Yury Dmitriev, Russian historian and head of the Karelian branch of the human rights center Memorial, was detained in Petrozavodsk on December 13, 2016, on suspicion of production of child pornographic material. A case of child pornography was opened due to the existence of nude photographs of his adopted daughter, who was under Dmitriev’s guardianship, stored on his computer. The Russian security services (FSB) found the pictures because of an anonymous statement. According to Dmitriev, he saved the photos on his computer to report about the physical development of the child to social services. After being released in January 2018, he was detained again in June 2018 on similar charges. Human rights activists in Russia say that the case against Dmitriev is fabricated and politically motivated.

Case BACKGROUND 

Yury Dmitriev is a historian and human rights activist from Petrozavodsk, Russia. Through his work, thousands of camp graves and burial places of victims of mass executions of Stalin’s ‘Great Terror’ were discovered in Karelia. Dmitriev is the author of several memory books that contain information about the people who were shot or died in 1937-1938, including those 9,500 people shot and buried in the Sandarmokh memorial cemetery.

On December 13, 2016, Yury Dmitriev was detained and later arrested on charges of producing child pornography through an anonymous indictment. According to investigators, Dmitriev was engaged in the production of child pornography, taking pictures of his adopted daughter (she was 11 years old in 2016) for several years, however he has never published or shared the pictures. As stated in the investigation documents, “depraved actions” consisted of the very act of photographing a naked child. Dmitriev denied the charges, claiming that the images of his daughter were taken to document her state of health. 

Dmitriev was in custody for a year; after an additional investigation and a psychological assessment, he was released. But on June 14, 2018, the Supreme Court of Karelia overturned his acquittal and quashed the decision of the Petrozavodsk city court. Dmitriev was detained at the exit from Petrozavodsk while he was driving to the cemetery a week after that. The next day, the Investigative Committee announced that Dmitriev had become a suspect in a second criminal case concerning his daughter. He was accused of sexual assault concerning a person who has not reached the age of fourteen, was arrested, and underwent enforced psychiatric testing. 

The European Union cast doubt on the lawfulness of the arrest, investigation, and indictment of Dmitriev. They called on the Russian Federation to ensure full respect for Dmitriev’s human rights, and to release him immediately. 

That case is not the only case in Russia connected with criminal prosecution of historians who have conducted research on Stalin’s repressions. Another Karelian historian, Sergey Koltyrin, was sentenced to 9 years in prison for pedophilia in May 2019. Both sentences and prosecutions appear to be politically motivated.

Case UPDATES

March 23, 2020: Having already detained Dmitriev for approximately 20 months, the court extends Dmitriev’s detention until June 25th. The next hearing is scheduled for April 14th.

June 27, 2018: Yury Dmitriev is detained on the way out of Petrozavodsk. A criminal case about violent acts of a sexual nature has been brought against him. Under the article on sexual assault concerning a person who has not reached the age of 14, Yuri Dmitriev faces up to 20 years in prison.

January 28, 2018: Yury Dmitriev is released from Petrozavodsk pre-trial detention on bail after a supplemental investigation and psychological assessment. In the second examination, that was appointed during the criminal case in court at the request of the prosecutor’s office and conducted in the Federal Department of Independent Judicial Expertise, they refused to consider the pictures pornographic.

April 5, 2018: The Petrozavodsk City Court acquits Dmitriev under the articles on depraved acts and the production of pornography. He is cleared of the child pornography charges but sentenced to two years and six months of restriction of freedom and community service under the article on possession of weapons.

March 2, 2017: Dmitriev is officially charged with indecent assault against his young adopted daughter and illegal possession of weapons; his arrest is extended.

December 13, 2016: Yury Dmitriev is detained and later arrested on charges of producing child pornography through an anonymous indictment. According to investigators, Dmitriev had been engaged in the production of child pornography, taking pictures of his adopted daughter (she was 11 years old in 2016) for several years; however, he had never published or shared the pictures.