Can Gulag Historian Yuri A. Dmitriev Receive a Fair Trial?
Contact: Elizabeth Childs
+1 (510) 547–2589
Yuri Dmitriev, Russian historian, chairman of the Karelia Memorial Society, and GULAG scholar is on trial in Petrozavodsk City Court, behind closed doors with no media access. Dmitriev was arrested in December 2016, His trial began on June 1, 2017 and is ongoing as of July 11.
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 groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the band Pussy Riot in politically-charged trials in Russia.
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. An example of such a site is Sandarmokh, where over 9,000 people were buried, victims of Stalin’s Great Purge in the late 1930s.
Dmitriev was a key figure in finding these graves; as he remarked: “Old women need to know where their dead are buried, and I’m going to do everything to make that happen.”
Over a thousand people have publicly voiced support for Yuri Dmitriev, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Anne Applebaum and Russian dissident and author Vladimir Voinovich. On 11 July 2017, about 50 people rallied in Petrozavodsk, in support of Dmitriev and to protest his prosecution.
Protesters and supporters question Dmitriev’s prosecution, including the process and the experts involved in testifying. In a Change.org petition, over 1500 signers ask for independent expert evaluation of evidence, and for the defendant and his lawyer to receive evidentiary materials, both basic rights in judicial processes.
“We can see now historians being targeted by the state,” says Nikolay Svanidze, a well-known TV anchor and popularizer of Russian history. “We can see they are now being treated as the political opposition.”
-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, from “The Yuri Dmitriev Affair”
- Change.org petition: Public Appeal in Defense of GULAG researcher Yuri Dmitriev
- 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
- “Stalin’s Shadow: How a Gulag Historian Fell Victim to Russia’s Dark Past” by Mikhail Fishman, The Moscow Times, 9 June 2017. English language.
- “The Yuri Dmitriev Affair”, The Independent Barents Observer, 11 May 2017. English language.
- Russian language articles: “The Khottabych case”, “Each follows his own path to Golgotha”, “The Verdict of Sandarmokh”
- 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
- Human Rights Watch
- Memorial (Russian)
If you would like to speak to me about the trial, please don’t hesitate to contact me at Russian.firstname.lastname@example.org 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