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.
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.
Dispossession, imprisonment, deportation and famine
After experimenting in Siberia the previous autumn and winter, the November 1929 plenum of the Communist Party Central Committee decided to proceed with the forced collectivization of the countryside and the “liquidation of the kulaks as a social group” (a process also known as “dekulakization”).
The collectivization campaign supported a double objective: one, it would “extract” – the term used in confidential instructions — all elements prone to actively oppose forced collectivization; two, it would “colonize” vast inhospitable regions of the Russian North, the Urals, Siberia and Kazakhstan through the resettlement of entire “kulak” families.
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.
Yury DMITRIEV (photo Tomasz Kizny)
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, 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.
YURY DMITRIEV was due to be released from the Petrozavodsk Detention Centre on Sunday, 28 January. Unexpectedly, he arrived home early on Saturday. Anna Yarovaya went to visit him immediately, to learn the details of his release and his plans for the future. Continue reading →
According to official figures, during the construction of Belomor, the White Sea Canal, 2.24% of the prisoners in the BelBaltlag camp complex died in 1931 (1,438 persons), 2.03% died in 1932 (2,010 persons) and in 1933, due to famine in the USSR and the rapidly approaching deadline to finish the project, 10.56% of the prison workforce died (8,870 persons).
Building the canal (photo, Wikipedia)
Seventy years later, in August 2003, Yury DMITRIEV discovered a large burial ground of BelBaltlag prisoners near the 8th lock on the White Sea Canal. The following year volunteers under his direction cleared the area and found more than 800 graves.