Local View: Friends don't let friends ethnically cleanse

From the column: "The Duluth City Council was set to approve a tax allocation including $25,000 for an organization that maintains a sisterhood with Petrozavodsk, Russia."

Bruce Plante / Cagle Cartoons
We are part of The Trust Project.

How many corpses can fit in a 6-foot-deep, 10-foot-wide, and 40-foot-long slit trench? In early March, Ukrainian forces liberated the village of Bucha, north of Kyiv, from Russian occupation. There, they discovered hundreds in a trench murdered by Russians. Some were raped, then murdered. Others were murdered, then raped. So far in Bucha, Ukrainian officials have uncovered 458 victims, of which 419 had clear indications of rape, torture, and summary execution.

In Irpin, liberated April 1, the Russians learned that burning the first layer of corpses takes less effort than digging new graves. As Fox News reported , more than 1,100 charred corpses of Ukrainians were uncovered in three 20-foot by 30-foot burn pits near Irpin. Like the German occupiers of Ukraine before them, the Russians have shown themselves true entrepreneurs of violence.

Along the Sea of Azov lies Mariupol, a cosmopolitan city of diverse ethnic heritage where more than 430,000 individuals resided before the Russian invasion. Outnumbered, surrounded, and cut off from most sources of resupply, Ukrainian defenders were able to hold out in Mariupol through May. Local officials estimate no less than 87,000 Ukrainians were murdered by Russians in Mariupol between February and August of this year.

Russian efforts are not limited to a mere “holocaust by bullets,” as termed by Timothy Snyder of Yale University and author of “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.” The American State Department has disclosed the existence of no fewer than 21 “filtration facilities” used by Russian forces across the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine.

A concentration camp is only one element in a system of population control. The Russian filtration system comprises four types of facilities: registration, holding, secondary interrogation, and long-term detention. Between 1933 and 1945, the Germans processed an estimated 1.65 million persons through their filtration system and into more than 1,100 documented long-term detention facilities — concentration camps.


This year, Russia claims to have processed 2.5 million Ukrainians through its system; Iryna Vereshchuk, deputy prime minister of Ukraine, put the figure at 1.2 million persons as of July ; Secretary of State Anthony Blinken puts the figure between 900,000 and 1.6 million. All agree that at least 260,000 children have been processed and dispersed to municipalities and border regions across Russia.

Petrozavodsk, the administrative capital of Russian Karelia, is one such municipality with a “long-term detention facility” where stolen children are being dispersed.

As retired University of Minnesota Duluth professor Alexis Pogorolskin has documented , Karelia is also a region with deep ties to the Finnlanders of Duluth. The Russians do not trust the Finnish ethnic minorities in Karelia, many of whom are direct relatives of Duluthians and Iron Rangers conned into emigrating to Russia during the Great Depression.

Once again, the Russians have found a way to innovate violence. As one Russian social-media user put it , “maybe this (mobilization order) is an opportunity to cleanse our country? :).” The Washington Post has documented how Russian impression falls disproportionately upon their indigenous and minority populations. As Karelian media reports , “Mobilization continues in Karelia. Today, at the assembly point in Petrozavodsk, a detachment of mobilized people was carried out."

Yet as the News Tribune reported back in April , rather than allocate funds toward the Lincoln Park Business Group’s efforts to maintain a safe neighborhood or fully fund the Gary rec center’s request for a skatepark, the Duluth City Council was set to approve a tax allocation including $25,000 for an organization that maintains a sisterhood with Petrozavodsk, Russia.

Although some in Duluth may find it too controversial to stand against sisterhood with concentration-camp administrators and ethnic cleansers, leadership includes standing up for your values. Even when it upsets well-intentioned advocates.

Ginka Tarnowski of West Duluth is a community organizer who assists with her fiance's consulting work.

Ginka Tarnowski.jpg
Ginka Tarnowski

What To Read Next
From the column: "Sadly, Holly’s voice had been stilled all too soon. At least his physical voice had. In a larger sense, though, it continued — and grew."
From the column: "Five years and just a few short days later — on Feb. 9, 1964 — the music experienced a rebirth ... (with) the Beatles ... (on) 'The Ed Sullivan Show'."
From the column: "Our democracy is not healthy when inaccurate information abounds ... and when efforts to provide meaningful civic education are quickly shouted down as 'too woke'.”
From the column: "A consumer substituting a cotton bag for plastic would need 136 years of weekly grocery store trips to be as environmentally friendly as single-use plastic is."