Quote for the Week. Halya Coynash: “There are strong grounds for linking the persecution of Dmitriev with attempts by the current Russian regime to whitewash the darkest pages of Soviet history.” 

Week-ending 30 July 2021

Yury Dmitriev

“It is thanks to Dmitriev and his Memorial colleagues that thousands of Ukrainians, Russians and representatives of other nationalities have learned the fate of their parents or grandparents.  It was they who discovered the mass graves at the Sandarmokh Clearing in Karelia where the last remains lie of nine thousand victims of the Terror.  Among them were 1,111 prisoners of the notorious Solovetsky Labour Camp, killed by quota from 27 October to 4 November 1937.  They included 289 Ukrainian writers, playwrights, scientists and other members of the intelligentsia.  There are strong grounds for linking the persecution of Dmitriev and, probably, of fellow historian of the Terror, Sergei Koltyrin, with attempts by the current Russian regime to whitewash the darkest pages of Soviet history.  Dmitriev’s arrest coincided with the beginning of attempts to claim that some of the unmarked graves at Sandarmokh are those of Soviet soldiers supposedly killed by the Finnish Army.  There are no grounds for believing this, and both Dmitriev and Koltyrin had publicly rejected the claims.”

-Halya Coynash, ‘Russia is trying to destroy historian Yury Dmitriev and “what they’ve done to his daughter is even more horrifying”,’ Human Rights in Ukraine, 30 July 2021

Halya Coynash notes in her article: ‘This is the third attempt to get a conviction on the flawed ‘child pornography’ charges is once again at the Petrozavodsk City Court, with the trial beginning on 2 April under judge Yekaterina Khomyakova. There are reasons for concern given her attempt to replace Dmitriev’s chosen lawyer, and then to punish the lawyer who rightly refused to be appointed to the case when Dmitriev has his own lawyer. Hearings resumed after a break on 20 July, with four days that week, then 27 July.  The witnesses for the defence have included Natasha’s teachers, her friends and Dmitriev’s Memorial colleague and friend, Anatoly Razumov. […] The next hearing has now been scheduled for 10 August, after the initial schedule being for the fourth and fifth of the month.  It is unlikely that Khomyakova took the significance of 5 August into account, however the timing had certainly been noticed.  That day marks the beginning of the annual International Days of Remembrance at Sandarmokh, which until his arrest Dmitriev attended every year. ‘ 

Yury Dmitriev is currently serving a 13-year prison term on charges of ‘acts of a sexual nature towards an underage child’ (Article 132 § 4 of the Russian Criminal Code) widely believed to be trumped up. On this, see Halya Coynash, ‘Russian Historian Yuri Dmitriev sentenced to 13 years in revenge for restoring the truth about the Soviet Terror,’ Human Rights in Ukraine, 30 September 2020

Related news:

Human Rights in Ukraine: Libraries and book shops in Russia and, presumably in occupied Crimea, have been feverishly purging their shelves since a new law came into force making it a criminal offence to equate the actions of the USSR and Nazi Germany during the Second World War.   Since the two regimes collaborated until 22 June 1941, with both invading Poland in September 1939, the censoring of history will not be easy. Novaya Gazeta writes that the panic began on 12 July, after the relevant bill, which was signed by President Vladimir Putin on 1 July, came into force. As reported, the bill first tabled in the State Duma on 5 May on Amendments to the Law ‘On immortalizing the Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945’, bans any public statements likening the roles played by the USSR and Nazi Germany in World War II.  On 12 July, amendments were also made to the Federal Law ‘On countering extremist activities’ which prohibit not only the use of symbols linked with Nazi criminals, but also their pictures.

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