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

Kovalyovsky Woods [C]** Execution & burial site



Date of burial
Show Map
Leningrad Region, Vsevolozhsky district, Rzhevsk artillery range (Kovalyovsky woods)
Access outside a populated area
Public transport
On foot
4 kms northeast of the Rzhevka rail station. 3.8 kms along the "Road of Life".
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
Not protected
Фотография 2012 года. Источник: Архив НИЦ «Мемориал»
Фотография 2012 года. Источник: Архив НИЦ «Мемориал»

The Kovalyovsky woods form part of the Rzhevsk artillery firing range. In 1918-1921 it was the site where those condemned by the Petrograd Cheka were shot. The half-destroyed powder store on this part of the range was used as a holding area for those awaiting execution; a road led there from the highway. Researchers suggest that about 5,000 people were shot and buried there, including those accused of belonging to the mythical Petrograd military detachment. It seems that shootings in the Kovalyovsky woods came to an end in winter 1921/1922 after it became known where the executions were taking place.

For many years the Memorial Research and Information Centre headed by Veniamin Joffe searched for the sites used for execution during the Red Terror. In summer 2001 the Memorial exploration group found a pit in the area containing the remains of six people who had been shot. Ballistic examination showed that the shots were fired from the Japanese Arisaka rifle that the Cheka began to use in 1918. Memorial organised the clearing of the road to the powder store and the site of the executions. On 25 August 2001 Memorial put up several memorials: a plaque on the wall of the powder store cellar “To the victims of the Red Terror”, a marker on the site where the remains were exhumed and reburied, and a stone to mark the possible location of Nikolai Gumilyov’s burial. From the mid-2000s the Orthodox brotherhood of St Anastasia of Sirmium began to care for the site. In Spring 2007 an Orthodox cross was erected and consecrated next to the powder store and in 2009 a cross was placed where the road leads from the Ryabov Highway to the burials of the executed.

The Kovalyovsky Woods are regularly visited by excursions and in 2009-2010 the Memorial RIC (St Petersburg) developed the concept of a Park of Remembrance at the site including a museum and memorial complex. (For later executions on another part of the firing range, see Koirankangas [47-02].)

Books of Remembrance

No Book of Remembrance has been published for the Leningrad Region. Information about those shot in the late 1930s is included in the 19-volume Leningrad Martyrology : accounts of earlier executions may be found in the literature cited below.

DateNature of ceremoniesOrganiser or responsible personParticipantsFrequency
25 August
Secular service marking the Day in Commemoration of the Victims of the Red Terror
the Anna Akhmatova Museum on Fontanka, Petersburg
Museum staff, visitors, schoolchildren
Annual event
5 September
Solemn events marking Remembrance Day for the Victims of the Red Terror
St Petersburg Memorial Society
members of Memorial, descendants of the victims, schoolchildren
From time to time
30 October
Remembrance Day for the Victims of Political Repression
St Petersburg Memorial Society
members of Memorial, descendants of the victims
Annual event
Nature of area requiring preservation
State of burialsAreaBoundaries
Subsidence over burial pits
not determined
not delineated
Administrative responsibility and ownership, informal responsibility for the site
On land under the command of military unit 33491 (19th test range of the Main Missile and Artillery Directorate of the Ministry of Defence).
Sources and bibliography

[ original texts and links ]

Materials of the Memorial Research & Information Centre archive (St Petersburg)

S.P. Melgunov, Red Terror in Russia, Berlin, 1924

V. Joffe, “First Blood, Petrograd 1918-1921”, in his New Studies in Optimism, St Petersburg, 1998

Irina Verblovskaya, “The Rzhevsk firing range – a terrible memory of the 20th century”, Grad Petrov, St Petersburg diocesе radio station [retrieved, 28 May 2022]


“The site of executions and burials at the Rzhevsk firing range (Kovalyovsky woods)”, Virtual Museum of the Gulag [retrieved, 28 May 2022]