10/01/2020, 16.41
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Yury Dmitriev, the historian of the Sandarmokh mass graves, gets 13 years in a penal colony

by Vladimir Rozanskij

He researched the summary executions of prisoners at the camp Solovetsky Islands, set up under Lenin and operated under Stalin. His research was not appreciated by the authorities, including Russia’s secret services. Pieces of evidence were manipulated or withheld in order to charge him. The sentence is seen as "the total victory of evil". Supporters call him a "political prisoner".

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Yury Dmitriev, a Russian historian and famous researcher into Stalin’s crimes, was sentenced to 13 years in a penal colony on charges of child abuse.

The Supreme Court of Karelia (Russian Finland) issued the verdict on Tuesday, overturning a ruling by the Petrozavodsk City Court, which had sentenced him to three years and six months in prison.

For the Russian press, the decision is "the total victory of evil", given the clearly political nature of the sentence. In just three days, the regional court overturned the city court, claiming to have reviewed all aspects of the case and found overwhelming evidence of Dmitriev's guilt.

However, no one has had a chance to review the evidence. The court’s decision has caused great consternation. The previous sentence already seemed absolutely unfounded, and people were expecting to see the historian released and full rehabilitated.

Yury Dmitriev, 64, is known for his research on the mass graves of Sandarmokh, a forest massif in northern Karelia where prisoners from the Solovki prison camp on Solovetsky Islands were executed place at the end of 1937.

Clergymen from various religious communities lost their lives in this camp, which was first set up under Lenin and continued to operate under Stalin. One of the victims was the famous theologian Pavel Florensky.

Dmitriev’s research displeased the authorities, including Russia’s the secret services, which tried to stop any investigation by any means in the past few years.

Emilia Slabunova, a Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Karelia, calls the verdict a “death sentence for the person and for historical truth", a "new execution" in the very heart of the country's memory.

The court satisfied the desire for revenge of the services against Dmitriev’s excessive activism. Over the recent past, he never stopped his quest for the truth, even when they tried to block the recognition of Sandarmokh's remains by invoking state secret and claiming that the remains belonged to Soviet soldiers who died in war rather than concentration camp prisoners killed at the site.

On the day of the sentence, a colleague and supporter of Dmitriev, Anatoly Razumov, was also arrested at the Supreme Court building, as he gave interviews to journalists displaying a sign that read: “We shall not allow a repeat of Sandarmokh”.

Yury Dmitriev, known as the "guardian of history", heads the Karelia section of the Memorial Society, which records and documents of Stalin’s Great Terror. In Sandarmokh he set up a monumental slab to the memory of the victims of the Solovki prison camp near the mass graves, putting the names of the victims on the trees of the forest, since it is nearly impossible to identified the remains found in the many burial pits.

Dmitriev has also published several documents and memoirs, with the names and biographies of thousands of victims.

He was arrested in December 2016, on various charges, including sexual abuse of his foster daughter and allegedly taking pornographic images of her (found on his computer).

In 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted the historian of all charges, also thanks to the action of many Russian intellectuals, such as writer Ljudmila Ulitskaya, as well as many ordinary Russians.

However, the regional court challenged the verdict and ordered a new trial, which ended in a sentenced of three and a half years by the city court, which was overturned last week by the region’s supreme court.

For Dmitriev's colleagues and supporters, Dmitriev is a "political prisoner".

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