Solovetsky Stone, Moscow's Official Memorial

Pictured at a victim remembrance event, the Solovetsky Stone serves as a officially recognized memorial and a site for community commemoration events.

The Solovetsky Stone, located across the former ominous NKVD headquarters and Lubiyanka Square, is the official monument dedicated to the prisoners and victims of Communist terror. The stone was originally from one of Russia’s most notorious gulags, or prisoner labor camps, located at the Solovetsky Islands in the Onega Bay of the Russian White Sea (1). The stone is infamous for its long, convoluted journey to the site of its eventual placement in the heart of Moscow and serving as a gravestone for the millions of peoples whose graves were unknown. The grand opening of the monument was on October 30th, 1990 and was launched as the official landmark for the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Political Repression. Sleek and simplistic in its design, the Stone is the statue itself and thousands of Russians around the country gather in the Lubiyanka Square every year for the tradition of “Returning the Names.” Hosted by the Memorial human rights group, names of victims are called out nonstop from 10AM to 10PM every October 30th and to date, the entirety of the victim’s list has not been spoken to its completion (2).

Looming in the background of the memorial site stands the former headquarters of the NKVD and KGB secret police forces.

Despite the seemingly official recognition of the city’s past, the Russian government has notoriously stayed separate from the commemoration activities held at Lubiyanka’s Square. In fact, the common belief among Muscovites is that commemorations such as Returning the Names lacks weight because state leadership simply does not give importance to commemoration events. Almost half believe political oppressions could occur again within the next generation (3). The location of the Stone perhaps lends itself to increased criticism. In Lubiyanka’s square center used to stand Felix Dzerzhinsky's statue, the founder of the communist secret police. Despite the statue's infamous destruction, the transition to the Solovetsky’s Stone installment does not counterbalance the intimidating shadow of the building looming behind its position nor the statue it replaced. Rather than create its intended effect and remind the government about its past misuse of power, the Stone sits idly and is only utilized by private non-profit organizations for commemoration events. The somber paradox between the official monument and its location, and the lack of governmental attention to remembrance has naturally resulted in a clash of public versus citizen memory narratives. The private community have taken to creating their own, seemingly more representative, versions of commemoration. 


1. “The History of Solovetsky Stone.” Domus Patris.

2. Obrazkova, Marina. “Victims of Stalinist Repressions Remembered at Moscow Ceremony.” Russia Beyond the Headlines, 30. Oct. 2014.

3.  Obrazkova, Marina. “Victims of Stalinist Repressions Remembered at Moscow Ceremony.” Russia Beyond the Headlines, 30. Oct. 2014.