The Corner


‘With My Own Bare Hands’

A Russian journalist, Maria Eismont, said, “The Yuri Dmitriev case is, perhaps, the most important thing happening in Russia right now.” I write about this case in a piece on the homepage today: “The Grave-Hunter, Hunted.”

Dmitriev has long been associated with Memorial, a Russian civil-society group. Its purpose is two-fold: to promote the truth about the past, and to promote democracy in the present. Putin’s Kremlin has all but shut the group down. Last year, they labeled it a “foreign agent,” which is a very damning charge in Russia.

You can understand why the Kremlin does not like democracy promotion. But what about the truth about the past? The Kremlin has become very, very defensive of the Stalin era, and of the Soviet era in general.

Here is Putin talking to a friendly interviewer, Oliver Stone, the U.S. filmmaker: “Stalin was a product of his time. You can demonize him all you want, or, on the other hand, talk about his contributions to victory over Nazism. But the excessive demonization of Stalin is just one way to attack the Soviet Union and Russia.”

In my piece today, I mention Vladimir Luzgin, a blogger. He said that the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939. That’s like saying that Wednesday follows Tuesday. Luzgin was prosecuted for saying what he did. He was lucky: He got off with a fine of 200,000 rubles, which is about $3,500. He could have been sent to prison.

Yuri Dmitriev has devoted his life to uncovering, chronicling, and memorializing the dead. The murdered, more specifically. Dmitriev is a grave-hunter — a locator of graves. The urge to find these graves, and honor the people within them, is very strong, in some. I had a lesson in this last month.

Marina Nemat spoke at an Oslo Freedom Forum. She is an Iranian dissident, long in exile. I have known her for many years. She is a sparkling, lovely, delightful woman, who loves to laugh. Yet, you never know what burns within people.

When a teenager, Marina was an inmate of Evin Prison, one of the most unspeakable places on earth. She made it out alive, and out of Iran, but some of her friends did not. From the stage last month, she made a statement that shook us all:

“One day I will go back home, and I will search, and I promise you I will find every single mass grave in that country, and there are many. I will walk on my knees, and I will find every one of them. I will dig the dirt with my own bare hands, and I will make sure that those young women, and young men, are remembered.”

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