Human rights activist: Yury Dmitriev absolutely deserves the Freedom Prize | Russia and Russians: A View from Europe | DW

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On Friday, October 29, on the eve of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression in Russia, the Sakharov Freedom Prize awarded by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee to the chairman of the Karelian branch of the Memorial society Yuri Dmitriev will take place in Oslo. The Committee’s General Secretary Geir Henneland substantiated this choice as follows: “Dmitriev is known for his work on identifying victims of Soviet terror in Karelia, where tens of thousands of people were shot without trial and were buried in mass graves … You can draw a line from the time when Andrei Sakharov was a political prisoner, from his struggle to bring Russia face to face with its past and the importance of documenting the truth to prevent new atrocities, right up to Yuri Dmitriev’s struggle in modern Russia. “

Dmitriev himself will not be able to accept this award – he is in a pre-trial detention center in Petrozavodsk in connection with an accusation of committing violent acts of a sexual nature towards a minor. Dmitriev’s associates consider the criminal case to be falsified, and the accusations against the chairman of the Karelian “Memorial” – politically motivated.

The DW correspondent talked with one of the closest friends of Yuri Dmitriev and the co-author of his book “The Place of Memory of Sandarmokh”, the head of the Center “Returned Names” Anatoly Razumov.

Deutsche Welle: The decision to award Yuri Dmitriev the prize of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee was made on May 21 this year – on the birthday of the great scientist and human rights activist. But it was clear that the chairman of the Karelian “Memorial” himself would not be able to receive her …

Anatoly Razumov: As soon as we learned about this decision, we immediately informed Yuri about it. And the fact that the presentation will take place on October 29, it became known recently. And, of course, now we understand that he himself will not be able to come to Oslo. But when the decision was just made, we did not know when he would be released, and even a little hoped that suddenly in the summer the Supreme Court of Russia would say its word and Yuri Dmitriev would be released. And then the prize would be presented to him personally – that would be the best option.

But now we know that this, unfortunately, did not happen, and even his daughter Ekaterina will not be able to come to the presentation. Nevertheless, the ceremony itself will take place on the appointed day, International “Memorial” is following this event and will cover it on its website.

– On October 21, you were in Petrozavodsk, where you were allowed an hour meeting with Yuri Dmitriev. Tell us how he looks, how does he feel, what is he talking about?

– It was my second meeting with Yuri, and the first meeting was even before his second acquittal. In my request, I motivated the need for a date by the fact that we need to discuss the second volume of the book “The Place of Memory of Sandarmokh”. I already have a working cover, now the layout is in progress. And by email I got a message that the date is allowed.

I came to the pre-trial detention center with Yuri Alekseevich’s daughter Ekaterina. He looked pretty decent, he was ill at the beginning of October, and we were very worried, but now he has already recovered …

– Did he have a coronavirus?

– It is hard to say. He was not given a diagnosis, but he had a fever, he was injected with antibiotics, after these injections he felt very tired and unwell, it was difficult for him to work.

But now he looks, as usual, collected, jokes, jokes, accepts greetings and passes them on to all his friends outside. And we had a very good discussion of the forthcoming second volume of the book of memory. After all, it’s one thing when you run after a convoy and, out of breath, try to ask short questions, but here, after all, there is a whole hour of free conversation.

– What will the second volume of the book “The Place of Memory of Sandarmokh” be about?

– In general, it will be a seven-volume edition. And in each volume we will give about a thousand brief biographical references of the executed, which have been accumulated over the past 20 years – since the publication of the first book about Sandarmokh. We check this with other memory books, with the electronic resources available to us, and make refinements in almost every reference. This is followed by biographical sketches received from the relatives of the victims, or from researchers of their biographies. And in each volume there will be approximately 12 – 13 such solid essays with illustrations. After that, there will be a documentary section, and some of the materials that we introduce there have never been published before. And this is very important, because these are documents about the place of the atrocity into which Sandarmokh was turned.

And finally, the third section is the current state of the place of memory. There will be an article by Emilia Slabunova (ex-chairman of the Yabloko party – DW) about what is happening around Sandarmokh, and a very large essay by Maxim Lyalin about the Sandarmokh – Return of Names project with photographs of memorial signs installed here in recent years. And I really look forward to Yuri himself sending us his afterword, where, I hope, the event that will take place on October 29 will be reflected.

We will present the second volume in Petrozavodsk, St. Petersburg and Moscow. And Yuri says: well, if by that time I will not be at large yet, then I will greet all my friends from here.

– And what are your feelings – how, in the end, can this process end?

– He is a very strong-willed person, and, of course, we think that the hour of freedom will come. Of course, inner freedom is always with him, but I’m talking about the day when we embrace outside the prison walls. At the same time, I do not exclude the possibility that Yura will be released very soon. All the same, those who organized this business drove themselves into a too vile and stupid state.

In addition, it has attracted a lot of international attention.

– Yes, and by the way, this is not the first international award that Yuri Alekseevich Dmitriev receives (in particular, the Franco-German Prize “For Human Rights and the Rule of Law”, the prize of the Swedish Anna Dahlbeck Memorial Foundation, the Polish Golden Cross of Merit – DW) … They wrote about him in The New York Times, and in Le Monde, in the newspapers of Germany, Poland, Finland, and other countries, especially those whose natives were killed and buried in Sandarmokh, who were especially covered by the Soviet state terror.

So they absolutely deserve this award, and I am very happy for Yuri Alekseevich.

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