Staunton, August 5 – The extent to which Russian propagandists are prepared to go to try to discredit regionalism is on full view in Karelia this week where a quasi-official news outlet has suggested that the Karelian “regionalists” who it says are really separatists “plagiarized” its flag from that of the Irish Republican Army.
The only problem is that the Karelian flag existed 16 years before the IRA adopted a similar one, something the editors of the Karelian site could have found out from Wikipedia but didn’t and chose to ignore when two leading Karelian regionalists sent them a correction which they refused to run.
On August 29, Karelnovosti carried a curious article entitled “The Flag of the Karelian ‘Regionalists’ Turns Out to Have an Irish Origin” that reported on the findings of Aleksandr Stepanov, a deputy in the Karelian parliament (karelnovosti.ru/society/flag-karelskix-regionalistov-okazalsya-irlandskim-po-proisxozhdeniyu/).
The article identified Stepanov as a historian who has concluded that the Finnish artist who drew the flag Karelian regionalists now use, tracing its origins to the Ukhta republic during the Russian Civil War, plagiarized the big dipper stars on a blue field from the flag the IRA marched under during the Easter 1916 rising against the British.
“Ireland and Finland were at about the same stage in acquiring their independence” at that time, Stepanov says, and they “watched what each other was doing. They knew about symbols.” Consequently, it is no surprise, Stepanov says, that the Finnish artist took the easy way out and simply copied the IRA flag.
There are many problems with this story beginning with the insistence on putting the term “regionalist” in quotation marks and suggesting that “many” people think the regionalists are in fact separatists and ending with the history of the flags of Karelia and of the Irish Republican Army.
Andrey Osipov and Vadim Shtepa, two prominent Karelian regionalists, took the time to point out just how poor a historian Stepanov is and how inaccurate his story is. They composed a response and sent it in to Karelnovosti which despite normal journalistic practice refused to publish it. As a result, they have posted their story on the Free Karelia portal (free-karelia.info/index.php/ru/nastoyashchee/respublika/181-kto-i-zachem-iskazhaet-istoriyu.html