Thursday, January 31, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Case Against Pomor Activist Collapsing, But Karelia Continues Its Crackdown on Minorities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 31 – Twelve defense witnesses said last week that the Karelian government’s extremism charges against Ivan Moseyev, leader of the Pomor national movement, were absurd, with Pyotr Kirpita, the head of the Union of Slavic Peoples, testifying that he was “surprised that such a show trial is taking place now” in Arkhangelsk.

            But Karelian prosecutors are not backing down and yesterday rejected a request by Moseyev’s lawyer to allow representatives of human rights groups to speak on his behalf.  While no date for the court’s verdict has been announced, Petrazavodsk seems committed to pressing ahead with this case and others as well (

            Prosecutors there this week continued to pursue a case against a blogger who supposedly has insulted the Orthodox Church (, and the republic parliament voted 22 to 17 against a measure that would have given more language rights to the republic’s titular nationality (

            Moseyev’s case has attracted the most attention not only in Russia but internationally because Karelian officials first charged him with high treason for supposedly spying for Norway, an accusation they have dropped or at least suspended because of outrage by the Norwegian government and Scandinavian activists.

            But it does appear to be part of a more general effort in Karelia and other places outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, where there are more civic activists and Western journalists to take notice, to test the waters concerning just how citizens of the Russian Federation will respond to greater repression.

            And that makes Moseyev’s latest comments especially noteworthy. Officials, he says, “are doing everything they can to put together a credible case, but to most people it is obvious that this is ridiculous" because “when someone on the internet calls for the Pomors to be shot, the prosecutor doesn't notice anything, but for an innocent phrase I used I get nabbed.”

            Officials have “chosen a selective application of Article 282 of the Criminal Code” with the transparently obvious aim being “to discredit me and stop my efforts to revive Pomor culture and to put a stop to studies of the Pomor people,” something Moseyev has pioneered as director of the Pomor Institute at the Northern Federal University.

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