Why does Returning the Names take place on October 29th and how does it relate to October 30th?
This question arises for many who are participating in the Returning the Names for the first time, recently, or even for a very long time, or who are simply following the action. We tried to answer it (for ourselves) and for our readers.
Dissidents Kronid Lyubarsky and Aleksey Murzhenko decided to make October 30 a political prisoner day in 1974, while serving time in Dubravlaga. On this day, together with other prisoners of the Mordovian and Perm political camps, as well as the Vladimir prison, they agreed to hold hunger strikes in solidarity with all political prisoners in the USSR.
On the same day, October 30, 1974, in Moscow, in the apartment of Andrei Sakharov, a press conference was held for foreign journalists on the situation of political prisoners in the USSR, which was organized by dissident and participant in the human rights movement Sergei Kovalev. A few months later he himself was arrested.
From 1974 until the end of the 1980s, hunger strikes by political prisoners took place annually on October 30. This date became an important day of camp resistance and solidarity with political prisoners and dissidents.
On October 30, 1989, Memorial activists in Moscow held one of the first street actions in memory of the victims of state terror – surrounding the KGB building on Lubyanka with a human chain.
A year later, on October 30, 1990, still under Soviet rule and almost at the foot of the monument to Dzerzhinsky on Lubyanka Square in Moscow, the Solovetsky Stone was erected – the country’s first monument to the victims of state terror in the USSR.
On October 18, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation established October 30 as a day of remembrance for victims of political repression.
During the 1990s, every October 30, people began to gather at monuments to the victims of Soviet state terror that opened across the country, holding memorial rallies, lighting candles and laying flowers. Representatives of the city or regional administration often spoke at these rallies.
Already in the 2000s, as the practices of state repression and the fight against any dissent returned to Russia, the original meaning of October 30 as the day of political prisoners became again and more and more relevant. Speeches by officials at rallies in memory of victims of repression without mentioning contemporary repression sounded increasingly formal, inappropriate, and sometimes hypocritical: the day of memory of victims of political repression was as if appropriated to tick a box once a year. At the same time, activists began holding solidarity rallies with modern political prisoners in Russia on October 30.
When the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Terror—the most mass executions in the history of the USSR—approached in 2007, the Memorial in Moscow came up with Returning the Names. All those gathered take turns reading aloud the names of those executed by the Soviet regime – this is a symbolic action of denial of state violence and resistance to it in memory.
They chose October 29 to read the names – the eve of the day of political prisoners on October 30. Since then, the Returning the Names campaign has been held for many years on October 29 at the Solovetsky Stone in Moscow, in different cities of Russia, and then throughout the world.
October 30 remains the day of expression of solidarity with political prisoners, the number of which is growing every week, as well as the day of official laying of flowers, which, however, are becoming less and less.
People executed in the 1930s and other years, whose names are heard at the “Return of Names” on October 29, Our memory is important.
To the political prisoners of today, solidarity with which is expressed throughout the world on October 30, freedom is needed.