27 April 2011

Chon Tash Ata Beyit

We went to Chon Tash on Saturday, the place where over 100 local intellectuals, politicians, reformers, and doctors were executed by the NKVD in 1938. Much more recently, it is also the site where some of the people who were killed in last year's revolution are buried. Chingiz Aitmatov is also buried there.  The memorial is called Ata Beyit.

I'd read about the place often and it was good to finally see it.  It's a nice memorial south of Bishkek with a museum telling about all of the people who were executed. The area where the recent burials are is less developed; I'm not sure if the government is planning on doing any sort of memorial there other than what is already there.

There were many students there watering plants and pulling weeds.  The memorial was very well cared for and there were at least 10 cars there all the time we were there which was fairly early in the morning.

We also walked up the hill to the site of the old brick kiln where all the executed men were buried.  The museum had the account of the woman who told the KGB about the site in 1985.  I'd read her story before, but the museum had a much longer account and some of the details were slightly different from what I'd read before.

The woman (whose name I cannot remember) was told about the executions by her father not long before his death in the 1970s.  She remembers his reciting the Qur'an over the site and crying while she was growing up near the site.  He wanted his children to wait until it was safe to tell people about what had happened, and apparently she decided in 1985 under Gorbechev that it was safe.  She had a difficult time finding someone who would listen to her, but finally a friend put her in contact with someone in the KGB.  He went with her to Chon-Tash and to the brick kiln where it was obvious that what she was saying was true.


  1. Interesting post. Sorry to have to ask, but what is the NKVD?

    What language were you reading while there?

    Particularly happy to hear that it is well cared for.

  2. Interesting--thanks for sharing this.

  3. Thank you for this interesting message.