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.

What We’ve Uncovered [1]

Nikita GIRIN
13 July 2020 Novaya gazeta [R]

A DISCLAIMER
with Roskomnadzor [the Communications Oversight Agency] in mind

SUMMARY

  • The historian Yury DMITRIEV was accused of touching his adopted 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.

Yury DMITRIEV (photo Tomasz Kizny)

I am finishing this text in Yury Dmitriev’s flat, in the room that used to belong to his adopted daughter. The shelves still hold several of her toys, her story books, and school notebooks. From the window you can see her school, with sleepless seagulls crying above; night trains pass close by and seem to hoot in reply.

Dmitriev is confined to the old castle in the very centre of Petrozavodsk. The detention centre is surrounded by good restaurants and pleasant views, but his prison offers different kinds of entertainment. In mid-April 2019, two cellmates spent several days trying to persuade the historian to make a confession to the investigators. If he didn’t, they threatened to “degrade” (i.e. sodomise) him. Dmitriev contacted the centre’s management. If he was attacked he would defend himself, he explained, and not be responsible for the consequences. They transferred him to a different cell.

The incident says something about the quality of evidence in the case.

Second Arrest, June 2018

Dmitriev contributed, in part, to his second arrest. After his acquittal was annulled in June 2018, the Supreme Court of Karelia imposed a travel ban, forbidding Dmitriev to leave Petrozavodsk. On 27 June, however, the historian and a neighbour decided to visit their acquaintance’s grave in New Vilga, a village a few kilometres outside the city limits, and then go to pray at the Alexandro-Svirsky monastery in the Leningrad Region, 160 kms away.

Dmitriev consulted his lawyer. Victor Anufriev strictly forbade him to travel without the court’s permission. The court had already allowed Dmitriev to go to Moscow in May to collect a prize from the Moscow Helsinki Group for his historic contribution to the defence of human rights and to the human rights movement. A stubborn and self-reliant man, Dmitriev listened to his lawyer and then went anyway. A half-day trip out of Petrozavodsk was no big deal, he thought, since he had already travelled to the capital for a few days.

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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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