The verdict is due tomorrow in what a huge number of prominent Russians have called one of the grubbiest political trials in the country, writes Halya Coynash. Modern Russia has long been imprisoning people for their civic position or beliefs, but the case of renowned historian of the Terror and Memorial activist, Yury DMITRIEV, stands out for the brutal use of a child to try to destroy both the historian and his reputation.
[…] Taking a 12-year-old child away from the only family she had ever known, Russia has used her age as an excuse for holding the entire “trial” behind closed doors. Details have now become clear, however, both from Dmitriev’s final address to the court on 8 July and from other information that confirm the cruel cynicism behind this case and lack of any grounds for the charges.
Russian historian Yury DMITRIEV turned 64 on 28 January 2020. It was his third birthday detained on charges that bear no scrutiny, and, writes Halya Coynash, his arrest coincided with the beginnings of a campaign to rewrite the history of one of the darkest pages of the Soviet Terror – the mass killing by quota of Russians, Ukrainians and other prisoners of the Solovetsky Archipelago at the Sandormokh Clearing in Karelia in 1937.
Yury Dmitriev in April 2018; the entrance to the Sandormokh memorial complex
If the current regime in Russia was hoping to silence Dmitriev, it has failed. The historian and head of the Karelian branch of the Memorial Society has just published a book entitled Sandarmokh: A Place of Memory, providing information about both the victims and the perpetrators of the mass executions in the forest.
“Unacceptable and inhuman methods have been deployed: pressure on Dmitriev’s adopted daughter; manipulation of the child’s consciousness in order to get her to testify against a person close to her,” say two hundred prominent Russians who have come out in defence of Yury DMITRIEV, writes Halya Coynash.
The authors of the appeal, posted on 28 October, note that the Karelian investigators and prosecutors were not merely unwilling to recognize that their behaviour and the charges against Dmitriev had been unlawful. They got the first acquittal revoked and then added even more serious charges, this time of ‘violent acts of a sexual nature’ which could carry a 20-year sentence.
New excavations are underway at the Sandarmokh Clearing in Karelia which holds the last remains of thousands of victims of the Great Terror of 1937-1938, writes Halya Coynash.
Any pretence that the excavations by a body linked to the Russian Minister of Culture are not aimed at rewriting history has been dispelled by a letter from the Karelian Ministry of Culture. This openly questions the internationally-recognized fact that the mass graves are of victims of the Terror, and, since this “damages Russia’s international image”, asks for another hypothesis, unbacked by any documentary proof, to be “investigated”.
On 27 January 2019, Russia laid on a huge military parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad, writes Halya Coynash. In a hate campaign, worthy of their Soviet predecessors, Kremlin-loyal media and commentators turned on German journalist, Silke Bigalke, who criticized this “dancing on the bones” of the million Leningrad residents who died during the Siege.
Yet many Russians,including some historians, felt uneasy about holding a military parade rather than a sombre remembrance of the victims. How many other historians preferred not to comment in public cannot be known – the number is likely to be rising.