Exhibition "Sandarmokh – Where the Trees Have Faces"

The exhibition is dedicated to Sandarmokh, a forest massif in Russian Karelia where thousands of victims of Stalin's Great Terror were executed. It also tells the story of Sandarmokh discoverer Yuri Dmitriev who is now imprisoned by the current Russian regime. The exhibition was opened on the 5 of August 2022 in Prague and will later be shown in Brno, Liberec, and Opava.

Sandarmokh is a distant place in Russia’s Karelia, close to the Finnish border, and the scene of a massacre that was meant to be forgotten. As the Stalin repressions peaked in 1937–1938, more than 6,000 people of 56 nationalities were executed there. In addition to many Russians, Karelians, Finns, Ukrainians and the members of other European and Soviet nationalities, six Czechs perished there too. Sandarmokh was not forgotten primarily thanks to historian Yuri Dmitriev from the Memorial association. Dmitriev and colleagues from the St. Petersburg Memorial office located Sandarmokh precisely in 1997, and they found and documented the names of the majority of those executed in the years that followed.

Russian society’s relation to Sandarmokh has changed profoundly in 25 years. Initially, authorities encouraged Memorial and Dmitriev’s work. However, when Dmitriev openly spoke out against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine in 2014, he was persecuted, and has been recently sentenced to 15 years in a labour camp on a fabricated pretext. International Memorial, the umbrella organisation for the Memorial network, was liquidated in Russia by a court decision last year.

The exhibition includes works of art made mostly by Russian authors reflecting on the tragic consequences that Russia’s unresolved history is currently causing. Artists who offered their works come not only from Russia, but also from Ukraine, Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Slovakia, the Netherlands and the USA. A jury of experts led by Michal Pěchouček selected works of art by **35 authors that have become part of the exhibition. Once the exhibition is over, these works will be auctioned publicly and the proceeds will be donated towards humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

Exhibits include Yuri Dmitriev’s personal belongings as used during his research expeditions and his finds from the uncovered mass graves. Visitors will have an opportunity to learn in detail about the history of Sandarmokh, including a strong Czech trace (six Czechs were killed in Sandarmokh). For the first time ever, the exhibition will also show documents regarding several Ukrainians who lived and worked in Czechoslovakia in the 1920s, then returned to their homeland and were arrested and executed in Sandarmokh.

Opening ceremony of the exhibition Sandarmokh - where trees have faces in Brno 15. 9. 2022 - Facebook Event

Press release on the opening of the exhibition in the 10-Z Bunker in Brno, 15. 9. 2022

Press release on the opening of the exhibition in Prague, 5. 8. 2022

Photo gallery: opening of the exhibition in Prague 5. 8. 2022

The exhibition is organised by Gulag.cz, Memorial (Moscow, Prague) and St. Petersburg- based Fond Iofe. The exhibition was originally supposed to be the same in Russia and the Czech Republic, but as a result of the liquidation of the International Memorial and the beginning of the open war the war unleashed by Russia in Ukraine, a separate Czech exhibition was created and partners from the Fond Iofe created an online exhibition with the opportunity to visit Sandarmokh virtually. The Czech exhibition was prepared with the support of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. The exhibition is taking place under the patronage of the Chair of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Jan Lipavský, and Minister for European Affairs, Mikuláš Bek, as well as under the auspices of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU.

(Photo: Igor Suvorov, Kateřina Byrtusová)

"Dear friends! On this memorable day and in these difficult times, I would like to welcome you... from those places where I am right now, " says to all visitors to the exhibition imprisoned Yuri Dmitriev. He delivered this message to his colleague from the International Memorial Irina Galkova by phone on the occasion of the first opening of the exhibition in Prague from the penal colony in Mordovia, Russia. In the greeting Dmitriev further says: "I immensely appreciate your hard work which you do to preserve the memory. However, I think we've done less than we could. At least, those who were engaged in the preservation of memory in the Soviet Union and in Russia. Maybe that's why we live in such difficult times now. Complicated and tragic times. Nevertheless, I don't think we should give up for we must continue to deal with what we have dealt with, to talk about what has happened and what is happening now. For there is a direct connection between the past and the present. That's probably all I wanted to say to everyone here. Good luck.“