Free Yury Dmitriev! (November 2019 Petition)

The following petition has been organised by historian Andrea Gullotta of Glasgow University (Scotland) to support the defense and secure the release of Yury DMITRIEV (Italian text):

Free Yury Dmitriev!

Historian, archaeologist and chronicler of the Gulag and Great Terror

Since the late 1980s, Yury Dmitriev has actively investigated the history of the Gulag in his native Karelia (northwest Russia).

His work on the White Sea Canal, built between 1931 and 1933 by camp prisoners and exiled peasants (“special” settlers), is invaluable and of the highest academic quality. Dmitriev has not simply researched the history of forced labour: he has also compiled several Books of Remembrance, recording the names of thousands who died in the camps or were shot and buried by the Soviet regime in Karelia.

As leader of archaeological expeditions seeking the killing fields of Stalin’s Great Terror, Dmitriev has located several sites of mass execution and burial. In July 1997, with Veniamin Joffe (Iofe) and Irina Flige of St Petersburg Memorial, he found the largest of them all, Sandormokh near Medvezhegorsk, where more than 7,000 victims of Stalin’s Great Terror were shot and buried in unmarked graves in 1937 and 1938.

Soon after, guided by Ivan and Sergei Chugunkov, Dmitriev found Krasny Bor, not far from Petrozavodsk. Thanks to Dmitriev’s tireless and meticulous work in the archives almost all the 1,297 men and women shot and buried at Krasny Bor have been named. In subsequent years both sites became the focus of annual Days of Remembrance, 30 October at Krasny Bor and 5 August at Sandormokh.

Ukrainian monument at Sandarmokh

Arrest, trial and acquittal, 2016-2018

Dmitriev has received national and international recognition for his remarkable work over the past quarter century. On 13 December 2016, however, he was arrested and charged with child pornography. On 5 April 2018, after months in detention, before and during his lengthy trial, Dmitriev was fully acquitted of this charge. Statements by experts and other witnesses called by the defence made it clear beyond any reasonable doubt that Dmitriev had not engaged in the production of pornographic material; he himself was of sound mind and had no paedophile tendencies.

Nevertheless, in June 2018 the Supreme Court of Karelia overturned the verdict and ordered a second trial. Dmitriev was re-arrested and is currently in custody, as the slow-moving, second trial proceeds. If convicted, Dmitriev faces a sentence of up to 15 years in a penal colony.

A Memory War

The Gulag and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin are today at the centre of a “Memory War” in Russia in which the history of the past comes back to trouble the present. Even the identity of those shot and buried at Sandormokh has been disputed. The arrest and prosecution of Yury Dmitriev in December 2016 caught the imagination of the public in Russia and ever since there has been a nationwide campaign to secure his release and complete exoneration.

For more detail on all these issues, see the Dmitriev Affair website – https://dmitrievaffair.com

Appeal and Petition

With this letter we join the hundreds of Russian intellectuals, activists and citizens who have expressed their full support for Dmitriev and for others targeted with arrest and other intimidatory acts for their part in documenting the history of the USSR.

We call for Dmitriev’s immediate release. He must be allowed to resume his research on the history of the Gulag and his work to name and commemorate the victims of that system.

We ask that academic freedom be guaranteed to Dmitriev and to all researchers and NGOs active in the field.

In order to sign this petition, please indicate your title, name, surname, profession and organisation to the email address: freedmitriev@gmail.com

Example: Dr John Smith, Lecturer in History, University of x

NOTE – this petition has been sent to every member of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES). If you are not an academic, please give your occupation / profession and a general indication (e.g. Norfolk, England) of your location.

Dr Andrea Gullotta
Lecturer in Russian, University of Glasgow
+44 (0)141 330 5590
mailto: andrea.gullotta@glasgow.ac.uk

School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Hetherington Building, Bute Gardens
Glasgow, G12 8RS

Co-editor in chief of “AvtobiografiЯ. Journal on Life Writing and the Representation of the Self in Russian Culture” (http://www.avtobiografija.com)

Author of Intellectual Life and Literature at Solovki 1923-1930: The Paris of the Northern Concentration Camps. (Cambridge: Legenda, 2018)