12 March, technically speaking, was the last day in custody for historian Yury Dmitriev during investigation of the accusations made against him. The 61-year-old researcher has now spent almost three months in Pretrial Detention Facility No. 1 in Petrozavodsk.
During this time, solo pickets supporting Dmitriev have been held on the streets of the Karelian capital, his case has been discussed at a traveling session of the Presidential Human Rights Council, and the republic got a new governor. According to Dmitriev’s attorney, the historian will probably be indicted and his case sent to court.
Yury Dmitriev has been accused of producing pornography. Neither his colleagues, friends or people who have worked at some time with Yury Dmitriev believe the charges are true. Many link his arrest to the work he has done, searching for the places where political prisoners were shot, compiling lists of victims of the Soviet period, and heading the Karelian branch of Memorial.
But this article is not about the criminal case, which falls within the jurisdiction of law enforcement. Hoping for a objective investigation, we can only wait for a fair resolution to this situation. We decided it was important to tell readers about the cause to which the arrested historian has devoted his life.
This article might be called a series of interviews about Dmitriev. It has transpired we knew almost nothing about him. On the other hand, it has become clear why a man like him might have been seen as “inconvenient” by the current regime.
I met Yuri Dmitriev in 2012. I was on assignment, shooting a story about the construction of houses on the site of a former cemetery, and it led me to the historian. The story first grew into a ten-minute TV program, and then ballooned into an investigative film.