The hearing took place today, despite quarantine measures announced in connection with the Covid-19 outbreak.
Yury DMITRIEV in corridor of Petrozavodsk City Courthouse, 23 March 2020
Supporters caught a glimpse of Yury Dmitriev as he was escorted along the corridor. To judge by his appearance, he had recovered from his sickness. “He looked well and had put on weight,” Anatoly RAZUMOV told the Petersburg Human Rights Council over the phone from Petrozavodsk.
Dmitriev was glad that the new edition of his book, Sandarmokh, a Place of Remembrance, was being acquired by libraries in Russia, and sent greetings to all concerned about his situation.
The next court hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, 14 April. As usual, today’s hearing took place behind closed doors. Dmitriev’s detention in custody was prolonged today until 28 June.
Even before Yury DMITRIEV was arrested in December 2016, an alternative explanation of the mass burials at Sandormokh had appeared (see below, Appendix).
Promoted by two historians at Petrozavodsk University, Sergei Verigin and Yury Kilin, it suggested that among those executed and buried in the forest near Medvezhegorsk were not only victims of Stalin’s Great Terror (1937-1938) but also Red Army soldiers shot by the Finns during the Continuation War (1941-1944).
Recent books about Sandarmokh by Yury Dmitriev and Sergei Verigin
Late last year a slender 86-page volume (with illustrations) by Professor Verigin and fellow author Armas Mashin appeared. Entitled The Mysteries of Sandarmokh: Part One, What lies Hidden in the Wooded Glade, it was published by the controversial Finnish authorJohan Backman.
In a review on 27 February 2020 on the Karelia Newswebsite, Irina TAKALA of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Karelian Centre discusses this brochure as a piece of historical research, and assesses its contribution to the ongoing debate about the past reality and current meaning of the Sandarmokh killing fields.
“By 10 February, the prosecution planned, the final words by both sides would have come to an end and a verdict would be delivered,” says Anatoly RAZUMOV, a friend of Yury Dmitriev’s and a member of St Petersburg’s Human Rights Council. “However, the defence had prepared two speakers for that day.
“In the early 2000s, Professor Victor Kirillov, D.Phil. (History), was in charge of the creation of a unified database of the victims of political repression, the Their Names Restored project [see below]. He arrived by plane having travelled from Yekaterinburg in the Urals via Petersburg in order to testify on behalf of his friend Yury Dmitriev. Now even the President of Russia was suggesting that such a database be created, Kirillov said: a popular initiative was becoming a task for the State. The trial is closed and we can judge what is going on merely by the length of hearing. Victor testified for 40-50 minutes.
“Then the court heard a specialist in children’s issues. She spoke and was questioned the rest of the day, from morning until lunchtime, and after lunch until 5.00 pm. Seemingly, her testimony and explanations impressed the court.
Due to illness — Yury DMITRIEV had a high temperature — the scheduled hearing on Thursday, 20 February, did not take place. The Petrozavodsk City Court will next assemble to hear the case in a month’s time, on Monday 23 March.
Andrei Oborin, Dmitriev Supporters’ Page, Facebook
A verdict in the second trial of Yury DMITRIEV is expected at the end of February. The prosecution and defence are currently summing up.
In April 2018, to the amazement of many, Dmitriev was acquitted of all the more serious charges. This time no one is hazarding a guess as to the outcome. Public interest within Russia remains high. If 4,000 signed a petition in the historian’s support during the first trial, over 10,000 have done so this time round.
Whatever the outcome it seems safe to predict that the losing side will appeal against the verdict to a higher court which, in this case, is the Supreme Court of the Karelian Republic. Waiting for that hearing will take us to early summer — and beyond, if the court of higher instance again supports conviction and prompts another wave of popular indignation.
For the time being, Yury Dmitriev remains in Petrozavodsk, in Detention Centre No 1, where he has been held since June 2018 and where he will stay until the Supreme Court issues its ruling. He has not yet vanished for years into a penal colony like his unfortunate colleague Sergei Koltyrin.
“The time is short,” wrote the poet, “but the waiting is long.”