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The Dmitriev Affair - What next?

photograph by Simeon Maisterman

photograph by Simeon Maisterman

In December 2016 the Gulag researcher Yury Dmitriev was charged with child pornography, the “perfect prosecution vehicle” (Masha Gessen), and put on trial in June this year. Since then, however, little has gone right for his accusers.

A conviction was expected in September 2017 and a sentence of up to 15 years’ in a penal colony. Instead, an unprecedented groundswell of public indignation, and a highly effective defence, have brought the proceedings almost to a standstill.

Before the trial, the 60-year-old historian was little known in Russia or abroad. Today he is a national, even international, figure. He may still be found guilty, even on the flimsy evidence provided.

Who is Yury Dmitriev?

Yury Dmitriev has spent over 25 years combing the forests and archives of Karelia to find where the executed victims of Stalin lie – Poles, Ukrainian intellectuals, Karelian peasants, Finnish and Czech communists – and to identify them from the execution lists of the NKVD. No other region has been so well researched.

Why then this determined attempt to discredit such an “admirable man” (Natalya Solzhenitsyn)? It begs the question, that even though the Russian president opened a large monument to the Victims of Political Repression in October in Moscow, how sincere are the Russian authorities about facing up to dark chapters of the Soviet past? Will the case against Dmitriev collapse or will he be convicted?

These issues will be discussed by translator and researcher John Crowfoot (founder of the Dmitriev Affair website), Bill Bowring, barrister, professor of law at Birkbeck College and an expert on Russia’s post-Soviet legal and judicial systems; and Dr Andrea Gullotta, a historian who has met Yury Dmitriev during his own research into the Solovki Special Purpose Camp in the White Sea.

This is a joint Pushkin Club and Rights in Russia event.