Publicising information from 1938 “would threaten Russia’s security”

As reported before, the Tula Region Court has ruled that it is lawful to restrict access by researchers and the public to the minutes of the Special Troika, the body responsible during the last stages of the Great Terror (1937-1938) for sentencing hundreds to death without investigation or trial.

The text of this ruling, writes Sergei Prudovsky, makes the following assertions:

1. “The date for applying for access has expired …” This statement is incorrect both in terms of the law and the circumstances of the cases;

2. Releasing such information would pose “a threat to the security of the Russian State, to its constitutional system and to the morality, health, rights and legal interests of other persons”;

3. Releasing such information falls under the “ban on spreading information that: [a] could promote war; [b] might incite ethnic, racial or religious hatred and enmity; or [c] is liable to punishment with fines or imprisonment”.

An appeal against this “nonsense” will be submitted before the legally-established deadline by defence attorney Andrei Fedorkov and Memorial lawyer Natalya Sekretaryova.

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During the Great Terror almost nine thousand people were arrested in the Tula Region: 7,678 were condemned to be shot (2,195) or sent to the Gulag (5,484) on the orders of the regional troika established in October 1937 and the two-man commission or dvoika in Moscow (see the Tula Memorial Society’s website, “The Regional NKVD troika” [R]). Finally, to deal with the backlog of tens of thousands arrested across the USSR, “Special” Troikas were set up in September 1938 in the USSR’s Regions and Republics.

(For a more detailed account of the operation of these three extra-judicial bodies and the charges laid against their victims, see the evidence compiled in Karelia over the past thirty years.)

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Portrait

This portrait of Yury DMITRIEV was recently produced by the artist Boris Zhutovsky.

DMITRIEV has been in custody since December 2016, with only a brief period of liberty from January to June 2018 when he was allowed to live at home but not to leave Petrozavodsk.

The portrait was evidently created from photos of the researcher since DMITRIEV was little known in the rest of Russia before his first trial from June 2017 to April 2018.

“The main thing is to pass on what we know”

On 26 December 2021, the day before the hearing, I wrote to Yury DMITRIEV (says Olga Nosenko on Facebook today). I had my doubts. Wasn’t this a silly thing to do? But I posted my letter with no great expectations, sending him New Year’s greetings and the tale of my forbears.

And this is what I received today after DMITRIEV had already heard the new sentence. I’ll quote two excerpts:

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This very night

DMITRIEV’s friends and supporters from Moscow and Petersburg and his defence attorney Victor Anufriev are travelling north to Petrozavodsk to hear the announcement later this morning, writes Alla Shmaina-Velikanova.

Meanwhile, In Petrozavodsk Yury DMITRIEV and his family and friends are waiting for the morning. So are the city’s devout old men and women, outside the courthouse door in the frost.

Judge Khomyakova is also waiting for the dawn. Is she sleeping? What dreams does she see? Or is she awake?