Telling the truth about Stalin and the Great Terror gets historians arrested in Russia

Russia laid on a huge military parade on 27 January 2019 to mark the 75th anniversary of the ending of the Siege of Leningrad.  Kremlin-loyal media and commentators whipped up a hate campaign, worthy of their Soviet predecessors, against German journalist, Silke Bigalke, who had criticized this “dancing on the bones” of the million Leningrad residents who died during the Siege,  There were, in fact, many Russians who felt disturbed by a military parade, rather than sombre remembrance of the victims, including some historians.
moscow picket, 28 january

 

“Yury Dmitriev named the victims of Stalin’s Terror, let him go free!”
One-person picket on Dmitriev’s birthday, 28 January

(For six hours, one demonstrator after another maintained this protest outside the offices of the Presidential Administration in Moscow)

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A 63rd birthday in detention

The day before his 62nd birthday, last year, Yury DMITRIEV was released from detention and could spend the day with friends and family. This year, as his second trial continues, he is remanded in custody at Detention Centre No 1 in Petrozavodsk.

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One-person picket outside Presidential Administration
in Moscow, 28 January 2019.

 

A verdict this spring?

YURY DMITRIEV’s first trial ended in April 2018 with his acquittal on the two most serious charges. The judge at the Petrozavodsk City Court concluded that the photographs Dmitriev had taken of his adopted daughter Natasha were not pornographic and that he had not committed indecent acts with her. However, the Karelian Supreme Court overruled the verdict and returned to the case for re-examination.

In summer 2018 further charges of forced sexual acts against his daughter Natasha were brought against Dmitriev. These accusations are based on new testimony by Natasha and her grandmother, neither of whom testified against Dmitriev during the first trial.

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Victor Anufriev

After the second trial began, Yury Dmitriev’s lawyer, Victor Anufriev, was interviewed by Alexander Valiyev of the Russian Service of Radio France Internationale.

During the first investigation and trial no evidence of the performance of indecent acts could be found. How could they suddenly bring charges of sexual violence at the second trial?

Yury Dmitriev’s acquittal was totally unexpected for the siloviki [high-ranking FSB and Ministry of Internal Affairs officers, etc]. Such a thing should not have happened, but it did. In Russia, such cases are judged in the courts and lead to a conviction without the slightest hitch. The city prosecutor supported the accusations and signed the charge sheet and that was already a signal to the judge that everything was in order and that the accused was “good to go”.

Unexpectedly, the judge ruled in accordance with the law and with justice. This was because during the course of the trial (which lasted a long while [from June 2017 to April 2018]), we, the defence, presented a great deal of evidence to wholly refute the evidence of the prosecution.

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Kommunarka Controversy (Pt 2)

“In August 1937 the most extensive and cruel period of political repression began,” wrote the late Arseny Roginsky in an Afterword to the Kommunarka Book of Remembrance. “In July the NKVD departments across the USSR had already began to set aside special ‘zones’, areas for the mass burial of those they shot. For locals these usually became known, euphemistically, as army firing ranges.

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Golden Hill (Zolotaya gora) Chelyabinsk

“This was how the zones that we know today came into being: the Levashovo Wasteland near Leningrad, Kuropaty near Minsk, the Golden Hill near Chelyabinsk, Bykovnya on the outskirts of Kiev, and many others.”

For decades after the death of Stalin in 1953, these sites remained in the hands of the NKVD’s successor, the KGB, and only in the very last years of the Soviet Union did they become known as the burial sites and killing fields of the Great Terror. There were two “firing ranges” on the outskirts of Moscow, at Butovo and Kommunarka.

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The Kommunarka controversy

On 29 October the annual ceremony of “Restoring the Names” took place in Moscow, despite previous uncertainties. That day and the next, similar events took place in 19 other Russian towns and cities (and in several foreign cities as well).

In many more places, including Sandarmokh and Krasny Bor in Karelia, the 30 October was marked as the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Political Repression. There was no mention of Yury DMITRIEV, his daughter complained, at the Zaretsky churchyard in Petrozavodsk or at Krasny Bor.

He was remembered, that day, when the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Moscow issued its updated List of Political Prisoners in Russia. As the compilers were careful to comment, it contained the minimum verified list of those who had been detained or prosecuted on political grounds or for reason of their religious beliefs. (Yury DMITRIEV was prominent among the political prisoners; museum director Sergei Koltyrin had not yet been added to the list.)

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Wall of Remembrance, Kommunarka (photo, Vlad Dokshin, Novaya gazeta)

The most dramatic event proved to be the opening, a few days earlier, of the Wall of Remembrance at the Kommunarka execution site and burial ground outside Moscow. Within days other organisations (The Immortal Barrack, notably) were accusing Memorial of rehabilitating the executioners.

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