Second Time Round …

Yury DMITRIEV was first arrested on 13 December 2016, a date that marks the formal beginning of The Dmitriev Affair. Its roots go deeper and further back in time, naturally.

Over two years earlier, at the annual Day of Remembrance at Sandarmokh on 5 August, Dmitriev made critical comments about the annexation of Crimea and events in eastern Ukraine. In a long interview in 2015 Dmitriev alluded to official pressure and obstruction that was making him consider leaving the country (“If I stay here [in Russia] everything will be lost.”)

The “new hypothesis” that Soviet POWs were buried at Sandarmokh, so prominent today, made its first appearance in an article in Izvestiya in July 2016 [R], five months before Dmitriev was arrested.

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Much that is happening now, in other words, was prefigured by earlier events and the previous trial and acquittal.

Contributors to the Dmitriev Affair Facebook page have been looking back to the first arrest and investigation of Yury Dmitriev, between December 2016 and March 2017, and re-reading the articles and reports published then.

On this website, individual reports in English (and in Russian) can be found, month by month, on the Timeline of the first trial. Four key articles summarising the main stages of the first trial and acquittal have now been gathered together. They were written by Halya Coynash to whom we are all indebted for her regular reporting and grasp of the legal and judicial nuances of the proceedings in Petrozavodsk. (A contributor to the Human Rights in Ukraine website, based in Kharkiv, she covers events in Russia, Poland and elsewhere.)

John Crowfoot
4 October 2018

 

Russia arrests second historian of Stalin’s Terror

It is becoming dangerous in Russia to investigate the crimes of Stalinism, writes Halya Coynash. A second Karelian historian, Sergei KOLTYRIN has been arrested and is facing charges almost identical to those now brought against political prisoner, Yury DMITRIEV.

Sergei Koltyrin (sea background)

Sergei Koltyrin

While the possibility cannot be excluded that there are real grounds for these new charges, the chilling similarities between the two cases are of immense concern. So too is the timing, with this second arrest coming soon after Koltyrin publicly rejected attempts to rewrite history about the mass graves of victims of the Terror at Sandarmokh in Karelia.

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Politically-motivated excavations

Russia has turned to politically-motivated excavations to rewrite the history of the USSR in the late 1930s, writes Halya Coynash, after jailing a major historian of Stalin’s Great  Terror yet again.

(left) Sandarmokh — “People, do not kill one another”
(right) Yury DMITRIEV, acquitted in April 2018, now in custody once again

A new attempt to rewrite the history of the Great Terror in the Soviet Union appears to be under way in Russia. This renewed offensive is ominously linked with the re-arrest and imprisonment on fabricated charges of Yury Dmitriev, a world-renowned historian and the head of the Memorial Society in Karelia.

Dmitriev and colleagues from Memorial played a key role in uncovering and identifying the mass graves in eastern Karelia that have since become known as Sandarmokh. Unsubstantiated claims that Sandarmokh could hold the graves of “thousands” of Red Army soldiers taken prisoner by the Finnish Army in 1941-1943 have coincided, over the last two years, with attacks on both Dmitriev and Memorial.

Despite the lack of any hard evidence, and pleas from the children and grandchildren of those whose remains lie buried at Sandarmokh, Russia’s Military History Society has begun to carry out excavations at the site.

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Dmitriev re-arrested

YURY DMITRIEV has been arrested less than two weeks after a court ordered his retrial on gravely flawed charges, reports Halya Coynash. He was stopped by police in Karelia after leaving Petrozavodsk to visit the grave of a friend who died just before his first arrest.

The renowned historian and head of the Karelia branch of the Memorial Society was officially detained for going outside Petrozavodsk in breach of the signed undertaking to remain in the city he gave when released from custody in January this year. In fact, the manner in which NTV, one of Russia’s worst propaganda media, appears to have had a photographer at the scene and swiftly reported that he had been stopped while trying to flee the country, arouses the suspicion that this may all have been part of an operation to get Dmitriev imprisoned again.

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Political Trial reinstated

Yury Dmitriev (photo, Anna Yarovaya)

A rare moment of justice from a Russian court has proved all too fleeting, writes Halya Coynash. On 14 June, Karelia’s High Court overturned the acquittal in April of world-renowned historian Yury Dmitriev and sent the ‘case’ back for retrial.  Dmitriev’s imprisonment and trial had been widely viewed as politically-motivated persecution, and his acquittal – the only possible verdict after the charges were totally demolished by experts.

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Dmitriev’s acquittal

Dmitriev after the verdict was announced (photo, Natalia Dyomina)

Halya COYNASH
examines an extraordinary case

In a step back from the brink, a court in Russia has acquitted renowned historian Yury DMITRIEV of manifestly absurd charges for which the prosecutor had demanded a nine-year maximum security prison sentence.  62-year-old Dmitriev was convicted of a third charge, with the two-and-a-half year restriction of liberty sentence almost cancelled out by the 13 months he was held in detention.
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On the eve of a verdict

Halya Coynash

A verdict is due on Thursday, 5 April 2018, in the trial of YURY DMITRIEV, world-renowned Russian historian and head of the Karelia branch of the Memorial Society.

City Courthouse, Petrozavodsk, 2018

Petrozavodsk City Courthouse (photo, Kerstin Kronvall)

The prosecution has demanded a 9-year sentence, despite even the expert assessments ordered by the court dismissing the charges. This deeply flawed case differs from many politically-motivated trials, however, in that the outcome is still not clear. A guilty verdict on Thursday afternoon will signal a new descent for Russia into its Soviet past.

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Serbsky Institute dismisses charges. Next hearing, 14 March

Russia’s Serbsky Institute has rejected any grounds for the charges against YURY DMITRIEV, renowned historian and Head of the Karelia branch of the Memorial Society.

Even an institute notorious for its use of punitive psychiatry in Soviet times was not willing to take part in the politically motivated attempt to imprison Dmitriev for up to 15 years and stated clearly that the historian “is not a paedophile”.  The result comes after Dmitriev spent 13 months in detention on charges that aroused concern far beyond his native Karelia.

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Prosecution turns to punitive psychiatry as trial collapses

A second expert assessment has effectively overturned the entire case against YURY DMITRIEV, renowned Russian historian and head of the Karelia branch of Memorial (writes Halya Coynash).

There is no immediate sign that this judicial travesty is ending, with the prosecutor immediately demanding yet another assessment of the photos which experts found no pornographic content in, and that Dmitriev be placed for ‘tests’ in a psychiatric institution.  The court agreed to both, however did reject the prosecutor’s application for a further three months in detention.  Whether Dmitriev will be released on 28 January 2018, his 62nd birthday, remains to be seen, given the clear attempts underway to save the prosecution.  Continue reading

Remember Sandarmokh & the Imprisoned Historian of the Terror

“It is exactly 80 years since the killing by quota began of Ukrainian, Russian and other prisoners from the notorious Solovki Labour Camp,” writes HALYA COYNASH for the website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. “From 27 October to 4 November 1937, 1,111 prisoners were executed by the NKVD, including 289 Ukrainian writers, playwrights, scientists and other members of the intelligentsia.” Their bodies, like those of nearly eight thousand other victims shot in the vicinity, were tossed into burial pits at Sandarmokh in Karelia (Russia) and remained lost until 1997.

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