The following petition has been organised by historian Andrea Gullotta of Glasgow University (Scotland) to support the defense and secure the release of Yury DMITRIEV (Italian text):
Free Yury Dmitriev!
Historian, archaeologist and chronicler of the Gulag and Great Terror
Since the late 1980s, Yury Dmitriev has actively investigated the history of the Gulag in his native Karelia (northwest Russia).
His work on the White Sea Canal, built between 1931 and 1933 by camp prisoners and exiled peasants (“special” settlers), is invaluable and of the highest academic quality. Dmitriev has not simply researched the history of forced labour: he has also compiled several Books of Remembrance, recording the names of thousands who died in the camps or were shot and buried by the Soviet regime in Karelia.
As leader of archaeological expeditions seeking the killing fields of Stalin’s Great Terror, Dmitriev has located several sites of mass execution and burial. In July 1997, with Veniamin Joffe (Iofe) and Irina Flige of St Petersburg Memorial, he found the largest of them all, Sandormokh near Medvezhegorsk, where more than 7,000 victims of Stalin’s Great Terror were shot and buried in unmarked graves in 1937 and 1938.
Two hundred prominent Russians have come out in defence of Russian historian of the Soviet Terror, Yury Dmitriev, and the child whose life the FSB is destroying for the sake of a grubby and politically-motivated trial. They express distrust in the official position taken by the prosecution and the unlawful methods being used, including the pressure being exerted on Dmitriev’s adopted daughter.
The authors of the appeal, posted on 28 October, point out that Dmitriev had been arrested initially on ‘child pornography’ charges pertaining to photos securely stored in his computer and detailing the young girl’s weight, height, etc. over the years that her physical development after the orphanage had aroused concern. The defence had brought in highly qualified experts and with the publicity that the case had aroused both in Russia and abroad, he was acquitted on 5 April 2018.
Acquittals are virtually unheard of in Russia, and it was feared from the outset that the aim was merely to deflect unfavourable publicity and then overturn the acquittal. This is effectively what happened. Dmitriev was remanded in custody again on 28 June 2018, just two weeks after a court revoked his acquittal on the first evidently flawed charges and ordered a retrial.
As the prosecution continues to present its evidence of “new offences” by Yury DMITRIEV at his second trial in the Petrozavodsk City Court in Karelia, a related dispute is being pursued at the national level over the identity of those executed and buried at Sandarmokh.
In early February, the Kommersant daily newspaper reported
on this “second front” in the Dmitriev Affair.
Solovki transport memorial, Sandarmokh (photo, Anastasia Kurilova, August 2018)
In January 2019 there was an appeal for Yury Chaika, the Russian Federation’s Prosecutor General, to personally investigate the excavations at Sandarmokh last year by the Military History Society (MHS).
The request came from a deputy of the Karelian Legislative Assembly, Emilia Slabunova of the Yabloko Party. The authorities, she believes, had confused the status of memorial complex with “a site of interest” when granting permission for the MHS to carry out its exploratory excavations. She was referring to the archaeological investigation carried out by the Society at Sandarmokh between 25 August and 5 September 2018.
On 27 January 2019, Russia laid on a huge military parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad. In a hate campaign, worthy of their Soviet predecessors, Kremlin-loyal media and commentators turned on German journalist, Silke Bigalke, who criticized this “dancing on the bones” of the million Leningrad residents who died during the Siege.
Yet many Russians, including some historians, felt uneasy about holding a military parade rather than a sombre remembrance of the victims. How many other historians preferred not to comment in public cannot be known – the number is likely to be rising.
“Yury Dmitriev named the victims of Stalin’s Terror, let him go free!”
One-person picket on Dmitriev’s birthday, 28 January
(For six hours, one demonstrator after another maintained this protest outside
the offices of the Presidential Administration in Moscow)