Four civic activists and Russia experts in Finland have published a statement condemning the actions of the so-called Finnish “Anti-Fascist” Committee (SAFKA) and Kremlin’s parallel propaganda campaign against Finland. The statement’s signatories call on Finnish public opinion to give its assessment of the committee’s actions. The authors state that Russia’s habit of doing politics on the situation of distressed people living in Finland is unacceptable.
Propaganda Campaign Threatens Finnish-Russian RelationsIn the past few years, Finnish-Russian relations have become embroiled in personal problems of individual families. First was the case of Anton Salonen, a small boy who was kidnapped by his biological mother to Russia and then brought by his father back to Finland. Then there were the highly publicised cases of seven-year-old Robert Rantala, whom child protection authorities in the city of Turku took into custody, the case concerning custodianship of the daughter of Valentina Putkonen, and the deportation of 82-year-old Irina Antonova to Russia. Long before these individual cases were brought up in Finnish and Russian media, they were used by the so-called “Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee” (SAFKA), which was established by Helsinki University lecturer Johan Bäckman, to fan the flames of discord. Mr Bäckman often acts as the public mouthpiece of one of the parties in the disputed cases. He insists that the cases that he is involved in are not private but state affairs. SAFKA’s active members are often interviewed as “experts” in Russian media and have received official endorsement from Russian authorities. The exaggerated and distorted claims made by the group’s members have spread like wildfire in Russian media. Mr Bäckman is the favourite “Finnish expert” on Russia’s state-controlled television. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s Commissioner on Children’s Rights, Pavel Astakhov, has visited Finland twice and made disparaging comments about the actions of Finnish authorities. *** SAFKA is clearly looking for individual problem cases among Finland’s Russian-speaking community, which the committee’s active members then generalise, embellish, and exaggerate. The group feels fairly confident knowing that Finnish authorities are prohibited by law from commenting individual cases, even if the claims made are obviously false. The committee’s website claims that Finnish authorities are guilty of systematic repression against ethnic Russians. The group claims that a “tsunami of Russophobia” has blown over Finland. SAFKA alleges that the actions of Finnish authorities are racist and fascist in nature. SAFKA strives to create discord between Finland’s Russian-speaking population and the authorities. The propaganda is clearly aimed at feeding the bitterness of immigrants who may have found themselves in the margins of society. It seems the committee would like to see the emergence of a group of people within Finland’s Russian minority that would feel that their ethnic rights had been violated, and which the Kremlin could then utilise to further its domestic and foreign policy objectives. Estonians have a vivid memory of the committee’s actions in connection with the riots that followed the removal of a Soviet war memorial in Tallinn in April 2007. SAFKA’s actions are an affront to all democratically-minded Russians and Finns. First and foremost the group’s actions dishonour Finnish-Russian mixed families and Finland’s Russian-speaking population. The agitation cynically incited by the Kremlin seeks to put a stop to the good progress made in the integration of Russian speakers into Finnish society. In the worst case scenario, this may sabotage the successes of the multiculturalisation of Finnish society. The utilisation of defenseless children and the elderly in the interests of propaganda is particularly revolting. *** The so-called “Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee” led by Johan Bäckman has been active since 2008. The group claims to have around 100 members. The committee’s active members, who (besides Mr Bäckman) include Juha Molari, Leena Hietanen, Risto “Abdullah” Tammi, Petri Krohn, and Janne Nummela, churn out constant hate speech on the group’s website, defaming
in quite vulgar terms known critics of the policies of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Finland. SAFKA’s objective seems to be to poison Russian public opinion against the state and people of Finland. Moreover, SAFKA has been wooing people on the extreme left of the Finnish political landscape by posing as supporters of socialism. In fact, the group advocates the policies of Putinism, which is an ideology of authoritarianism aimed at personal enrichment by fleecing the people. We had hoped that the siren song of dictatorship was long past in Finland, but it seems that here, history is doomed to repeat itself. These Pied Pipers of Putinism find pleasure in slandering the critics of Moscow’s authoritarian policies in Finland. Public opinion in Finland has long looked at this campaign of abuse and propaganda from the side. We call on representatives of Finnish civil society to give their assessment of these stooges of imperial power. We question the passivity of Finnish authorities in a situation where Moscow is doing its utmost to tarnish Finland’s good image in the eyes of Russian public opinion and Finland’s Russian-speaking population. Russia’s preference for doing politics on the situation of distressed people living in Finland is utterly unacceptable. Jukka Mallinen,
translator, expert on Russian culture Ville Ropponen,
journalist, author of non-fiction Kerkko Paananen,
civic activist Mikael Storsjö,
entrepreneur, civic activist
The appeal was originally published in Finnish on the website of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum: http://finrosforum.fi/diktatuurin-karpaset-politiikan-tunkiolla