Person of the Week: Yury Dmitriev

Week-ending 10 July 2020

On 7 July 2020 prosecutors asked a court in Petrozavodsk to sentence historian and human rights activist Yury Dmitriev, head of the Memorial organisation in Karelia who located the execution site in Sandarmokh of over 9,000 victims of Stalinism, to 15 years in prison on charges of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter — an allegation he and his supporters deny. In 2018 Dmitriev had been acquitted in a first trial on similar charges. A verdict in the case is expected on Wednesday, 22 July 2020.


Russian Prosecutor Seeks 15-Year Sentence For Rights Activist, Gulag Historian

PETROZAVODSK, Russia — Prosecutors have asked a court in Russia’s northwestern Karelia region to sentence Yury Dmitriyev, a Russian historian and human rights activist, to 15 years in prison on charges of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter — an allegation he and his supporters deny.

The prosecution argued its case in Petrozavodsk City Court against the 64-year-old head of the Karelia branch of the Moscow-based human rights group Memorial as the high-profile trial entered its final stage on July 7.

Supporters of Dmitriyev, who is also a renowned gulag researcher, have said the charges were brought against him because of his research into a side of history that complicates the Kremlin’s glorification of the Soviet past.

RFE/RL, 7 July 2020

Yury A. Dmitriev

Yury Alexeyevich Dmitriev (born 1956 in Petrozavodsk) is a civil 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. As a result of his commitment, Karelia’s past is better documented in this respect than almost any other part of the Russian Federation.

On 13 December 2016 Dmitriev was arrested and charged with making pornographic images of his foster daughter, Natasha. 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. 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 sickly child.

After a psychiatric examination at the Serbsky Institute in Moscow, the historian was released from custody on 27 January 2018 on condition that he did not leave Petrozavodsk. The charges against him were not dropped and the next court hearing was scheduled for 27 February 2018. 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.  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. Dmitriev was again arrested in June 2018, supposedly for breaching the terms of his release in January. On 14 June the Supreme Court of Karelia overturned the April verdict and ordered a retrial. Later additional charges were added and Dmitriev again underwent a psychiatric examination.

When Dmitriev was first arrested at the end of 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.


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