An Inconvenient Voice: Yuri Dmitriev on Trial as 100th Anniversary of Communist Revolution Approaches
Contact: Elizabeth Childs
+1 (510) 547–2589
Yuri Dmitriev, noted Russian historian of Stalin’s Great Purges and chairman of the Karelia Memorial Society, is on trial as the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution approaches.
Dmitriev was arrested in December 2016, His trial began on June 1, 2017 and is ongoing as of August 10 at Petrozavodsk City Court. Dmitriev is accused of making child pornography, lewd acts, and the unlawful possession of a firearm. If found guilty, Dmitriev faces up to 15 years in prison.
Charges were based on characterizations made by the organization the Center for Sociocultural Expert Analysis, who were also involved in providing expert testimony against Jehovah’s Witnesses and the band Pussy Riot in politically-charged trials in Russia.
Dmitriev’s work and likely political targeting has recently been covered internationally:
- 24 July 2017, LA Times: “An outspoken researcher of Stalin’s crimes fights for his own fate and freedom in Russia”, http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-russia-dmitriev-20170724-story.html
- 3 August 2017, The Guardian (UK), “Gulag grave hunter unearths uncomfortable truths in Russia”, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/03/gulag-grave-hunter-yury-dmitriyev-unearths-uncomfortable-truths-russia
- 4 August 2017, The Barents Observer, “Karelian historian Yuri Dmitriev recognized as political prisoner”, https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/civil-society-and-media/2017/08/karelian-historian-yuri-dmitriev-recognized-political-prisoner
Dmitriev is known for locating sites of mass executions that had taken place during Stalin’s reign over the Soviet Union, as well as identifying the thousands of people buried there. This past week, for the first time in 20 years, Yuri Dmitriev was not present for the Days of Remembrance for those killed in the Purges due to his own imprisonment. At Solovetsky, a mourning rally as part of this year’s Days of Remembrance found itself under police scrutiny, for the first time ever.
Dmitriev was a key figure in finding the graves of Sandarmokh, where over 9,000 people were buried, victims of Stalin’s Great Purge in the late 1930s. As he remarked: “Old women need to know where their dead are buried, and I’m going to do everything to make that happen.”
With the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 only months away, Dmitriev is inconvenient as a figure who has kept the reality of Stalin’s atrocities alive in people’s memories, as Putin has been pushing a romanticized nostalgia for Stalin’s time. Many question the timeline and actions in Dmitriev’s trial.
Over a thousand people outside Russia have publicly voiced support for Yuri Dmitriev, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Anne Applebaum and Russian dissident and author Vladimir Voinovich. Inside the country, thousands of people in Russia have rallied to his support, including dozens of writers, dramatists, film-makers and musicians whose words in defense of Dmitriev have been posted on YouTube and other social media. Protesters and supporters are challenging Dmitriev’s prosecution, including the process and the experts involved in testifying. In a Change.org petition, over 30,000 signers have already demanded independent expert evaluation of evidence, and for the defendant and his lawyer to receive evidentiary materials — basic rights in judicial processes.
“We can see now historians being targeted by the state. We can see they are now being treated as the political opposition.”
- Nikolay Svanidze, a well-known TV anchor and popularizer of Russian history.
From “Stalin’s Shadow: How a Gulag Historian Fell Victim to Russia’s Dark Past” , 9 June 2017
“Yura [Dmitriev] showed me Sandarmokh. That was important to me. By that time, his book The Karelia Memorial Lists was nearly ready….Everyone spoke very well, including the relatives of the victims, who regarded Yura as an important, valuable person. Since then he has been one of my greatest friends, and a wonderful person with whom to speak when I want to talk frankly.”
- Anatoly RAZUMOV, Russian National Library and “Restoring the Names” website, quoted in https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/civil-society-and-media/2017/05/yuri-dmitriev-affair May 2017
“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. Perhaps, the powers that be will now do another good deed. They made him well-known, and thank God for that — now let them give him back his freedom and he will do yet more noble works.”
- Alexander GELMAN, dramatist and poet. A post on LiveJournal, 25 July 2017 http://philologist.livejournal.com/9492726.html?utm_source=fbsharing&utm_medium=social
- Change.org petition:
Public Appeal in Defense of GULAG researcher Yuri Dmitriev
- Article: “Police check the rally in memory of victims of political repressions”, 9 August 2017. https://7x7-journal.ru/anewsitem/97498/2017/08/09
- List of Dmitriev supporters: Appeals broadcast in support of Yury Dmitriev by writer Dmitry Bykov and musician Boris Grebenshchikov
- Rally in support of Dmitriev: https://7x7-journal.ru/anewsitem/96665/2017/07/11
- Russian language articles: “The Khottabych case”, “Each follows his own path to Golgotha”, “The Verdict of Sandarmokh”
- Wikipedia article on Yury A. Dmitriev: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yury_A._Dmitriev
- Wikipedia article on Sandarmokh: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandarmokh
- Wikipedia article on the Great Purge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Purge
- Rights in Russia — and on Twitter
- Memorial (Russian)
If you would like to speak to me about the trial, please don’t hesitate to contact me at Russian.email@example.com or +1 (510) 547–2589
Facebook: Free Yuri Dmitriev (English)
All are fluent in English.
Zoia Barzakh / Зоя Барзах — Russian activist free to speak from Israel
President, Russian Human Rights Alert