Thursday, August 30, 2012

Curioser and curioser

This blog has mentioned before the curious occurrences in Finland where criminal charges are being pressed against a university professor who wanted to imitate the Pussy Riot punk prayer. Well, to be quite precise, he and his associates wanted to stage a protest rally outside the Cathedral of Assumption in Helsinki. Let us be fair minded about this and say that this was probably not a good idea. Staging a protest against a corrupt and authoritarian political system in which the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church gleefully participates in Russia is one thing. A protest in Helsinki would be more appropriate outside the Russian Embassy or Consulate.
Criminal charges that might result in extensive imprisonment, however, seem a little excessive and unexpected in a democratic country.

As I pointed out in my posting,
What is particularly interesting about the criminal charges is that they were laid by, among others, human right activist Johan Baeckman, who represents the Anti-Fascist Committee of Finland.
A number of people became interested enough to follow up the career of Johan Baeckman and one reader of this blog from across the Pond directed my attention to the man's Wikipedia entry and quite interesting it is, too. There is too much to quote but it is fair to say that Johan Baekman's main political preoccupation is to support Russia in every way, to try to prove that Finland was the real aggressor in 1941 (Continuation War) whereas the original conflict (Winter War) did not really happen, that Finland has planned ethnic cleansing of Karelia and, possibly, other parts of Russia and other interesting historical counter-factuals.

More recently, he has written about a "conspiracy" to smear Vladimir Putin through the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, carried out by those conspirators.

He has also denied that there was any Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940 - 41 (and, for all I know, at any time at all) and has, as part of his "anti-fascist" activity staged joint demonstrations and anti-Estonian protests with the thuggish Nashi, the Putinite youth movement.

The story has now been taken up by the St Petersburg Times. [The English is not mine but the website's]
Several Russian news outlets reported that Teivo Teivainen, a professor of world politics at the University of Helsinki, faces up to five years in prison for trying to break into a Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the Finnish capital with a canister full of urine. 
Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, Finnish YLE radio and the University of Helsinki have all exposed the accusations as false, but Russian media seem to be in no hurry to publish corrections of their earlier reports.

The “canister of urine” fiction became a national story in Russia when it was reported by Interfax, the major news agency, and picked up by other news agencies, websites, newspapers and major television channels on August 15, two days ahead of the verdict in the Pussy Riot trial.
Unsurprisingly, the source for this and various other factual inaccuracies is our friend, the anti-fascist (how that title takes one back) Johan Baeckman, "Finland's best-known supporter of the Putin regime".
Many of Bäckman’s previous statements have been readily and uncritically reprinted in the Russian press, leading Helsingin Sanomat to dub Bäckman “the Russian media’s favorite Finn.”
In an article titled “Criminal proceedings launched against organizer of attempt to repeat the Pussy Riot performance in Helsinki,” Interfax reported on Aug. 15 that Bäckman and several other people had signed a complaint to the police.
“Criminal proceedings have been initiated under two Finnish Criminal Code articles concerning the violation of rules on religious tolerance,” Bäckman was quoted as saying.
A paragraph containing a reference to the “canister full of urine,” although technically unattributed, was inserted between quotations from Bäckman.
It seems that the reality was slightly different:
The University of Helsinki published a statement the following day in which it asked the media to correct the information and denied the accusations against Teivainen, who had spoken in support of Pussy Riot during one in a series of walking tours organized by the university and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art.
During these tours, Teivainen stops at different sites and discusses international political issues with his audience. During the walk on August 3, he stopped near the Bank of Finland, where he spoke about the global economic crisis. During the stop near Uspenski Cathedral, he spoke about the human rights situation in Russia.
“The walking tours included several vivifying pieces of performance art, one of which was held in front of the cathedral,” the University of Helsinki’s statement said.
“In it, two masked women expressed their support for the group Pussy Riot. The performance did not constitute a crime.”
It seems that other signatories of the criminal charges have now realized that they have been somewhat misled and have "retracted their signatures from Bäckman’s petition to the University of Helsinki, in which he demanded that the university fire Teivainen" though their signatures are still there on Bäckman’s site.

Meanwhile, the leading Finnish supporter of Putin's regime anti-fascist is having some trouble explaining where some of the stories have originated and whether there are, indeed, criminal charges being pressed against Professor Teivainen.

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