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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 42, New Delhi, October 3, 2020

Yuri Alekseevich Dmitriev - Russian Historian is Sentenced to 13 years of Prison

An open letter about the case of historian Yuri Dmitriev who has done pioneering work on uncovering the truth about Terror in Soviet times

Friday 2 October 2020


The Karelia Supreme Court in Russia has overturned two acquittals and increased the sentence against world-renowned historian of the Soviet Terror, Yuri Dmitriev, to 13 years in a strict regime penal colony. This is an effective death sentence for the 64-year-old historian, and one that was passed behind closed doors in the absence of his lawyer and with Dmitriev himself prevented from being present and from properly hearing the proceedings.

[The below statement first appeared on 27.9.2020 in Russia at: On the eve of the hearing, an open appeal, endorsed by 250 renowned members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, historians, human rights activists, writers and others, pointed to the flawed and political nature of this prosecution from the first anonymous ‘denunciation’. They specifically expressed concern about the hearing scheduled for 29 September, noting that Rats had twice before issued rulings extending Dmitriev’s detention and could not be expected to now be unbiased. Their request for the hearing to be moved out of Karelia was, effectively, ignored. (The below translation in English is machine translation via Google translate, we regret any errors that may have crept in.) ]

o o o

"Living is always difficult." An open letter about the case of historian Yuri Dmitriev

To the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karelia
Anatoly Vladimirovich Nakvas

Dear Anatoly Vladimirovich!

For three and a half years, the courts of various instances of the Republic of Karelia have been considering the case of the historian and ethnographer Yuri Alekseevich Dmitriev, the discoverer of the mass graves of victims of Stalin’s repressions on the territory of the Sandarmokh tract. This is a case, the outcome of which, without exaggeration, is followed by tens of thousands of various people in Russia and around the world. The persecution of Dmitriev, as we remember, was based on an anonymous denunciation and a kind of "written opinion" of the Karelian art critic Sergeev, based on this denunciation, and in two photographs of Dmitriev’s adopted daughter from his personal computer, it is not known how they ended up in the Investigative Committee.

The illegality of these actions and the absurdity of the accusations against the historian of disseminating pornography and lewd acts against an underage adopted daughter at first left no doubt that the “Dmitriev case” had no criminal prospects and would be closed. But the case was set in motion. We assume that the security forces were behind this, dissatisfied with Dmitriev’s civil position and the enormous work of Yuri Alekseevich to perpetuate the memory of the victims of Stalinism.

Despite all the pressure exerted, the Petrozavodsk City Court (judge Marina Nosova) fully acquits Dmitriev under the “bad” articles, and then a new, much more serious charge is brought against him - committing sexual violence against a child. On appeal, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karelia overturns the acquittal and sends the case for a new trial.

And then the incredible happens - the Petrozavodsk City Court (judge Alexander Merkov) acquits Dmitriev for the second time under the same articles, and on the new charge gives a punishment much lower than the lower limit, which - we all perfectly understand this - once again speaks of Yuri Dmitriev’s innocence and at the same time the impossibility of admitting this innocence because of the unprecedented pressure on the court of those who cannot forgive the historian for his studies of the Gulag past. The two excuses under the harsh articles clearly show that there were no grounds either for criminal prosecution, much less for detention, which the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karelia insisted on every time. This allows us to believe that the court was biased then and simply cannot make a fair decision now.

Judge Alla Rats, who previously twice extended Dmitriev’s detention in the pre-trial detention center, is considering the appeal, and everything that happens in this process gives us reason to doubt the objectivity of the refereeing and, moreover, to assume that pressure is being exerted on the judge.

How else to explain the following facts:

Instead of waiting for the release of the coronavirus quarantine from the permanent lawyer Dmitriev V.M. Anufriev, who notified the court of the impossibility of being at the hearing, the judge immediately introduces the appointed attorney into the process and sets a time limit of three working days to get acquainted with the case. Can you get acquainted with such an endless number of documents, examinations, decisions and sentences in three days? Of course not. Should the appointed lawyer meet with his client? I don’t just have to - I have to. But he never does it.

Here is how Yuri Alekseevich himself writes about this in a letter to his friends on September 23: “... I loudly and clearly, on the record, announced my refusal from a lawyer by appointment. As predicted, my loud and clear refusal was ignored by the court. In the evening I repeated it in writing. My humble request to let me into the courtroom in person and in person was completely rejected by the court. Another "teardrop" I had was sounded - to conduct a medical examination of hearing in the direction of the court: I do not always and do not hear everything and understand that the judge in the hall is voicing, forty percent leaves by. This is not good for protection. The judge politely asked if I had any medical documents confirming the hearing loss. No, I say. Since there are no documents, the application should be refused. I have already got the "local staff" with this problem. They brought additional speakers - they are not connected. I keep asking again. The judge is angry and threatens to remove him from the courtroom. Every time I remind the court that I was left alone with legal issues, practically without defense - the judge is, to put it mildly, annoying. What should I do? Life is always difficult. "

Tell me, how is it at all possible that during a hearing on such an important case in the Supreme Court of the Republic the sound does not work or does not work well, and the defendant actually remains without competent protection? And how is it possible to suddenly appoint a new examination of photographs in a pornography case, in which Dmitriev is TWICE acquitted? Is it possible that the numerous examinations at the Serbian Institute, a specialized psychiatric hospital in St. Petersburg, which proved the complete absence of "pedophilic" thoughts and sexual deviations in Dmitriev’s behavior, taken by the courts of first instance, are empty words for the court of appeal? Just as the opinions of photography experts, among whom were employees of the State Hermitage, candidates and doctors of sciences, who did not see anything pornographic in the photographs, turn out to be an empty sound?

Fearing the bias of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karelia in the case of Yuri Dmitriev, we ask you, Anatoly Vladimirovich, to refer this case to a court of any other region, republic or territory of the Russian Federation. And to those who started all this dirty business, we would like to say only one thing: you can break the life of the historian Dmitriev, his adopted daughter, all his relatives, but it is impossible to destroy or remove the historical truth from circulation.

She will survive under any circumstances and will remind of herself.

[Russian Academy of Sciences] RAS Academicians:

  • Evgeny Alexandrov
  • Efim Khazanov

RAS Corresponding Members:

  • Alexander Belavin
  • Elizaveta Bonch-Osmolovskaya
  • Mikhail Glazov
  • Askold Ivanchik
  • Alexander Kabanov
  • Fyodor Uspensky


  • Leah Akhedzhakova
  • Oleg Basilashvili
  • Anatoly Bely
  • Philip Gorenstein
  • Alexander Zbruev
  • Konstantin Raikin
  • Ksenia Rappoport
  • Alika Smekhova
  • Veniamin Smekhov
  • Natalia Tenyakova
  • Alexander Filippenko
  • Konstantin Khabensky
  • Inna Churikova
  • Daria Yurskaya


  • Nadezhda Azhgikhina
  • Ekaterina Barabash
  • Katerina Gordeeva
  • Christina Gorelik
  • Natalia Demina
  • Victoria Ivleva
  • Vadim Kantor
  • Elena Kleschenko
  • Ksenia Larina
  • Leonid Nikitinsky
  • Olga Orlova
  • Sergey Parkhomenko
  • Grigory Pasko
  • Dmitry Petrov
  • Nikolay Podosokorsky
  • Vladimir Pozner
  • Ekaterina Prigoreva
  • Zoya Svetova
  • Lyudmila Telen
  • Maria Tereshchenko
  • Mikhail Shevelev
  • Olga Shutova
  • Anna and Gleb Yarovye


  • Irina Balakhonova
  • Varvara Gornostaeva
  • Andrey Zbarsky
  • Irina Prokhorova

Art critics and artists:

  • Galina Aksenova
  • Andrey Bilzho
  • Anatoly Golubovsky
  • Boris Dolgin
  • Inessa Rakhmanova


  • Irina Arzhantseva
  • Cecile Vessier (France)
  • Mikhail Krom
  • Ivan Kurilla
  • Vera Milchina
  • Vladislav Nazarov
  • Evgeniya Nazarova
  • Boris Sokolov
  • Nikita Sokolov
  • Oleg Khlevnyuk
  • Arthur Chubur


  • Vadim Abdrashitov
  • Mikhail Aldashin
  • Konstantin Arefiev
  • Love Arcus
  • Ekaterina Boykova
  • Harry Bardeen
  • Stepan Biryukov
  • Dina Goder
  • Konstantin Bronzit
  • Anton Dolin
  • Oleg Dorman
  • Andrey Zvyagintsev
  • Svetlana Zimina
  • Irina Litmanovich
  • Ivan Maximov
  • Victor Matizen
  • Yuri Norshtein
  • Serafima Ovcharenko
  • Gleb Panfilov
  • Andrey Plakhov
  • Tatiana Podgorskaya
  • Natalia Ryss
  • Natalia Savoskina
  • Andrey Smirnov
  • Alexander Sokurov
  • Mikhail Tumelya
  • Svetlana Filippova
  • Andrey Khrzhanovsky
  • Elena Yakovich

Theater director:

  • Joseph Reichelgauz


  • Alexander Manotskov


  • Alexander Arkhangelsky
  • Dmitry Bavilsky
  • Elena Baevskaya
  • Nune Barseghyan
  • Leonid Bakhnov
  • Nadezhda Belenkaya
  • Irina Bogatyreva
  • Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya
  • Marina Boroditskaya
  • Alla Bossart
  • Marina Buvaylo
  • Olga Bukhina
  • Olga Varshaver
  • Dmitry Vedenyapin
  • Alina Vitukhnovskaya
  • Marina Vishnevetskaya
  • Lilia Gazizova
  • Maria Galina
  • Sergey Gandlevsky
  • Alisa Ganieva
  • Alexander Gelman
  • Alla Gerber
  • Dmitry Glukhovsky
  • Mark Greenberg
  • Natalia Gromova
  • Julius Gugolev
  • Vitaly Dixon
  • Denis Dragunsky
  • Olga Drobot
  • Evgeny Ermolin
  • Georgy Efremov
  • Victor Esipov
  • Natalia Ivanova
  • Igor Irteniev
  • Gennady Kalashnikov
  • Dmitry Karelsky
  • Nina Caterly
  • Julius Kim
  • Natalia Klyuchareva
  • Nikolay Kononov
  • Irina Kravtsova
  • Grigory Kruzhkov
  • Sergey Kuznetsov
  • Maya Kucherskaya
  • Oleg Lekmanov
  • Alexander Livergant
  • Maria Ludkovskaya
  • Natalia Mavlevich
  • Larisa Miller
  • Vladimir Moschenko
  • Anton Nechaev
  • Maxim Osipov
  • Svetlana Panich
  • Lev Rubinstein
  • Maria Rybakova
  • Olga Sedakova
  • Vyacheslav Sereda
  • Natalia Sokolovskaya
  • Tatiana Sotnikova (Anna Berseneva)
  • Vladimir Sotnikov
  • Irina Staf
  • Dmitry Stakhov
  • Love Sums
  • Irina Surat
  • Lev Timofeev
  • Lyudmila Ulitskaya
  • K. Hammond
  • Maria Falikman
  • Elena Fanailova
  • Viktor Shenderovich
  • Natalia Chepik
  • Tatiana Chernysheva
  • Arkady Shtypel
  • Tatiana Shcherbina
  • Sergey Yakovlev


  • Georgy Bazykin
  • Sergey Dmitriev
  • Aleksey Ivanov
  • Sergey Zenkin
  • Boris Katz
  • Tatiana Kondratieva
  • Yaroslav Kudryavtsev
  • Maria Mayofis
  • Irina Nasimova
  • Daniil Naumov
  • Daria Novgorodova
  • Alla Ratyn
  • Zhanna Reznikova
  • Andrey Rostovtsev
  • Alexey Semenov
  • Mikhail Tamm
  • Mikhail Feigelman
  • Andrey Tsaturyan
  • Iskandar Yasaveev
  • Vladislav Aksenov
  • Vladimir Ananich
  • Irina Antipova
  • Anna Boykova
  • Andrey Guskov
  • Dmitry Rybakov
  • Natalia Tumashkova
  • Sergey Dmitriev
  • Irina Kravtsova
  • Vadim Lurie
  • Nikolay Epple

Human rights defenders:

  • Svetlana Astrakhantseva
  • Vyacheslav Bakhmin
  • Valery Borshchev
  • Svetlana Gannushkina
  • Igor Kalyapin
  • Dmitry Makarov
  • Lev Ponomarev
  • Natalia Taubina

Politicians, Yabloko party:

  • Boris Vishnevsky
  • Nikolay Rybakov
  • Emilia Slabunova
  • Lev Schlosberg
  • Grigory Yavlinsky

Human Rights Center "Memorial":

  • Oleg Orlov
  • Yan Rachinsky
  • Alexander Cherkasov

President of the Russian Public Fund Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

  • Natalia Solzhenitsyna

Iofe Foundation Director:

  • Irina Flige

Project Manager Sandarmokh. Returning names:

  • Maxim Lyalin

Head of the Center "Returned Names" at the National Library of Russia:

  • Anatoly Razumov

Education workers:

  • Dmitry Ablov
  • Elena Kozlova
  • Lana Cruz
  • Leonid Perlov


  • Father Alexey Uminsky
  • Father Grigory Mikhnov-Vaitenko

IT workers:

  • Larisa Melikhova
  • Anastasia Podolskaya

Residents of Petrozavodsk:

  • Igor Ilyin
  • Vladimir Malegin
  • Natalia Meshkova
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