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"Everyone's here — from the homeless to a government minister"

Dmitriev led the visit to the grave of victims of political repression in Petrozavodsk, once the court hearing was over

Yury Dmitriev
by Sergei Markelov
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On 27 February 2018, students of the Moscow Film School, friends and relatives, who have supported the Karelian historian Yury Dmitriev throughout his detention, came to the grave in Petrozavodsk of those shot during the 1980s. Dmitriev himself showed the group around the Zaretsky churchyard for the first time after his release. A correspondent from «7x7» joined them.

That same day, in the Petrozavodsk City Court, prosecution and defense examined the assessment carried out by the Serbsky Institute on the chairman of Memorial in Karelia Yury Dmitriev. He is charged with creating pornographic materials. The experts from the Moscow institute said he was not a pedophile.

Despite the bitter cold (-15 degrees Centigrade) Dmitriev led the visit to the grave of victims of political repression in Petrozavodsk, once the court hearing was over.

"It was OK,” joked Yury Mikhailin of the Moscow Film School, “we wrapped up warm." Staff and students from the school have attended many court hearings since Dmitriev was detained on charges of disseminating pornography.



About thirty people came to the Zaretsky graveyard, brushing the snow off the gravestones and reading the inscriptions, as they listened to their guide. The graveyard is one of the oldest in the Karelian capital. It is located next to the Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and people had been buried here since 1724.

The place was chosen by Yury Dmitriev and People’s Deputy Ivan Chukhin 26 years ago after they found the remains of executed victims of mass repressions near Petrozavodsk.



"This is the first row of graves. They contain 14 coffins, then six more were added," said Yury Dmitriev, pointing out the burials. "We collected their bones in the quarry of the Sulazhgora brick factory just as if we were picking mushrooms. We sifted the sand, took out the bones, and then bagged them up, over and over again… It took two years’ work before we could confirm that these were indeed the remains of the victims of political repression. Then we managed to rebury them here."



They were buried in the Zaretsky graveyard on 30 October 1991. The coffins were carried out of the Karelian National Theater. At first its administrators objected.



"One of the actors stood up and said: ‘My grandfather was shot.’ A second performer added: ‘My father was shot, and my mother was arrested.’ And then the company agreed. There was still one doubting lady, but we had already reached an agreement with the actors," Dmitriev explained.

"It turned out to be the first strong, serious [burial] ceremony in Russia," added historian Anatoly Razumov from St Petersburg.


Anatoly Razumov


In 1991, Dmitriev and Chukhin managed to find an execution list.

"They came from all over Karelia. Social status: homeless to government minister," said Dmitriev.

A visiting journalist knelt in front of the monument, brushed off the snow off and in a low voice read out the names of those shot, their occupations and the laws under which they were convicted. At the end of the list he added words from Sandarmokh: "People, do not kill one another!" The same words are written on the entrance to the memorial complex at Sandarmokh.



On 30 October last year the Day of Remembrance of Victims of Political Repression, no one mentioned Yury Dmitriev at the Zaretsky graveyard. His daughter, Katerina Klodt, whose great-grandfather was buried there, was also not allowed to speak about her father.

Yury Dmitriev was arrested at his apartment in Petrozavodsk on Friday, 13 December last year. He was accused of preparing photographic pictures of his adoptive daughter Natasha. The historian’s defence, and experts who have testified in court, assert that the photos of Natasha were part of a health diary, maintained by Dmitriev for the adoption agency because of the girl’s serious malnutrition.

The trial began on 1 June 2017 at the Petrozavodsk City Court. Apart from creating pornographic materials using images of under-age children, Dmitriev was also charged under Articles 135 and 222 of the Russian Criminal Code (respectively, “Committing indecent acts without the use of force” and “Unlawful possession of a firearm”).

The first assessment of photographs recognized them as pornographic, the second one did not find any signs of pornography. The court requested the third assessment.

From December 28, 2017 to January 19, 2018 Yury Dmitriev underwent a psychiatric examination at the Serbsky Institute. On January 27, he was released from custody on condition not to leave town.

In his first interview after his release, Dmitriev described his life in the pre-trial detention center and shared his plans to finish the book.

Sergei Markelov (text and photos), «7x7»


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