Saturday, July 26, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Chuvash Prosecutors Go After Re-Publisher of ‘We're Tatars Not Russians’

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 26 – Investigators in Chuvashia have opened a criminal case against the editor of a local paper who republished Fauziya Bayramova’s much-reposted 2011 article “We’re Tatars Not Russians,” an action that simultaneously highlights the sweep of Moscow’s crackdown against nationalism and the impossibility of that campaign succeeding.


            Today, the All-Tatar Social Center (VTOTs) reports Chuvash investigators are pursuing criminal charges of extremism against Eduard Mochalov, the founding editor of the Chuvash newspaper, “Vzyatka,” nominally for his role in publishing Bayramova’s article but in fact for exposing corruption in that Middle Volga republic (


And VTOTs notes that not only are these charges absurd, reflecting the private interests of the Russian rulers of Chuvashia, but are leading to unconstitutional actions without any hope that this action will keep people from reading such articles in the future, given how widely they have been reposted on the Internet.


            Having opened this case, Chuvash investigators have called in Mochalov and others, searched the offices of the paper where they confiscated its computers and files, and also conducted searches in the homes of journalists connected with the paper, where in the words of one victim they “turned everything upside down.”


            Just how little regard these Chuvash officials have for the law or the facts was shown, VTOTs says, by the following.  They called in Mochalov to ask him to reveal the name of the person behind what they said was the pseudonym “Fauziya Bayramova” over whose name the article in question appeared.


            Bayramova, of course, is “not a pseudonym,” the Tatar site continues. Rather, she is real woman, “a native of the Republic of Tatarstan,” and a much-persecuted activist who heads the opposition party Ittifaq and is aleader of the radical wing of the Tatar national movement which “is struggling for the independence of Tatarstan.”


            This confusion about a supposed pseudonym recalls the unfortunate fate of a short story by Alexander Solzhenitsyn when it was first translated into English. In the story, an NKVD officer says that the organs will always get their man because they “never make mistakes,” but as he says this, he gives the wrong patronymic for the individual he is pursuing.


Because the copy of Solzhenitsyn’s short story was disseminated via samizdat, the first American translator thought that this was a typo and corrected the patronymic, thereby eliminating all the tragic irony of the situation the great Russian writer was seeking to call attention to.


But the ironies of the current situation in Chuvashia don’t end there.  Bayramova’s article, which first appeared in 2011, has been republished and reposted dozens if not hundreds of times. It has never been declared “extremist” and none of the sites on which it has appeared has been declared extremist either.


The prosecution and persecution of the Chuvash paper and its editor for republishing Bayramova’s article is quite obviously a cover for something else, VTOTs says.  It suggests that the extremism case has been dreamed up to give officials the opportunity to close down the paper because it has carried many articles about criminal actions by officials.


Those charges have never been investigated, VTOTs says, and officials obviously hope that by bringing extremism charges against the paper, they can ensure that they never will be, yet another example of the way in which in Russia today, “law enforcement organs have been ‘privatized’” to protect those in power.

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