- BBC News World
“The purpose of his life” was to give name, burial, and homage to those who sought to destroy Soviet history from its pages: those who died in the great terror of Jose Stalin.
Renowned Russian historian Yuri Dmitriev, who revealed to the world the ins and outs of those dark years when thousands of people were imprisoned and massacred for decades for political reasons, now faces the risk of spending more years in prison.
A court in Petrozavodsk on Monday upheld the controversial sentence of 15 years, which was revoked and re-imposed on several occasions, and his supporters and relatives vowed that it was a political conspiracy to prevent him from continuing to expose the crimes of Stalinism.
Dmitriev was charged in 2016 with “possession of child pornography” after authorities confiscated his computer and found nude photos of his adopted daughter.
The historian and his family assure that these photos are a continuation of Minor’s weight gain, that she was adopted in a malnourished environment, and that the pictures were taken before that to follow the little girl’s development. Visits by officials responsible for assessing adoption.
During the trial, experts confirmed that the films did not contain pornographic material, and the court dropped the charges against Dmitriev a few years ago. However, the prosecution appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned the sentence.
He was later sentenced to another 13 years in prison and was asked by the government earlier this month to serve two more years, which was granted this Monday.
“Yuri Dmitriev is listening to the latest verdict against him: 15 years,” he wrote on Twitter Memory, Russia’s first human rights organization, which was a benchmark in condemning the crimes of Stalinism, is in danger of being shut down by Vladimir Putin’s government.
But who is this historian, and why is his case so controversial?
Who is Dmitriev?
Dmitriev, the adopted son of a Soviet soldier, was born in 1956 in Petrozavodsk, in the Republic of Karelia near Finland.
Located near the Solovetsky Islands, the birthplace of the Kulak, tens of thousands of prisoners known as the White Sea Canal were shot or killed for Stalin’s first five-year plan.
According to conservative official estimates, about 700,000 people were executed during that period.
While working as an adviser to the local government after the fall of the Soviet Union, Dmitriev accessed the archives and archives of the time and discovered the first mass graves that revealed the magnitude of the Gulaks and massacres during Stalinism.
Thanks to his work, two of the largest extermination camps found in Russia, the Battle of Chandermock and the Krasny War, were discovered, where historians were tasked with identifying victims and creating an “informal monument” in their memory.
He is considered one of the leading scholars in the reconstruction of repression and human rights abuses during Stalinism, and his work is widely recognized inside and outside Russia.
However, after Putin came to power, Dmitriev criticized the new government and the Russia he sought to build, which he repeatedly compared to Stalin’s Soviet Union.
He also questioned Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and said he had participated in a plot to expose the motives of the Russian secret police shortly before his arrest.
According to the Memorial, all of this led to him earning the hatred of the government and eventually imprisoning him.
What is the charge against him?
The verdict ended this Monday in a series of hearings that have dragged on for nearly five years.
Dmitriev was first arrested in December 2016, following a “anonymous tip” and taking police to his home, where they found nude photos of the minor.
Dimitriev was charged with illegally possessing “a portion” of a firearm the following year.
After experts testified that the images could not be considered child abuse, the historian was acquitted of all charges except possession of a weapon.
However, two months later, shortly after his acquittal, the regional Supreme Court overturned the verdict based on an investigator’s interview with his daughter, who was 12 at the time.
The case returned to court with additional charges of sexual abuse related to “inappropriate touch,” the historian denied.
Many Russian and foreign dignitaries have condemned his imprisonment, saying his imprisonment and the charges against him were part of the same pattern that Putin used on other occasions against his opponents.
Since coming to power, Putin has sought to clean up the image of Stalin as a “strong leader” and lament the fall of the Soviet Union as “the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.”
Memorials to Stalin are beginning to reappear in various cities across the country, and the former Soviet leader was ranked as the “most important person” of all time in Russia in last year’s poll.
Last year, the Russian state media began to report that Sandormokh’s dead were “Soviet soldiers killed by the Finns” without any historical basis.
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