The case of Yury Dmitriev: “He always expected an attack”

posted 24 Apr 2017, 08:38 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Apr 2017, 08:41 ]
18 April 2017

By Elizaveta Mayetnaya, Radio Liberty

Source: [original source: Radio Svoboda]

A criminal investigation concerning Yury Dmitriev – the 61-year-old historian who heads the Karelian branch of the Memorial human-rights NGO -- has been completed. The case has been referred to the prosecutor's office before being sent to the court. Dmitriev is accused of child pornography (taking photographs of his adopted daughter when she was a minor), obscenity, and illegal possession of a firearm. Since his arrest in December 2016, Dmitriev has been kept in pre-trial detention.

Dozens of international and Russian human rights organisations have spoken in Dmitriev’s support. However, the court has not only ordered that the distinguished historian must remain in custody until mid-May; it has also placed a limit on the time allowed [for his defence] to study the case against him.

As Radio Liberty has learned, European historians and cultural figures have appealed to Karen Gabrielyan, Karelia’s chief prosecutor, not only to release Dmitriev from detention but also to ensure "the observance of his rights in accordance with Russian and international human-rights law and, above all, his right to a fair trial." Otherwise, the signatories write in their appeal to the Prosecutor, of which Radio Liberty has a copy, they will launch a campaign “to include those involved in Dmitriev’s prosecution on the Magnitsky Act list.”[1]

"Yury Dmitriev’s arrest and detention on improbable charges have aroused great concern among academics, historians and cultural figures in Poland and other European countries. We are alarmed by reports that the state-controlled mass media are presenting Dmitriev's case in a way that is aimed at harming not only his reputation, but also that of the authoritative NGO Memorial,” wrote members of Poland’s KARTA Centre, which studies modern European history, maintains substantial archives and engages in educational activity.[2]

In August 2015, on the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression, Poland’s Ambassador to Russia, Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, presented Yury Dmitriev with the Gold Cross of Merit, both for his work to preserve memory, and for his services to the Polish people.

“Sandarmokh”,[3] “Solovki”,[4] "Memorial Lists of Karelia"[5]—these are the words that best sum up the life and work of Yury Dmitriev. Dmitriev was among those who discovered the Sandarmokh cemetery, the largest burial-ground of victims of political repression in Karelia. Its ten hectares were used by the NKVD [the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, responsible for political repression under the rule of Joseph Stalin] as a secret firing-range where over 9,500 people, of sixty nationalities, were shot and buried in 1937-1938. With his own hands, Dmitriev dug up the corpses and recorded the names of the prisoners buried on Mount Sekirnaya in the Solovki prison camp.[6]

According to his fellow historians, Dmitriev has a unique ability to discover things. He also did a great deal to discover many other cemeteries, which have been made into memorial sites. “People, do not kill one another!” – these words, voiced by Dmitriev, are engraved in stone at the entrance to the Sandarmokh memorial complex.

[Read more in Russian here  or here

[1] For background information, see and

[2] For information, see



[5] [in Russian]

[6] Described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn as “the mother of the GULag,” the Solovki prison camp was located on the Solovetsky Islands in north-western Russia. It was used as a forced labour camp for political prisoners both in Imperial Russia and later in the Soviet period. Source:

Translated and annotated by Elizabeth Teague