‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Dmitry Vitushkin is a political prisoner

7 February 2024

Dmitry Vitushkin is a local historian from St. Petersburg charged with rehabilitation of Nazism and disrespect for the ‘days of military glory’ for comments about the Soviet-Finnish war.

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international standards, considers Dmitry Vitushkin a political prisoner. Vitushkin is being prosecuted on charges of rehabilitation of Nazism and dissemination of information expressing disrespect for the ‘days of military glory’ for comments he posted about the 1939-40 Soviet-Finnish war in a group on the VK social media site. Vitushkin’s criminal prosecution violates his rights to freedom of thought, expression and dissemination of information.

We demand the immediate release of Dmitry Vitushkin and that all criminal charges against him be dropped.

Who is Dmitry Vitushkin and what is the background to his case?

Dmitry Vitushkin, 40, is a well-known local historian from St. Petersburg. He made a series of historical programmes entitled ‘Petersburg to Petersburg,’ has acted as a guide for popular excursions around the city and has run a group – ‘Ingermanlandia’ – on the VK social media site about the history of St. Petersburg.

On 16 December 2022, a post about Simo Häyuhä, a Finnish sniper during the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939-40, appeared in the ‘Ingermanlandia’ group on VK. Under this post there took place a discussion about the role of the Soviet Union, Finland and other countries in the Second World War.

Four comments left by users ‘Ingermanlandia’ and ‘Vladislav Zarya’ became grounds for the initiation of a criminal case for ‘rehabilitation of Nazism’ (Article 354.1, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and ‘dissemination of information expressing disrespect to the days of military glory’ (Article 354.1, Part 4, of the Russian Criminal Code). The investigative authorities attributed the posts to Dmitry Vitushkin.

On 12 October 2023, the police searched Vitushkin’s home. The next day Vitushkin was remanded in custody.

Why do we consider Vitushkin a political prisoner?

We do not know whether Dmitry Vitushkin is actually the author of the comments attributed to him. Nevertheless, these comments do not constitute a public danger and cannot be grounds for criminal prosecution.

Analysis of the comments indicates that they are an expression of the author’s own opinion. We emphasise that both the interpretation and commemoration of historical events should remain legitimate subjects for public debate.

We consider that Article 354.1 of the Russian Criminal Code on ‘rehabilitation of Nazism’ constitutes an unreasonable restriction on freedom of speech. The provisions of this article criminalise the expression of opinion about past events, prohibit criticism of official symbols, and outlaw critical statements about veterans.

The increase in severity of the article of the Russian Criminal Code on the rehabilitation of Nazism in 2021 was politically motivated. For decades, the Russian authorities have been trying to monopolise the memory of World War II and make it part of a state ideology that combines features of great-power chauvinism, militant revanchism and notions of the superiority of Russia over the rest of the world. Today, these ideas help Russian propaganda provide ideological justification for the ongoing military aggression against Ukraine.

A detailed description of the case of Dmitry Vitushkin and the position of the Human Rights Project are available on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ agrees with, or approves, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

You can write to Dmitry Vitushkin at the following address:

In Russian: 196655, г. Санкт-Петербург, г. Колпино, ул. Колпинская, д. 9, стр. 1, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Санкт-Петербургу и Ленинградской области, Витушкину Дмитрию Александровичу 1983 г. р.

English translation: Dmitry Aleksandrovich Vitushkin (born 1983), Remand Prison No. 1, Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for St. Petersburg, 9 Kolpinskaya Street, Kolpino, St. Petersburg, 196655, Russia.

You can also send an electronic letter via the F-Pismo or Zonatelecom services.

Please note that letters in languages other than Russian are highly unlikely to reach the recipient.

Up-to-date information about the case can be found on the Telegram channel of Dmitry Vitushkin’s support group.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via our website. 

Translated by Rights in Russia

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