On September 14, the Agriculture_club Art Space in Petrozavodsk opened a traveling exhibition called "Watchman of History" about Karelian researcher of Stalin’s terror Yury Dmitriev. It was created by cinema professional and journalist Svetlana Kulchitskaya from St. Petersburg. Kulchitskaya told the correspondent of 7x7 why it was held on the day before the appeal against the historian’s verdict and what this exhibition meant.
— What is the message of the exhibition?
- Exhibitions are a photo essay, not just a story about what happened, but an attempt to say that life is beautiful and tragic. The exhibition shows that you can overcome this tragedy and remain yourself if you have a lifetime project, if you are surrounded by like-minded people, if you love this life and understand its meaning. I spent about six months looking for and selecting pictures from Dmitriev's scientific expeditions to Sandarmokh and Belomorkanal, from the photo report of criminal proceedings, and I retyped his letters from the pre-trial detention facility and the letters sent to him as a sign of support. Some texts deepen what we see, and some of them make it possible to understand what is happening in the world.
— Why did you bring the exhibition to Petrozavodsk after St. Petersburg?
— I wanted this to be a traveling exhibition from the very start. When I put all these pictures together, I realized that it was physically impossible for me. My friends helped me place it in the foyer of the Interior Theater on Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg. Due to the fact that Yura has a trial on September 16, I made some adjustments to the exhibition and agreed with my friends to organize it in Petrozavodsk. We held the exhibition on the day before the appeal, so that everyone who came to see the trial could attend it in Agriculture_club after the hearing or during a break.
I am sure that the exhibition should have been held here, because the things it tells about happened in these places. I believe that Petrozavodsk is a very Soviet city, even the names of local streets tell me that life here has not stepped into another century ye. The city clearly reflects what is happening, it did not go through that perestroika and post-perestroika period, but remained as if everything would come back here. Many people do not know Dmitriev’s story and what Sandarmokh is. I saw it myself yesterday when I talked to someone at the exhibition. Therefore, I thought I had to hold it in Petrozavodsk.
— What is your assessment of the results?
— I was pleased that about 50 people had attended the exhibition the day before: this is a lot, considering that it was not advertised. I was glad to see young people attend the exhibition. I was talking to a young woman and a history student who promised to bring some friends. These were young people who did not just have a look at the exhibition and left. I talked to them for a very long time not only about the exhibition and its concept, but also about what was happening in the country and why this all [the criminal prosecution] happened to Yura.
— Where are you planning to hold the exhibition after Petrozavodsk?
— I am planning to hold the exhibition again in St. Petersburg which has some "freedom pockets": the same Interior Theater and another open space that I know. I am currently negotiating with the Sakharov Center in Moscow. It can also take place in the Yabloko Party’s quarters — its Chairman, Nikolai Rybakov, is my friend. If I am invited somewhere else and provided with at least a little financial assistance in the organization, I am coming, for sure.
The exhibition about Yury Dmitriev is open for only three days – up to September 16. You can see it in the Agriculture_club Art Space in Petrozavodsk at 20 Kommunalnaya Street.
Ivan Zhuravkov, photos by Sergei Markelov, «7х7»