Kurapaty is a wooded area on the northeastern outskirts of Minsk in which Soviet secret police NKVD executed a vast number of people during the Great Purge of 1937-1941. According to different estimates, between 30 thousand and 250 thousand people were shot and buried in common graves. Kurapaty was mentioned for the first time as the site of Stalin’s mass executions in the article published in 1988. The article and the subsequent rally to Kurapaty, dispersed by the Soviet authorities, gave an added momentum to pro-democracy and pro-independence movement, resulting in the creation of the Belarusian Popular Front.
Since Kurapaty is mostly ignored by Belarusian authorities, it is civic activists and memorial defenders who maintain the memorial and installed wooden memorial crosses there.
US President Bill Clinton visited Kurapaty forest during a “thank-you” visit 1994 when Belarus agreed to transfer their post-Soviet nuclear weapons to Russia. Clinton presented a small granite monument “To Belarusians from the American peoples”, dubbed by locals as ‘Clinton’s bench’. The US leader was accompanied by independent Belarus’ first speaker of parliament Stanislau Shushkevich who had given Russian language classes to Lee Harvey Oswald, John Kennedy’s possible murderer, during his stay in Minsk.
Each year in November, on Dziady (the All Saints or the day when Belarusians commemorate their deceased forefathers), opposition stages a rally to commemorate the victims of Soviet political repression.
There is no direct connection between Kurapaty and public transportation lines. However, you may take buses 13, 13d, 24, 87s, 109v, 157, 162, trolleybuses 1, 2, 46, 53 to the final stop Zialiony Luh-6 and then take a 30-minute walk. If you travel by car with a GPS navigator, write down the coordinates 53°58′30″ N, 27°35′06″ E.
Photo: Radio Svaboda