new displacements are occurring mainly in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North and South Kivu.  More than 100 armed groups reportedly are engaged in sporadic fighting in the region.

Fall says constant and skilled negotiations with the armed groups are needed to gain access to these volatile areas.

“The outbreak started there last year and spread to other areas,” Fall said. “So, it is important to break this vicious cycle to contain very quickly the situation in Mabalako and Mandima, where we have more than 55 percent of the cases coming from.”

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Fall says it will be exceedingly difficult to contain the virus if more money is not immediately forthcoming.   He says $98 million is needed to support the government-led response to defeat ebola.  To date, he says less than half that amount has been received. (VOA)