“Anyone can find themselves in prison …”

“After we’d recovered from the excitement of Yury Dmitriev’s release” (see 28 January interview) “I thought of more questions I wanted to ask him, though these still do not exhaust my list,” writes Anna Yarovaya.

dmitriev (pankevich photo)

Yury Dmitriev (photo, Sophia Pankevich)

“I tried not to repeat anything. I particularly like the passage about his beard: the longer it grows, apparently, the more he’s worked on a project.”

Open Democracy-Russia
1 February 2018

Who wants to rewrite the history of Sandarmokh—and why?

A memorial graveyard known as Sandarmokh. It is a word without precise meaning or translation: there are only different accounts of its origins. The associations are unmistakable, however. It calls to mind a history of suffering and death.

For many what happened there eighty years ago stirs feelings of horror to this day. Mass executions of political prisoners—more than 7,000 of them in 236 common graves. People whose years in the Gulag ended in 1937-1938, in the forests of eastern Karelia, with a bullet to the back of the head.

Since its discovery in 1997, Sandarmokh has become a place of pilgrimage for the descendants of those killed in Stalin’s Great Terror, for local villagers, for historians and for public figures. An International Day of Remembrance has been held at Sandarmokh every year since then, attended by delegations from various parts of Russia and from abroad.

The “new” hypothesis

Yet in 2016, almost twenty years on, certain Petrozavodsk historians announced that, in addition to those shot in the 1930s, Soviet POWs might have been killed and buried at Sandarmokh during the “Continuation War” with Finland (1941-1944). This suggestion prompted a great debate among academics and was reported in both Russian and Finnish media.  Continue reading

Memorial launches new database in city “where Dmitriev worked”

O 5 December, Memorial presented the updated 5th edition of its database in Petrozavodsk, containing the names of political prisoners and forced settlers who were executed during the Soviet period. The new version was being launched, noted ALEXANDER DANIEL of Memorial, at the very same time in other cities across Russia: Tomsk (Siberia), Syktyvkar (Northwest Russia), Perm (Volga Federal District), Moscow and St. Petersburg.

young Dmitriev

Yury Dmitriev in early 1990s

“Why did “Memorial” choose to launch this new edition in Petrozavodsk?” asked Daniel. “Because Karelia is one of the few parts of Russia where the lists of victims are more or less complete. There are hardly any other regions like it. And that is  thanks to two wonderful people:  the late IVAN CHUKHIN and YURY DMITRIEV. “I think you all know where Yury is today. Petrozavodsk is the city where Chukhin worked, where Yury Dmitriev worked, and where Dmitriev will continue to work in the future.” (Full version of report, overleaf)

Continue reading