Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ata-Beyit Memorial Complex, Kyrgyzstan

About 25 km (~15.5 miles) southeast of Bishkek is the Ata-Beyit Memorial Complex in Chong-Tash.

Ата-бейит is Kyrgyz for "Grave of Our Fathers".  Here's the story...

In the 1930s the local nomadic people were forced to settle down by the Soviet authorities.  That's when the small village of Чоң-Таш, Chong-Tash (Big Rock), was established.  

As part of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge the NKVD, the precursor to the KGB, executed people all across the Soviet Union.  In Central Asia is was a means of cracking down on nationalist movements.  In 1938 the NKVD secretly brought 137 "counter revolutionaries" from the capital to here.  They were shot and the bodies were dumped into an underground kiln. 

For more than 50 years no one knew what had happened.  

Memorial with the victims' names

The site caretaker who witnessed the executions told his daughter what happened only while on his deathbed.  She kept the secret for another 20 years until after Kyrgyzstan gained independence from the USSR.  In 1991 she finally told the authorities and the site was discovered.  

The memorial opened in 2000.  There's a small museum on site that is designed to look like a yurt.


One of the men who was executed was Törökul Aitmatov.  His son,  Chingiz Aitmatov, went on to become a celebrated author.  He was buried here in 2008 and there is a memorial for him too.  

In 2010 Kyrgyzstan had another revolution.  There were mass demonstrations in front of the Kyrgyz White House and 89 protesters were killed by government snipers.  Across the field is a monument to those killed in the revolution.

Sixteen of the victims are also buried here behind the monument.

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