Staunton, September 23 – In an article bearing the title “There was No March But the Traitors were Found,” Anatoly Tsygankov, “the chief political observer of Karelia,” according to Politika-Karelia.ru, provided a classical example of tendentious disinformation about the protest against Moscow’s war in Ukraine that took place in Petrozavodsk on Sunday.
Such articles often succeed in having an impact locally because those who can challenge what they say do not have a means of objecting to them and out of the region because those looking on from Moscow or elsewhere do not have the specific information needed to question what such authors put forward.
But this article – available at politika-karelia.ru/?p=14420&cpage=1#comment-54480 – is a happy and useful exception because one of the participants in the Sunday meeting in the Karelian capital, regionalist activist Vadim Shtepa has responded with a point-by-point refutation of Tsygankov’s article in a comment appended to the original 825-word piece.
Declaring that Tsygankov is “either openly lying or is absolutely uninformed which for ‘the main political observer of Karelia’ seems strange,” Shtepa makes seven points, each of which is important not only for an understanding of events in that republic but of how regional media in Putin’s Russia are now working.
First of all, despite what Tsyganokov says, “there is no ‘Free Karelia’ public organization. This is only the name of a Vkontakte group. What does exist is the Republic Movement of Karelia which was the organizer of [Sunday’s] action.” But Shtepa says, he is “only one of the participants and not its head.
Second, “no ‘sanctioned actions’ occurred,” the regionalist says. No such authorization was required since in Petrozavodsk there is a Hyde Park location where small protests can occur without any permission. “However, it turns out that [Tsygankov] doesn’t know this.”
Third, it is not the case that Shtepa didn’t have the courage of his convictions to “repeat the slogans of the Moscow march. Karelians are quite capable of thinking up their own ideas and slogans. Can it be, he asks rhetorically, that a Karelian commentator is so wedded to the idea of “verticals” and “bosses” that he cannot imagine this?
Fourth, Shtepa continues, Tsygankov’s “suspicions that we support some ‘Banderites’ are simply funny. “With equal success, I could call you a Stalinist or a follower of Beriya because precisely those people at one time struggled with the Banderites. If Tsygankov can’t distinguish between a call for peace and the struggle with “Banderites,” he has a real problem.
Fifth, the activist says, he and his colleagues “have not written and do not intend to write any ‘reports’ about the meeting to anyone” despite Tsygankov’s claims. Anyone who thinks that all politics are the product of conspiracies by hidden forces and that those who engage in public politics are only puppets of someone else are sadly deluded.
Sixth, Tsygankov by this article and others shows that he “really doesn’t understand the difference between regionalism and separatism,” Shtepa says. That means he has no right to call himself a political analyst because such people learn this distinction “already when they are at university.”
And seventh, Shtepa says he has no interest in whatever “compromising information” Tsygankov supposedly has. It would be absurd in any case. But he continues, he is “seriously worried by the fact that the head of the Union of Journalists of Karelia has lost any sense of objectivity and become an ideological ally” of those who “back war with a neighboring country.”
Consequently, Shtepa concludes, he is “prepared to support colleagues if they raise the issue about removing A. Tsygankov from the post he occupies in this public organization.”