Posts Tagged ‘Yuri Dmitriev’

In Russia, too, truth-telling can be a crime

October 12, 2020

] Historian Yuri Dmitriev at work (2008)

Oliver Rolin, writing in the New York Review of Books, told about  the Russian historian, Yuri Dmitriev and his effort to identify the remains of persons killed and thrown into mass graves during the Stalin era.

He told me how he had found his vocation as a researcher—a word that can be understood in several senses: in archives, but also on the ground, in the cemetery-forests of Karelia.

In 1989, he told me, a mechanical digger had unearthed some bones by chance.  Since no one, no authority, was prepared to take on the task of burying with dignity those remains, which he recognized as being of the victims of what is known there as “the repression” (repressia), he undertook to do so himself.  Dmitriev’s father had then revealed to him that his own father, Yuri’s grandfather, had been shot in 1938.

“Then,” Dmitriev told me, “I wanted to find out about the fate of those people.”  After several years’ digging in the FSB archive, he published The Karelian Lists of Remembrance in 2002, which, at the time, contained notes on 15,000 victims of the Terror.

“I was not allowed to photocopy.  I brought a dictaphone to record the names and then I wrote them out at home,” he said. “For four or five years, I went to bed with one word in my head: rastrelian—shot.  Then, I and two fellow researchers from the Memorial association, Irina Flighe and Veniamin Ioffe (and my dog Witch), discovered the Sandarmokh mass burial ground: hundreds of graves in the forest near Medvejegorsk, more than 7,000 so-called enemies of the people killed there with a bullet through the base of the skull at the end of the 1930s.”

Germans have bravely faced up to facts of the Nazi era, and we Americans are starting to face up to our history of slavery and repression of black people and our ethnic cleansing and dispossession of indigenous peoples

But Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not willing to face up to the truth about the Stalin terror.  The state’s response was to reailroad Dmitriev on trumped-up charges of sexually abusing his adopted daughter.

Not content to persecute and dishonor the man who discovered Sandarmokh, the Russian authorities are now trying to repeat the same lie the Soviet authorities told about Katyn, the forest in Poland where NKVD troops executed some 22,000 Poles, virtually the country’s entire officer corps and intelligentsia—an atrocity that for decades they blamed on the Nazis. 

Stalin’s heirs today claim that the dead lying there in Karelia were not victims of the Terror but Soviet prisoners of war executed during the Finnish occupation of the region at the beginning of World War II.  Historical revisionism, under Putin, knows no bounds.

LINKS

Yuri Dmitriev: Historian of Stalin’s Gulag, Victim of Putin’s Repression by Olivier Rolin for The New York Review of Books.

The Dmitriev Affair: The Life’s Work and Trials of Yuri Dmitriev.

Russian court extends prison sentence for historian of Stalinist terror to 13 years by Clara Weiss for the World Socialist Web Site [Added 10/26/2020]