Bykivnia Graves

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Bykivnia Graves
Ukrainian: Биківнянські могили
Bykivnia central monument
Map of Bykivnia grave site
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Location Kiev, Ukraine
Founded April 30, 1994 (as a complex).[1]
Purpose "To commemorate the victims of political repressions".[1]
Architects M.Kysly, R.Kukharenko, V.Chepelyk (sculptor).[1]
Designation Historic complex of Ukraine
Established April 30, 1994.[1]
Type Memorial site
Prescribed May 22, 2001.[1]
Declared National monument,
May 17, 2006.[1]

The Bykivnia Graves (Ukrainian: Биківнянські могили) is a National Historic Memorial on the site of the former village of Bykivnia (Ukrainian: Биківня, Russian: Быковня, Polish: Bykownia) on the outskirts of Kiev. During the Stalinist period in the Soviet Union, it was one of the unmarked mass grave sites where the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, disposed of thousands of executed "enemies of the Soviet state".

The number of dead bodies buried there is estimated between "dozens of thousand,"[2] to 30,000,[3] to 100,000[4] and up to 120,000,[5] though some estimates place the number as high as 200,000[6][7] or even 225,000.[5]

Burial site

From the early 1920s until late 1940s throughout the Stalinist purges, the Soviet government hauled the bodies of tortured and killed political prisoners to the pine forests outside the village of Bykivnia and buried them in a grave that spanned 15,000 square metres (160,000 sq ft). So far, 210 separate mass graves have been identified by Polish and Ukrainian archaeologists working at the site. During the Soviet retreat in the early stages of the Operation Barbarossa, the Red Army troops levelled the village to the ground. The mass grave site was discovered by the Germans along with many other such sites throughout the Soviet Union. However, following the discovery of the Katyn massacre, the burial sites of Bykivnya was no longer part of German propaganda. After the Soviet recapture of the area in the course of the Second Battle of Kiev in 1943, the site was yet again classified by the NKVD. In the 1950s the village was reconstructed as a suburb of Kiev. In the 1970s the Soviet authorities planned to construct a large bus station on the mass grave site, but the plan was abandoned.

A document attesting to the origins of the Bykovnia victims was found by the Polish émigré historians in Nazi German archives after the war.[8] Polish researchers estimate that, apart from the Soviet victims of the Great Terror, the site might be the final resting place of 3,435 Polish officers captured by the Red Army during the Soviet invasion of Poland together with Nazi Germany in 1939, most of whom were executed in the spring of 1940 with over 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in the Katyn massacre.[2] However, as the Soviet authorities denied responsibility, there was no way to confirm that the victims of the Stalinist purges were indeed buried there. During the Soviet times the fact about the place was brought up to authorities numerous times with the most famous one in 1962, for which one of the Ukrainian poets, Vasyl Symonenko was beaten up by law enforcement agents and soon died in hospital from kidney failure.


It was not until the 1990s that the authorities of independent Ukraine confirmed the burial of thousands of victims there. On April 30, 1994, a large memorial to the victims of communism was opened in Bykivnia. Around the same time archaeological works started, with both Ukrainian and Polish scientists taking part. In 2001 the government of Viktor Yanukovych proclaimed the will to convert the Bykivnia woods into a State Historical-Memorial Complex "Graves of Bykivnia". The plan was brought to life by Viktor Yushchenko on May 17, 2006. In a step toward uncovering this part of Ukraine's history, Viktor Yushchenko became the first Ukrainian president to take part in the annual Day of Remembrance ceremony on May 21 to honor the estimated 100,000 people buried in the mass grave on the outskirts of Kiev. "We must know the truth. Why did our nation lose more than 10 million people without a war?" Yushchenko said during the 2006 event.[4]

Bykivnia monument

Since 2006 Polish researchers have found a number of bodies of Poles, prisoners killed in spring 1940 during the Katyn massacre. Apart from bodies, Polish researchers found everyday use things, such as a comb, on which the owner, an unknown Polish officer, carved several names, such as Franciszek Strzelecki, Ludwik Dworak and Szczyrad... (this potentially might be referring to Colonel Bronisław Mikołaj Szczyradłowski, deputy of commandant of Lwów's defense in September 1939). Also, a dog tag belonging to Sergeant Józef Naglik, soldier of the Skalat Battalion of the Border Defence Corps, was found on the spot. All the names belong to the "Ukrainian list" of Katyn massacre victims and serve as proof that Bykivnya is connected to the Katyn crime.[2]

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Information at the Science-Researching Institute in Preservation of Monuments [dead link] with no Internet Archive
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Cheko, Polish Press Agency (September 2007). "Odkryto grzebień z nazwiskami Polaków pochowanych w Bykowni" (in polski) (2007–09–21). Gazeta Wyborcza. Retrieved September 21, 2007. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Ukraine reburies 2,000 victims of Stalin's rule". Reuters. 27 October 2007
  4. 4.0 4.1 Zenon Zawada (May 2006). "100,000 buried at Bykivnia recalled at Day of Remembrance". LXXIV (22). The Ukrainian Weekly. Archived from the original (Google Scholar search) on September 30, 2007. Retrieved September 21, 2007. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  5. 5.0 5.1 Michael Franklin Hamm (1995). Kyiv. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02585-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Raymond Pearson (2002). The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire. Palgrave. p. 220. ISBN 0-333-94807-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Taras Kuzio; Andrew Wilson (1994). Ukraine: Perestroika to Independence. University of Alberta: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press. ISBN 0-920862-87-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Roman Dzwonkowski (1994). Polacy Na Dawnych Kresach Wschodnich (in polski). Lublin: Stowarzyszenie Wspólnota Polska. p. 33. ISBN 83-86441-05-4. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links