1997 to April 2018
In early July 1997, DMITRIEV together with Irina Flige and the late Veniamin Joffe discovered a huge killing field of the Great Terror near Medvezhegorsk in Karelia. Subsequently it became known as Sandarmokh.
In September that year, he and Sergei Chugunkov identify the Krasny Bor killing field, 24 kms from Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia.
On 5 August 1998, the First International Day of Remembrance was held at Sandarmokh. Over the coming years that grim place of execution was transformed under DMITRIEV’s guidance into a unique Memorial or place of remembrance where individuals, ethnic groups, nationalities and religious confessions were all freely commemorated. In 2000, the Karelian authorities gave Sandarmokh the status of a “monument of history and culture”.
Both of Dmitriev’s parents died in 2000 within five days of each other (see Last Words, 8 July 2020).
In 2002, Karelia’s Lists of Remembrance, a volume compiled by DMITRIEV and his deceased mentor and first head of Memorial in Karelia Lieutenant-Colonel (Police) Ivan Chukhin (1949-1997) was published in Petrozavodsk.
In 2008, DMITRIEV and his second wife were allowed to foster Natasha, a sickly and under-developed 3.5-year-old from a children’s home on terms described later by his defence attorney. (Natasha then weighed 12 kilograms or 26.5 pounds.)
DMITRIEV shifted the focus of his research from the victims of the Great Terror (1937-1938) to the tens of thousands deported in the early 1930s to Karelia from all over the Soviet Union. Many were put to work on the White Sea Canal.
July — A history lecturer at Petrozavodsk University Dr. Kilin put forward a “new hypothesis”, that Soviet POWs executed by the occupying Finnish forces in 1941-1944 might also have been buried at Sandarmokh.
Finnish newspaper Kaleva published an article by Kilin, entitled “Most POWs Died in Camps during the Continuation War”. This was followed by Kremlin newspaper Izvestiya (16 July) “Memorial’s Findings on Repressions in Karelia Could Be Revised” and the military Zvezda TV channel’s cruder “How the Finns Tortured Thousands of Our Soldiers”
5 August — Day of Remembrance at Sandarmokh with local Ukrainians and Poles in attendance, but since 2014 without the international delegations that came in previous years.
4 October — The Russian Justice Ministry designated International Memorial under the 2012 law as “an organisation acting in the capacity of a foreign agent”.
Soon after the Memorial Research and Information Centre in St Petersburg (director Irina Flige) was also declared a “foreign agent”.
29 October — Traditional since 2007, the 12-hour long “Restoring the Names” ceremony takes place in Moscow next to the Solovki Stone
29 November — Police ask DMITRIEV to visit police station the next day; during his absence someone enters the apartment and starts up his computer
3 December — Police receive an anonymous statement that DMITRIEV is taking “nude photos of his daughter”
13 December — Yury DMITRIEV arrested in his apartment after being denounced by an unidentified individual. His 11-year-old foster daughter Natasha was picked up from her school. For the next 13 months Dmitriev is held at Detention Centre No 1 in Petrozavodsk.
16 December — The International Memorial Society (based in Moscow) sends a letter the Chief Prosecutor of the Karelian Republic, expressing disbelief in the allegations. It was signed by Memorial’s chairman Arseny Roginsky (1946-2017)
29 December — After charges of child pornography are brought against DMITRIEV his defence attorney Victor Anufriev states firmly in an interview that “the photo of a naked child is not pornography“.
See also the first of many articles by Halya Coynash about the persecution of Yury DMITRIEV
10 January — The Rossiya-24 TV channel broadcasts a 14-minute programme, “What does Memorial have to hide?” which includes what it claims to be photos of Natasha taken by DMITRIEV.
9 March — In addition to the charge of child pornography, DMITRIEV is further accused of offences under Articles 135 and 222.
17 May — Preliminary court hearing.
FIRST TRIAL (1 June 2017 to April 2018)
1 June — Trial begins. Neither the press nor the public are admitted.
6 June — Moscow press conference about the DMITRIEV case. Recorded speakers include Olga Kerzina, Dmitriev’s daughter Katya and Anatoly Razumov; and Victor Anufriev who talks for 30 minutes
June-November 2017 — 45 prominent Russian citizens give short filmed statements in defence of Yury DMITRIEV. A few of these video clips have been translated into English.
28 June — The Memorial Human Rights Centre in Moscow declares that the detention and prosecution of Yury DMITRIEV are politically motivated.
August — Expert defence witnesses give testimony concerning the use of photographic records to monitor a child’s changing state of health (1 August) and, specifically, the health of Dmitriev’s foster daughter Natasha (29 August).
(See Dmitriev’s Last Words, 27 March 2018)
7 September — The defence demanded a new assessment of the supposedly “pornographic photos”. At the following week’s hearing the court agreed, but insisted that the same nine photos be examined [R].
(What they show did not become general knowledge until July 2020, towards the end of the Second Trial.)
2 October — Novaya gazeta correspondent Nikita Girin reported that the new experts appointed by the court had neither permanent premises nor staff.
29 October — Traditional “Restoring the Names” ceremony held by the Solovki Stone in Moscow
30 October — Vladimir Putin opens the Wall of Sorrow in Moscow
28 December — DMITRIEV flown to Moscow for his psychological condition to be assessed at the Serbsky Institute.
19 January — Psychiatric assessment completed. DMITRIEV returned to Butyrka Prison in Moscow.
27 January — DMITRIEV released from custody. Restricted to Petrozavodsk city limits.
28 January — DMITRIEV’s 62nd birthday.
27 March — DMITRIEV’s final words in court.
22 April — Karelian edition of Rossiya TV channel’s “Events of the Week” announces that excavations will be conducted in Sandarmokh that summer.
14 June — Appeals to be heard by Supreme Court of Karelia.