Now is the time to Speak Out

Today the Supreme Court of Karelia is hearing appeals from prosecution and defence against the verdict pronounced at Yury DMITRIEV’s trial on 22 July this year.

The prosecution has slightly “softened” its demands: now it is asking not for 15 but 13 years’ imprisonment. The defence, as before, demands that Dmitriev be cleared of all charges.

We must stand together today, in thought and word and deed, and say: No, we have not given up, we have not shut up and gone away, we are NOT happy with this verdict, even if it is the best possible in the circumstances. Our banner reads “Not Guilty!”

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Restoring the Names

Since the late 1980s volunteers all over Russia and other former Soviet republics have compiled lists naming the men and women arrested, imprisoned and shot during Stalin’s time, and published regional Books of Remembrance about them.

Working with Ivan Chukhin, Yury DMITRIEV compiled such a volume for Karelia. It contains over 14,000 names.

Nikolai KRESTOVSKY, shot 2 December 1942

In the past 15 years national databases of those “repressed” by the Bolshevik regime have been created by combining information from Books of Remembrance and other sources. Again this was the work of volunteers at organisations like the Memorial Society and, more recently, those behind the Open List database. The State has played no role in this extraordinary enterprise. At present, over three million men and women have been named and identified. This, it is estimated, is a quarter of all those who fell victim to political repression: those sent to the Gulag during dekulakisation, or deported to distant, inhospitable regions; those shot during the Great Terror and the many other waves of violence and repression before and after World War Two.

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Reading the Names, 5 August 2020. Remembering the victims of Sandarmokh

On Wednesday, 5 August, people marked the annual Day of Remembrance in over 80 towns and cities all over the world (in Bulgaria, Latvia, Ukraine, Scotland and Brittany among others) by reading out the names of those shot at Sandarmokh in 1937 and 1938, during the Great Terror.

Due to the Corona virus epidemic no gathering was held this year at the memorial complex near Medvezhegorsk.

At present 6,241 victims have been identified. Over five thousand were inhabitants of Karelia or prisoners of the BelBaltlag (White Sea Canal) labour camp system; a further 1,111 were brought there to be shot from the Solovki Special Prison in the White Sea.

The Progress of the Trial: February 2020

“By 10 February, the prosecution planned, the final words by both sides would have come to an end and a verdict would be delivered,” says Anatoly RAZUMOV, a friend of Yury Dmitriev’s and a member of St Petersburg’s Human Rights Council. “However, the defence had prepared two speakers for that day.

Anatoly Ya. RAZUMOV, National Library, St Petersburg

“In the early 2000s, Professor Victor Kirillov, D.Phil. (History), was in charge of the creation of a unified database of the victims of political repression, the Their Names Restored project [see below]. He arrived by plane having travelled from Yekaterinburg in the Urals via Petersburg in order to testify on behalf of his friend Yury Dmitriev. Now even the President of Russia was suggesting that such a database be created, Kirillov said: a popular initiative was becoming a task for the State. The trial is closed and we can judge what is going on merely by the length of hearing. Victor testified for 40-50 minutes.

“Then the court heard a specialist in children’s issues. She spoke and was questioned the rest of the day, from morning until lunchtime, and after lunch until 5.00 pm. Seemingly, her testimony and explanations impressed the court.

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