In Brief

Russia ‘tries to declare Stalin historian insane’

Historian who angered the Kremlin by exposing Soviet leader’s crimes begins enforced psychiatric testing

A Russian historian who angered the Kremlin by exposing the crimes of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin is being forced to have psychiatric tests, prompting fears he will be falsely declared insane.

 In a throwback to the days of Soviet rule, when dissidents were regularly committed to psychiatric hospitals in a bid to silence or discredit them, Yuri Dmitriev has been put on trial. He is accused of taking lewd photos of his adopted daughter and illegally possessing “the main elements of” a firearm.

Reuters reports that some of Russia’s leading cultural figures claim Dmitriev has been framed “because his focus on Stalin’s crimes - he found a mass grave with up to 9,000 bodies dating from the Soviet dictator’s Great Terror in the 1930s - jars with the latter-day Kremlin narrative that Russia must not be ashamed of its past”.

Dmitriev has already undergone one psychiatric test which found him to be of sound mind and a court-sanctioned expert group found no obscene content in nine photographs of his daughter that are at the centre of the case against him.

However, an appeal court has ordered the same photos to be re-examined and granted the prosecution’s request that Dmitriev undergo enforced psychiatric testing to determine whether he has “sexual deviations”.

The historian’s lawyer, Victor Anufriev, told Reuters he was concerned state security officials might pressure doctors into declaring his client insane.

“Perhaps if they can’t convict him (of child pornography) they need to declare him insane,” he said. “It’s a purely Soviet procedure. Make accusations and then end things by locking someone up in a psychiatric facility.”

This is not the first time the state has tried to discredit Dmitriev. Last year, state TV claimed his research had been funded by foreigners hoping to distort Russian history.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is up for re-election this year, has asserted that an “excessive demonisation of Stalin” is being used to undermine Russia.

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