How Russia confronts Stalin's purges

Yelena Popova is paying tribute to her mother's husband on the outskirts of Moscow.

This place is called Kommunarka, and the woodland is where over 6,600 bodies have been identified in mass graves -- all killed during Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's purges.

The area was a shooting ground between 1937 and 1941, according to Russia's Gulag Museum. On Thursday some of the families of the dead returned.

"We have found him, Alfons Ernestovich May, in the execution lists. Can you even imagine how it was? My mother had no information about him. But she loved him till the end of her life. She got married just to be not alone."

For years, relatives have been coming to leave flowers without knowing where their loved ones were buried.

But the graves, which were only found over the last three years, make it possible for them to learn where victims lay at last.

An information center has been set up here. The museum says they can also finally talk about creating a memorial complex, knowing that it won't be built on top of bones.

Roman Romanov, is director of Gulag History State Museum:

"Visitors of the information center can read all the research materials. And there is information of all of the 6,609 people whose names are written on the memorial. Some of them have portrait photographs. You can see him and read his story."

Around 700,000 people were executed during the repressions under Stalin, known as the 1937-38 "Great Terror".

Millions were sent to the Gulag forced labor camps.

There are burial sites across the country from the period, but many have not been researched to this day.

Stalin's harsh rule was renounced three years after his death by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, but still remains the subject of debate in Russia where many laud him for the victory in World War Two.