Monday, March 4, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Pomor Activist Fined After Most Serious Charges Dropped

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 4 – A district court in Arkhangelsk fined Pomor activist Ivan Moseyev 100,000 rubles (3,300 US dollars) for extremism because of an insult to the dignity of the Russian people he posted online, but only after that court had earlier dropped the more serious charge against him of espionage on behalf of Norway.

            On Friday, the October District Court of Arkhangelsk announced its verdict and imposed this fine on Ivan Moseyev, the director of the Pomor Institute for Indigenous and Numerically Small Peoples at the Arctic Federal University, according to a report in the “Ekho Russkogo Severa” newspaper (

            The court ruled that Moseyev, despite his denials, had on April 1, 2012, had used his personal computer to post online comments signed with the pseudonym “Pomor” comments that were insulting to the dignity of members of the Russian ethnic group and ones that he knew would thus be seen by a large number of Russian citizens.

            The case against Moseyev was initiative by the Arkhangelsk office of the FSB and attracted widespread attention in northwestern Russia and in Europe because the Russian authorities had first charged Moseyev with espionage.  That charge was later dropped when key witnesses disavowed the testimony they had earlier made.

            Moseyev’s lawyers will certainly appeal the case, and so this verdict is far from the end of the Pomor expert activist’s legal travails. But in many respects, it constitutes a victory for him, one possible only because of the outrage that Norwegian and other Scandinavian governments and human rights groups expressed.

            And it is likely that this judicial finding will spark another outburst of Russian commentary on Moseyev and the Pomors, a small northern community whose members see as a distinct nationality but which most Russian writers say is simply a part of the Russian nation which some in the country and abroad want to break off from that ethnos.

            Consequently, Moseyev’s case is likely to continue to resonate precisely because his work highlights three things that most Russian nationalists and many in the central government are very reluctant to acknowledge. First, the Russian nation is far less coherent than many of them want to assume and may continue to fragment.

            Second, members of these small groups are increasingly active and are using the Internet to promote their cause.  And third and most important perhaps, these groups, especially those located near the border of the Russian Federation, can attract international support. Moscow must thus balance its interest in repressing them with a concern about its own reputation.


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