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Victims of Soviet repressions remembered in memorial

The Associated Press

Maria Arutyunian, 59, warms hersef as she waits to light candles and read out names of victims of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s purges at the Solovky Stone monument in Lubyanka Square, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. On the eve of the Day of Victims of Political Repressions, marked in Russia on Oct. 30, people gather at the memorial, a giant slab of stone taken from a Soviet labor camp in the Solovky Islands, to commemorate the thousands of victims of Soviet-era political repressions. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Associated Press

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By KATHERINE JACOBSEN, The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — On the square outside the former headquarters of the KGB in Moscow, Russians on Thursday read the names of victims of political killings in Soviet times in a 12-hour-long ceremony.

The ceremony, organized by Russian rights group Memorial, came on the eve of the national day for remembrance of victims of political repression.

Each participant was given the names of two people to read aloud. But the scale of such executions was so enormous that there wasn’t enough time to read all the names.

Historians estimate a million or more were killed just in the infamous 1937-38 purges under Josef Stalin.

In the past few years, there has been a push to emphasize the Soviet victory in World War II, rather than address the victims of political repression under the Communist regime.

“This isn’t just a political event or a historical event. It can’t be. History and politics are too intertwined,” said Anna Vardiya, 53, who has attended the annual commemoration ceremony since they began 10 years ago.

Another demonstration was held in the Belarusian capital Minsk, where about 200 activists gathered and protested that repression continues under authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

“We will continue to live under a fearsome, Stalinist government,” until there is a frank discussion of Soviet history, said Vladimir Mazanki, who came to the protest with a candle and a portrait of his father in hand.

Yuras Karmanau in Minsk contributed to this story.

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