While everyone is losing their marbles over unfounded Russian collusion claims here in the U.S., this story out of Russia actually is quite troubling.
Meet 61-year-old gulag grave researcher and Soviet crime truth teller Yury Dmitriyev. Dmitriyev is a member of Russia’s oldest human rights group, Memorial, that has tirelessly worked to expose Soviet repression of deaths behind the Iron Curtain last century. Here’s more on the group:
The Human Rights Center’s mission is to promote general respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms both in the Russian Federation and in other states.The HRC “Memorial” sets the following aims and tasks: observing of human rights and fundamental freedoms execution; giving publicising and giving reliable information about considerable violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms; attracting the attention of public governmental and international institutions to these kind of violations; conducting and supporting of research aimed at the study of serious human rights violations; assisting with observance of humanitarian law and the peaceful resolution of conflicts under the conditions of military conflicts; assistance with the adoption by power holding structures of legal acts correspondent to international rules in the domain of human rights observance; theoretical and practical enlightenment of human rights and humanitarian law.
Dmitriyev was arrested in December 2016 on account of three alleged crimes: child pornography, child endangerment, and illegal possession of a firearm–unfounded charges being hurled at him for exposing Soviet crimes the Kremlin still denies today. If convicted, he faces 15 years in jail.
He and his wife adopted a young girl, then age 3, and documented her progress from malnourished to healthy. Per Guardian, experts have assessed the photos and found nothing contentious about them. Dmitriyev himself was adopted as a child. As for the firearm, Dmitriyev’s supporters are confident that his crime of “owning parts of a non-working hunting rifle” is a stretch too far. As of this writing, over 31,000 people signed a petition calling for the patently false charges against him to be dropped.
“For our government to become … accountable, we need to educate the people,” Dmitriyev said to The Guardian.
Prior to Dmitriyev’s arrest, members of his group Memorial were labeled “foreign agents” by the Kremlin. Here’s more about Dmitriyev’s work to uncover the truth about the victims of Stalin’s crimes:
Using detailed documents uncovered in KGB archives, Dmitriev was able to piece together the location where Stalin’s execution squads killed and buried more than 9,500 people from 1937 to 1938. The documents contained the dates and names of those killed, as well as the executioners’ names. During the next two decades, Dmitriev worked meticulously to document every victim’s story.
Today, Sandarmokh, as the site became known, is a memorial to the people of more than 60 nationalities buried here, including those from Norway, Finland, Poland, Ukraine and Russia.
Interestingly enough, Dmitriyev’s work has included uncovering more about the White Sea gulag, or Belomor Canal gulag, where my maternal grandpa was imprisoned for 18 months:
Located near the Solovetsky islands, the birthplace of the gulag, the Karelia region in north-west Russia is where tens of thousands of prisoners were shot or died digging the infamous White Sea canal for Stalin’s first five-year plan. As an aide to a regional official, Dmitriyev first began searching for their graves after being summoned to deal with remains uncovered by an excavator at a military base in 1988.
Soon he began trying to identify victims of the mass executions, which were carried out covertly. During the brief period when secret police archives were opened up in the 1990s, Dmitriyev managed to read thousands of execution orders into his tape recorder. He could then try to match each group of skeletons he found to a specific order.
If I had the opportunity to meet this gentleman, I would happily thank him for attempting to bring justice to the victims of Stalin’s crimes. This stuff — the silencing of dissidents, the imprisonment of those who challenge revisionist history, or persecution of those who wish to reform Russia — is what the American press should be up in arms about. Where were they when Putin assumed office in 2000? (Most likely excusing his actions.) They should start caring about combating revisionist history in that nation, not instigating war with a tyrant like Putin by delegitimizing Trump’s election. Like Trump or not, you’re stuck with him. Deal with it.
For those unaware about modern-day Russia, there is a resurgence of Neo-Sovietism in the country being propped up by the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin. (I wrote about this in great detail at Townhall several years ago.) In June, Stalin was rated the “most outstanding figure in world history” by the Levada Center with 38 percent–followed by current president Vladimir Putin at 34 percent. Approximately 1,600 people were polled. Also in June: Putin sat down in an interview with Oliver Stone and said that the “excessive demonization” of Stalin is a “means of attacking the Soviet Union and Russia.
If you’re only outraged about the Kremlin’s behavior since Election 2016, your concern is disingenuous at best–especially if you’ve excused Soviet crimes in the past. Challenging orthodoxy in that country–especially holding Russia’s government accountable for denying its past crimes against humanity under Soviet rule – is grounds for punishment, imprisonment, and yes, even death, in the modern day.
This is the real Russia story. Start covering it.