Home World News Russia: Gulag historian Dmitriev sentenced to 15 years in prison, amid controversy

Russia: Gulag historian Dmitriev sentenced to 15 years in prison, amid controversy

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Justice or repression? Russian historian Yuri Dmitriev, a specialist in Stalinist repression, was sentenced Monday to 15 years in detention for sexual violence against a child, a political affair according to his supporters. The conviction of this figure of Memorial, an NGO for the defense of human rights and guardian of the memory of the victims of the gulags, is the first of three judicial meetings in three days in connection with this organization which risks liquidation this week.

“Yuri Dmitriev took 15 years,” Memorial told his Telegram channel. This sentence increases by two years the sentence handed down in 2020 in the same case, considered by supporters of the historian as a measure of reprisal for his research on the murderous purges of the Soviet era.

The sentence was handed down by a court in Petrozavodsk in Karelia, a region in northern Russia where Mr. Dmitriev headed a Memorial branch. This organization, a pillar of Russian civil society since the fall of the USSR, is facing two separate liquidation trials scheduled in court on Tuesday and Wednesday. “I am ashamed of what is happening,” historian Anatoly Razumov, who specializes in the study of Stalinist repressions, told AFP, adding that he was convinced that Mr. Dmitriev will be rehabilitated one day.

First acquitted then sentenced

Asked by the press, the spokesperson for the Russian presidency, Dmitry Peskov, for his part said that the Kremlin does not comment on court decisions. Mr Dmitriev was arrested and charged in 2016 on child pornography charges because he had photos of his adopted daughter naked. He assured that these pictures were intended to follow the growth of the girl and had been acquitted in 2018. But after several court appointments, he was sentenced to 13 years of detention, a sentence increased to 15 years on Monday.

For many NGOs, Mr. Dmitriev pays for his research on the extent of Stalinist repression, a page in history whose importance the Kremlin tries to downplay because it contradicts the official discourse on heroism and greatness of Russia, heir to the USSR. Mr. Dmitriev has spent decades locating mass graves and exhuming the remains of victims of Stalinist repression.

Under Vladimir Putin, a former officer of the KGB, the heir to Lenin and Stalin’s political police forces, access to state archives on these matters was drastically reduced and the identities of the performers of the purges classified as secret.

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