Russian historian receives 2021 Sakharov Freedom Award

On the 100th anniversary of Andrey Sakharov’s birth, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee will present the 2021 Sakharov Freedom Award to historian and dissident Yury Dmitriev.

– Yury Dmitriev is known for his work to identify victims of Soviet terror in Karelia, where tens of thousands of people were shot and killed without trial or conviction and buried in mass graves. Dmitriev has quite literally reassembled the bones of the victims in these mass graves, identified them by name and given them back their dignity, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Geir Hønneland, explaining the reason behind the award.

Dmitriev’s work on so-called liquidations during the Stalin era are considered so threatening by the current Russian government that accusations of paedophilia and sexual abuse have been fabricated against him. He was recently sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Millions were killed during Soviet terror, but the victims of these atrocities and their living relatives have never been given real justice. Dmitriev is currently serving a prison sentence and is considered a political prisoner by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and other leading human rights organizations.

You can draw a line from Andrei Sakharov’s time as a political prisoner, from his struggle to ensure that Russia faces up to its past and the importance of documentation and truth to prevent new atrocities, straight up to Yury Dmitriev’s struggle in modern-day Russia.

Geir Hønneland, secretary general

For his dedication and courage, Dmitriev enjoys considerable respect among other historians and activists, both in Russia and internationally outside the country. For the past several years, he has led the Russian organization Human Rights Center Memorial’s regional office in Karelia.

21 May 2021 marks 100 years since the birth of Andrei Sakharov. Due to current restrictions related to Covid-19, the award ceremony will be held on 29 October 2021 in cooperation with the City of Oslo, on the annual Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions in the Soviet Union.