Butovo [C]** Mass burial of the executed | Russia's Necropolis of Terror and the Gulag

Butovo [C]** Mass burial of the executed



Date of burial
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Moscow Region, Leninsky district, Butovo settlement
Access in a populated area
Public transport
On foot
Visiting Hours or Restrictions
Visiting hours
from 10 am to 5 pm daily
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 2014 года. Источник: Архив НИЦ «Мемориал»
Фотография 2014 года. Источник: Архив НИЦ «Мемориал»

The burial of inhabitants of Moscow and the Moscow Region condemned to death in cases dealt with by the Moscow Region NKVD took place from 1937 onward at the NKVD firing range near Butovo, a settlement southwest of Moscow. It has not been confirmed by document whether people were also shot there or if those buried had been executed in Moscow. Only verbal reports by former NKVD staff talk of executions at Butovo during the Great Terror (1937-1938). The burials were made in trenches in the utmost secrecy. In the mid-1950s the “special zone” was shut down, and the firing range was enclosed by a fence topped with barbed wire. Until 1995 the territory remained in the hands of the state security services and was closely guarded.

1992 the Moscow Group for Commemoration of the Victims of Political Repression, aided by FSK-FSB staff, began working for a number of years with investigation files. According to the “The expert conclusion of the FSK archive service”, made public on 6 April 1993, about 25,000-26,000 lay buried at Butovo. In 1995 the FSB transferred the firing range to the Russian Orthodox Church. Since 1997 work has periodically been undertaken to determine the location of the burial trenches. Historical, archaeological, geobotanical and geomorphological investigations have taken place.

The first memorial was erected in 1993 by relatives of those who perished: it reads, “At the Butovo firing range many thousands of Victims of Political Repression were secretly shot in 1937-1953. May they never be forgotten”. In 1994 a commemorative cross was erected. In 1996 a wooden church was consecrated. In 2007 the church of Russia’s New Martyrs and Confessors, built of stone and brick, was consecrated and yet another commemorative cross was erected: it had been made at the Solovetsky Monastery in the White Sea. Earlier, in 2002, the Butovo Research and Education Centre was created as part of the church. Its job was to gather information about the victims of repression, systematise the data, and organise exhibitions and book launches.


On 27 September 2017 the “Garden of Remembrance” memorial complex opened in the eastern part of the grounds, where there were no burial trenches and KGB staff had planted an apple orchard in the 1970s. The Garden of Remembrance takes the form of an avenue between symbolically open execution trenches (designer A. Zhernakov). One wall is made up of granite slabs on which the names of 20,762 people have been etched and presented in sequence by their date of execution. The slabs are two metres high, and the complex is 300 metres in length.

Books of Remembrance

A ten-volume Book of Remembrance has been published for the city of Moscow and its victims: one each for the Donskoe Monastery (2005), the Kommunarka “special site” (2000) and the Vagankovskoe Cemetery (1995); and seven volumes for the Butovo Firing Range (1997-2003). Together they provide biographical entries on 31,900 who were shot or sent to the camps; this total includes brief notes on 5,590 victims of political repression who have not been formally rehabilitated.

The 502-page volume Execution lists, Moscow 1937-1941: Kommunarka, Butovo (published in 2000) was superseded by the 7-volume The Butovo Firing Range, 1937-1938: A Book in Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression (1997-2003).

DateNature of ceremoniesOrganiser or responsible personParticipantsFrequency
4th Saturday after Easter
Celebration of the New Martyrs who suffered and died at Butovo
Clergy of the Church of Russia’s New Martyrs and Confessors
leading hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, clergy, parishioners
Yearly since 2001
30 October
Solemn ceremonies on the Remembrance Day for the Victims of Political Repression
Butovo research and educational centre
public and clergy
Annual event
Nature of area requiring preservation
State of burialsAreaBoundaries
Depressions in the soil over the trenches. In 2005, the trenches were given the appearance of burial mounds.
The firing range covers 5.6 hectares; the extent of the burials has not been established
Administrative responsibility and ownership, informal responsibility for the site
On land under the control of the Leninsky municipal district of the Moscow Region. Managed by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. By decree No. 259/28 (9 August 2001) of the Moscow Region Administration designated a historical monument of regional importance: this was amended by decree No. 543/24 (10 July 2008) of the Moscow Region Administration
Sources and bibliography

[ original texts and hyperlinks ]

“Expert conclusion of the FSK archive service, 6 April 1993” (compilers: Mozokhin, Grashovenya, Krayushkin & Zyubchenko), Memorial-Aspekt, 1993, No 1/3 June

The Butovo firing range, 1937-1938, A Book in Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression, ed. Lida .A. Golovkova, Issues 1-8, Moscow, 1997-2004

“Butovo. A site of mass execution and burial”, Virtual Museum of the Gulag [retrieved, 28 May 2022]

“The ‘Garden of Remembrance’, Russia’s largest memorial to the victims of repression, has opened”, Novaya gazeta, 29 July 2017 [retrieved, 28 May 2022]

“A memorial naming the victims of Stalinist repression has opened at the Butovo firing range”, RIA Novosti, 27 September 2017 [retrieved, 28 May 2022]