Mass Grave in Moscow Suburbs is Among Russia’s Holiest Sites

It took a lot of courage to write this, given the mood in Moscow right now. I’ve heard it compared to the book “In the Garden of the Beasts” which describes 1939 Berlin.

More than 20,000 people were executed at the site in a little more than a year — an average of about 50 people per day. The diversity of those executed was stunning, including South African communists, Polish nationalists, Germans, Hindus, Chinese, Tatars and Jews. However, the site “specialized” in executions of Orthodox Christian clergy, targeted by the Soviet Union as supposedly counter-revolutionary elements in their atheist state.

About 1,000 of the victims were clergy from the Russian Orthodox Church, and about 300 people from that number have since been beatified as saints. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church began commemorating the site, establishing a small wooden church on the site in 1996 and a larger church that has been active since 2007. Since the year 2000, the patriarch has led an annual service in the church of the martyrs to commemorate those killed in Butovo. . . .

Father Kirill Kaleda, prior of the Church of New Martyrs and Confessors, has worked in this grim place since 1995, when excavations of the burial site first began.

The shooting range was kept secret until 1995, and a KGB officer was permanently stationed at the site. “What did he guard? Bones … In case someone digs up any by chance,” Father Kirill said.