Yury A. Dmitriev

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Yury Dmitriev, 2007
Yury A. Dmitriev
Native name Юрий Алексеевич Дмитриев
Born Yury Alexeyevich Dmitriev
(1956-01-28)28 January 1956
Petrozavodsk, Karelo-Finnish SSR, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Occupation Human rights activist, researcher into deportation, imprisonment and executions in 1930s
Nationality Russian
Citizenship  Russia
Alma mater Leningrad Medical College
Notable awards

Golden Pen of Russia (2005)

Gold Cross of Merit, Poland (2015)

Honorary Diploma of the Karelian Republic (2016)

Sakharov Prize, Moscow (2017)
Spouse twice married
Children Son, daughter Katerina (Klodt); adopted daughter Natasha

Yury Alexeyevich Dmitriev (born 1956 in Petrozavodsk) is a rights activist and local historian in Karelia (Northwest Russia). Since the early 1990s he has worked to locate the execution sites of Stalin's Great Terror and identify as many as possible of the buried victims they contain.[1] As a result of his single-minded commitment, Karelia's past is better documented in this respect than almost any other part of the Russian Federation.[2]

On 13 December 2016 Dmitriev was arrested and charged with making pornographic images of his foster daughter, Natasha.[3][4] From the outset Dmitriev's colleagues declared the charges to be baseless and motivated by a determination to discredit the historian and his work. The closed trial attracted national and international attention and criticism.[5] On 26 December 2017, a second assessment by a court-appointed body of the photographs of his foster daughter concluded that they contained no element of pornography and had been taken, as the accused insisted, to monitor the health of a weakly child.[6]

After a psychiatric examination at the Serbsky Institute in Moscow,[7] the historian was released from custody on 27 January 2018 on condition that he did not leave the country. The charges against him were not dropped and the next court hearing was scheduled for 27 February 2018.[8] On 5 April 2018 the judge acquitted Dmitriev on two charges relating to the photos of his adopted daughter Natasha, removing the threat of nine years' imprisonment, demanded on 20 March by the prosecution.[9] The court found Dmitriev guilty of the lesser and separate offence of possessing a firearm. After more than a year in custody, Dmitriev was sentenced to three further months restriction of liberty, meaning that he has to report twice a week to the city prison. On 13 April 2018, the Petrozavodsk city prosecutor, Yelena Askerova, submitted a formal appeal to the court against the acquittal of Yury Dmitriev on all but one charge.[10]

When Dmitriev was arrested late in 2016 he was finishing nine years of work on a Book of Remembrance that would name over 64,000 of the deported "special settlers" of the 1930s whose descendants make up 25-30% of those now living in Karelia.[11]

Childhood and early adult years[edit]

Yury Dmitriev spent his first year in a Soviet orphanage. In 1957 he was adopted by a childless army officer and his wife, but did not find out that he was not their child until the age of 14.[12] His father was posted to East Germany, and Yury spent part of his childhood in Dresden.[13]

He began but did not finish a course at the Northwest Health Department of the Leningrad Medical College.[14] During the Gorbachev years, Dmitriev was a member of the Karelian People's Front, and served between 1988 and 1991 as an aide to USSR People's Deputy Mikhail Zenko. It was then that he first encountered mass graves of those shot in the 1930s.[15]

Restoring the Names[edit]

Dmitriev is particularly noted for his part in the discovery and investigation of two major burial sites, Sandarmokh and Krasny Bor, and their subsequent transformation into "informal" memorial complexes.

Yekaterina Klodt, Dmitriev's daughter by his first marriage, has described her father's commitment to his work. "I often asked him why he continually sat at the computer, writing or copying something out," she told Gleb Yarovoi. Dmitriev answered: "I do not know who I was in a past life, but I understand the meaning of my life now and I know that I must do this." As she grew older Yekaterina would frequently tell him to take a break—how much longer would he go on with these lists? "I can't stop," Dmitriev replied, "I must finish the book, people are waiting for it."[16] Dmitriev's life consisted, for year after year, of winters spent in the archives followed by summers scouring the forested areas around particular cities and towns with Witch (Vedma), his Alsatian, hunting for possible burial sites.[17]

At first Dmitriev was junior partner to Ivan Chukhin (ru: Чухин, Иван Иванович), a deputy of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet and State Duma (1990-1995),[18] and the first chairman of the Memorial Society in Karelia.[19] Chukhin felt compelled to engage in the work because his own father had been involved in acts of repression under Stalin.[20] When Chukhin, a retired police officer, was killed in a car accident in May 1997 Dmitriev carried on alone. On 1 July 1997, with members of St Petersburg Memorial, Dmitriev located a massive killing field, 12 kilometres from Medvezhyegorsk, that subsequently acquired the name of Sandarmokh; some weeks later, guided by local inhabitants, he confirmed the identification of the Krasny Bor execution site, 20 km from Petrozavodsk.[21]

Sandarmokh contains over 9,000 of Stalin's executed victims of more than 50 Soviet and other nationalities.[22] Drawing on information from the archives, Dmitriev identified the nine thousand men and women shot at Sandarmokh as follows:[23]

"3,500 were inhabitants of Karelia, 4,500 were prisoners working for the White Sea - Baltic Canal, and 1,111 were brought there from the Solovki "special" prison. Alongside hard-working peasants, fishermen and hunters from nearby villages, writers and poets, scientists and scholars, military leaders, doctors, teachers, engineers, clergy of all confessions and statesmen found their final resting place there."

In 2003, in addition to his Books of Remembrance, Dmitriev also published a collection of documents about the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal and the fate of the numerous prisoners and "special settlers" engaged in its construction.[24]

Recognition at home and abroad[edit]

Yury A. Dmitriev, speaking at Sandarmokh, 5 August 2013

As a result of Dmitriev's activities he was appointed secretary of the Petrozavodsk Commission for Restoring the Rights of Rehabilitated Victims of Political Repression and in 2002 became (and remains) a member of the organisation of the same name at the republican level, covering all of Karelia. He is a member of the Karelian branch of the Memorial Society, and in 2014 became its chairman.[25]

From 1998 to 2009, Dmitriev headed the Academy for the Defence of Socio-Legal Rights, a Karelian human rights NGO.[26] As president of that body, in 2002, Yury Dmitriev wrote to the then head of the Karelian republic, Sergey Katanandov, objecting to the proposal by the Karelia Council of Veterans to put up a statue in Petrozavodsk to Yury Andropov. (KGB chairman from 1967 to 1982, Andropov headed the Komsomol in Karelia during the Great Patriotic War, from 1940 to 1944.) Katanandov did not reply to Dmitriev's letter and the 10-foot-high memorial to Andropov was erected. The decision, commented Dmitriev, reflected the nation's attitude to its recent history: "We don't know the past, and we don't want to know."[27]

In 2005 Dmitriev was awarded the new "Golden Pen of Russia" prize for his publications.[28]

In 2015 he received the Gold Cross of Merit from Poland for his work in locating mass burials at Sandarmokh and on Solovki, and identifying the victims they contained: ethnic Poles in the Soviet Union were one of the nationalities targeted during the Great Terror.[29]

In 2016 Dmitriev was awarded an Honourary Diploma of the Karelian Republic by the administration of the new head of Karelia, Alexander Hudilainen (Худилайнен, Александр Петрович).

On 31 December 2017, Yury Dmitriev was one of 16 journalists, bloggers, writers and historians, imprisoned or otherwise persecuted by the authorities, who were recognised at the annual Sakharov awards for "Journalism as an Act of Conscience".[30]

5 August 2016, Sandarmokh[edit]

Sandarmokh has drawn visitors from many countries, including Ukraine since many leading members of the country's Executed Renaissance were shot there. It remains a focal point for the many national diasporas represented in Karelia itself.[31] Since 1998, an annual Day of Remembrance has been held at Sandarmokh on 5 August, the date when the NKVD in Moscow issued instructions to its regional bodies to begin the Great Terror.[32] For many years the event had official support and recognition.

On 5 August 2016 the Day of Remembrance at Sandarmokh was marked, as always, with speeches and a gathering of those who had come from Karelia and beyond to attend the event. The event was opened by Yury Dmitriev and Irina Flige,[33] the director of the Memorial Research and Information Centre in St Petersburg, who had found Sandarmokh, with Dmitriev and her late husband Veniamin Ioffe (ru: Иофе, Вениямин Викторович) in early July 1997.[34]

For the first time, Dmitriev and Flige noted, not a single official was present, whether from the local, republican or federal authorities. No Orthodox priests were in attendance and, another first, there was no solemn religious procession led by the cross. This was an opportunity, suggested Dmitriev and Flige, for people to say just what they thought. They invited anyone present to address the gathering on the sole condition that he or she introduce him or herself before speaking. The speeches that day were recorded and the resulting 28-minute film was posted on the Internet.[35]

The photos: purpose and uses[edit]

When charges were brought against the imprisoned Dmitriev in early 2017 it became clear that he had a great many supporters.[36] By early July an Internet petition in his defense had drawn over 30,000 signatures in Russia and elsewhere.[37]

They and his defence team consider the charges to be fabricated, a misinterpretation of what little evidence the investigators have found. There is also concern about the prospects for a fair trial. On 10 January 2017 a 13-minute segment of the news programme entitled "What does Memorial have to hide?" on a national TV network Rossiya-24 showed the allegedly "pornographic" photographs Dmitriev had taken of his foster daughter Natasha.[38] The defence team believes they were leaked to the media by the investigators, although as evidence in a forthcoming trial they were sub judice.[39]

The explanation offered by Dmitriev for the existence of the 140 photographs, 9 of which are claimed by the prosecution to be "pornographic", is that they record the improving health of a neglected and under-nourished little girl from a children's home, whom he and his second wife had taken into their care. He stopped keeping this photographic record in 2015.[40] Today eleven years old, the daughter has recently won the Petrozavodsk city cup for her age-group in a martial arts tournament.

It was subsequently revealed by the defence that there were only three such photographs: copies of two photos boosted the total to nine.[41]

The trial[edit]

After months in police custody his trial began on 1 June 2017.[42] As with other trials in Russia concerning sexual offences against minors, neither press nor public were admitted to the hearings at the Petrozavodsk City Court.[43]

On 11 July four expert witnesses testified on behalf of the defence, casting serious doubts on the interpretation of the evidence by the prosecution and its experts. Dmitriev's attorney Victor Anufriev announced that the hearings had ended for the time being and would resume on 1 August. He expressed the hope that his client could address the court on 22 August and that a verdict would be delivered by 1 September 2017.[44]

Thanks to the persistence of the defence, however, the trial continued. On 15 September 2017, the court agreed to submit the photographic evidence to other experts, after the defence had petitioned four times for such a decision.

New assessment of photographs[edit]

The alternative organisations proposed for this task, first by the prosecution and then by the judge, proved to be obscure private firms without the legal right to act as forensic experts.[45]

The hearing scheduled for 18 October was postponed because the new experts were not ready to present their fresh assessment of the same 9 "pornographic" photographs. A hearing was held on 25 October but the assessment of the photographs was still not ready.[46] On 26 December 2017, the new court-appointed body finally presented the findings of its experts that there was no element of pornography in the photographs taken by Dmitriev and concluded that their purpose was to monitor the health of a weakly child.[47]

Second psychiatric assessment[edit]

That same day the Petrozavodsk City Court ruled that Yury Dmitriev should undergo a second psychiatric assessment at the Serbsky Center in Moscow, and that a third assessment of the nine photographs be made by the same body. This decision caused some concern. Dmitriev had already been subject to psychiatric assessment in Petrozavodsk and there had been signs of a revival at the Serbsky Center of its well-documented Soviet-era use as an instrument of political punishment.[48]

On 27 December 2017, the court changed the measure of restraint imposed on Dmitriev. After more than a year in custody at the city's Detention Centre No 1, he would be released on 28 January 2018 (his 62nd birthday), on condition that he did not leave the country.[49] On 28 December, without notifying his defence attorney, the court had Dmitriev flown under escort to Moscow where he was taken to the Serbsky Center to begin assessment.[50] On 30 December, Dmitriev's son delivered food for his father to the Serbsky Center.[51]

Release and resumption of trial[edit]

On 27 January Dmitriev was released from custody and allowed to return to his home, on condition that he did not leave the city of Petrozavodsk.[52][53] On 20 March, the city prosecutor Askerova reaffirmed the accusations against him and demanded 9 years of prison in a severe regime colony. The next court hearing is scheduled for 22 March 2018.

Acquittal and Appeal[edit]

On 5 April 2018, Dmitriev was acquitted of the child pornography charges by Judge Marina Nosova at the conclusion of his trial at the Petrozavodsk City Court. She found him guilty of possessing parts of a shotgun and sentenced him to three months probation plus community service. Dmitriev had denied all the charges.[54]

Novaya Gazeta newspaper commented: "The decision was unprecedented for Russian justice where the percentage of acquittals does not exceed the statistical margin of error."[55] In trials without a jury the percentage of acquittals in the Russian judicial system is now markedly less than 1% of the total.[56] The result in the Dmitriev Case, therefore, was an achievement against the odds. (In trials where the case is heard before a jury, the proportion of acquittals was higher, around 20% of the total in 2009.)[57]

On 13 April 2018, the Petrozavodsk city prosecutor, Yelena Askerova, submitted a formal appeal to the court against the acquittal of Yury Dmitriev on all but one charge.[58] This appeal was accepted by the Supreme Court of Karelia and a hearing was set for Thursday, 14 June at 3 pm local time, in Petrozavodsk. That same day, at 6 pm local time, Russia's national football team was scheduled to play Saudi Arabia at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium in the opening match of the 2018 Football World Cup.[59] Dmitriev's defence attorney, Victor Anufriev, submitted an appeal against his client's conviction for possessing parts of a firearm.[60] On June 14, the acquittal was overturned by the Supreme court of Karelia.[61] Following the aforementioned reversal of the acquittal, Dmitriev was arrested on Jun 27, 2018.[62]

Russian reaction to trial[edit]

The accused was not widely known before he was arrested and charged. The closed nature of the current hearings made it difficult to get information and report freely on the case. Nevertheless, in early July journalist Maria Eismont wrote that the trial of Yury Dmitriev in Petrozavodsk was "the most important thing happening in Russia right now".[63]

Over the months the case aroused controversy, prompted campaigning in Russia and abroad, and led to a measure of public debate. It acquired the makings of a celebrated and historic legal case. Among the many who posted video clips expressing support for Dmitriev, was the dramatist and poet Alexander Gelman. He commented:[64]

"This trial has helped us recognise a remarkable man. It is a barbaric way of discovering good people, but in Russian society it has proved very effective. In this sense, the trial has done something worthwhile."

By early December over seventy video clips of famous Russians speaking in Dmitriev's defence—writers, musicians, priests, historians, film-makers, actors—had been posted on a variety of social media and reposted to his supporters' Facebook page and to the Dmitriev Affair website.[65] Among them were TV presenter and literary critic Alexander Arkhangelsky,[66] Natalya Solzhenitsyn,[67] film director Andrey Zvyagintsev, and the sculptor-designer of the Wall of Sorrow monument, Georgy Frangulyan, who commented: "What has happened [to Dmitriev] is appalling, it's tragic".[68]

Publications[edit]

Author and editor[edit]

Interviews[edit]

Articles about Dmitriev[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Their Names Returned: Russia's Books of Remembrance website (Возвращенные имена.Книги памяти России), Search: "Sandarmokh", "Kniga pamyati Karelii", 4,974 names (accessed 7 August 2017).
  2. ^ Alexander Daniel, "He roused the Dragon", Rights in Russia, Weekly Update, No. 23 (256) 12 June 2017. Russian source: Zoya Svetova, "The Dmitriev Case and the Dragon of the Great Terror", Open Russia.
  3. ^ Yekaterina Fomina, "'Papa said he'd sort everything out': Karelian historian Yu. Dmitriev is accused of making pornography using his own daughter", Novaya gazeta, 21 December 2016, (in Russian).
  4. ^ "The Charges", Dmitriev Affair website, updated 16 February 2018.
  5. ^ Sabra Ayres, "An outspoken researcher of Stalin's crimes fights for his own fate and freedom in Russia", Los Angeles Times, 24 July 2017
  6. ^ "Photos not pornographic, say new experts", Chernika,26 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Psychiatric examination completed", 7x7-Horizontal Russia, 22 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Next hearing, 27 February 2018", Russian supporters' Facebook page.
  9. ^ "Prosecutor demands 9-year sentence", Dmitriev Affair website, 20 March 2018.
  10. ^ "City prosecutor to appeal against Dmitriev acquittal", Petrozavodsk Speaking, 13 April 2018.
  11. ^ “The dictatorship of fear and lies is returning”, Petrozavodsk Speaking, 27 January 2016.
  12. ^ Sergei Lebedev, Interview with Dmitriev, Colta.ru, 2 February 2018 (in Russian).
  13. ^ "The dictatorship of fear and lies is returning", Petrozavodsk Speaking, 27 January 2016 (in Russian).
  14. ^ See Meduza daily news brief, 1 June 2017 (in Russian).
  15. ^ Irina Galkova, "My path to Golgotha: An interview with Yury Dmitriev", Memorial website, 1 May 2017.
  16. ^ Anna Yarovaya, "The Dmitriev Affair", 7 x 7 website, 1 March 2017.
  17. ^ Shura Burtin, "The case of Khottabych", Russian Reporter weekly, 30 May 2017.
  18. ^ Irina Galkova, "My path to Golgotha: An interview with Yury Dmitriev", Dmitriev Affair website.
  19. ^ "Ivan Chukhin", Virtual Museum of the Gulag (in Russian).
  20. ^ Anna Yarovaya "The Dmitriev Affair", 7x7-Horizontal Russia, 10 March 2017.
  21. ^ "My path to Golgotha: An interview with Yury Dmitriev", Memorial website.
  22. ^ Anna Yarovaya, "The Dmitriev Affair", 7x7-Horizontal Russia, 1 March 2017.
  23. ^ "The Solovki transports, 1937-1938", Their Names Restored website (in Russian).
  24. ^ Anna Yarovaya, "Badgers' Hill: Nine hectares of mass graves", 7x7 horizontal Russia website, 29 September 2017 (in Russian).
  25. ^ "A note about the case of Yury Dmitriev" The coalition of human-rights activists, 27 December 2017 (in Russian).
  26. ^ "A note about the case of Yury Dmitriev" The coalition of human-rights activists, 27 December 2017 (in Russian).
  27. ^ David Satter, It was a long time ago, and anyway it never happened: Russia and the Communist Past, Yale University Press, 2011, p. 194.
  28. ^ The Golden Pen of Russia, a national literary prize, "Prize-winners, 2005 onwards" (in Russian). Dmitriev was among the first 23 authors to receive the new prize.
  29. ^ Polish Consultate-General, St Petersburg, "Days of Remembrance for the Victims of Political Repression", 20 August 2015 (in Russian and Polish).
  30. ^ Georgy Borodyansky, "An Award for the Truth", GDF Weekly Digest, 5 February 2018 (in Russian).
  31. ^ "My path to Golgotha: An interview with Yury Dmitriev", Memorial website.
  32. ^ Alexander Werth, "The NKVD mass secret operation No 00445, August 1937-October 1938", Mass violence and Resistance, SciencesPo, 24 May 2010.
  33. ^ "Irina Anatolevna Flige", International Memorial, About Us (in Russian).
  34. ^ "My path to Golgotha: An interview with Yury Dmitriev", Memorial website.
  35. ^ "Sandarmokh, The Day of Remembrance of the Victims of State Terror", a 28-minute film on YouTube (in Russian).
  36. ^ "Yury Dmitriev's supporters", Rights in Russia Weekly Update, No (258), 21 June 2017.
  37. ^ Change.org - «Мы требуем восстановления законности в деле Дмитриева» (We demand that the laws be respected in the case of Yury Dmitriev!)
  38. ^ "What is Memorial hiding", Rossiya-24, Evening news, 10 January 2017.
  39. ^ "Yury Dmitriev should be acquitted", Rights in Russia Weekly Update, No 23 (256) 12 June 2017, Zoya Svetova interviews Dmitriev defence attorney Victor Anufriev.
  40. ^ Alexander Gnetnev and Yelizaveta Maetnaya, "People trust him", Radio Svoboda, 1 June 2017 (in Russian).
  41. ^ "New experts in Dmitriev case come from a private firm with no office or staff", Novaya gazeta, 2 October 2017.
  42. ^ "The head of Memorial in Karelia has gone on trial, accused of preparing child pornography", Meduza daily news brief, 1 June 2017, in Russian.
  43. ^ Andrew Osborn, "Hunter of Stalin's mass graves on trial: friends say he's been framed", Reuters, World News, 13 July 2017.
  44. ^ Anna Yarovaya, "Four more experts testify in defence of Dmitriev", 7x7: Horizontal Russia news website, 11 July 2017.
  45. ^ "New experts in Dmitriev case come from a private firm with no office or staff", Novaya gazeta, 2 October 2017.
  46. ^ Anna Yarovaya, "New analysis of photos not ready - next hearing 29 November 2017", 7x7-Horizontal Russia, 25 October 2017 in The Dmitriev Affair website.
  47. ^ "Photos not pornographic, say new experts", Chernika, 26 December 2017.
  48. ^ Davidoff, Victor (13 October 2013). "Soviet Psychiatry Returns". Moscow Times. Retrieved 21 January 2018. 
  49. ^ "Dmitriev to be released on 28 January 2018", 7x7 - Horizontal Russia, 27 December 2017.
  50. ^ Gleb Yarovoi, Yelena Bayakina, "Dmitriev transferred to Moscow for psychiatric assessment", 7x7 - Horizontal Russia, 28 December 2017.
  51. ^ The Dmitriev Affair (Дело Дмитриева) Facebook page
  52. ^ https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/civil-society-and-media/2018/01/yuri-dmitriev-i-lived-same-cell-convicts-1937-1938
  53. ^ https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/01/27/75292-istorik-yuriy-dmitriev-na-svobode-foto-dnya
  54. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (5 April 2018). "Russian Historian Who Exposed Soviet Crimes Is Cleared in Pornography Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 April 2018. 
  55. ^ Osborn, Andrew (5 April 2018). "Russian historian who exposed Stalin's crimes cleared of child pornography". Reuters. Retrieved 6 April 2018. 
  56. ^ "One in 446: why Russian courts are issuing even fewer acquittals", RBC online, 25 April 2018 (in Russian). In 2017 acquittals fell to only 0,2% of all cases.
  57. ^ See data and sources, for example, in Partial Justice: An enquiry into the deaths of journalists in Russia, 1993-2009.
  58. ^ "City prosecutor to appeal against Dmitriev acquittal", Petrozavodsk Speaking, 13 April 2018.
  59. ^ 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, 14 June to 15 July, "Matches".
  60. ^ "Court will hear appeals in June", Stolitsa na Onego online newspaper, 16 May 2018 (in Russian).
  61. ^ Верховный суд Карелии отменил оправдательный приговор Юрию Дмитриеву (The Supreme Court of Karelia overturned the acquittal of Yury Dmitriev)
  62. ^ Lawyer: Russian Activist Arrested After Acquittal Reversed
  63. ^ Maria Eismont, "The Dmitriev case is the most important thing happening in Russia right now", The Russian Reader website, 8 July 2017, Russian original Vedomosti newspaper.
  64. ^ Nikolai Podosogorsky, "Alexander Gelman has recorded a video address in defence of the historian Yury Dmtriev", Live Journal, 25 July 2017 Retrieved 9 August 2017 (in Russian).
  65. ^ "Video clips", June-December 2017, Dmitriev Affair website.
  66. ^ Alexander Arkhangelsky, "Dmitriev found a lever to reverse the rotation of the globe", 22 June 2017, Dmitriev Affair website (in Russian).
  67. ^ Natalya Solzhenitsyn, 1 October 2017, Dmitriev Affair website (in Russian).
  68. ^ Sculptor Georgy Frangulyan, 27 October 2017, Dmitriev Affair website, with English translation.
  69. ^ Book in pdf format.
  70. ^ Volume about Krasny Bor killing field, edited by Dmitriev, 2017 reprint.
  71. ^ Book in pdf format.
  72. ^ "New books by Yury Dmitriev", Rights in Russia, Weekly Update No. 22 (255), 5 June 2017.
  73. ^ Mentions of Yury Dmitriev on Rights in Russia.

External links[edit]

English[edit]

Russian[edit]