“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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“Memorial will continue no matter what”, Dmitriev

In a letter (received yesterday by Nataliya Dyomina) from the Petrozavodsk detention centre where he has spent most of the last five years, Yury DMITRIEV wrote in support of Memorial:

“I know the people who are presently in charge of Memorial and can confidently say that Memorial will go on working whatever the Supreme Court decides. The truth that Memorial has been unearthing, from citizens of Russia and in other countries is in great demand. People have a right to know the true history of their nation and not that which is being broadcast on Russian Television.

“Our work is needed, so we’ll go on working. The experience of working in difficult conditions has been well studied and it can also be applied today.”

“I don’t need anyone’s pity”

Today [14 December] we received a letter from DMITRIEV (writes Natalya Dyomina). He says he’s reading the case materials. There are 20 volumes, and he gets through 1½ to 3 of them a day.

“I still have to read about a third of the case materials. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish them all next week. … The whole day is spent reading and by the evening I can’t write a sentence without using obscenities!” Things are fine with him, he says: his health is no worse than might be expected from someone his age.

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“I’ve not given up, I’m not dispirited, we’ll keep on fighting!”

On 29 September, the day of the new sentence, DMITRIEV sent the following letter from the detention centre to photojournalist Victoria Ivleva:

Hi there, Vika!

They gave me 13 [years] for [Article] 132, just as the prosecutor wanted, and set a new trial under a new judge for the charges of which I was acquitted …

As I understand it, we’ll keep on fighting. …

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The Dmitriev Affair

Anna Yarovaya, 7×7 news website

12 March, technically speaking, was the last day in custody for historian Yury DMITRIEV during investigation of the accusations made against him. The 61-year-old researcher has now spent almost three months in Pretrial Detention Facility No. 1 in Petrozavodsk.

During this time, solo pickets supporting Dmitriev have been held on the streets of the Karelian capital, his case has been discussed at a traveling session of the Presidential Human Rights Council, and the republic got a new governor. According to Dmitriev’s attorney, the historian will probably be indicted and his case sent to court.

Yury Dmitriev has been accused of producing pornography. Neither his colleagues, friends or people who have worked at some time with Yury Dmitriev believe the charges are true. Many link his arrest to the work he has done, searching for the places where political prisoners were shot, compiling lists of victims of the Soviet period, and heading the Karelian branch of Memorial.

But this article is not about the criminal case, which falls within the jurisdiction of law enforcement. Hoping for a objective investigation, we can only wait for a fair resolution to this situation. We decided it was important to tell readers about the cause to which the arrested historian has devoted his life.

This article might be called a series of interviews about Dmitriev. It has transpired we knew almost nothing about him. On the other hand, it has become clear why a man like him might have been seen as “inconvenient” by the current regime.

I first met Yury Dmitriev in 2012. I was on assignment, shooting a story about the construction of houses on the site of a former cemetery, and it led me to the historian. The story grew into a ten-minute TV program, and then ballooned into an investigative documentary.

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