Staunton, June 14 – The Putin regime’s continuing persecution of Yury Dmitriyev, the historian of the GULAG in Karelia, recalls the Dreyfus and Beilis cases of more than a century ago in which authoritarian governments sought to exploit popular bigotries to cover up their own crimes, Svetlana Aleksiyevich, Gerta Mueller, and Jonathan Littell say.
In an open letter to Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissar, the Belarusian and German Nobelists and the winner of the Prix Goncourt say that the charges the Russian prosecutors have invented to discredit and silence Dmitriyev must be denounced for the criminal frauds they are (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/06/14/85837-napominaet-dela-dreyfusa-i-beylisa).
“We are moved by concern for the life and fate of Russian historian Yury Dmitriyev, the outstanding investigator of the GULAG and the discoverer of the Stalin-era execuition site at Sandarmokh in the Republic of Karelia, Russia,” the three write. “His criminal case is now being considered by the city court in Petrozavodsk.
“You, as Commissar of the Council of Europe for human rights, are certainly well-aware of this case,” they continue. “It began in December 2016 with the vile accusation against Dmitriyev of preparing child pornography and ended – as it then seemed – by his complete exoneration in March 2018.
“We are convinced that the close attention to the case and the resonance in society which it elicited not only in Russia but also in other countries played a role in this.
“However, the [Russian] state procurator has sought to reverse the finding of innocent on the initial charge and put forward the still more horrific accusation of forcible acts of a sexual nature with respect to Yuri’s minor adopted daughter.
“It seems to us that the selection of this offensive criminal article was based on the negative stereotype rooted in mass consciousness, that any single father is a potential rapist. Judging from what we read, this is based first on a desire to destroy the memory about repressions and settle accounts with Dmitriyev who uncovered indisputable evidence of the black pages of Soviet history.
“The Russian authorities are seeking to rewrite the history of Sandarmokh and to slander the man who uncovered it by baseless accusations that he has committed an offensive crime.
“Let us not forget the current Russian context – the creeping rehabilitation of Stalinism … And Dmitriyev who has restored the names of several thousand citizens of 58 nationalities shot at Sandarmokh and who erected a memorial there is a bone in the throat [of the powers that be].
“Based on the charges, the 64-year-old historian could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. Such a sentence would be the end not only of his research work but of his life as well. And it is horrible even to think about the warped fate of his adopted daughter.
“The Dmitriyev case in a certain sense very much reminds us of two significant criminal cases which at one time shook Europe: the officer Dreyfus and the tradesman Beilis which also had an obvious political subtext and made use of mass prejudices. In both of those cases, outstanding intellectuals from various countries spoke out because they did not believe in their guilt.”
“Article Six of the European Convention on Human Rights speaks of the right for just judicial treatment. We are convinced that if the case of Dmitriyev is handled in a just fashion, Yury will be freed.
“’Truth is all that I passionately seek!’ wrote Emil Zola in his well-known article “J’accuse.” The truth in the Dmitriyev case is why we raise our voice and as you, Mrs. Miyatovich to join it.”