About the project

What is the project about?

The website “Topography of Terror” is part of the project “Moscow: Sites of Memory,” organized by International Memorial since 2013.

What do we do?

We conduct research and endeavor to raise public awareness about the Soviet terror in Moscow. Our aim is to make the history of the Soviet terror and the relationship between individuals and Soviet society visible on the contemporary map of the city.

From where does the name of the site originate?

The website's name is inspired by the project “Topography of Terror” in Berlin. After much deliberation, we adopted the same name because it accurately characterizes the mission of our project. Although our possibilities are far more limited, we have learned a great deal—ethically, methodologically, and technically—from our German colleagues.

How can I use the website?

The website “Topography of Terror” is an address book and database about the Soviet terror in Moscow. There are two ways to explore the contents: via the map or via articles. On the contemporary map of Moscow you can activate one or several of the themed layers and find out more about the history of the marked locations. Both current and Soviet-era names of streets and avenues can be seen. In the articles section, you can choose to read one page at a time. Every text includes an address, information about the location's history, and a description of the buildings or other artifacts related to the events. Many places have not survived intact; in this case, the area is marked with a pale color.  Some sites we unfortunately cannot locate accurately; in this case, the given area is marked with dots.  New thematic content appears monthly.

What sources do we use?

We use all possible sources that are reliable. We study old handbooks, maps, newspapers, and magazines. We interview witnesses and experts, research published and unpublished memoirs, and reinterpret art and literature, such as Solzhenitsyn’s and Shalamov’s works. Most importantly, we try to track down sources from the Russian state archives. This is the most difficult task—even though we know where the necessary sources are, our access is restricted. Therefore, we have to use indirect sources, such as the archives of party prisons, administrative documents, related materials, fonds, and so forth. Our work is similar to that of a detective—we investigate old crimes and try to collect evidence. A summary of the archival sources used for “Topography of Terror” can be found on an open resource at notepad.memo.ru.

How can we do it?

The answer is that we cannot succeed by working alone. We rely on the contributions of experts, researchers, trainees, volunteers, photographers, cartographers, graphic designers, programmers, and many others, including ordinary readers. If you wish to make a contribution or contact us, please send an e-mail to: ap@memo.ru