Video: Bodies unearthed in Moscow

updated 10/4/2007 1:39:36 PM ET 2007-10-04T17:39:36

Workers rebuilding a 19th century Moscow house dug up the remains of nearly three dozen people, and investigators were trying to determine their identities, a city police official said Thursday.

Police also found a rusted pistol in the estate where the remains of an estimated 34 people were found, said Moscow city police spokesman Yevgeny Gildeyev. The property was owned by a famous czarist-era noble family, the Sheremyetevs.

Some of the remains, which were found Wednesday under a basement of a house on the estate, had gunshot wounds to the skull and appeared to date back to the 1930s, and it was possible that more corpses would be found, he said.

The buildings are located in downtown Moscow, about midway between Red Square and Lubyanka, the headquarters of the KGB, where political prisoners were interrogated and executions carried out.

Terror in the 1930s
The Soviet Union in the 1930s experienced a wave of politically motivated killings and purges of the government and Communist Party orchestrated by Josef Stalin’s secret police. The killings reached their apex in 1937 during what came to be known as the Great Terror.

An estimated 1.7 million people were arrested in 1937-38 by the security services alone, and at least 818,000 of them were shot.

Tamara Chakravadze, an elderly Moscow resident, said upon hearing news reports of the discovery, she immediately went to the site since her own relatives were victims of Stalin.

She said her father told her that the estate used to be the site of a prison where people were held before being sent to labor and mining camps as far away, for example, as Kolyma, the Arctic region thousands of miles east of Moscow that was home to a huge network of Gulag camps.

“My grandfather was killed and my father served an 8-year prison term in Kolyma when I was just a baby,” she told AP Television News. “That is why for me these bones are sacred, and there is no forgiveness for those who have not repented even today.”

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