Yu.A. Dmitriev

My Path to Golgotha” (Extensive interview with Dmitriev)

Yury Dmitriev” (Wikipedia)

Yury Alexeyevich DMITRIEV (b. 1956 in Petrozavodsk) is a rights activist and local historian in Karelia (Northwest Russia). Since the late 1980s he has worked tirelessly to locate the neglected and concealed burial grounds of Stalin’s victims — forced settlers, Gulag inmates and those shot during the Great Terror. Remarkably successful in naming those buried at particular sites, he has striven to turn each burial ground into a place of remembrance and commemoration.

YURY DMITRIEV and IRINA FLIGE address the 5 August 2016 Day of Remembrance at Sandarmokh (Dmitriev’s grandson Daniel stands to his right)

In the Archives and in the Field

As a leading member of the Memorial Society in Karelia, DMITRIEV is particularly noted for his part in the discovery of two major burial sites and their subsequent transformation into places of remembrance and commemoration.

In the first days of July 1997, with members of St Petersburg Memorial, DMITRIEV found the massive killing field of Sandarmokh, 12 kilometres from Medvezhyegorsk. Its burial pits contain many thousands of Stalin’s executed victims, representing 60 Soviet and other nationalities. A couple of months later, together with Memorial member Sergei Chugunkov, he identified the execution ground and burial pits at Krasny Bor, 24 kms from Petrozavodsk.

As a result of DMITRIEV’s lengthy and single-minded commitment to this task, Karelia’s past is better documented in this respect than almost any other part of the Russian Federation.

On 13 December 2016 DMITRIEV was arrested on charges of making pornographic images of his foster daughter Natasha. After months in custody under investigation his trial finally began on 1 June 2017.

The first publications to spark wider interest in the case were “The Dmitriev Affair” by Anna Yarovaya (7×7 news website, 1 March 2017) and “‘Gandalf’s’ Case” by Shura Burtin (Reporter, 22 July 2017).

Two trials and verdicts

Neither the press nor the public were admitted to the proceedings at either of the trials at the Petrozavodsk City Court. Released from custody on 27 January 2018, DMITRIEV was acquitted of the two most serious charges on 5 April that year.

In June 2018 he was re-arrested, charged with additional offences, and stood trial from 19 October 2018 until 22 July 2020 when he was sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment. Allowing for time served in the Detention Centre he was due for release in mid-November.

In September 2020 the Karelian Supreme (High) Court overturned the verdict, sending several of the offences back for retrial and raising the sentence for the solitary conviction to 13 years imprisonment.

Dmitriev, 2008 Solovki (Meisterman)

Dmitriev at Derevyakenko village, Karelia (photo, Simeon Maisterman) near Krasny Bor