Sandarmokh: Rewriting History with Shovels

content_IMG_9455“Alternative” excavations at Sandarmokh. Photo by Irina Tumakova. Courtesy of Novaya Gazeta

Sifting through History: The “Alternative” Excavations at Sandarmokh Are Meant to Shift the Public’s Attention from Great Terror Victims to WWII Casualties
Pavel Aptekar
Vedomosti
August 20, 2019

The ongoing excavations by the Russian Military History Society (RVIO) at the Sandarmokh site in [Russian] Karelia, where political prisoners were shot during the Great Terror, reflects the desire of Russian officials to switch the public’s attention to the Second World War.

In August, RVIO employees and a Defense Ministry search battalion resumed digging at Sandarmokh. Karelian Culture Minister Alexei Lesonen said the objective was to “separate artifacts having to do with different layers of history and different circumstances.”

It is a matter of words matching deeds. In 1997, local historian Yuri Dmitriev discovered the mass graves of people shot by the NKVD in 1937–1938. Thanks to Dmitriev’s efforts, Sandarmokh became a symbol of the Great Terror.

International Memorial Society board member Sergei Krivenko puts a number on it: archival documents have confirmed that over 6,100 people were shot and buried at Sandarmokh during the Great Terror.

In keeping with the Kremlin’s policy of “inculcating pride in the past,” the authorities have attempted, in recent years, to diminish Sandarmokh’s status as a memorial site. The authorities have tried to discredit Dmitriev and, by his extension, his work by charging him in a notorious “pedophilia” case [in which two men have already been convicted and sentenced, including Sergei Koltyrin, former director of the Medvezhyegorsk Museum and an ally of Dmitriev’s]. They have claimed Memorial’s figures for the number of victims are inflated. They have pushed an alternate account that the Finnish Army shot and buried Soviet POWS at Sandarmokh between 1941 and 1944.

The RVIO’s August–September 2018 expedition turned up the remains of five people. Historian Sergei Verigin said they corroborated the hypothesis about Soviet POWS because the executed people had not been stripped before they were shot and foreign-made shell casings were found next to them. This proves nothing, however. The NKVD used foreign-made weapons when it executed its prisoners [22,000 Polish officers and members of the Polish intelligentsia] at Katyn, nor have the RVIO established when exactly the people whose remains they found were killed.

The Karelian Culture Ministry has asked the RVIO to keep digging. Officials there are convinced that “speculation about events in Sandarmokh […] reinforces in the public’s mind a baseless sense of guilt towards the alleged [Great Terror] victims […] becoming a consolidating factor for anti-government forces in Russia.”

The RVIO did not respond to our request to comment on the claim that the people shot and buried at Sandarmokh were “alleged victims.” They keep digging In early August, the remains of five more people were found.

Memorial has demanded an end to the excavations, fearing the mass graves will be disturbed. Archaeologists have also sounded a warning because the traces of dwelling sites used by prehistoric people have been found at Sandarmokh as well and they could be damaged.

The problem, however, is not that artifacts could get mixed up. The problem is there is no comparison between the maximum possible number of Soviet POWs executed and buried at Sandarmokh, as estimated by the Karelian Culture Ministry, and the confirmed numbers of victims of Stalin’s terror campaign who are buried there: 500 versus over 6,100.

The digs at Sandarmokh are a clumsy attempt by Russian officials to alter the meaning of the memorial site and rewrite the past with shovels. More importantly, officials want to juggle the numbers of victims and thus gaslight the Russian public.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Without Fathers, a video made by Anna Artemieva and Gleb Limansky, and published by Novaya Gazeta on August 7, 2017. The annotation reads, “The orphans of Sandarmokh remember their executed relatives. Historian Yuri Dmitriev did not attend memorial day ceremonies there for the first time in twenty years. He is on trial, charged with ‘manufacturing child pornography.'” 

Double Jeopardy: Yuri Dmitriev’s Acquittal Quashed by Karelian Supreme Court

dmitrievYuri Dmitriev. Photo by Anna Yarovaya. Courtesy of 7X7

Karelian Supreme Court Overturns Karelian Researcher Yuri Dmitriev’s Acquittal 
Anna Yarovaya
7X7
June 14, 2018

The Karelian Supreme Court has overturned the acquittal of Yuri Dmitriev, head of the Karelian branch of the International Memorial Society. His defense counsel, Viktor Anufriev, reported the news after the June 14 court hearing.

According to Anufriev, the prosecution made a motion to summon the children’s ombudsman and a psychologist who had examined Dmitriev’s foster daughter to testify. Anufriev opposed the motion, while the court supported it. The court heard from the girl’s grandmother, who had filed an appeal against the acquittal.

After the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted Dmitriev of the charge of producing pornography involving a juvenile, his foster daughter was referred to a psychologist for an examination. According to Anufriev, during the examination, Dmitriev’s foster daughter was coerced into making a statement that she was upset and disgraced. This was one of the reasons Anufriev’s acquittal was overturned. Anufriev called the fact the authorities had involved the child in the case an “abomination.”

Consequently, the Karelian Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and returned the case to the Petrozavodsk City Court to be retried.

Yuri Dmitriev is head of the Karelian branch of the International Memorial Society who researches the Stalinist Terror. He was detained on December 13, 2016, and charged with producing pornography. According to police investigators, Dmitriev had photographed his foster daughter in the nude. The defense argued that the photographs were part of a diary monitoring the girl’s growth, which Dmitriev kept for children’s protective services. The expert witnesses concurred with this argument.

Dmitriev’s trial began on June 1, 2017. The case was heard in closed chambers. Dmitriev stood accused of violating three articles of the Russian Criminal Code: Article 242.2 (“Producing pornography involving the depiction of minors”); Article 135 (“Sexual abuse not involving violence”), and Article 222 (“Illegal possession of a firearm”).

At the request of Petrozavodsk City Prosecutor Elena Askerova, the Serbsky Institute performed a forensic psychiatric examination on Dmitriev on January 22, 2018, for which purpose the historian was specially transported under armed guard to Moscow. On January 27, 2018, Dmitriev was released from remand prison on his own recognizance. On February 27, 2018, the court release the findings of the examination: Dmitriev had been deemed healthy.

Prosecutor Askerova asked the court to sentence Dmitriev to nine years in a maximum security penal colony. Defense counsel Anufriev called the Dmitriev case a mockery of the historian’s daughter. On April 5, 2018, the court acquitted Dmitriev on the charge of producing pornography. The judge found Dmitriev guilty of the charge of illegally possessing a firearm and sentenced him two years and six months of parole. Considering the time Dmitriev had already served in the remand prison, the sentence was reduced to three months.

On May 12, 2018, with the court’s permission, Dmitriev was able to attend the Moscow Helsinki Group’s Human Rights Awards ceremony. He was awarded a prize for his historic contribution to the defense of human rights.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Read my previous postings on the Dmitriev case and the context in which it has taken place.

Karelian Historian Yuri Dmitriev Acquitted of Trumped-Up Charges

333Yuri Dmitriev. Photo by Gleb Yarovoi. Courtesy of 7X7

Court Acquits Karelian Historian Yuri Dmitriev of Pornography Charges
Anna Yarovaya
7X7
March 5, 2018

In Petrozavodsk, Judge Marina Nosova acquitted Yuri Dmitriev, head of Memorial Karelia and a historian of the Great Terror, of charges he had produced pornography involving images of minors.

The judge acquitted Mr. Dmitriev on the charges of manufacturing pornographic matter depicting minors and committing nonviolent acts of sexual abuse. On the charge of illegal possession of a firearm, the judge sentenced Mr. Dmitriev to two years and six months of police supervision. Deducting the time Mr. Dmitriev already spent in the Petrozavodsk Remand Prison, he will be under police supervision for three months. During this time, he will have to report to a parole officer periodically.

Defense attorney Viktor Anufriev commented on the court’s decision.

“Yesterday, the media quoted the president’s statement that judges who failed to uphold the law should look for other jobs. Today’s verdict is confirmation the president’s statement was heeded. Yuri Alexeyevich has been acquitted on nearly all counts. The court awarded him the right to vindication and compensation for pain and suffering. He was convicted of possessing part of a smoothbore gun and sentenced to two years and six months of police supervision, meaning he must report to the parole inspector twice a month. He spent one year, one month, and fifteen days in police custody. One day in custody is equal to two days of community service, meaning he has already served two years and three months of his sentence,” said Mr. Anufriev.

Yan Rachinsky, chair of the International Memorial Society, came to Petrozavodsk for the reading of the verdict.

“It’s a completely outrageous case. When a man like this, the champion of a cause, is accused of god knows what, the accusation cannot be real. My natural reaction is to do what I can to voice my solidarity. Solidarity takes various shapes. But today is the day of the verdict. I have been more worried about the plight of a specific person than how it has affected Memorial. This is much more important. But yes, of course, various contemptible means of mass disinformation have glommed onto the story. What can you do? You cannot force anyone to be honest,” said Mr. Rachinsky.

Like the entire trial, the verdict was announced in closed chambers. [Verdicts must be read out in open court according to Russian law—TRR.] Before the hearing, court bailiffs blocked the hallway, and reporters, friends, and Mr. Dmitriev’s supporters were unable to approach the courtroom doors the entire time.

Mr. Dmitriev was detained on December 13, 2016. According to police investigators, he had photographed his foster daughter while she was naked. The historian’s defense counsel claimed the photos were part of a diary, charting the girl’s health, that Mr. Dmitriev kept for children’s protection services because his foster daughter was abnormally thin. Court-appointed experts corroborated these claims.

Mr. Dmitriev’s trial in Petrozavodsk City Court commenced on June 1, 2017. The case was heard in closed chambers. Mr. Dmitriev was charged under three articles of the Russian Federal Criminal Code: Article 242.2 (production of pornographic matter depicting minors), Article 135 (nonviolent sexual abuse), and Article 222 (illegal possession of a firearm).

During the investigation, the photographs in question were subjected to two forensic examinations. The first examination deemed the photographs pornographic. The second examination, on the contrary, found no traces of pornography in them.

On January 22, 2018, the Serbsky Institute performed a psychiatric examination of Mr. Dmitriev, for which purpose the historian was transported under armed guard to Moscow. On February 27, 2018, the court announced Mr. Dmitriev had been deemed mentally healthy.

On January 27, 2018, Mr. Dmitriev was released from remand prison on his own recognizance. In the first interview he granted after his release, he spoke of life in prison and his plans to finish a book.

On March 20, 2018, Petrozavodsk City Prosecutor Yelena Askerova asked the court to sentence Mr. Dmitriev to nine years in a maximum security penal colony. On March 22, 2018, Mr. Anufriev said the Dmitriev case was a mockery of the historian’s foster daughter. A series of solo pickets in support of Mr. Dmitriev took place in Petrozavodsk on March 25 and March 26, 2018.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Read my previous coverage of the Dmitriev case.

 

Defense Asks for Acquittal of Historian Yuri Dmitriev on All Charges

Defense in Dmitriev Case Asks for Acquittal of Historian on All Charges
Valery Potashov
Chernika
March 22, 2018

Anufriev
Yuri Dmitriev’s defense attorney Viktor Anufriev. Photo by Valery Potashov. Courtesy of Chernika

On March 22, defense attorney Viktor Anufriev made his closing arguments in Petrozavodsk City Court, where the criminal case against Yuri Dmitriev, the famous researcher of Stalin’s Great Terror, has been heard in closed chambers. Mr. Anufriev asked the court to acquit Mr. Dmitriev on all counts, including the main charge, production of child pornography using his foster daughter.

“I was given the time to make a closing argument, which is what I did. I asked that Yuri Alexeyevich be acquitted on all counts and explained to the court why it should do this,” Mr. Anufriev told reporters after the hearing.

V-sude
Defendant Yuri Dmitriev and his eldest daughter Katya in the courthouse hallway. Photo by Valery Potashov. Courtesy of Chernika

He noted that Mr. Dmitriev had indeed taken photographs of his foster daughter when she was naked, but that these actions were not evidence of the crime of which the historian had been accused.

“There was no sexual motive. He is not a pedophile. He is mentally fit, and he made the photographs in order to monitor the child’s health. His objectives were medical. This was the conclusion of the last two forensic examinations, which were trustworthy, I would say,” Mr. Anufriev emphasized.

Commenting on the closing argument of Prosecutor Yelena Askerova, who two days earlier had asked the court to sentence Mr. Dmitriev to nine years in a maximum security penal colony, Mr. Anufriev noted that the criminal charges against the researcher had been filed unlawfully.

AskerovaPetrozavodsk Prosecutor Yelena Askerova. Photo courtesy of Guberniya Daily and Chernika

“He was arrested without sufficient cause, and the foster daughter was removed from his custody and taken out of the city. This what was caused mental harm to the child, not Yuri Alexeyevich’s actions.”

Mr. Anufriev also voiced the opinion that Petrozavodsk Prosecutor Yelena Askerova’s decision to ask the court to find Mr. Dmitriev guilty on all counts of the original charges was made by the Karelian Prosecutor’s Office.

“The prosecutor’s office is an agency where everyone wears a uniform and has a rank. There is a chain of command. The law says prosecutor’s offices are independent. But they are not independent when it comes to stating their position today. They have vetted their position with the prosecutor’s office that oversees them, so it follows that the overseeing prosecutor gave the command to press for a guilty verdict,” Mr. Anufriev told reporters.

Pristavy
Judge Marina Nosova asked the bailiffs not to let people into the courtroom. Photo by Valery Potashov. Courtesy of Chernika

According to Mr. Anufriev, on March 27, the parties to the trial will be given time to make counterarguments, and then the judge will allow Mr. Dmitriev to make a closing statement before retiring to chambers to deliberate her decision. It is noteworthy that even before today’s hearing in the Dmitriev case, Judge Marina Nosova asked the court bailiffs not to let people who had come to support Mr. Dmitriev get near the courtroom doors.

Mr. Dmitriev’s trial in Petrozavodsk City Court began in June 2017. He was remanded in police custody for over a year and was only released from the remand prison after undergoing an inpatient forensic examination at the Serbsky National Medical Research Center for Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine in Moscow. The examining physicians concluded the defendant had no pedophilic propensities whatsoever.

Thanks to Victoria Andreyeva for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Emilia Slabunova: Why Is Nikita Mikhalkov Not in Jail with Yuri Dmitriev?

Still from the documentary film “Anna from Six to Eighteen” (1993), Nikita Mikhalkov, director

Why Is Nikita Mikhalkov Not in Jail with Yuri Dmitriev?
Emilia Slabunova
Echo of Moscow
October 24, 2017

Tomorrow, October 25, a court in Petrozavodsk will hold the latest hearing in the trial of Yuri Dmitriev, a historian and head of the International Memorial Society’s Karelian branch. I should explain a few things for those of you unfamiliar with the case. Dmitriev established the names of thousands of victims of the Stalinist terror, and has published several volumes memorializing the victims of political terror during the 1930s and 1940s in Karelia. For thirty years, he searched for secret burial sites of Gulag prisoners in the republic, discovering in the process the mass graves of executed political prisoners at Sandarmokh and Krasny Bor. One of the cofounders of the memorial complex at Sandarmokh, Dmitriev has researched the history of how the White Sea-Baltic Canal was built.

Dmitriev was arrested in December 2016. According to police investigators, from 2012 to to 2015, he photographed his foster daughter, who turned eleven in 2016, in the nude, but did not published the snapshots. The only evidence in the case that has been made public is a photograph of his granddaughter and foster daughter running naked into the bathroom. Dmitriev himself has claimed that he took the snapshots of his underage foster daughter as a record of her health and physical growth after he took her from an orphanage, where she had shown signs of being unwell. Dmitriev stored the photos of his foster daughter on his home computer. They were not posted in the internet.

What does Nikita Mikhalkov have do with this, you ask? Because the world-famous filmmaker shot a quite well-known documentary film,  Anna from Six to Eighteen (1993). In the film, Mikhalkov’s eldest daughter Anna responds to the same questions each year over thirteen years. Her responses are edited together with a newsreel of the year’s events. There are shots in which Anna is shown completely nude. It is easy enough to verify this, because the film is accessible on the Web. For example, watch the scene that begins at the thirteen-minute mark.

Mikhalkov won several awards for the film: a Silver Dove at the 1994 Leipzig International Documentary Film Festival, the Grand Prix at the 1994 Golden Knight International Film Festival of Slavic and Orthodox Peoples, and the Prize for Best Documentary at the 1996 Hamptons International Film Festival.

Why has one man been jailed for doing something for which another man has been celebrated? Why can you show your naked daughter to the whole word, while it is a crime to record your foster daughter’s maturation for child protection services and not show the photos to anyone else?

Is it because Mikhalkov supports the current regime, while Dmitriev investigates the crimes of the Stalin regime, restores the names of those who perished in the Great Terror, and unmasks the executioners? It is noteworthy that the day after tomorrow, October 26, is the seventh anniversary of Mikhalkov’s “Manifesto of Enlightened Conservatism,” in which he singled out “loyalty to the regime, the ability to obey authoritative power gracefully,” and consolidating the so-called power vertical as primary values.

Dmitriev’s arrest was clearly provoked his human rights work. Many people in Karelia know Dmitriev as an honest, decent man not afraid to tell the truth, a truth that is sometimes unpleasant to the authorities and law enforcement agencies. The Memorial Human Rights Center has declared Dmitriev a political prisoner.

The Dmitriev case is politically motivated. This is obvious to everyone, including such well-known Russian public figures as writer Dmitry Bykov, musician Boris Grebenshchikov, actor Veniamin Smekhov, writer Ludmila Ulitskaya, and their numerous colleagues who have recorded video messages in support of Dmitriev. Nikita Mikhalkov was not among them.

Russian filmmaker and screenwriter Oleg Dorman speaks in support of Yuri Dmitriev. Published on YouTube, 22 November 2017

In a few days, the country will mark the mournful Day of Remembrance of Victims of Political Repression. Among them will be the victims of the present day.

Emilia Slabunova is national chair of the Yabloko Democratic Party. Thanks to Gabriel Levy for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Maria Eismont: The Dmitriev Case Is the Most Important Thing Happening in Russia Right Now

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Yuri Dmitriev. Photo courtesy of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

The Yuri Dmitriev Case
The Accused Should Be Nominated for a State Prize
Maria Eismont
Vedomosti
June 8, 2017

“A person cannot disappear without a trace. People differ from butterflies in the sense that people have memory,” the man with long grey hair and long grey beard said onscreen.

The presentation of books of remembrance for those shot during the Great Terror in Karelia packed the screening room at the Gulag History Museum in Moscow: people even sat on the stairways. The editor of the books, Karelian historian and search specialist Yuri Dmitriev, from Memorial, was the man talking onscreen. He has spent the last six months in a pretrial detention center, absurdly charged with the crime of producing pornography.

Dmitriev sent his greetings and gratitude from prison, not so much for the kind words said about him, as for acknowledgement of his life’s work. Memorial’s historians all concur it is unique. No other region in Russia has such a complete compendium of the names of those who were shot as Karelia does. As his colleagues argue, Dmitriev succeeded in turning the figures of those who perished during the Great Terror into memorial lists complete with names, biographies, and burial sites.

The speakers occasionally slipped into the past tense, but immediately corrected themselves. Dmitriev is still alive, and we must believe he will soon be released, find the execution site of the other two Solovki “quotas” [political prisoners at the Solovki concentration camp who were transported to three different sites outside the camp in 1937–1938 to be shot and buried in secret—TRR], and present the next book of remembrance. This powerlessness, these slips of the tongue, and the trembling voices fully convey the horror of a time when the days when people were shot are long past but people still fall victim to political repression.

The Yuri Dmitriev case is, perhaps, the most important thing happening in Russia right now, first of all, because a patriot who for decades had, bit by bit, resurrected thousands of names of this country’s citizens from official oblivion, citizens murdered cruelly and senselessly in the state’s name, has himself been subjected to persecution. “The introduction to the list of terror victims will be brief: may they live in our memories forever,” writes Dmitriev in the foreword to one of his compendiums, The Motherland Remembers Them, a book in which the names are listed not in alphabetical order, but under the names of the villages where the victims lived before their arrests. “The moral of the story is also brief: remember! As is my advice: take care of each other.” Now there is a Russian national idea for you. The author of these books of remembrance should be nominated for a state prize and a government grant to keep on with his work.

There is another important thing about the Dmitriev case: the charge his persecutors chose for him. He was not charged with “extremism” or “separatism,” which have been commonplace in politically motivated cases, but with child pornography and depraved actions towards a minor. The charges not only guarantee a long sentence and promise the accused problems in prison but also challenge the public to support him. “What if something really did happen?” Dmitriev’s friends and relatives acknowledge that while those who doubt Dmitriev or are willing to countenance the charges are an overwhelming minority, such people do exist, and some of them are “decent” people.

The number of “pedophilia” cases, based on controversial, contradictory, clearly flimsy evidence and flagrantly unprofessional forensic examinations, has been growing for several years. Recently, I attended a similar event in Naro-Fominsk, seventy kilometers southwest of Moscow. It was also a memorial evening for a living person who had been incarcerated on charges of depravity against a child, actions the man could not have committed, according to witnesses who were nearby when the crime was alleged to have occurred. Dozens of people had come to remember what a good male nurse Zhenya had been. Then they corrected themselves: not had been, but is and will continue to be. Then they cried.

“Pedophilia” cases have long been custom-ordered to rid oneself of rivals and used to pad police conviction statistics, but now they have been put to use in political cases.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up