The significance of Sandarmokh

In March 2017 Anna Yarovaya wrote a long article about the Dmitriev Affair for the 7×7 news website. Among those whose words she then recorded was Irina FLIGE, director of the Memorial Research Centre in St Petersburg and one of those who, with Yury DMITRIEV, discovered Sandarmokh in July 1997:

Irina Flige (RFI)

Irina Flige

“Sandarmokh is a unique and complete investigation. It is enormously to the credit of Yury DMITRIEV that he gathered together all the documentary information and, as a result, we today know who exactly is buried here. <…>

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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

 

Memory Wars?

A lengthy article about the POW execution theory in Russia’s Kommersant newspaper (7 September 2018) is even-handed and thorough. It needs little more than the following passage, however, to show the “new hypothesis of Karelian historians” for what it is:

“Officially, there is no data to show that the Finns carried out mass executions at Sandarmokh. Mr Verigin also confirmed for us that Finland has not transferred any information to Russia about sites where shot POWs are buried in Karelia. The historian further confirmed to Kommersant that he has not yet examined Finland’s historical archives”.

Bodies of 5 Soviet POWs, supposedly, at Sandarmokh (Sergei Markelov)

Five bodies are discovered, allegedly Soviet POWs shot by the Finns,
during the Continuation War, 1941-1944 (photo, Sergei Markelov)

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Dmitriev detained for two months

On 28 June the Petrozavodsk City Court decided that YURY DMITRIEV, head of the Karelian section of the Memorial Society, should be remanded in custody as part of the new criminal case against him.

“There were no surprises today,” commented Dmitriev’s lawyer Victor Anufriev. “Before the hearing the investigator said, ‘We’ll see you at the Detention Centre tomorrow.’ In other words, he already knew what the decision would be.

“During the hearing they made reference to the following: detained with his belongings; was trying to get a foreign travel passport; a grave crime; might put pressure on the victim; could commit a new crime; was attempting to hide from the courts. Those different turns of phrase have turned up in one court ruling after another.”

So far as 7×7 correspondent is aware, Dmitriev has not yet been charged. The criminal investigation was launched under an Article covering “violent actions of a sexual nature against a minor”.

7×7-Horizontal Russia, 28 June 2018

Acquittal overturned

On Thursday, 14 June, after deliberations lasting over one and a half hours, the Supreme Court of Karelia overturned the acquittal of Yury DMITRIEV on charges of child pornography (Article 242.2) and depraved acts with a minor (Article 135).

This was reported by the news website 7×7, based on what it was told after the hearing by Victor Anufriev, Dmitriev’s defence attorney since December 2016.

The court based its judgement, in part, on a statement made by Dmitriev’s adopted daughter Natasha during a psychiatric examination following the acquittal in April 2018 that she was “upset and disgraced”. This statement, said Anufriev, was obtained under duress.

The case materials will now be returned to the Petrozavodsk City Court for re-examination by a new judge.

Meduza news website, 14 June 2018

“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