Putin-Jugend in Helsinki

Putin-Jugend in Helsinki

The Russian government-supported youth movement, Nashi, plans to hold
demonstrations in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, on 23 March 2009
against a seminar organised by the Estonian Embassy in Helsinki. Johan
Bäckman, leader of the self-declared ?Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee?
(Safka), said Estonia?s pro-Moscow Nightwatch (Nochnoy Dozor)
organisation will also take part in the demonstrations. The organisers
of the planned demonstration repeat Kremlin?s assertion that the
seminar, Fear Behind the Wall, is ?anti-Russian? and ?pro-Nazi.?

The Estonian Embassy will organise the seminar in cooperation with the
Latvian and Lithuanian embassies, Finnish book publisher WSOY, and
Finland?s National Audiovisual Archive (KAVA). The seminar will mark
60 years since the March deportations in Estonia and 20 years since
the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. Political scientist
Iivi Anna Masso will interview authors Imbi Paju and Sofi Oksanen,
editors of the article compilation, ?Fear Behind Us All.?

Speaking on Russia?s state-run First Channel, Johan Bäckman claimed
that ?anti-Russian forces? have spread their activities from the
Baltic States to Finland. He claimed prized Finnish author Sofi
Oksanen and Estonian-born political scientist Iivi Anna Masso were
spreading ?fascist, pro-Nazi propaganda? in Finland. Bäckman
characterised the series of documentary films, ?Fear Behind the Wall,?
to be screened at the Finnish National Audiovisual Archive?s Orion
cinema, as a series of ?anti-Russian films?.

Bäckman has made numerous provocative statements against Estonia and
in support of Kremlin policies. He has published books that are
uncritically supportive of Russia?s official party line and
denigrating Finnish critics of the regime in Moscow. Bäckman?s novel,
?Saatana saapuu Helsinkiin,? smeared late journalist and human rights
activist Anna Politkovskaya and Finnish critics of Putin?s rule; the
book ?Pronssisoturi? accompanied Moscow?s anti-Estonian campaign after
the riots in Tallinn that followed the transfer of the Soviet war
memorial, the ?Bronze Soldier,? in spring 2007.

Bäckman has launched several blogs, which he uses to spread
disinformation about politics in Russia, Finland, and the Baltic
States. Many well-known critics of Russia?s current regime are
constantly being targeted with verbal attacks in Bäckman?s various
blogs. Those at the receiving end of Bäckman?s verbal abuse include,
among others, Jarkko Tontti, vice-chairman of the Finnish branch of
International PEN; Jukka Mallinen, former chairman of Finnish PEN;
Finnish political scientist Iivi Anna Masso; Estonian journalist Imbi
Paju; Finnish novelist Sofi Oksanen; and Ville Ropponen, chairman of
the Finnish association of progressive artists and writers, Kiila.

These absurd allegations are eerily reminiscent of Soviet
disinformation campaigns and can be seen as a form of political
pressure. Their intended purpose is clearly to intimidate critics and
to impose a new form of self-censorship in Finnish public debate.
Bäckman has adopted an aggressive tactic of accusing his opponents of
defamation, thus deflecting attention from his own libelous
allegations against a wide spectre of Finnish cultural and political
figures. His latest venture, bringing Russian pro-regime street thugs
onto the streets of Helsinki, takes his campaign to a whole new level.

Senior figures in the Russian presidential administration encouraged
the creation of the Nashi movement, which by late 2007 had around
120,000 members. The Kremlin?s primary goal may have been to create a
paramilitary force to harass and attack Putin?s critics and members of
the democratic opposition. Nashists have also inflitrated opposition
groups as the regime?s paid spies. Recently, Nashi members claimed
responsibility for cyber attacks that crippled Estonia?s internet
infrastructure amidst a diplomatic quarrel with Russia in spring 2007.

The demonstrations planned in Helsinki on 23 March 2009 may be part of
an attempt by Johan Bäckman and his cohorts to spread Nashi?s venomous
intimidation of critics of Russia?s ruling regime outside of Russia?s
borders. Bäckman has actively propagated the same inverted logic of
?anti-fascism? that Nashists adhere to. Recently, Bäckman launched an
initiative to establish a ?Russian People?s Party? in Finland. This,
and previous ventures, are clearly an attempt to mobilise Finland?s
Russian-speakers into supporting Moscow?s cynical, anti-integrationist
policies in its ?near abroad.?