Butovo firing range

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Coordinates: 55°32′00″N 37°35′39″E / 55.53333°N 37.59417°E / 55.53333; 37.59417 The Butovo Firing Range or Butovo Shooting Range (Russian: Бутовский полигон) is a former private estate near the village of Drozhzhino (Russian: Дрожжино) in the Yuzhnoye Butovo District south of Moscow that was seized by the Soviets after the 1917 revolution and thereafter used by their secret police as an agricultural colony, shooting range, and from 1938 to 1953, as a site for executions and mass graves of persons deemed "enemies of the people." During Josef Stalin's Great Terror from 1937 to 1938, more than 20,000 political prisoners were transported to the site and executed by gunshot. Victims included Béla Kun, Gustav Klutsis, Seraphim Chichagov, and a number of Orthodox priests later canonized as the New Martyrs. The Russian Orthodox Church took over the ownership of the lot in 1995 and had a large Russian Revival memorial church erected there. The mass grave may be visited on weekends.


Until the 19th century, the site was occupied by a small settlement by the name of Kosmodemyanskoye Drozhino, first attested in 1568 as owned by a local boyar Fyodor Drozhin. The estate's owner in 1889 was N.M. Solovov, who turned it into a large stud farm and had a large hippodrome built there. His descendant, I.I. Zimin, wisely donated the stud farm to the state in the aftermath of the October Revolution in exchange for the right to flee the country. The farm then became the property of the Red Army.[1]

In the 1920s, the site, now officially named Butovo, was ceded to the infamous OGPU. In 1935, it was turned into a small firing range for the NKVD. The remaining grounds of the former farm were occupied by a sovkhoz, Kommunarka, and the dacha of Genrikh Yagoda.

Great Purges[edit]

During the Great Purges, the cemeteries of nearby Moscow could not cope with the number of victims of Soviet terror. Because of the sheer volume of victims, in late 1936, both the firing range and the nearby sovkhoz Kommunarka were turned into a Special Object, or a secret mass murder site operated by the NKVD.

The exact number of victims executed there remains unknown, as only fragmentary data has been declassified by NKVD's successor services.[2] Some sources say that between 10,000 and 14,000 people were shot at Kommunarka with an additional 20,765 named victims at neighbouring Butovo.[3] The latter total refers only to those shot between 1 August 1937 and 19 October 1938.[2] Reportedly, the most busy day at the firing range was 28 February 1938, when 562 people were executed.[3]

The site was heavily guarded by Soviet and later Russian secret police until 1995, when it was sold to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The chapel built "on blood"

Notable deaths[edit]

Among those killed and buried at Butovo were Soviet military commander Hayk Bzhishkyan; Tsarist statesman Vladimir Dzhunkovsky; Bolshevik revolutionary and politician Nikolai Krylenko; the former leader of Hungary Béla Kun, during its brief Communist regime; the painter Aleksandr Drevin, film actress Marija Leiko, and photographer Gustav Klutsis who were all Latvian; Orthodox bishop Seraphim Chichagov, and Prince Dmitry Shakhovskoy.

German Communist Party (KPD) members were also among the victims, for example, Hermann Taubenberger and Walter Haenisch. Over two hundred were shot with the explicit approval of KPD leaders Wilhelm Pieck and Walter Ulbricht, having been betrayed to the NKVD, it is said, by Herbert Wehner, then still a member of the KPD Politburo.[4]


In September 2017, a new memorial, “Garden of Memory”, was opened. The monument consists of two granite slabs on which are engraved the names of 20,762 people who died at Butovo. The monument measures 984 ft. long, and 6.5 ft. tall.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Л. Головкова, Спецобъект «Бутовский полигон» (история, документы, воспоминания)
  2. ^ a b Бутовский полигон. 1937—1938. Книга памяти жертв политических репрессий (in Russian). 1–7. Moscow: Memorial. 1997–2003. 
  3. ^ a b Vladimir Kuzmin (31 October 2007). Поминальная молитва; Владимир Путин посетил Бутовский полигон, где похоронены жертвы массовых расстрелов. Rossiyskaya Gazeta (in Russian) (4506). Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  4. ^ "Menschlicher Abschaum", Der Spiegel, 31 December 1990. Retrieved 15 November 2011 (in German)
  5. ^ Memorial with names of Stalin’s victims opens at Butovo firing range