The Nameless Dead

Backward Elements

The year is 1933.  Peasants in the Soviet Union were being re-located from the West into Siberia.  The Grand Chessmaster had decreed that they be sent East to populate the barren wastes of the frozen tundra.  They were being sent to the island of Nazino, in the Ob River.

The island of Nazino is a totally uninhabited place, devoid of any settlements . . . . There were no tools, no grain, and no food.  That is how their new life began.  The day after the arrival of the first convoy, on 19 May, snow began to fall again, and the wind picked up.  Starving, emaciated from months of insufficient food, without shelter and without tools . . . they were trapped.  They weren’t even able to light fires to ward off the cold.  More and more of them began to die . . .

On the first day, 295 people were buried.  It was only on the fourth or fifth day after the convoy’s arrival on the island that the authorities sent a bit of flour by boat, really no more than a few pounds per person.  Once they had received their meagre ration, people ran to the edge of the water and tried to mix some of the flour with water in their hats, their trousers or their jackets.  Most of them just tried to eat it straight off, and some of them even choked to death.  These tiny amounts of flour were the only food that the deportees received during the entire period of their stay on the island . . . . [Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps (New York: Penguin Books, 2003),  p.88.]

When people are murdered, the Bible speaks of their blood crying out from the ground to the Living God.  [Genesis 4:10].  Two hundred and ninety five nameless, unknown-to-us people died that first day.  Unknown to us; known to God.  Their lifeblood still cries to Him.

But this black day was just the beginning.

By 20 August, three months later, the Party functionary went on to write, nearly 4,000 of the original 6,114 “settlers” were dead.  The survivors had lived because they ate the flesh of those who had died.  According to another inmate, who encountered some of these survivors in the Tomsk prison, they looked “like walking corpses”, and were all under arrest–accused of cannibalism.  [Ibid.]

 These victims of mass murder were officially described by the Soviet authorities as “backward elements”.  Well, that’s all right, then.

This atrocity is beyond the ability of mankind to put right.  But the great warning abides: “Vengeance is mine: I will repay, says the Lord” [Romans 12:19].  We are commanded to “leave room for the wrath of God” in such circumstances.  And so we shall.

But, we can see them, these wretched image-bearers, suffering and dying in the eye of our minds.  Lest we forget!  The Lord of glory and righteous vengeance never will.
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