There is a turning off the Old Warsaw Road on the border between Moscow itself and the Moscow region. This spot is marked by an Orthodox Cross. Nearby, is an old oak, at least three hundred years old, the patriarch of this forest, and probably, the only living witness of the following events.
The road runs along the edge of an oak wood. This oasis, a peaceful woodland retreat within the Moscow conurbation, lies next to the residential area of Yuzhnoe Butovo (South Butovo). Nature herself seems to have intended it as a place for secluded walks and reflections. But, gradually the trees begin to thin out, the forest ends, and in the distance, there is a high wooden fence, topped with barbed wire. This, at one time, was a secret site of the NKVD [the Soviet Secret Police], with an entrance barrier and no admittance without a pass.
But nowadays you can hear a church bell, summoning worshippers to prayer and the distant singing of the church choir. The calm and peace of this place has a wonderful remarkably uplifting effect, bringing peace and warmth to the soul. We go further. The road, as you might expect, leads to a church; a special one, dedicated to the New Saints and Martyrs of Butovo.
Butovo used to be the name of a little village, once situated to the south of Moscow about 18 versts from the Old Warsaw Road.
The name Butovo comes from the word [but], in English, rubble, the small pieces of stone which, according to archives from the XVIIth century, had been extracted from this area since ancient times. Indeed, this little village on the way to the town of Serpukhov, was probably founded by the master craftsmen from the local stone quarries. In Butovo, at the end of the XVIIth century, there were only three homesteads.
The journey to Butovo Halt by steam train used to take about one and a half hours. At the end of the XIXth century and the beginning of the XXth, a number of famous people had estates in the vicinity: Prince P. D. Volkonsky, Count S. D. Sheremetov (the son of Tchaikovsky's friend and patron Nadezhda von Meck), V. K. Ferrein , the owner of the pharmacies, A. M. Katkov and N. I. Blandov, the best cheese producer in Russia.
Later, the nearby estate of Drozhzhino, which used to belong to the nobility, took on the name of Butovo. It was precisely on this land that Butovo Range, the special secret NKVD site was located in the mid - XXth century.
The first owner, after whom the estate was named, was Andrei Drozhzhin. At the beginning of the XVIth century, he, together with Andrei Vyazemsky and Mikhail Glinsky, had come from the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania in order to enter into the service of Vassily III, Grand Duke of Moscow.
Later, when the Church of the Holy Martyrs and Miracle Workers St. Cosmas and St. Damian was built on the high left bank of the little river Izvodny (now Gvozdny and hence Gvozdyanka), the village was re-named Kosmodamiansky. Drozhzhino. Tozh.
Under Ivan the Terrible, the owner of this land was the boyar Fyodor Mikhailovich Drozhzhin (1), who, in fact, became the first victim in the history of this place. He was executed by the oprichniks (2) in 1568.
In the Time of Troubles (Smutnoe Vremya) Kosmodamianskoye was completely ruined. About a hundred years after the death of Fyodor Mikhailovich, neither the village nor the church remained. The church records of the Moscow District for 1688 state that there was 'only church land and waste ground', and that it was not even known exactly 'when and why the Church of the Holy Martyrs and Miracle Workers St. Cosmas and St.Damian had been destroyed' (see documents of the Moscow Board of Estates). There is a legend, passed down by local people from generation to generation, that the church behind the village sank into the ground, and that 'before the Great Patriotic War [World War II] (1941-45), you could see a huge hole there. Now
there is just a field and the ground has levelled out'. The country poet V. Ermilov, a local inhabitant, suggests that this legend is derived from certain peculiarities of the soil.
Was there anyone who didn't own this land over the next few centuries! Among its owners, there were the Princes Shakhovsky (in the second half of the XVIIIth century), the Georgian Tsarevich, Prince Bagrat Georgievich, the son of the Georgian King George VIII (1789 - the first two decades of the XIXth century), the last Georgian King - just to mention the most eminent.
In 1890 the estate passed on to Nikolai Makarovich Solov'yov, a hereditary freeman and merchant of the 1st Guild, who had founded a stud here the year before. He mainly bred Orlovsky Trotters. They were notable for their fine appearance and beautiful fast trot and were ideal for use as carriage horses, the main form of transport at that time. But under his management, the stud also bred racing trotters . In 1893, Nikolai Makarovich was already a full member of the Moscow Imperial Trotter Breeding Society. His photograph appears in its 75th anniversary album. From 1894, he was a member of the St Petersburg branch of the Imperial Trotter Breeding Society. The name N. M. Solov'yov appears constantly in the long lists of prize winners, published in special almanacs.
From the end of 1911, the new owner of the stud was Ivan Ivanovich Zimin, a member of the well known merchant and manufacturing family. In August 1915, after the death of her mother, the daughter of Nikolai Makarovich sold the whole estate with all its debts to Zimin.
The Zimins were descended from the serfs of the landowner, Ryumin. They lived in the village of Zuyevo in the Boorodsky district of the province of Moscow. Semyon Grigorievich, the grandfather of Ivan Ivanovich, had set up a small family textile business in his own home. His son, Nikita Semyonovich, bought his freedom from his owner, did well in the world and made a fortune. In 1864, he built his first spinning and weaving mill in his native village. The son of Nikolai Semyonovich, Ivan Nikitich, still in his father's lifetime and to his father's great pride, established the I. N. Zimin Zuyevo Textile Mill Company. He rebuilt the old mill at Zuyevo and erected a new one in the village of Drezna, about 12 km away. Around this, he built a factory town with houses for workers and employees, a hospital, an almshouse, a kindergarten, shops, canteens and other necessary facilities. In honour of his father, Ivan Nikitich Zimin designed the mill in the shape of NZ [HZ in Russian], standing for Nikita Zimin. On his death, the business was headed by his elder son, Leonty Ivanovich (1849-1913), whose brother Grigory Ivanovich (1854-1918) and his wife Lyudmila Vikolovna (nee Morozova), built an Old Believers' church in Tokmakovsky Lane, near the Kursk railway station in Moscow. The Zimins were Old Believers and followed the Fedoseev line: 'no priests'. The Old Believers' church at the Preobrazhenskoe Cemetery in Moscow was supported, to a large extent, by their donations. There, on two large plots was the burial area of the Zimins.
After the death of Leonty Ivanovich, the Zimin Company was headed by Ivan Ivanovich, the new owner of the Solov'yov stud. Following the charitable traditions of the Russian merchants, the fourth Zimin brother, Sergei Ivanovich, became the owner and impresario of a Moscow private opera house. It took some time for his brothers to reconcile themselves to such a use of the Zimin capital. They were even going to impose guardians on this family music lover. Only his mother supported her son's passion for the theatre. (Evdokiya Savvateevna Zimina (1845-1926) was greatly respected by the family and was even a member of the Board of Directors of the Zimin Company.) Nowadays, it would be almost impossible to imagine cultural life in Moscow at the beginning of the XXth century without the Zimins' private opera.
All the members of the Zimin family were hereditary freemen of the city. One of them was even ennobled. He had been awarded the George Cross of Valour of the 4th class for his bravery in the First World War. His name was Ivan Leontievich Zimin. He was the last manager of the stud and virtual owner of the Butovo estate (3).
At one time, he worked as an administrator at the theatre of his uncle, S. I. Zimin. It was there he met Sophia Ivanovna Druzyakina (nee Menzel), a famous opera singer, who later became his second wife. Not long after, they moved to Butovo with their three adopted children.
According to contemporaries, the singer, Druzyakina was 'endowed with exceptional musical and dramatic talent'. Her lyrical and dramatic soprano of fine timbre and considerable compass was to be heard on the stage of the best opera houses in Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow and St Petersburg. More than once, she sang with Chalyapin. Among her partners, there were such well known figures as Figner, Batistini (on tour in Russia), Galvani, and other famous people. According to her Moscow audience, her best role was the part of Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin'. Sometimes she performed at the Zimin opera house.
Everybody at the Butovo estate said that Ivan Leontievich was a devoted horse lover. There were pictures and drawings of horses on the walls of his study. His crockery was decorated in like manner. Even the inkstand on his desk had tip up lids in the form of horses' heads. And, in the middle of a flower bed, in front of the stable doors was a monument: a cast iron horse's head on top of a pedestal. This was in honour of Antony, a half breed bay stallion, who had frequently won races in Moscow and St Petersburg. His father, Alvin the Young, was from the Elansky Stud (in the Saratov province) and his children (Brys, Abrek, Ayir, Alimant, Artist, Ratmira) and his grandchildren (Wide Steppe, Flying Dutchman and others) were often winners. In 1922, Brys won the main prize at the Derby, and in 1939 Antony's grandson, Flying Dutchman, was awarded the same prize.
At first, the coup d'etat of 1917 had no immediate effect on the routine of the inhabitants of Butovo. It was only in 1918, that Ivan Ivanovich Zimin's estate was nationalised, in common with all other private property in the area. As to Ivan Leontievich, who never had any property of his own but used to be a steward on his uncle's estate, he was allowed to live at Butovo and continue, as before, with his duties as steward of the stud. During the first years of the Soviet Government, life there seemed to go on much as before. In 1924, the Zimin Stud, renamed the L.V. Kamenev Stud, and subsequently in 1928, the Third Moscow State Stud, was among the ten best studs in the country.
But with the approach of the thirties, many things changed; kulaks (4) were being dispossessed all over Russia. Now it was the turn of Ivan Leontievich. He was accused of 'not being firmly enough based on socialist economic practice'. There was an inspection, which discovered significant irregularities in the accounts. Zimin was moved from his position of responsibility to an ordinary one at MOZO (the Moscow Land Department). He was also evicted from Butovo and his house was nationalised and expropriated.
Following the discharge of Ivan Leontievich, the stud was disbanded. Some of the horses were transferred to the First Moscow Stud in the village of Uspsnskoe near Zvenigorod, while the descendants of the famous Antony returned to the Elansky Stud. On the territory of Butovo a 'traindepot' [abbreviation for 'training depot'] was established, to train 'remounts' for the Red Army and also to train the soldiers themselves.
Documents specifying exactly when the Butovo area was handed over to OGPU [the Unified State Political Directorate] have not so far been located in the archives. It might have happened in the early days of the Soviet regime or, maybe, at the beginning of the thirties. From time to time, a commissioner came from Moscow and took away the horses he fancied. Furthermore, at busy times pedigree horses were used for transport, at the demand of local authorities. Old residents used to say that the charger of Commander S. M. Budenny of the Red Army used to be kept in the former Zimin stable. According to them, during the Civil War the horse rescued his master from the battlefield but was wounded and went severely lame. It was Budenny's request that saved the deserving animal from the customary slaughter. Instead, it was sent to the Zimin stable to be kept in honourable retirement.
Ivan Leontievich died in Moscow, in his daughter's arms, on 12th March 1935.
Meanwhile, significant changes were taking place at Butovo. The 'traindepot', previously set up in place of the stud, was abolished and its 140 employees evicted (1934). Now this land, together with that of the Ekaterinsky Monastery and the huge Kommunarka State Farm, was transferred to the State Security Department .
Soon the roads and small forest paths, on which local people, since childhood, had been used to wander in search of mushrooms and berries, were fenced off with barbed wire. Two observation posts appeared. with barrier gates and guards; the first at the exit from the Old Warsaw Road near Gorodyaikha village, the second, deep in the forest opposite a wooden building (formerly the Zimin office), now the office of the NKVD Commandant. In the course of time, one further observation post was added, on the Bobrovo village side. Local people discovered that a shooting range was to be constructed on the enclosed area of two square kilometres. Well, a shooting range is a shooting range. Nobody was surprised. It is only now that we know that this was a way of preparing the local people for the fact that mass executions would be carried out so close to where they were. Maybe, at first, shooting exercises did, in fact, take place since small units of NKVD personnel (Chekists) visited the range from time to time. Or maybe, these were already the first individual executions of 1935-1936. According to the Chekists themselves, neither shooting exercises nor the testing of infantry weapons were ever carried out at the range. There were neither military units nor barracks, essential elements in such cases. However, the area was guarded and, except for NKVD personnel, there was nobody else there.
As we know, the large-scale shootings of 1937-8, which were unprecedented, resulted from the Decree of June 2nd, 1937 of the Politbureau of the VKP [CPSU - Communist Party of the Soviet Union] on the mass repression of entire sections of the population. In order to bring this into effect, they issued the 'famous' order of operation, Order No. 00447 of 30th July, 1937 'on the repression of former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements', signed by Nikolai Yezhov. 'Other anti-Soviet elements' meant 'members of anti- Soviet parties, former Whites (5) , gendarmes, tsarist Russian officials, members of punitive expeditions, brigands, those who co-operated with gangs, re-emigrants' as well as 'sectarian activists, churchmen' [clergy, church officials and church supporters], 'and others in prisons, prison camps, labour camps and colonies'.
The 'anti-Soviet elements' fell into two categories. The first one included 'all the most hostile of the aforementioned elements'. These were subject to 'immediate arrest and, after consideration of their case by the troikas (6) , to DEATH BY SHOOTING'. The second category included 'less active but nonetheless hostile elements'. These were subject to arrest and confinement in prison camps for terms ranging from eight to ten years. According to the NKVD records kept by top national and regional administrators, the Centre' issued a plan regarding the two categories of political prisoners. As far as Moscow and the Moscow region were concerned, the initial plan included 5,000 people in the first category and 30,000 in the second.'
"If an extra 1000 people are shot during the operation, it doesn't matter," wrote Nikolai Yezhov (7) in his interpretation of Order No 00447.
The entire large-scale operation of repression was supposed to be carried out in four months time (later it was postponed two more times).
In the early 1990s, Captain A. V. Sadovsky , formerly NKVD Acting Commandant of the Moscow Administration Maintenance Department, described the executions on the Butovo range. He had been responsible for carrying out death sentences all over Moscow and the Moscow region, including the Butovo Range from January - October 1937.
Vehicles, carrying up to fifty people, would drive up to the range, from the direction of the forest, at about 1.00 - 2.00 a.m. In his time, there was no wooden fence. The zone was enclosed with barbed wire. Where the vehicles stopped, there were watchtowers, and searchlights, fixed to the trees. Not far away you could see two buildings: a small stone house and a very long wooden barrack house, about 80 metres. The people were brought into the barracks, supposedly for 'sanitisation' (disinfection). Just before the shootings the decree was proclaimed and the data was checked. This was done very thoroughly. Sometimes this procedure could take many hours. At that time, those who were to carry out the sentences were completely isolated in the little stone cottage, situated not far away.
The condemned people were brought out of the barracks one by one. Then the executioners appeared, one for each victim. They took them and led them deep into the range right up to a trench and fired, almost point- blank, at the back of their heads. The bodies were then thrown down into the deep trench, covering the bottom. They were then 'tidied away' by NKVD personnel, specially detailed for the task.
It was a rare day when fewer than a hundred people were shot. Often there were 300, 400 or over 500. For instance, on 8th December 1937, 474 people were shot, and on 17th February and 28th February 1938, 502 and 562 respectively (8). The executioners used their own weapons, mostly obtained in the Civil War. Usually it was a Nagan revolver, which they considered to be the most accurate, convenient and reliable to use. A doctor and a prosecutor were supposed to be present at an execution but, as we know from the statements of the executioners themselves, this rule was by no means always kept. On the day of the executions a bucketful of vodka was brought out for all the executioners and guards and they were allowed to drink as much as they wanted. (And how could one carry out such a task without numbing oneself with alcohol?!) And a little way away, there was a second bucket - with eau de cologne. When the executions were over, the executioners rinsed themselves with eau de cologne as you could smell the blood and the gunpowder on them from a mile away. By their own admission, 'even the dogs rushed away' from them.
After that, the executioners went to the Commandant's office, where they filled in forms and signed the reports on the carrying out of the death sentences. After the completion of all the necessary formalities, there was a dinner; after which the executioners, usually dead drunk, were transported back to Moscow. Towards evening, a man, commonly one of the local residents, would appear at the place of the executions, start the bulldozer, standing ready there at the range for such purposes, and cover the bodies with a thin layer of soil. On the next day of shooting, everything was repeated right from the beginning.
Up to August 1937, all those who had been shot were buried separately in small graves, traces of which can be seen inside and outside the Butovo shooting range. But from August 1937, the executions were carried out on such a large scale, that the technology of shooting and burial had to be changed. A high powered channel digging excavator, a Komsomolets, was delivered to Butovo. Using this, huge trenches, 3 - 5 metres wide, 3.5 metres deep and hundreds of metres long, were made in advance.
In all, there are 13 such trenches at the Butovo shooting range. According to the available data, 20,760 people are buried there. The first to be shot were the 'nationalists' - for espionage, then the 'former' [Whites] and 'churchmen' - for anti-Soviet propaganda, and finally, disabled people who were not allowed to be detained either in prison or in concentration camps because of their incapacity for work.
The time it took to process all the clerical work is amazing. Often, it took two days from the time of arrest to the time of execution (this was so in the case of three investigations), or five - six days (there are 16 such cases) or 7-8 days (there were as many as 118 of these). The investigations into the accusations of anti-Soviet propaganda were carried out quickly, those of 'terrorist, diversive (nationalist) activities' or 'feelings' a little longer. Cases of 'espionage' took a very long time; 'residents' had to be defined, 'passwords' and 'secret addresses' verified. Those accused were tortured for several months, sometimes even for a year.
The overwhelming majority of those shot (80-85%) belonged to no political party. About half of all those shot were of low educational attainment. In other words, they were far from political. Most of those who perished here were simple workers; the next group numerically were employees of Soviet institutions and peasants, 'tillers of the land' and 'grain producers'; that is, those who loved and tended the soil of Russia. Here 15 and 16 year old boys and 80 year old men were shot. Whole settlements were devastated. From any given village or settlement, from ten to thirty or 40 people lie buried in Butovo.
For the most part, it was the male section of the population who were exterminated; 19, 903 men, and, by comparison, 858 women, were shot at Butovo. Semi-literate or absolutely illiterate peasants, who signed the interrogation reports with a cross rather than a signature, were accused of 'Trotskyism' (9) and counter-revolutionary terrorist activity - words they did not even know. They did not even understand why they had been arrested, or where they were being taken. Probably some of them even died without understanding what was going on.
Sometimes the reasons for the arrests and executions were just laughable.
Some of those, executed on the range, were simply guilty of keeping a handwritten copy of a poem by Yesenin (10), directed against 'the court poet' Demian Bedny (11) ('anti- Soviet propaganda!') or the book 'On the banks of the river of God' by Sergei Nilus (12) ('nationalism, anti-semitism, ecclesiastical obscurantism!'). Or, God forbid, someone had secreted a portrait of the last Tsar ('diversion, monarchist feelings'). Others were brought to Butovo for innocent jokes they had indulged in (sometimes in verse) about M.V. Vodopianov, a famous pilot (13). This was not forgiven, for some reason. A typesetter from the 1st Model Printing House found himself at the Range for having made an irredeemable mistake in the factory newspaper Pravda Poligraphista [Polygraphic Workers' Pravda]: instead of 'Trotskyist (14) scum', he typed 'Soviet scum'. He and the proof reader, a woman, paid for this by their lives. One District Committee worker was killed at Butovo. At a demonstration, in an emotional outburst, the poor fellow shouted into the loudspeaker, with all his might, "Long live Hitler!" instead of "Long live Stalin!" (Without more ado, he was led away in a certain direction but, however much he tried to claim that it had happened 'unintentionally', 'I don't know how', nobody believed him.) Some people ended up in the Butovo trenches simply because their shabby room in a communal flat appealed to their neighbour or their neighbour's wife. After the arrest of their inhabitants, good individual flats were designated for 'serious' people, usually from the NKVD. But after the arrest of their owners, rooms in communal flats also went to exactly the same people. There are many examples of this.
Who was there who didn't end up in the Butovo trenches! There were policemen, teachers, doctors, lawyers, firemen, tourists, NKVD officers, pilots, members of the armed services and, of course, 'former' [Whites] , members of the nobility and tsarist officers. Among the victims of Butovo, there were also musicians; composers, singers, pianists, violinists, also theatre actors, circus performers and even a variety artist. But of the representatives of culture and the arts, the majority (about a hundred) were artists. These included artists of all kinds: avant-gardists, social realists, painters, graphic artists, sculptors, miniaturists, applied artists, icon painters, designers and painters of fabrics and ceramics.
Among those, shot at Butovo, there were some artists, whose work is now considered to be the pride of glory of Russian art. First and foremost, there is Alexander Drevin, whose works were miraculously rescued from confiscation and are now on permanent show at the Tretyakov Art Gallery and also at the best galleries in the world. The fate of the work of another remarkable artist, Roman Semashkevich, was as tragic as his own. About three hundred of his pictures, all ready for his personal exhibition, were confiscated during the search. The few paintings of his, that have survived, are also shown at the Tretyakov Art Gallery and are included in exhibitions all over the world. Among professional artists, the name of Gustav Klutsis painter, designer and progenitor of the Soviet photographic poster, is also widely known.
Among the list of artists who perished at Butovo, the 23 year old artist Vladimir Timirev must have a special place. He was the son of Rear Admiral S. N. Timirev and stepson of Admiral A. V. Kolchak, former 'Supreme Governor of Russia'. He left some marvellous watercolours, full of air and light, with boats sailing slowly over the sea, representing a world of peace, of a serene joy of life, that nothing can perturb. More than a hundred of Timirev's works are shown in museums in Moscow, Penza, Nukus and other cities.
The artist and iconographer, Count Alekseevich Komarovsky was closely connected by birth with many families from the nobility. The churches that he decorated, the beautiful icons that he painted, are remarkable for the power of their religious inspiration and their quality of sublime simplicity. Komarovsky was not only an artist but also a specialist in the theory of iconography and the founder of both the Iconographers' Society and their magazine Russkaya Ikon [The Russian Icon]. He was concerned to extend people's knowledge of ancient Russian art and to develop taste in the sphere of church iconographic decoration, as part of the 'Liturgical beauty of the Church'. This artist was arrested five times. Finally, after the fifth arrest, he was sentenced to capital punishment. He was shot at Butovo on 5th November, 1937. In all his work, his chief assistant was his cousin and oldest friend, Count Yury Aleksandrovich Olsufiev, who spent much time and energy in uncovering and celebrating ancient Russian art. Olsufiev was shot at Butovo on 14th March, 1938.
The famous master mountaineer and chairman of the climbing section of the All Union Central Trade Union Council, V. L. Semenovsky , was also shot at Butovo. He was well known among national and foreign geographers, topographers and climbers. The most beautiful peak in the Tyan Shan mountains was named after him. The Civil War hero A. I. Glantsberg, a military engineer of the 1st rank, was one of the first organisers of army mountaineering, which was practised widely in the mid 1930s. By order of the 'dvoika', he was also shot at Butovo. Almost all the climbers executed were highly educated people and skilled specialists in their main field. And so, too, was G. E. Gerngross, a noble by birth, the son of a tsarist general, the most outstanding scholar in African studies and a first class alpinist, arrested and shot at Butovo.
Among those lying buried at Butovo there are M. N. Khitrovo- Kramaskoy, great grandson of Field Marshall M. I. Kutuzov, also a relative of the Soviet Marshall Tukhachevsky and professor of church choral music, T. N. Gladyrevskaya , great grandaughter of the writer, Salytkov Shchedrin, and Ya. V. Brezin, a Czech by nationality and a member of the expedition of O. Y. Schmidt.
Blown in to us by an ill wind was the Italian engineer from Venice, Antonino - Bruno Segalino . He worked with General Nobel in the design office on the design of airships. Several airship designers were buried here. Ten pilots were shot at Butovo among them, one of the first Russian airmen Nikolai Nikolaevich Danilevsky and other pioneers of Russian aviation, such as P. K. Vologodtsev, P. L. Anikin -Obrezkov and O. S. Bil'chenko, a pilot in naval aviation, which was then in its infancy.
Among those shot at Butovo, there were many prominent dignitaries from the past: Fyodor Alexandrovich Golovin, Chairman of the Second State Duma, Count V. B. Rostopchin ( before his arrest he was a teacher at Litfond (The Institute of Literature)), and Prince L. A. Shakhovskoy, a Lieutenant in the tsarist army. Here also was D. M. Shchepkin, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs in the Provisional Government in 1917. Among the lists of women shot, we find K. M. Kobylinskaya, the wife of the chief security officer of the Tsar's bodyguard, and teacher of the Tsar's children in Tobolsk and Yekaterinburg, and N. V.
Nikitina, nee Duchess Votbolskaya. All the above were shot at Butovo in December 1937.
Finally, on the list of victims we find the name of V. F. Dzhunkovsky, Governor of Moscow, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Commander of the Gendarme Corps. He was one of the most noble and remarkable men in Moscow and St. Petersburg at the beginning of the 20th century. He was founder and, from 1905, Chairman of the Moscow Society for Public Sobriety. In Moscow, he opened the first drug abuse clinics for alcoholics. And, for people of limited means in their leisure hours, he established libraries, reading rooms and public theatres in which charity shows and plays were performed by the best actors in Moscow. In 1914, Dzhunkovsky carried out the reorganisation of the secret police. He tried to get rid of secret agents and agents provocateurs, considering their use to be immoral. The earthly path of this outstanding social reformer came to an end at the Butovo range on 26th February, 1938.
In addition to the above mentioned groups of people, a large number of employees of transport and trading companies, administrators of factories and public trusts etc., agronomists, scientists and military servicemen were shot at Butovo. Gifted craftworkers and people working in all kinds of small businesses and co-operatives also lie buried in the Butovo trenches.
Long before the Revolution, many Muscovites liked Chinese laundries. The Chinese lived in small colonies and spoke only a little Russian, communicating with smiles and bows whenever they could not find the right word. Many of them married Russians. The Chinese laundrymen delivered perfectly washed and ironed linen to their customers' flats. As private enterprises, all the laundries were liquidated in 1937. More than fifty Chinese laundrymen were shot at Butovo.
Of those executed in Butovo, the largest number (more than 2,500 men), were prisoners of the NKVD Dmitlag camp, working as the Canal Army on the Project of the Age: the construction of the Moscow - Volga Canal. The Dmitlag camp, comparable in size to the territory of an average European state, was, indeed, a whole country in the vast GULAG archepelago. The Dmitlag prisoners were first class engineers, world class scientists and people from the arts but the majority of 'the Dmitlag camp inmates' were people, accused of criminal activities. They were used for general work; the hardest jobs that required no qualifications.
In addition to the above victims, who have been posthumously rehabilitated, more than a quarter of all those executed at Butovo (5,595 people), were those charged according to purely criminal or combined clauses of the Soviet Criminal Code, who, according to the law, are not subject to rehabilitation. Among a number of such cases, not subject to rehabilitation, there are some cases against people who were vindicated because of the lack of anything that consitututed a 'crime' or a real 'criminal event'.
We are faced with the almost indissoluble problem of discerning whether a charge, according to Article 58, the 'political' clause, actually corresponds to the true state of affairs, and conversely, whether someone condemned to capital punishment according to a criminal clause, was, in fact, a genuine criminal.
From the following cases, we can see that a recidivist criminal, who terrorised others, imprisoned in a prison cell or prison camp, was often condemned for anti-Soviet propaganda, in order to get rid of someone maliciously disturbing the peace of the place. Charges of counter- revolutionary activity could be levelled against any ordinary brawler or peasant who had set fire to a haybarn, belonging to the head of a collective farm, or against a boy who had tattooed himself with a portrait of Stalin 'on improper parts of the body'.
Sometimes, those sentenced under Article 58, the 'political' clause, were habitual frequenters of sobering up stations -'criticising the Leader when drunk', or pub customers who, in the company of their drink-mates, 'expressed diversionary and terrorist feelings'. People, sentenced according to Article 58, were rehabilitated in 1989 and the beginning of the 1990s, as having been repressed without due cause. Conversely, those labelled as 'a danger to society', 'socially dangerous elements', people 'without a definite occupation' 'with no definite place of abode', who were sentenced to death for begging and vagrancy or, more usually, for a breach of the passport regulations, are not subject to rehabilitation, in spite of the fact that such people were, for the most part, victims of Bolshevik policy and of the post- revolutionary chaos in the country.
Certainly, the list of non-rehabilitated people includes persistent criminals: 'skilled' thieves, murderers, robbers, whether caught at the site of the crime or as a result of an investigation. For some, their criminal records sound like a detective story: 15-20 previous sentences at a young age, 10-15 escapes by cutting prison wires, digging holes under prison walls, changing into the clothes of the guards, etc., etc. But few were 'heroes' like these. Most of the criminals were sentenced and shot for petty theft, often quite out of proportion to the level of punishment. We come across death sentences for the theft of galoshes, two loaves of bread, a bicycle, an accordion, twenty empty bags, five pieces of soap etc. Sometimes quarrels between neighbours, sharing the same communal apartment, ended up with people being shot at Butovo because one side reported the quarrel to the NKVD. There were death sentences for profiteering; for instance, one peasant came to the city to sell apples from his own garden in the square next to the station. Fortune-tellers and prostitutes shared the same fate as thieves, forgers, profiteers and swindlers, as indeed did gypsies and Aisors (the descendants of ancient Assyrians) and street shoe cleaners.
There is no certainty of being able to discover the names of all the people shot at the Butovo range, even for the period 8th August, 1937 - 9th October, 1938, let alone for earlier or subsequent years. But we can say with absolute reliability that there are some names we shall never discover because everything possible was done to conceal them. For example, one document, accidentally discovered in the archives of the St. Petersburg Federal State Security, orders 'the department heads of DPZ ODPZ 1 and the Governor of the prison under investigation, to take personal responsibility for the complete destruction of all traces of the detention in the aforementioned places of the person under investigation (so and so); (to remove the cases and cards from the records, to destroy anything listed alphabetically, and so on).'
Among those executed at Butovo, the people of the Russian Orthodox Church, clergy and laity, have a special place.
The fact is that , numerically, those who suffered at Butovo, for the Orthodox Church greatly outnumber those killed at any other site of mass shooting and mass burial. In approximately fifteen months, 935 people were shot, whose only guilt was the confession of their Orthodox Faith.
The first martyrs to suffer for the Church at Butovo were the priests, executed on 20th August, 1937. The largest number of clergy were killed in the autumn of 1937 and the winter of 1937-1938. On 21st October, the Feast of the Icon of the Mother of God, 'The Sign', 48 clergy and laity were shot. In the same year, on 10th December, 49 clergy were martyred. At the head of these, were the martyrs Nikolai Dobronravov, Archbishop of Vladimir, and Kronides Lubimov, the last Father Superior of the great Trinity and St Sergius Lavra. On 17th Febuary, 1938, 75 clergy and monastics were shot, on 14th March, 40 and so on.
At the head of the great mass of clergy, executed for their faith at Butovo, there were seven hierarchs: one metropolitan, two archbishops and four bishops. In addition, a huge number of archimandrites, archpriests, hegumens [Father Superiors], monks, nuns, priests, deacons, hierodeacons and readers were shot at Butovo, together with nearly 200 lay people: church wardens, choir directors, singers, church cleaners and vergers. Most of the priests killed were simple batiushkas [parish priests] of parishes in Moscow and the Moscow region.
It is probably impossible to give the names of all those who suffered for the faith. The real reason for the arrest was not always stated in the investigatory process and the location of the final arrest was not always the same as where the accused had previously lived.
People, arrested for their faith, were found guilty of having committed crimes according to Article 58 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR [Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic], usually according to points 10- 11: 'anti-Soviet propaganda' and 'anti-revolutionary activities'. However, the actual reasons for their charge might be different: ' preservation of the church and the propagation of hidden monasticism', 'not reporting' ('knowing about a fugitive priest and not reporting him to the authorities'), 'helping exiles', 'giving shelter to homeless clergy'. Very often the investigators, blind to the absurdity of the situation, wrote in a priest's indictment, 'libellously maintained that churches were being closed, priests were being arrested.'
Hieromartyr Metropolitan Seraphim, Metropolitan of Leningrad (in the world, Leonid Mikhailovich Chichagov), a talented and highly gifted man, a brave warrior, a scholar, historian, pastor, preacher, writer, painter and musician, was the oldest hierarch to receive the crown of martyrdom at Butovo. Besides the icons, painted by him, The Chronicles of the St. Seraphim Diveevo Convent, the seminal book Talks on Medicine and Musical Diaries, he left behind several restored churches and monastic buildings including The Synodal Church of the Twelve Apostles in the Kremlin, St. Nicholas' Church in the old Vaganovo Cemetery , containing frescoes that he himself had painted, the Saviour -Efimievsky Monastery in Suzdal and the Monastery of the Resurrection in New Jerusalem.
In 1887-1888, long before being ordained priest and then tonsured, he was an active participant and historiographer of the events of the Russo-Turkish War. For his services to the State, both civil and military, Leonid Mikhailovich was awarded fourteen Orders and decorations, both Russian and foreign.
About twenty thousand people were cured by using his own methods of treatment, based entirely on the healing power of plants, as described in his book, Talks on Medicine.
In his 40 years of priesthood, Vladyka Seraphim worked in many different places: Moscow - The Holy Trinity - St Sergius Lavra, Suzdal, New Jerusalem, Sukhumi, Oryol, Kishinev (Chisinau), Tver and Leningrad. Everywhere, in all the dioceses under his control and wherever he served, he was occupied with the restoration of old and ruined churches and monasteries as well as with the renewal of the spiritual life of the people. The Vladyka fought fearlessly for the purity of Orthodoxy against revolutionary sedition and sectarianism and schisms of all kinds, and energetically devoted himself to the organisation of church and parish life.
Through his work as a senior priest, he was actively involved in the glorification of St. Seraphim of Sarov. From the Blessed Pasha (Paraskieva), Metropolitan Seraphim Chichagov knew of the Elder Seraphim's command about canonisation. She was a Diveevo 'Fool-for-Christ' , who had known the Elder well during his life. The Chronicles of the St Seraphim Diveevo Convent, compiled by the Metropolitan, were of great significance for the glorification of St. Seraphim, for it revealed the magnitude of St Seraphim's spiritual gifts to the whole of Russia. On completing The Chronicles, its' author was blessed with a vision of St. Seraphim who thanked him, and said, "Ask of me, whatever you wish." "Simply to be always with you," Archimandrite Seraphim replied'.
Some time later, the Vladyka took part in the second glorification of the Holy and Right Believing Princess Anna of Kashin.
Metropolitan Seraphim was shot at Butovo on 11th December, 1937. On 23rd February, 1997, he was proclaimed a saint - the first among the Butovo martyrs.
The hieromartyr Arkady, Bishop of Bezhetsk (Arkady Iosifovich Ostal'sky) was from Zhitomir. During the First World War he was an army chaplain and subsequently, after 1917, the Rector of a Zhitomir church. In 1922, he was arrested and sentenced to be shot, but the sentence of execution was changed to one of 10 years in a prison camp. After an early release from prison, he became a monk. From 1926, he was again arrested several times and imprisoned at Solovki. After his release in spring 1937, he was appointed Bishop of Bezhetsk but he was unable to travel to take up the position, to which he had been appointed. He lived illegally in different towns in the Moscow region and then, in 1937, he was again arrested. Bishop Arkady was shot on 29th December, 1937 at Butovo.
There were many amazing moments in his life. For example, even before becoming a monk, in his parish church, Fr Arkady organised the St. Nicholas Brotherhood, which gave help to the sick and needy and buried those of the dead who had no close friends or relatives. Not only did he awaken in others a love for the poor and for self sacrifice, but he himself was a living example of such self sacrifice and voluntary poverty. Once, his friends, knowing he was in need and had no money, made him a fur coat. He put it on twice and then it suddenly disappeared. It turned out, that he had given to a poor widow, who had two children, ill with tuberculosis. When his mother, Sophia Pavlovna, asked him about the fur coat, he said that it was hanging in the sanctuary. But when the people in the church wanted to know where it was, then Father Arkady answered with embarrassment, "It is hanging just where it should hang." Another example. Once he left Zhitomir in boots but arrived in Kiev in shoes. It turned out that he had met a poor man on the way and they had exchanged shoes. Another time, Father Arkady gave away his trousers to a person in need leaving himself in his underwear. He sewed up the front of his cassock to avoid it flying open.
The batiushka had almost no personal belongings and nothing valuable. There was almost no furniture in his room. Once, remembering someone in need of material help, he entered his mother's room and, seeing a carpet hanging on the wall, asked cautiously, "Is this our carpet?" "Yes, it is, but not yours,"answered his mother, realising that he wanted to give it away to someone in need. Later, during one of his numerous interrogations in 1928, he was asked to give evidence against a priest called Alexander but Bishop Arkady refused to do so. Then the NKVD officer asked him, "Why do you refuse to give his surname? Do you want to conceal that anti- Soviet agent?" Father Arkady, justly named Chrysostom [golden mouthed] for his inspiring sermons and his eloquence, answered, according to the rules of Greek rhetoric, "I wish neither to betray nor to conceal. I leave this question to time."
There are also some parish priests that we should like to mention by name.
The three Agafonnikov brothers , Nikolai, Alexander and Vassily, were the sons of Vladimir Agafonnikov, a priest in the Vyatka Diocese. They began their priesthood in their own district but, because of the numerous arrests and searches to which they had been subjected since 1917, they eventually had to move to the Moscow region where they were unknown. From the late 1920s, they served in village parishes of the Podol'sk and Mozhaisk districts. In autumn 1937 the three brothers were arrested and , shortly afterwards, martyred. Father Alexander was shot on 14th October, Father Nikolai on 5th November and Father Vassily on 9th December. (Now all three are glorified by the Russian Church.
The more familiar one is with the judicial cases of those shot at Butovo, the more one is struck by the great sorrows and distress suffered by the clergy at the hands of a godless regime. Take, for example, the case of Hieromartyr Nikita, Bishop of Nizhnetagilsk (in the world, Fyodor Petrovich Delektorsky). In 1926 he was arrested twice and charged with 'celebrating services without a licence' as well as commemorating Patriarch Tikhon in a service. In 1927, Bishop Nikita served in the town of Orekhovo- Zuyevo, but shortly afterwards, at the age of 51, he had to retire, after which he lived in poverty with no work and no permanent place of abode. In 1930 in Moscow, he was arrested for the third time 'at the house of Citizen Elizabeth', who lived in the Samoteka area and gave shelter to wandering pilgrims and homeless clergy. The OGPU troika (15) for the Moscow region, sentenced him to three years imprisonment in a forced labour camp. From 1930-1933, he served his time at the prison camp on the construction of the Dnieper hydroelectric power station (DnieproGES), where he worked as a watchman and a stablehand. After his release from camp until his final arrest, the bishop served secret Liturgies in the Orekhovo- Zuyevo churches. He managed to eek out a living by collecting recycleable rubbish, wherever he could , and handing it in to the refuse transfer depots. From 1936 - 1937, concealing his name and title, he spent the nights at a barracks by courtesy of Krasnov, a policeman, who, for some inexplicable reason, felt great sympathy for the homeless old man. This policeman allowed him to stay the night at the militia barracks and 'sometimes even served him a cup of tea'.
However, on 18th October, 1937, Bishop Nikita was finally tracked down and arrested for the fourth time. On the window sill of the cemetery church near to where he was arrested he inconspicuously left his wallet with all his documents. The local people took it to the police station. In the wallet, besides the documents, indicating the name and rank of the one apprehended, they found eight banknotes (bonds), a needle, thread, scissors and a gold five rouble coin, sewn into a scrap of cloth, probably the only property the bishop had. Bishop Nikita was then sent to Moscow and held in the Taganka prison.
The witnesses in Bishop Nikita's case were two priests, one from Orekhovo-Zuyevo and the other from Zagorsk(16) .They characterised Bishop Nikita as 'a monarchist and reactionary who slandered the Soviet regime'. The indictment said that' F. P. Delektorsky was an illegal vagrant bishop, an activist of the True Orthodox Church (IPTs), who carried out anti- Soviet propaganda and anti-revolutionary activities'. On November 17th, 1937, the UNKVD troika sentenced Bishop Nikita to be shot, and two days later he was executed at Butovo.
The authorities considered Bishop Nikita to be so dangerous that they arrested S. G. Andreev, the choir director of the Orekhovo-Zuyevo Cathedral, simply 'for keeping in touch by hearsay with Bishop Delektorsky'. Andreev was sentenced to death and shot at Butovo on 27th September, 1937, approximately one month before the arrest of Bishop Nikita.
During the night of 19th - 20th November, 1937, many clergy in Zagorsk and the neighbouring villages were arrested, all at the same time. They were, for the most part, monks from the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius Lavra which was then closed. Many of them had already been in prison or in exile. All those arrested were placed in the NKVD regional office in Zagorsk. Along with the clergy, they arrested Archimandrite Kronides (Lyubimov), the last Father Superior of The Holy Trinity and St. Sergius Lavra. On 10th December, 1937, he received the crown of martyrdom at Butovo. Among those shot together with him, were the monk Georgy (Potapov), a laybrother of his for more than 35 years, and seven more brothers of this ancient Lavra. The Dean of the Zagorsk area, Archpriest Dimitry Bayanov, suffered the same fate. On the following day, 11th December, among the other clergy shot, there was another hieromonk of the The Holy Trinity and St.Sergius Lavra, Gedeon (Cherkalov). 10th December, the day of the marytyrdom of the hieromonk Kronides and the other monks from the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius Lavra who suffered with him, has become a memorial day for the present day monks of the St. Sergius Lavra, who come annually to Butovo on this day and hold a panikhida [memorial service] at the site of the execution.
The so called 'church cases' share one common feature. They are truly TESTIMONIES OF FAITH. Although, for the most part, those on trial, deceived and beaten up by the investigators, might eventually plead guilty to charges of 'anti-Soviet propaganda' or 'counter-revolutionary activities', when it came to the matter of faith, the church people proved to be indomitable. Neither torture nor threats of death could make the Believers deny God or say blasphemous things against the Church. Many of the pages of the cases under trial are illumined with the light of martyrdom. That was a light that neither the slanderous fabrications of the investigators, nor the torrents of misinformation nor the filthy stream of false witness could extinguish. Most of the Christians, in answer to the question about their attitude to Soviet power, said that 'it was sent by God for our sins', or simply called it 'the power of the Antichrist' or 'Satan's power'.
Not only famous hierarchs but also simple village priests and little known monks and nuns showed great firmness and strength of spirit. During her interrogation, Nun Elisabeth (Orlova) from the Akatovsky Convent said:, "Because of my convictions and as a Believer, I experience hatred for the present regime and for the communists, as those most to blame for the persecution of the Orthodox Christian Faith. I was and remain convinced that the Soviet system is fragile and that these distressing times are sent from God but only for a short while "Nun Elisabeth was shot at Butovo on 17th February, 1938.
A large percentage of nuns were completely illiterate, although there were well educated people among them, nun Sophia (Tuchkova), a former duchess, for example.
In 1937-1938, famous hierarchs and simple lay people could be on trial in connection with the case of some other priest or other.
Among the laity we also find true heroes of the faith, witnesses of truly Christian love towards one's neighbour. The legal investigations into the case of the layman, Sergei Mikhailovich Il'in, are an example of just such faith and love to one's nearest and dearest. He was the younger brother of a well known Moscow priest, Alexander Il'in. Father Alexander held secret services in his own home and in the homes of those closest to him. This was discovered by the Security Services. Their agents descended unexpectedly upon Il'in's house with a search-and-arrest warrant. But instead of arresting the priest himself, they arrested his younger brother, Sergei Mikhailovich Il'in. (It was his third arrest). The investigation began. It is clear from the case, that many of the accusations levelled in it, related not to Sergei Mikhailovich himself,but to his priest and brother. But the younger brother said not a word about the mistake. On 3rd November, 1937, the verdict against S. M. Il'in was given: capital punishment. On 5th November Sergei Mikhailovich appeared before The Almighty. And Father Alexander (whom the muscovites tenderly called 'humpy dumpy' because he was a cripple) died a natural death during the war.
Neither clergy nor laity, whether executed at Butovo or all over the country, ever doubted that the atheist regime would be overthrown, and that a time would arise when the darkness would come to an end, churches and monasteries would re-open, and the Word of Truth would resound with new power.
Shortly before his arrest, Vladyka Seraphim (Chichagov) said: "The Orthodox Church is living through a time of trials. Those who remain true to the Holy Apostolic Church will be saved. Nowadays, many people withdraw from the Church because of the prosecutions, others even betray her. But, as we well know, history shows that although there have been persecutions before, all of them ended with the triumph of Christianity. This will also happen with this present persecution. It will come to an end and Orthodoxy will triumph. Now many people are suffering for their faith, but this is the gold that is purified in the spiritual furnace of trials. After that, there will be so many holy priests and martyrs who have suffered for their faith, more than are remembered in the entire history of Christianity". Now these words have become reality.
The hopes and expectations of the martyrs have been realised. On the site of their death at the Butovo range, a church has been erected. Here The Divine Liturgy iscelebrated; the church resounds with the words of prayer and services of remembrance. His Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, has called the Butovo shooting range' the Russian Golgotha'. In all, by March 2007, 322 Butovo victims had been glorified by the entire Russian Chuch. In comparison, let us recall that by the end of the XXth century, only about 400 saints had been canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church. The Synaxis of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, glorified only in 2000-2002, contains the names of 1,250 saints.
In October 1988, the Congress of People's Deputies took the necessary decisions to rehabilitate those who had been unlawfully subjected to repression and convicted, according to Article 58 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. This move was echoed by the Politburo of the Central Committee during its sessions in December of the same year. It was then that the question of an inquiry into the mass burial sites was raised. Following the resolutions, the central body of the KGB and its regional officers selected people to work on the process of rehabilitation. In1989, all over the country, hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of repression were rehabilitated.
In 1991, a special group was set up under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel O. B. Mozokhin , the head of a subdepartment of the central archives of the Ministry of Security. Working on the archives, Mozokhin's group uncovered some documents in Archive 7, testifying to the existence of mass burials in Moscow on land, adjacent to the Yauzskaya hospital and the Vagankovo and Donskoe cemeteries. At the same time, among the archives, there was a huge pile of documents relating to the carrying out of the sentences during the period 1937-1938, in which the place of burial was not specified.
In the Moscow office of the Ministry of Security, a group of people, not on the permanent staff, was also established to work on rehabilitation. This initially consisted of 8 members but later the number was increased to 40. A KGB colonel, N. V. Grashoven became the leader of the group. He, incidentally, had spent his childhood in the rural settlement for NKVD officers, situated close to the shooting range, so he could not have failed to have heard of the nearby military burial site. But documentary proof was needed and there was none. The amount of work associated with the rehabilitation was so great that it was difficult for officials of the Ministry of Security to deal with it on their own. That is why, in accordance with a decision, made by the Board of the Ministry of Security, members of the Memorial Society, a society for historical research, were recruited to work with the group and began to work in the archives of the Moscow Office of the Ministry of Security.
No mention of Butovo as a site of mass execution and burial came to light, either in the accounts or in the cross examinations of the NKVD staff who had been involved, either directly or indirectly, in the shootings of 1930-1950. Not a single word was said about the Butovo tragedy, either at the time of the so called 'Beria rehabilitation' (17) or during 'Khrushchev's Thaw'(18), or subsequently.
It was, in fact, journalists, not KGB personnel, who were the first to begin to talk about Butovo.
A. A. Milchakov, the son of A. I. Milchakov, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninst Communist Youth League (AULCYL), who was shot during the Stalin years, wrote a number of intriguing articles on the matter in the leading newspapers. From the journalistic grapevine, he had got to know of the Butovo range as a possible location for executions and burials, long before the KGB had started their official investigation. However, at that time, all his attempts to penetrate inside the territory of the shooting range failed. Nor did he succeed in his search within the depths of the Moscow Office of the NKVD for secret files, confirming the executions of 1937-1938.
Eventually, the group managed to come upon one of the former employees of the administration and maintenance department of the Moscow office of the NKVD, A. V. Sadovsky who, from January to October 1937, had worked as a superintendant of this department. The members of the group met with him three times.
But even here, it proved to be quite difficult to obtain the necessary information. The first two meetings were conducted in a semi-conspiratorial atmosphere, with the wife of the former superintendant present. Initially, the conversation was of a general nature. But eventually the group began to uncover some facts which were corroborated from the investigations of others known to Sadovsky. At the third meeting, from the Moscow office of the Ministry of Security, they produced the registers of 'those shot' then, from the signatures of these executioners, the former superintendant was able to confirm definitively that those particular shootings had taken place at the Butovo shooting range.
This was the first time that the word 'Butovo' became known to the public.
Both local residents and two drivers from the NKVD No 1 Motor Transport Depot also confirmed the existence of a special site, used in the 1930s-1950s for mass executions and burials. In this district, this special site was not even the only one, as the members of the group had first supposed. As well as the Butovo shooting range, the group also discovered the Kommunarka site, on the land of the former dacha of G. G. Yagoda (19) about 10 km from Butovo.
Since 1991, a Commission on the cases of those politically repressed without just cause, has been attached to the Mossoviet (20). Under the aegis of this Commission, a voluntary group was established to perpetuate the eternal memory of the victims of political repression. This was led by M. B. Mindlin, a former Kolyma inmate , convicted according to Article 58 of the Criminal Code, who spent over 15 years in prisons and prison camps; a man of extraordinary energy and focus in his desire to perpetuate the eternal memory of the innocent victims . At first, the group, uniting around him, consisted only of political prisoners and their children. But later, some very young people also took part in the work on the documents, stored in the Moscow archives. In June 1992, K. F. Lyubimova, a member of Mindin's group, together with some of her assistants, began to compile a card index and to compose short biographies for the Memorial Book of the 'Butovo Shooting Range'. This work would become the chief focus of the group for many years ahead. By that time, some documents about the executions in the Butovo shooting range had been published in Russkaya Gazeta, Vechernyaya Moskva , Moskovskaya Pravda, Pravoslavnaya Moskva [Orthodox Moscow] and in the journal Volya and the collective edition Soprotivlenie v GULAGe [Resistance in the GULAG] , published by the Vozvrashchenie [Return] Society.
The very first time that the gates of the Butovo range opened to let in the relatives and members of Mindlin's group, was in June 1993. It had taken several months to obtain permission for this visit. Those taking part in this visit included top officials of the Ministry of Security, representatives of the Moscow authorities and members of the Rehabilitation Commission to the President of the Russian Federation. The first memorial candle was lit on the bare earth of the site.
Five months later, on 10th October, 1993, on the initiative of the group, and with the help of charitable donors and interested supporters, a memorial stone was unveiled in the southern part of the range. The red granite plaque is engraved with the following inscription; "From 1937 - 1953 many thousands of victims of political repression were shot in this zone of the Butovo range. MAY THEY BE HELD IN ETERNAL REMEMBRANCE".
After the creation of the card index to the registers of 'those shot', work began on the data from the files of the legal investigations. This lasted for ten years without a break.
Ever since the site was handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church, complex historical/ archaelogical, geobotanical and geomorphological research has been carried out in order to locate the burial trenches . One of the directions of the work was geophysical research, an effective method for investigating burial sites without disturbing the topsoil. Scientists from Moscow University and the Electromagntic Research Centre carried out experiments here using magnetic sensing, georadar probing and electric sensing. A number of anomalies were detected, the most intensive of which mostly coincide with the location of the burial sites as marked on a map put together by Ministry of Security staff. However, it was by archaelogical research alone that all these preliminary investigations could be definitively confirmed.
In August 1997, a burial site of about 12.5 square metres was exhumed. His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II gave his blessing for a small probing excavation. Highly qualified professionals were drawn into the archaeological work; several archaeologists, an archaeologist/ taphologist, an anthropologist, experts on industrial fibres and footwear, firearm experts, a forensic expert and other specialists.
In a trench, dug to the south of the church, fragments of clothing were exposed at a depth of about one and a half metres. Human remains were found somewhat deeper.
No one who has ever stepped down into a burial trench at the Butovo site will ever forget this experience. Side by side, in total confusion, bulked like cattle in a disposal pit, lay the remains of all those who had been slaughtered, the innocent and the guilty. Togther lay, inextricably interwoven, martyrs for the faith and blaspheming atheists, illiterate peasants and the brightest scholars of their time, whose studies and discoveries might have enlightened and ennobled the world.
The archaeologists exhumed a burial site, which had been dug in late autumn or winter. A heap of clothes and footwear were thrown on top of the bodies; an overcoat, some rough canvas, leather jackets, caps, leather boots, felt boots, light shoes and galoshes. Among the jackets, there was one, cut in a European style, belonging to a woman, and one of the boots they found, stamped 1935, was from the Krasny Bogatyr factory . On the top of the burial site lay five rubber gloves with the fingers sticking out of them. They had apparently been removed from the hands and thrown into the trench just after the job was done. Here and there in the soil there were splinters of bottle glass. The anthropologists counted 59 human remains in an open part of the burial site. A total of about 150 bodies were buried in this part of the excavation site in three to five tiers. If we assume that all the Butovo trenches are filled in a similar way, and if the real length of the trench coincides with that on the Ministry of Security map, then the total number of victims may amount to 70-90 thousand people. This is, of course, only a guess.
Forensic investigation showed that "all the bodies were thrown into the trench either immediately after death or 8-10 hours after death, all at the same time". What was strange was the almost complete absence of traces of shot wounds. However, by prior agreement, the exhumations were carried out very delicately and, wherever possible, without repositioning the human remains. As stated by experts in an official report, only four skulls had "fatal gunshot wounds caused by bullets of the calibre of 7-8mm"(21). "Standard weapons of this calibre range would have a calibre of 7.62 mm, used for the Nagan revolver (with 7 bullets), the TT pistol, pistol machine guns, rifles and machine guns with rifle-calibre cartridge". "Entry bullet holes were located in the occipital area, and exit holes in the forehead or the parietal area. Entry and exit skull wounds were caused by submachine gunfire of two shots from a distance of one metre or less. One skull had a fracture of the left parietal bone which seemed to be due to a blow from a hard dull object; this fracture was caused either while the victim was still alive or shortly after shooting"(21) Evidently, not all the shots were fatal so those people, still showing signs of life, were finished off. Maybe, as in other similar burial sites, some victims were buried alive. During the excavation they found poles hammered into the bottom of the trench which played some special part in the planning of the burial site.
The final days of the 1997 excavation fell in early autumn. It was warm and calm. Leaves, gently fringed with yellow, rustled in the breeze. It was as if the peace and blessing of God was spreading all over everywhere, on the ground and in the heavens. But you could not tear your eyes from the great pit, yawning open at your feet, like an abyss. It was, indeed, hell itself; a hell on earth devised by men in defiance of every law, both human and divine.
Subsequently, to complement the archaeological work, a document was discovered in the archives, indirectly confirming the use at Butovo of different kinds of weapons, including machine guns. They found an NKVD order of 1940 on the appointment of the state security police colonel, I. Y. Il'yin, responsible for staff shooting training. The training took place at Mytishchi at the Dynamo shooting range, where the shooting practice was carried out with exactly the same type of weapons as those used in the shootings at Butovo. Significantly, the signature of I. Y. Il'in (then a major of the KGB police, appears on many of the papers, confirming the carrying out of executions at the Butovo site from October 1937 to July 1938.
According to experts, it is possible to identify the bodies. However, this is a very laborious, time-consuming and expensive process. Meanwhile, there is no agreement on whether this huge mass grave should in fact, be disturbed, although no one who has ever seen just what it is like in the depths of the trench could ever call that a proper burial. None of those killed at the Butovo site, are as yet, properly buried.
The archaeological research on the soil continued in the following years and will continue on into the future. By the excavation season of 2003, 13 trenches had been discovered, distributed somewhat chaotically: the meridian ones from west to east, and the diagonal ones from north west to south east. The trenches exposed, were marked with carved wooden poles connected by ropes. The trenches were then planted with flowers.
In the years preceding the publication of the truth about the Butovo site, the nearby settlement looked rather dejected. Its single street, named, almost mockingly, Jubilee Street, consisted of a few undistinguished buildings. Everything was gradually falling into decay. Life seemed to have abandoned the place. First the school was shut, then the bath house, which in former times had operated only once a week. The medical aid post, the pharmacy kiosk and the shop closed. The telephone, which had been there since the beginning of the 20th century, became the exclusive property of the NKVD. Then a bus route, leading from the railway station to Bobrovo via the Butovo site, was cancelled. In the NKVD settlement some little known old people lived out their last days; former witnesses of and even participants in the tragic events of 1930-1950. For many years, these people would evade any contacts with strangers. Any, even the most sensitive questioning, about the life of the range during the years of the repressions, would be cut short in the rudest possible manner. One after another, former witnesses, who might have been able to tell us something about the Butovo site, Kommunarka and Sukhanovka Prison, died off. And those who were still alive and might have shared something priceless with us, kept silent, fearful that the old times would come round again. It was only gradually, over some years that some contacts were established between those who craved for the truth and those who were determined to hide it and forget it. Now, none of those witnesses are still alive. They took their bitter secrets away with them to the grave.
At the time when it was handed over to the Church, the territory of the Butovo burial site was in a state of considerable neglect. The wooded part was covered by dense undergrowth with a large quantity of dead wood and fallen branches. The northern part was blocked with all kinds of rubbish, from ink bottles and sofa springs to concrete blocks. The site of the former barracks, slightly to the north of the present church, was littered with piles of waste metal cassettes from cinefilms, huge kitchen stoves, pipes and so on. The eastern part of the area, with its newly planted garden, was separated by a row of storage sheds, built in the 1960s by the inhabitants of the former Butovo settlement. The fence, surrounding the dwellings, was built right over the burial trench. To complete the picture, the greater part of the territory was covered with such dense bushes that you could only hack your way through with an axe, as through a jungle.
With the appearance of the church on the Butovo site, there began to be a noticeable change in the life of the settlement, and even in its whole outlook. More and more people began to attend the usual services as well as the memorial services ones. Initially, the site area was only accessible on Saturdays and Sundays from 11.00 am to 4.00 pm. However, in 1995, access restrictions were removed so the burial site was accessible at all times. On memorial and remembrance days, they began to have moliebens [prayer services] and panikhidas [offices for the dead], including some taken by high ranking clergy.
A year later, something terrible happened. Without taking anything else into consideration, the regional authorities began to build the Novo-Drozhzhino- 2 residential complex in the memorial zone of the proposed historical monument. An apartment block was planned literally about fifty metres from the burial site. L. G. Novak, a member of the Memorial Society was stirred into starting a campaign to halt the building works, with the active participation of the church community . Questions from civic representatives and public petitions were addressed to the Moscow authorities. Their reply was that the construction work was taking place outside the area of the burial site. Only after an appeal by His Holiness the Patriarch to the Mayor of Moscow, Yu. M. Luzhkov, about the inappropriateness of building residential property on this holy place, was the building stopped. This was in the summer of 1996.
The late O. A. Zalensky, Moscow deputy chief architect and A. G. Shabel'nikov, the head of the Yug Prigorod design laboratory, were both of considerable assistance in bringing the construction of the Novo- Drozhzhino-2 complex to a halt. In 1997, at the request of the Moscow City authorities, a document was prepared on" Projected proposals for the creation of a memorial complex in the district of the Novo-Druzhino settlement ...", which covered the area of the major burial sites; the former Drozhzhino- Butovo estate and the NKVD settlement. In 1998, the following year, the government funded the renovation and upgrading of a road leading form the Warsaw Road to the Butovo site. A new bus service, No. 18, started to run along this newly renovated road to its terminus at the Butovo site. The bus times were scheduled to coincide with the beginning and the end of the services in the Butovo church.
In 2000, following an order from the Moscow Government , The Scientific Research Institute for the General Planning of Moscow , a State enterprise, produced "A scheme for the preservation area of the Butovo Range historic monument ". A year later, on 9th August, 2001, according to a decree from the Moscow Government, the Butovo site was declared to be a historic and cultural monument of local significance. The site designated as a historic monument, included the area where most of the graves were concentrated (the range itself), the Church of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors, and the area of the former Drozhzhino-Butovo country estate , including the park, the village cemetery, the ponds on the Gvoszdyanka river, and a significant amount of the Butovo forest park. Including the conservation zones, the area of the historic monument is about 3,000 square kilometres. Its territory is bounded to the west by the road to Warsaw, to the east, by the road to Simferopol, to the north, by the Rastorguevsky Road and to the south, by the territory of the complex of greenhouses, belonging to the collective farm, named after the 21st Congress of the CPSU and by the flood plane on the right bank of the Gvosdyanka river. From the 1930s to the 1950s almost all this territory used to belong to the OGPU-NKVD but it is now a national park. On the territory of the historic monument, all new building is prohibited, apart from anything that it vital for the exposition of the historical content of the monument; also prohibited is any other economic activity which would be detrimental to the historical appearance and natural landscape of the locality. Quite the opposite, in fact. There are plans for the preservation and restoration of the area so that the historic buildings and the park will be made to look as much as possible as they used to be at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
Following the renovation, in 2000, of the ex-cinema , housed on the ground floor of the former NKVD-KGB school, exhibitions were held, dedicated to the victims of the Butovo range. Documents were presented, relating to the life and work of some of the talented artists, killed at Butovo, such as Komarovsky and Timirev; distinguished bishops and priests of the Russian Orthodox Church such as Bishop Arseny (Zhadanovsky), the priest martyrs Vladimir Ambartzymyan, Pyotr Petrikov and others, all of whom died for thir faith. Of particular interest were the documents presented at the the exhibition on " The life and works of the martyr Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov), in honour of the 100th anniversary of the glorification of Saint Seraphim of Sarov," which opened on December 11th, 2003 . There in the exhibition hall, church officials and employees of the Butovo Memorial Scientific and Educational Centre, established there in 2002, often organise public film shows of films about the Butovo range and the fate of the people who suffered there . The Centre employees work on the collection and systematisation of all the information on those who were killed at the Butovo shooting range, prepare exhibitions and presentations, meet victims' relatives and lead excursions around the Butovo site.
In compliance with a decision by the Associated Board of Government Agencies of Moscow and the Moscow Region of 1st December, 2004 with regard to the Butovo range, a great deal of maintenance work was carried out in 2005. Thus, the burial trenches, which were previously fenced in by simple wooden planks, have now assumed the appearance of burial mounds. Pedestrian footpaths, which used to look like little forest paths, have now been covered with nice pale pink sand. A bush has been planted , the site of the first Divine Liturgy by the Golgotha Cross and also the area around the church , have been paved and the young grass is playfully shooting up through the paving slabs. This symbolises the victory of new life over the spectres of the past.
The research has revealed that there were many representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church among those who were shot at Butovo . The first list, consisting of 250 clergy and laity, was handed over to Patriarch Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. With his blessing, a large Orthodox Veneration Cross was erected in a remote part of the Butovo site. In order to clear a space for the Veneration Cross, they had to hack a way through the impenetrable undergrowth with an axe. At the foot of the Golgotha Cross, a white marble plaque has been placed, carved with the following words from His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II: " In this place a church will be built in honour of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia to the memory of all the hierarchs, priests, monks and laity who laid down their lives for their faith and for truth and suffered martyrdom here."
The idea of building a church on the Butovo range was also supported by the Mayor of Moscow, Yu. M. Luzhkov, who was present at the ceremony of the Blessing of the Cross, which took place on May 8th, 1994 on Thomas Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter). The Cross was made by the Saint Tikhon Orthodox Theological Institute, according to the design and with the participation of the sculptor D. M. Shakhovskoy, the son of a priest, Mikhail Shik, murdered at Butovo. The Cross was blessed by Sergii, Archbishop of Solnechnogorsk (now Metropolitan of Voronezh and Borisoglebsk) and Arseny, Bishop (now Archbishop) of Istra, assisted by more than thirty priests. There were many worshippers, some of whom only learned on that very day that their own relatives had suffered at Butovo.
Later, it became known that a significant number of those who suffered at Butovo had relatives, still living in Moscow, who were active members of their church. They supported the idea of building a church and turned to the Patriarch for his blessing this initiative. His Holiness approved saying, "I give my blessing for a church to be built on this Russian Golgotha. "
In autumn 1994, the Community of the Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia was established and registered officially. It consisted chiefly of relatives of those who had been murdered at Butovo. At the end of that year, in response to a request from the Community, Patriarch Alexis II requested the leadership of the Ministry of Security to grant them a plot of land for the building of the church.
In reply to this request, the Moscow Regional Administration offered to hand over to the Church not only the entire area of the Butovo burial site, but also the territory of a similar burial site in Kommunarka. This offer was completely unexpected. However, after studying the situation, Patriarch Alexis II gave his blessing for the Church to take both sites under her protection in order to build a parish church at Butovo and a monastic daughter church in Kommunarka.
The first Divine Liturgy on the Butovo site was served on 25th June 1995, on the Sunday of the Feast of the Synaxis of All Saints of Russia. It was served in a mobile church tent, named after the Brotherhood of the Merciful Saviour, who had brought the tent there and set it up facing the Cross. The Rector of Saint Tikhon Orthodox Theological Institute, Archpriest Vladimir Vorobyov, served the Liturgy and led a large procession of icon-bearers. This has since become a tradition on this particular day.
At the beginning of 1995, on the Feast of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, a special collection was taken in the Moscow churches to raise money for the building of a new church at Butovo. The money was spent on a wooden church, made by the Soligalich Timber Company (Kostroma region), according to the design of D. M. Shakhovsky. That autumn, the wooden church was assembled on the western part of the burial site. On December 11th, the anniversary of the death of the martyr Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov), the leading Butovo New Martyr of Russia, a Cross was erected on top of the church. A year later on that same day, the church was consecrated. The Hierarchical Service on December 11th, 1996, was led by Arseny, Archbishop of Istra. Thereafter, services took place regularly. Priest Kiril Kaleda, whose grandfather (now the newly canonised martyr Vladimir Ambartzymyan) was buried in one of the Butovo trenches, became the Rector of the church.
The first outdoor service at the Butovo range, led by His Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, was held on 27th May, 2000, the fourth Saturday after Easter. Buses full of pilgrims, bearing the names of Moscow churches and monasteries, queued along the road for several kilometres. The whole of Orthodox Moscow seemed to be there; the Sisters of Mercy from the Faithful Tsarevich Dmitry Medical School of the First Municipal Hospital were on the alert. The general level of excitement and emotion was so great that their medical assistance was in demand all over the place. Eight archbishops, about two hundred priests from the churches and monasteries of Moscow and the Moscow region and more than three thousand worshippers took part in the service. This was an absolutely unforgettable triumphal religious celebration. It was sung by the united choir of the Saint Tikhon Orthodox Theological Institute. The music of the choir blended with the loud singing of the nightingales as if they were all sharing the universal joy of heaven.
Patriarchal services have become a tradition at Butovo. On that day, in her commemoration prayers, the Orthodox Church collectively remembers all those who "in that cruel hour were tortured and martyred here and in other places". At the Episcopal Sobor, held on 16th - 18th August 2000, among the 1,100 martyrs who suffered at the hands of the atheist regime in Russia in the 20th century, 129 Butovo priests and laity were canonised. By March 2007, this number had more than doubled, having reached 322 people. Their memory is celebrated by a whole host of clergy; usually about 200-400 priests attend this service and the worshippers number several thousand.
After one such service, on May 15th, 2004 the foundation stone of the new stone church was laid not far from the burial site. Metropolitan Lavr , the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia [ROCOR], took part in this celebration. Just one year later, on 28th May, 2005, after the memorial service, the priests, together with and all the worshippers, processed towards the new church, that was still under construction, where the Patriarch blessed the Cross. Aided by a huge crane, and to the accompaniment of church chants sung by thousands of voices, the Cross flew up into the sky and was lowered on to the main dome of the church.
In recent years, Butovo, which His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II, has named "the Russian Golgotha" , has become ever more widely known, not only to many Believers in Russia but also far beyond the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. The relatives of the victims, who come as pilgrims to the Butovo range, are from Moscow and the Moscow region, from other parts of Russia, from other countries near and far and even from other continents.
The scale of the historic events that happened in this place, and its significance for the religious map of Russia, required the construction of a correspondingly significant architectural monument. That is why the Butovo Parish Community were faced with the problem of having to construct a large stone church of cathedral proportions on the Butovo range. This idea first occurred when the Range had only just been opened, and the little wooden church , constructed in 1995-1996, was, from the beginning, conceived of as the precursor of a large stone cathedral. Although the architectural form of the wooden church became a distinctive symbol of respect for the achievements of the New Martyrs, and Orthodox people frequently and justifiably turned to the Community, asking them to make use of this project to construct similar churches in Russia and abroad, its scale and appearance did not match the tremendous historical value of this holy place.
The construction of a large stone church literally on the territory of the burial places might have caused damage and that is why, with the blessing of the His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II, a piece of land was chosen in the immediate vicinity of the burial place. This is the centre of the special zone, the place where, during the years of the executions, the office of the Commandant of the range was situated (an outbuilding of the old estate).
The architectural conception and appearance of the stone church had long since worked out . Members of the Community, relatives of the victims and those who respected the memory of those who perished during the years of repression, took part in the discussion. The preliminary sketch for the church was drawn up by Andrei Sergeevich Tutunov, both of whose grandfathers had died in the GULAG. During the discussion on the project with the church Community, it was proposed to draw up a preliminary sketch of a church of two storeys with five hipped roofs, in which the hipped roofs were arranged in the form of a cross since the cross is the undisputed symbol of this place. On the ground floor of the church, it was proposed to place a reliquary room, i.e. a collection of things, connected in some way or another with the victims of Butovo. The parish community of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia had , in fact, been making a collection of objects, connected with the Butovo victims since the first days of its existence. Relatives of the victims donated a signicant number of relics to the community. Now there are more than 500 objects belonging to those shot at Butovo. Among these there are icons, clerical vestments, personal items, furniture and crockery.
The second floor of the projected church was conceived as a place in which to honour the podvigi [ spiritual heroism and achievements] of the new martyrs.
The design of the church was worked out by Mikhail Yurievich Kessler, a member of the Moscow Patriarchate Centre for Art and Architecture. ("ARKhKhRAM"). The head of this organisation is Andrei Nikolaevich Obolensky, whose grandfather, Vladimir Obolensky, was shot at the Butovo range. Mikhail Yurievich drew up a design based on the proposed concept of a two storied church with five hipped roofs. The Cathedral church was, indeed, constructed according to this plan.
Kessler proposed an ingenious solution. This was to deepen the foundations of the church a little and to cover its western part with soil, to create the impression of a hill. Now, in order to reach the reliquary room, you have to go down a staircase. This is the usual way of descending into the crypt, in which, in Greek churches, the relics of saints are usually preserved.
The ground floor of the church is dedicated to the sufferings, undergone by the new martyrs, and so on the narthex walls you can see photographs of the Butovo victims taken just before their death. Below these photographs in two glass cases, objects taken from the burial trenches during the excavations of 1997, are displayed; footwear, details from clothes, rubber gloves, cartridge cases and bullets.
The reliquary room, housing the objects, connected with the priests and martyrs who suffered at Butovo , is organically absorbed into the interior space of the church. More than fifty icons of the Butovo saints are placed on the walls of the church. It was initially proposed to paint separate icons of all the Butovo martyrs but this idea had to be rejected because the walls of the church could not accommodate such a huge number of icons (there were more than 320 newly created saints) . Instead, they decided to paint group icons, according to the day of execution. These groups of saints form a distinctive Menaion(23) series of Butovo new martyrs. Six icons of the hierarchs, who suffered at Butovo, headed by Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov) are placed on the western columns.
With the blessing of the His Holiness the Patriarch, the central aisle of the lower church is dedicated to the Icon of "The Mother of God Enthroned". In the 20th century, after Emperor Nicholas II had been deposed, the Russian people lived under the protective veil of this very icon . The right aisle is intended be dedicated to the holy martyr Seraphim, Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and the left aisle will be dedicated to the holy hierarch St. John of Shanghai. The icon of the Saviour is placed above the holy doors of the central aisle. This icon belonged to the holy martyr Sergei Kedrov, who was killed at Butovo.
The upper church is dedicated in honour of the spiritual heroism and achievemnts [ podvigi] of the new martyrs. If the lower church is a symbol of Holy Week, then the upper church is a symbol of Pascha , Easter. The new martyrs of Russia never expected to be glorified as saints, never thought that churches would be built in their honour, they put all their hope in the Resurrection of Christ. By their life and their death, they testified to their faith in the Resurrection of Christ and in the universal resurrection. It was this hope alone which enabled them to bear their sufferings and to complete their heroic spiritual task [podvig]. That is why His Holiness Patriarch Alexis gave his blessing for the central aisle of the upper church to be dedicated in honour of the Resurrection of Christ. The right aisle will be dedicated to the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia amd the left, to St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, as head of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
On the columns around the aAtar area in the central aisle there are two icons. On the right column, there is an icon of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, which is a copy of the central section of the icon painted for their glorification in the year 2000 (the original icon is kept in the Cathedral of Christ, the Saviour).Because of the size of the original, it was not possible to mark the individual episodes of persecution on the icon itself; instead, these episodes are marked by images on the frames of the Butovo icons of the central aisle; that is, on the Saviour Not Made by Human Hands [Spas Nerukotvornyi], and on the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. On the left column, there is an icon of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs of Butovo.The icon is painted according to the pattern of the Icon of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs of Russia, but while on the latter, the martyrs are painted with the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in the background, on the icon of the Saints of Butovo, the saints stand against the background of the little wooden church of Butovo with the Butovo Golgotha Cross just in front of it, while at the foot of the Cross there are the trenches with the relics of the righteous who perished at Butovo.
On the bell tower of the stone church there is a large set of bells, cast at the Tutaev bell foundry. On these bells there are representations of the faces of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, including those of the Holy Imperial Passionbearers.
The chief dedication of the whole of the stone church is in honour of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia and their spiritual heroism and achievements [podvigi]. It is likely to become a memorial , not only to all those killed at Butovo, but to all the victims of the years of persecution; because Butovo itself has already acquired a significance as a place of remembrance for all the victims. This is the place to which people, whose relatives have suffered in other unknown places, willingly travel. On one hand, a trip to Butovo from Moscow is a pilgrimage, and on the other, Butovo is situated close to Moscow and is therefore highly accessible both for muscovites and for the inhabitants of other regions of the country.
The foundation stone of the Butovo stone church was laid on May 15th, 2004. This was after the traditional Patriarchal Service, which took place that year not on the fourth, but on the fifth Saturday after Easter. On the eve of this event, Metropolitan Lavr [Laure], the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia came to Russia for the first time. It was on the Butovo Range, that the representatives of ROCOR prayed for the first time with the whole of the Mother Church, led by its head, His Holiness Patriarch Alexis. It was after this service in the open air, that the His Holiness the Patriarch invited Metropolitan Lavr [Laure] to take part in the ceremony of laying the foundation stone for the new church.
The consecration of the stone church took place on May 19th 2007, two days after the signing of the statement on the reunification of ROCOR with the Mother Church, which took place on the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The consecration of the Butovo stone church occurred, as was intended , within the framework of the program of services, associated with the reunification of the two parts of the Russian Church. Both His Holiness, Patriarch Alexis and Metropolitan Lavr [Laure] participated in the consecration.
The Parish Community, the builders and all those donors who played their part in the creation of the stone church, hope that this cathedral church will serve not only for the glory of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia who suffered both at Butovo and in other places, an of their spiritual heroism and achievements [podvigi] but also for the salvation of our long-suffering people.
(The words of Priest Kirill Kaleda , as noted down in March 2007)