“On 11 November 2021 at about 4:30 pm we were notified by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation that the Prosecutor General’s office has filed a lawsuit requesting the International Memorial be closed down for alleged systematic violations of the ‘foreign agents’ act (reference being made to failure to append the ‘foreign agent’ disclaimer to this organisation’s materials). The court hearing is scheduled to take place on 25 November.
“We have repeatedly stated that the act in question has been introduced with the view to eradicating independent organisations and insisted that it should be revoked. However, while the law is still in force we are obliged to follow its requirements.
“We believe that there are no legal grounds for the Memorial to be dismantled.
“This is a political decision aimed at exterminating the Memorial Society, the organisation dealing with history of political repression and human rights defence.”
It has been suggested that Yury DMITRIEV attracted the wrath of the authorities by exposing the members of the troika that issued thousands of death sentences in Karelia during the Great Terror or by naming the NKVD executioners who shot those thousands of men and women.
These details were established and publicised years earlier, however, by Dmitriev’s mentor Ivan CHUKHIN (1948-1997), as Irina FLIGE describes in the Search for Sandarmokh. Between 1990 and 1995 Chukhin was a deputy of the Supreme Soviet and the Duma; as important perhaps, he was a lieutenant-colonel and senior investigator with the police. By the mid-1990s Chukhin had gained access to the minutes of the three extra-judicial bodies issuing death sentences for Karelia during the Great Terror. Further research in the FSB archives indicated the approximate place of execution; the numbers shot; and the surnames of the NKVD officers who oversaw the executions. In Karelia-1937, posthumously published in 1999, Chukhin went further (p. 118).
During the Great Terror almost 11,000 men and women were executed in Karelia. In his database Yury DMITRIEV followed NKVD reports and noted that during those months the death sentence was carried out 4,975 times “at the Medvezhya gora rail station”.
Sandarmokh monument as originally designed with Guardian Angel
This is not surprising. The headquarters of the enormous Belbaltlag camp complex, created to build and maintain the White Sea Canal, was located nearby in what became the town of Medvezhegorsk. It seems quite probable that the Sandarmokh Clearing, as it is known today, was used as a killing field for Belbaltlag and its prisoners before the Great Terror.