Friday, May 15, 2020

New Edition of Dmitriyev’s Sandarmokh Book Presented Online to Rave Reviews

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 13 – Last night, Moscow’s Sakharov Center organized an online discussion of the second edition of embattled Karelian GULAG investigator Yuri Dmitriyev’s Sandarmokh as a Place of Memory. Participants in the discussion stressed that his work was essential and especially important now.

            Historian Anatoly Razumov, who chaired the session, said that this praise was the best possible advertisement for his friend’s book, on that writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya said was hard to read because of the tragedies it recounted but “criminal” not to read and thus remember both the victims and those who killed them (

            That Dmitriyev remains in prison on trumped-up charges while those who celebrate the Chekists who killed the people he has memorialized sit in the offices of the powerful is a crime, she continued.  We await the day, she said, when he will be released. But regardless of when that is, Dmitriyev has inscribed his name forever in the history of Russia.

            Moscow publicist Viktor Shenderovich adds that Dmitriyev shows with his book that he is “an enemy” of the current powers who are busily trying to hide evidence of Stalin’s mass murders even as they celebrate the Soviet dictator as an effective manager or even hero for all times.

            Writer Aleksandr Arkhangelsky says that most histories of the 20th century have focused on big trends and major trials. Dmitriyev’s contribution is that he has focused not on these things but on the individual victims and held them up for all to see. Andrea Gulotta of the University of Glasgow says Dmitriyev has given a new language for the discussion of the Stalin era, a language that focuses on people and not just those who persecuted them.

            Historian Viktor Kirillov says that Dmitriyev has convincingly shown that “the size of the Soviet punitive system is comparable only with the extermination projects of Nazism, Maoism, and the Pol Pot regime, far exceeding the fantasies of all other tyrants. Russian officials talk about remembering the past, but now is the time to seek repentance.

            And Irina Prokhorova, editor of Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye, says that Dmitriyev is challenging the current obsession with numbers that are easy for many to dismiss by talking about the individual victims, human beings who were caught in the maw of the criminal state machine. 

            “Human life for the author himself and I think for those who read and discuss this book is the main value,” Prokhorova continues.  It is life that matters not whether someone was prominent or not. Only by understanding that is it possible to talk about the tragic past. Dmitriyev is helping Russians do that.

            (For background on official persecution of Dmitriyev and efforts by the Russian authorities to cover up what Stalin did in Karelia, see and

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