Russian court rejects jailed Gulag historian’s appeal against 13-year sentence
The European Union issued a special statement, civil activists express support
On June 3, in the Petrozavodsk City Court, another hearing was scheduled in the case of the head of the Karelian «Memorial» Yuri Dmitriev. He gained international fame and recognition after he tracked down the mass graves of victims of Stalin’s «Great terror» in Sandarmokh near Medvezhyegorsk and in Krasny Bor near Petrozavodsk.
Through the efforts of Dmitriev, the names of thousands of people of different nationalities who were shot by the NKVD officers were established. For his work, the historian was awarded a number of Russian and international awards, including the Certificate of Honor of the Republic of Karelia, the Golden Cross for Merit of the Republic of Poland and the Swedish Foundation for the Memory of Anna Dahlbeck, awarded for civic courage in the fight for human rights. The last award was awarded to him in 2020.
Meanwhile, at the end of 2016, a criminal case was opened against Dmitriev on charges of producing child pornography. In April 2018, Dmitriev was acquitted and released from custody, but three months later he was arrested again..
In support of the head of the Karelian «Memorial» many Russian and foreign public figures speak. Last week, the European Union issued a statement containing the following lines: «The EU expects Russia to fulfill its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, including those related to the right to liberty and security and the right to a fair trial».
The document also notes that in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, imprisonment should, if possible, be replaced by other measures..
On June 1, it became known that the sessions in the case of Yuri Dmitriev in the Petrozavodsk City Court were postponed to June 15 and 16.
«Yuri Dmitriev showed by personal example what a Russian person is»
Anna, special correspondent for Russia, for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter and the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet-Lena Lauren (Anna-Lena Lauren) I wrote a number of articles about Yuri Dmitriev and twice went to Petrozavodsk for court hearings. During a conversation with a correspondent for the Russian Service «Voices of America» she tried to cope with the excitement, but, judging by the intonation, she did not always succeed.
«I saw a lot of things during my work, and usually I do not cry, – she explained.. – But Yuri Dmitriev – the most decent person I wrote about, and the way they are treating him now, I just cannot bear it. And all the Finns who read my articles about him react the same way. He shows us what a conscientious person is. I will never forget how I stood in Sandarmokh and leafed through the lists of all Finnish names – the names of the people who are buried there. He returned each person his name and surname, and gave the right to the grave», – says the Finnish journalist.
According to Anna-Lena, after the discovery of the Sandarmokh tract, the name of Yuri Dmitriev was not very well known in Finland. He was known only to those who were interested in the history of the 30s. – 40s. «But now, because of this process – first the first, then the second – he became famous. And he is very respected here, because in Sandarmokh many Finns were shot», – she notes.
And he continues: «After the war in Finland they were very afraid of Stalin, they were afraid of the Soviet Union. And Yuri Dmitriev showed by his personal example what a Russian person is. This is the one who thinks about others and is able to sacrifice himself for them. After all, he took a huge risk when he began his work. And we are very grateful to him for that..
Yuri has done a huge and very laborious job. With the help of various historical sources, he was able to show that it was at this place that these groups of prisoners were buried. It is very important. It was a very risky job for him, for which he is now paying the price. Secondly, in Russia there are many people who believe that what Dmitriev is doing – bad for their country, there is no need to show that something was wrong in the Soviet Union, because everyone did bad.
But Yuri does not care, he only revealed the truth about what happened to the Finns in Karelia at the end of the 30s. And by his personal example he proved that there are a lot of good people in Russia.».
At the end of the conversation, special correspondent Dagens Nyheter and Hufvudstadsbladet said: «Of course, it is very unlikely that Yuri Dmitriev will be released, but maybe he will be given a very short term so that he can quickly get out. Because if he stays in prison for a long time, then it is clear how it will end – he is an old man.
There are a huge number of decent people, and every time a court hearing in the case of Yuri Dmitriev takes place, such people come to the courthouse and greeted him with applause. And even the judges know that all the charges – this is a fake, and for what he is actually being tried.
Of course, he shouldn’t have been on trial at all. But I hope that, as sometimes happens in Russia, everything will end up being quietly released», – concludes Anna-Lena Lauren.
The Finnish journalist did not meet in person with Yuri Dmitriev – «except that I ran after him in the hallway of the court and tried to shout my questions», – she specifies. However, after the acquittal of the head of the Karelian «Memorial» at the first trial, she interviewed him by phone.
«When such a person is arrested, I could not stay away»
The chairman of the society also told his story of acquaintance with Dmitriev in absentia. “Gulag.cz” Stepan Chernoushek (Stepan Cernousek). «I first got in touch with him in 2016, when I organized the filming of a documentary series for Czech Television and the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (Ústav pro studium totalitních režimů), in which I then worked. The series was called “Czechoslovakians in the Gulag”, and it was dedicated to the repressed Czechoslovak citizens in the Soviet Union», – Chernoushek told in an interview with the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America».
This topic has been little studied, so the filmmakers decided to present to the Czech society the maximum possible number of documented facts about the Czech victims of Stalinism. It turned out that at least Czech citizens were shot in Sandarmokh, and Yuri Dmitriev was able to establish their names. «At that time I could not travel to Russia, so only two members of our film crew came to Karelia. Yuri Dmitriev met them there, showed them everything, helped to install a plaque with the names of the Czechs who were shot there in 1938.
And, of course, when he was arrested, I was not indifferent. After all, I talked with him, he helped us a lot, and when such a person is arrested and imprisoned, I simply could not stay away, because without him we would not know anything about the history of our compatriots who died in the Gulag. His work is very important to us.», – emphasizes Stepan Chernoushek.
After the start of the trial in the case of the chairman of the Karelian «Memorial» he, together with a group of colleagues, decided to show solidarity with Yuri Dmitriev. «We invited Anatoly Razumov to the Czech Republic, who is engaged in the same business – restoration of the names of the repressed. He is also a very good historian and a great friend of Dmitriev. In addition, we invited journalist Anna Yarovaya, who received a prize for her article about Sandarmokh. And we organized a series of meetings with them, as well as
watching movie fragments “Czechoslovakians in the Gulag”, where Yuri Dmitriev walks through the cemetery in Sandarmokh and tells. Although, unfortunately, these shots were not included in the final version of the film..
After that, a number of articles and interviews with Anatoly Razumov appeared in Czech. Thus, we, including society “Gulag.cz” trying to attract the attention of the Czech public to the Dmitriev case», – the interlocutor told «Voices of America».
Stepan Chernoushek hopes very much for a favorable outcome of this process: «It is clear that the case was falsified, everything was provoked there. This is due, among other things, to attempts to falsify history. And I am sure that he will be released, and if this does not happen, we will continue to talk very loudly about what is happening with Dmitriev, what is happening with the falsification of history in Russia on the example of Sandarmokh, and this will be known all over the world».
«I have no doubt that Yuri will be free»
Compiler of the multivolume book of memory «Leningrad Martyrology», center manager «Returned names» Anatoly Razumov, Indeed, for 20 years I have personally known Yuri Dmitriev, and with his works – even longer. During both trials in the Dmitriev case, Anatoly Razumov acted as a witness for the defense.
In an interview with the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» he stressed that the activities of the head of the Karelian «Memorial» much wider and more multifaceted than commonly believed. «Not everyone pays attention to the fact that a major volume was published in 2002 “Memorial lists of Karelia. Great terror”. There was a presentation in Petrozavodsk, I came, helped to transfer books to the families of the victims. At the same time, it was indicated that this is the second volume, which speaks of those killed in 1937-38. I asked, where is the first volume? To which Yuri Alekseevich replied that someday there will be the first, because the Bolshevik atrocities began not in 1937, but earlier. And now he is just working on this volume and considers it his main business. He does not think narrowly about his activities, he is busy restoring names and trying to tie them to burial places.», – noted Razumov.
Statement of the European Union on the Head of the Karelian «Memorial» and in general he highly values the entire international campaign in support of his friend. When asked if he had any hope that actions of solidarity with Yuri Alekseevich could somehow affect his fate, Anatoly Razumov replied: «Yes, and I am sure of it. All such protective actions are audible and visible. And I am very pleased with this appeal (from the European Union – A.P.), and has a long history. Last September, I accompanied a delegation of ambassadors from 20 shitty countries of the European Union to Sandarmokh. I spoke freely with them about the Dmitriev case, and they were very interested in this case, and said that they supported Yuri.
And in Russia, and in Europe, and beyond its borders, more and more people are learning about this case. And I have no doubts that Yuri will be free, and this campaign will help him. However, how fast will all this happen? – big question», – notes the head of the center «Returned names».
And sums it up: «Every action of solidarity is very important. Yuri Dmitriev is supported by people of all walks of life, from adolescents to the elderly, understanding the importance of his work and what this person is like. People did not succumb to television reports or media reports repeating the monstrous accusations against him. They don’t believe all this, but believe a person – those who know him. And who did not know him personally, now they judge him by his work, by his books and by how he holds on to the court..
So all the actions in his support, no doubt, are not in vain. He will be free, he will be with us».