On May 21, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee announced that Yury Dmitriev, the convicted head of the Karelian Memorial* and researcher of Stalin's terror, had been granted the Sakharov Freedom Award. This happened on the day of famous Soviet scientist and human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov's 100th anniversary. The organization's website reports that.
Geir Hønneland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, noted that Yury Dmitriev was known for his work to identify victims of Soviet terror in Karelia, where tens of thousands of people had been shot and killed without trial or conviction and buried in mass graves. The historian has been researching mass graves in the republic since the 1980s. In 1997, together with the staff of Memorial*, he discovered one of the largest ones — Sandarmokh. The victims of Stalin's terror are buried there.
According to Hønneland, Dmitriev "has quite literally reassembled the bones of the victims in these mass graves, identified them by name and given them back their dignity."
The Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee believes that the Karelian historian was sentenced to 13 years in prison in a fabricated case, because the Russian authorities consider his work to be "dangerous".
"You can draw a line from Andrei Sakharov’s time as a political prisoner, from his struggle to ensure that Russia faces up to its past and the importance of documentation and truth to prevent new atrocities, straight up to Yury Dmitriev’s struggle in modern-day Russia," Hønneland said.
The awarding ceremony will take place in Oslo on October 29, 2021, on the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions.
Yury Dmitriev became world-famous after his arrest in December 2016. He was accused of the production of his adopted daughter’s pornographic images. The historian pleaded not guilty. He explained his actions by the fact that he kept a health journal of the adopted child, who needed extra care, control of physical development and health condition after the orphanage. According to Memorial*, there are medical clearances in the case that can confirm this. In 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted the local history expert.
A few days later, local officials said they had doubts about the verdict. The grandmother of Dmitriev's adopted daughter filed a report, based on the girl's new confessions, against him. The historian was received into a detention facility. Independent experts claim that the girl's statement was obtained under duress. At the same time, psychiatric examination performed three researches to find no psychosexual behavior disorder in the local historian.
In July 2020, the Petrozavodsk City Court sentenced Dmitriev to 3.5 years in prison. However, the Supreme Court of the region toughened the sentence to 13 years in September. In November, he appealed to the European Court of Human Rights about the violation of four articles of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while the court was considering his case. In April 2021, the Petrozavodsk City Court began considering the case of the historian for the third time.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the European External Action Service, the European Union, and the OSCE have spoken in support of Dmitriev during the criminal proceedings; more than 150 scientists, cultural figures, politicians, and journalists from Russia and more than 400 — from Europe and the United States have signed an open letter for his release from detention facility.