Over the past five years Yury DMITRIEV has become known far beyond his native Karelia, throughout Russia and around the world.
He has received prizes since his first arrest in December 2016, from the Moscow Helsinki Group and most recently the Norwegian Sakharov Award. His work was recognised earlier by awards in Russia (2005), Poland (2015) and in Karelia itself (2016), where the head of the republic Hudolainen gave him its highest award.
Dmitriev with his foster daughter Natasha, b. 2005 (photo Novaya gazeta)
The exclamation quoted in the title of this post refers not to Dmitriev’s work on the Karelian Book of Remembrance, however, or to his discovery of Sandarmokh and Krasny Bor and their transformation into memorials, but to the crimes of which he has been accused.
A British acquaintance with good Russian and a direct knowledge and experience of children’s homes in Russia was indignant when she heard of his case. He had rescued and restored to health a neglected little girl, just as he himself had been rescued in childhood from a similar fate: “They should give him a medal, not put him in prison!” she exclaimed.
He deserves a medal for what he’s done 
At the High Court hearing on 22 September in Petrozavodsk, Judge Alla Rats requested another expert assessment of the photographs on Yury DMITRIEV’s home computer that formed the pretext for his arrest on 13 December 2016.
In the weeks since the July verdict in Yury DMITRIEV’s trial we have learned more about the nature of the evidence and the tactics of the investigators and prosecution than in all the preceding months, from October 2018 and July 2020.
In “What We’ve Uncovered”, two long articles published in July by Novaya gazeta, Nikita Girin greatly expanded what we know about the background to the two trials.
<< THE SECOND TRIAL >>
The child’s voice failed to be heard not just by the chairman of Petrozavodsk City Council Bondarchuk, while the court heard the girl’s statement about how much she loved her adoptive father.
As for unlawful threat to privacy, the Karelian children’s ombudsman Sarayev did not, for some reason, try to sue Rossiya TV or REN TV channels for broadcasting the photos from the “health diary” to the entire country.
In short, local officials requested the continued persecution of DMITRIEV. After that nothing stood in the way of executing the ready-made scenario.
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- The historian Yury DMITRIEV was accused of touching his foster daughter’s genital area on several occasions;
- At the age of eight the girl suffered episodes of involuntary urination (enuresis);
- DMITRIEV touched the child’s genital area to check if her underwear was dry when he could smell urine, after which he took his daughter to have a wash;
- The diagnosis of enuresis was supported by hospital release notes;
- Three psychiatric investigations concluded that DMITRIEV displayed no sexually deviant tendencies;
- Linguistic experts from the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the Russian Language analysed the texts of the girl’s interrogation and attested to communicative pressure applied by the investigator. A Moscow University professor analysed the texts of the girl’s conversations with a psychologist and believed that the girl’s statements concerning DMITRIEV’s actions did not display the criteria typical of recollections of a traumatic experience.
- The success of the prosecution in the Dmitriev case appears to correspond to the career moves of Anatoly Seryshev, former head of the FSB in Karelia.
I am finishing this text in Yury Dmitriev’s flat, in the room that used to belong to his foster daughter. The shelves still hold several of her toys, her story books, and school notebooks. From the window you can see her school …
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