The Guardian of History

On 22 August, an exhibition opened in the Chamber Theatre («Петербургский интерьерный театр») at 104 Nevsky Prospect in St Petersburg about the historian and rights activist Yury DMITRIEV, the man who investigated one of the most terrible commemorative sites of the Great Terror, the Sandarmokh Clearing in Karelia.

The organiser was Svetlana Kulchitskaya. She decided to open the exhibition on her own birthday and – how symbolic – it is the date in August 1991 when the people defeated the totalitarian regime. As a result, 22 August has become celebrated as the “Day of the Russian Flag”. (On the walls of the staircase leading up to the Chamber Theatre, incidentally, are photographs dedicated to that memorable day … and to the preceding battles of perestroika in Leningrad [St Petersburg].)

Many spoke at the opening of the exhibition.

Among them were Yekaterina Klodt, Yury Dmitriev’s daughter; his friend Anatoly Razumov, compiler of the multi-volume Martyrology of the Victims of Soviet Repression in Leningrad; Irina Flige, head of the St Petersburg Memorial Society, who has studied the history of the Sandarmokh Tragedy together with Dmitriev; Boris Vishnevsky, a deputy of the city’s Legislative Assembly; Olga Starovoitova, president of the Galina Starovoitova Foundation; and Nikolai Belyak, artistic director and manager of the Chamber Theatre at 104 Nevsky Prospect.

In his words, writer Valery Zavorotny noted that the audience, for the most part, were from the “perestroika generation”. Only today did we fully understand and appreciate the value of remembering the terrible totalitarian past which has now moved on to the authoritarian present.

The past is still with us, commented St Petersburg ombudsman Alexander Shishlov.

We have still not learned how to cauterise and disable the heads we’ve chopped off the totalitarian hydra, warned Boris Vishnevsky: that is why they keep growing back. […]

Daniil Kotsubinsky

“The Guardian of History and the perestroika generation”,
Gorod 812: A Petersburg magazine


Today Yury DMITRIEV, sentenced in July to 3 ½ years in a penal colony, is in the Petrozavodsk detention centre waiting for two appeals to be heard before the Supreme Court of Karelia. The defence has demanded his complete and full acquittal on all charges; the prosecution urges that his sentence be increased.