In Russia today, approximately 500 skeletons—nearly all of which show head gunshot wounds—have been discovered in a mass grave believed to date back to Stalin-era purges in the 1930s.
"Practically all of the skulls have bullet wounds," said Yaroslav Livanksy, the head of a group of volunteers who helped to excavate the site. He said money and clothes from the 1930s had been found at the site. A crushed child's skull was discovered close to a bead bracelet and a small slipper.
Irina Fliege, a senior researcher with Russian human rights group Memorial, which collects information about Stalin-era killings, said she had no doubt that the victims were shot by Stalinist forces. She said far more bodies were likely to be found as adjacent sites are studied.
"This happens all over the country, it's impossible to say how often," Felige said. "All we can to is put up monuments to remember the dead."