Sandarmokh complex [C]** Execution & burial site | Russia's Necropolis of Terror and the Gulag

Sandarmokh complex [C]** Execution & burial site



Date of burial
1937-1938 [1997]
Show Map
Republic of Karelia, Medvezhegorsk district, Pindushi
Access outside a populated area
Private or specialised transport
On foot
19 kms from Medvezhegorsk on highway to Povenets.
Visiting Hours or Restrictions
Type of burial
Secret interment of executed
Current use
Cultural and/or educational purposes
Ceremonial events
Presence of memorials, etc.
Protected status
Regional / Republican
Фотография 2008 года. Источник: Архив НИЦ «Мемориал»
Фотография 2008 года. Источник: Архив НИЦ «Мемориал»

The capital of the Belbaltlag camp complex (1931-1941) was located in Medvezhegorsk. It is not known when the wooded area now called Sandarmokh became a killing field for Belbaltlag prisoners or whether it was the only such execution site in the Medvezhegorsk district. Executions somewhere in the area are confirmed in archival documents. Inhabitants of Karelia, forced settlers, and prisoners were all shot here during the Great Terror. Historians believe that a considerable proportion of those executed in Karelia were shot at Sandarmokh. A transport of 1,111 prisoners from the Solovki special prison were also brought to the clearing and shot there between 27 October and 4 November 1937.

Many years spent searching for this “lost transport” led to the discovery of the killing field at Sandarmokh on 1 July 1997 by a joint expedition of the Petersburg and Petrozavodsk Memorial. With the support of the district administration, they found 150 grave pits, measuring 4x4 metres, two of which were opened in the presence of a representative of the Medvezhegorsk district prosecutor’s office. Indirect estimates indicate that up to 4,500 bodies were buried in these pits – many more than those of the lost transport from Solovki.

After further investigation, and an assessment by the prosecutor’s office, the Memorial society proposed that a memorial cemetery be created on the site, and this suggestion was supported by the Karelian government and the Medvezhegorsk district administration. In that same year, an asphalt road was laid to the area and a wooden Orthodox chapel dedicated to St George was erected there. The cemetery was formally opened on 27 October 1997. Since then over 400 individual grave markers have been placed on the graves; Orthodox and Catholic crosses have been erected there; a plaque commemorating the executed Solovki prisoners; and more than thirty ethno-confessional memorials.

Since 1998 the memorial complex has marked International Days of Remembrance each year on 5 August, attended by people from Karelia, other parts of Russia and delegations from Ukraine, Poland and elsewhere, as well as members of the diplomatic corps.

Books of Remembrance

The Commemorative Lists of Karelia, 1937-1938, compiled by Ivan Chukhin & Yury Dmitriev (2002, 1,087 pp)  contain 14,038 biographical entries. The online Memorial database shows that 11,275 were shot in Karelia and 1,958 from Karelia sent to the camps, almost all during the Great Terror.

The lists indicate that 4,975 were shot “at the Medvezhya Gora rail station”, a reference to the place now known as Sandarmokh.

DateNature of ceremoniesOrganiser or responsible personParticipantsFrequency
5 August
International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of Political Repression
Medvezhegorsk district administration, Memorial Research & Information Centre (St. Petersburg)
Officials of the Karelian Republic, the Medvezhegorsk district administration and Pindushi urban settlement; members of the Memorial Society, representatives of ethnic and confessional groups in Karelia; international delegations, diplomats and relatives of victims
Annual event since 1998
30 October
Remembrance Day for the Victims of Political Repression
Medvezhegorsk district administration
Medvezhegorsk district administration, Pindushi urban settlement, public organisations, local population, relatives of the victims, schoolchildren
Annual event
Nature of area requiring preservation
State of burialsAreaBoundaries
Characteristic topsoil subsidence over common graves
7 hectares
partially delineated
Administrative responsibility and ownership, informal responsibility for the site
On land under the control of the Medvezhegorsk district administration. Formally recognised as a monument of historical and cultural importance (decree of Karelian Republic government No. 214-P of 8 August 2000) and included in the Unified Register of Sites of Cultural Heritage [monuments of historical and cultural significance] "of the nations of the Russian Federation" (No. 101510346000005). The Medvezhegorsk district museum looks after the memorial complex. [United Register April 2020, monument, 10-64876; October 2023, "place of interest".]
Sources and bibliography

[ original texts and hyperlinks ]

Archive of the Memorial Research & Information Centre (St Petersburg)

“Sandormokh memorial complex”, Virtual Museum of the Gulag [retrieved on 26 May 2022]


Reply by the Medvezhegorsk district administration (№ 9/7-11/30/1534 of 14 May 2014) to a formal enquiry by RIC Memorial (St Petersburg)

Reply by the Karelian Republic ministry of culture (№ 1815/11-1-15 of 5 May 2014) to a formal enquiry by RIC Memorial (St Petersburg)