Collegio sentencing Yuri Dmitriev: The authorities found a false reason to convict him
Konstantin Raikin’s video statement for Yury Dmitriev
Historians from Poland, Lithuania and Belarus consider the conviction of the head of the Karelian Memorial to be politically motivated
On July 22, the Petrozavodsk City Court issued a verdict in the case of Yuri Dmitriev. Head of the Karelian branch «Memorial» was found guilty of sexual assault against his underage adopted daughter and sentenced to three and a half years in a maximum security penal colony. However, taking into account the time spent in the pre-trial detention center, Dmitriev may be released as early as November this year..
After the end of the debate of the parties in this case, it became known that the prosecution was asking the court to sentence the historian who discovered the Sandormokh tract to the world to fifteen years in a strict regime colony. So the verdict handed down today can be considered relatively mild. It is possible that such a court decision was influenced by a broad campaign in support of Yuri Dmitriev, supported by civil society in Russia and human rights organizations, as well as by historians in many countries..
Correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» talked to historians – colleagues of the head of the Karelian «Memorial».
«Now in Russia only three and a half years are given for nothing»
Former director of the Polish Cultural Center in Moscow, and associate professor of the Center for Eastern European Studies at Warsaw University, historian Marek Radzivon (Marek Radziwon) considers the verdict as an assessment of the current Russian justice. «It seems to me that the Russian court in such high-profile political trials is deprived of the opportunity to give acquittals. And it turns out that the person who was accused under three different articles, including – for lecherous acts of a sexual nature, receives three and a half years under the article of the Criminal Code, according to which the punishment – twelve years in prison and above», – the interlocutor states «Voices of America».
Marek Radzivon recalled that lawyer Viktor Anufriev also proved that his client was innocent, and he himself had medical certificates testifying to the inconsistency of the charges. «And it turned out as Varlam Shalamov once wrote: “How much did you get? – Ten years. – For what? – No way! Uh, you’re lying! Only five are given for nothing!”. Well, now in Russia «never» give only three and a half years, which, in comparison with Stalinist times, of course, progress», – the Polish expert is bitterly ironic. And he continues: «There could be no acquittal, because then the question arises, what was the prosecutor’s office doing? And we will ask in plain text: who ordered this case and why?»
However, despite the comparative «softness» the verdict of the Petrozavodsk City Court, this case has one very negative aspect. Namely: «The fact that he was acquitted under the article for possession of weapons is understandable, because he did not have any weapons. But here is the charge under the article on acts of a sexual nature against a minor – that’s another matter. This article is very handy for the prosecution. Although we understand that the case was ordered, and in fact there was nothing like that, it casts a very unpleasant shadow on the person. Weapon storage, theft and the like – it somehow fits into our understanding of life. A juvenile sex offense – this is the dirt that sticks to a person. That is why such dirty articles were chosen against Yuri Dmitriev.», – Marek Radzivon thinks.
And sums it up: «It turns out that the sentence itself – illegal. How can you give three and a half years for what is due at least twelve years? So it is obvious that this is an acquittal.».
«The current Russian authorities return to the Stalinist assessments of the events of the 30s»
«This process – unfair. We know that in countries that can be called authoritarian and even almost dictatorial, people whose social and political activities are contrary to the interests of the authorities are often persecuted», – began his commentary for the Russian Service «Voices of America» Doctor of Humanities, Employee of the Center for the Study of Genocide and Resistance of the People of Lithuania Arunas Bubnis (Arūnas Bubnys).
At the same time, as the Lithuanian expert emphasizes, persecution usually occurs not for political reasons, but under all sorts of far-fetched pretexts, most often – from the field of criminal law. «And I think the Dmitriev case – this is a very illustrative example. Yuri Dmitriev – he is a man who has dedicated his life to uncovering the Stalinist repressions and perpetuating the memory of their victims. During the Yeltsin presidency and even at the beginning of Putin’s first presidential term, this activity was encouraged, or at least there was no openly hostile reaction from the authorities..
And now we see that we have found a false reason to prevent Yuri Dmitriev from continuing his social activities and even condemn him», – says an employee of the Center for the Study of Genocide and Resistance of the People of Lithuania.
According to Arunas Bubnis, the Dmitriev trial indicates that the current Russian authorities are returning to assessments of the political events of the 1930s, including the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact or the execution of Polish servicemen in Katyn, which existed in Stalin’s times..
The historian also recalled: «Through the efforts of our Center, in 2008 in Sandarmokh, a monument was erected to the Lithuanians who were deported and were serving imprisonment in those parts. And every year in early August, Lithuanian delegations led by diplomats from the embassy in Moscow and the general consulate in St. Petersburg visited the memorial complex in Sandarmokh. I myself have not been there, but some colleagues from our Center participated in these trips several times.».
«Russia is on the heels of Belarus»
There is no Belarusian monument to the victims of Stalin’s repressions in Sandarmokh, although the remains of one hundred and two shot ethnic Belarusians were found here. I mentioned this in a conversation with the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» Associate Professor of the Department of Diplomatic and Consular Service of the Faculty of International Relations of the Belarusian State University, Candidate of Historical Sciences Igor Kuznetsov.
He can rightfully be considered a colleague of Yuri Dmitriev, since Kuznetsov headed the Belarusian branch «International Memorial». «it – still unregistered organization», – specifies the expert.
As for the process itself and the sentence passed on July 22, then, according to Igor Kuznetsov, it is difficult for him to comment on the legal side of the case, being uninitiated in all its details. «But I regularly read all the publications about the Dmitriev case over the past three years, including articles on the website of the Russian Service. “Voices of America”.
I also read various forecasts, including optimistic ones. But most of all people wrote that the trial will pass “at the behest”. My attitude towards the verdict – fifty fifty. Of course, one cannot agree with him. But, at the same time, the one who was the customer – and I believe that this is an absolutely custom-made case – probably assumed that the sentence would be harsher, and Yuri Dmitriev would be isolated for a certain number of years», – the Belarusian historian shares his impressions.
In general, Igor Kuznetsov assesses the process of the head of the Karelian «Memorial» as a purely political one. And he notices that in Belarus, formally, no one is being persecuted for political reasons either, but they try to pick up some kind of criminal article for all opponents of the regime..
«Sometimes the case did not reach the court, – he clarifies. – For example, some of my colleagues who were involved in the restoration of the memory of victims of repression were fired from the Institute of History, from other institutions, but none with the wording “for active political activity”. But only for formal reasons: being late for work, filling out a tax return incorrectly, and so on..
Therefore, I have no doubt that the Dmitriev case – customized. But the main victory is that the appeals of many famous people from abroad and iconic Russian representatives of the intelligentsia certainly played a role. If they were not there, I am absolutely sure that the verdict would be “to the maximum”. They would not cancel the article for possession of weapons, they would find something else and, as a result, Yuri Dmitriev would not be isolated for a long time», – the companion thinks «Voices of America».
Recalling the role played by the Russian Military Historical Society in connection with the memorial complex in Sandarmokh, Igor Kuznetsov regretfully states: «Russia is on the heels of Belarus. This is the restriction of access to information, and attempts to put pressure on people who are engaged in the restoration of burials, and so on. In Russia, this trend is not yet clearly expressed, but this process – one of the ways to show other people: you will deal with the issues that the authorities do not like – there will be tough measures.
We know that justice in both Belarus and Russia is not independent – neither in one nor in the other country is there a rule-of-law state. And in these conditions, I believe that such a sentence to Dmitriev – this is a great achievement. Now we need to continue the struggle to cancel this accusatory part of the case, and I want to say that thanks to Yuri Dmitriev, we learned the names of those Belarusians who were shot in Sandarmokh in 1937-1938. So for me, a historian who has been working on this topic for over thirty years, this is – not an outsider. And although I do not know him personally, what he did deserves a lot of respect, and I hope that he can continue to pursue his work.», – sums up Igor Kuznetsov.