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Finnish Fools and Muscovite Mudslingers

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) promotes cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and free speech.




The Swedish journalist, Kalle Kniivilä, has written an analysis of the campaign of lies that have been hurled against Teivo Teivainen, Professor of World Politics at the University of Helsinki, following his participation at an event in support of the members of the Russian feminist punk band, Pussy Riot, now being tried in a medieval show trial in Moscow. Below, a translation of Mr Kniivilä’s original article:

No other Finn appears more often in Russian media than Johan Bäckman. He speaks good Russian and is happy to explain to everyone who is willing to listen why the Russian authorities are always right. He is usually presented as an “anti-fascist” and a “human rights activist” as well as lecturer at Helsinki University.

In Finland, people have long since stopped taking Bäckman seriously, because what he says is so obviously false. “A genocide of Russians going on in Finland” is a typical example of the sort of “news” that he spreads in Russian media. One can only wonder why his message finds an audience in Russia so easily.

It had been quiet on Bäckman’s front for a while, but now there was apparently a demand for a new dose of suitable disinformation, ahead of Friday’s court decision in the Pussy Riot trial in Moscow.

Over the course of one day, Russian media spread the false claim that a professor in Helsinki now faced possible jail time for incitement against the Orthodox church and for a violation of a ban on masks during demonstrations. The only source for these reports was the “great human rights activist,” Johan Bäckman.

The reports first came from Russia’s Interfax news agency, which claimed, without checking the facts, that a certain professor Teivo Teivainen, accompanied by masked women, would have attempted to enter the Uspensky Cathedral in Helsinki to organise a repeat of Pussy Riot’s performance.

Moreover, the Interfax article claimed that Professor Teivainen would have had with him a “jerry can full of urine,” which he intended to throw inside the church.

Interfax continued: Professor Teivainen and his company was refused entry to the church. They therefore held their unsanctioned rally outside the church doors, which led to security having been reinforced at all Orthodox churches in Finland. Professor Teivainen would now face charges for all this, Interfax “reported,” apparently not bothering to check the facts.

What is true is that Teivo Teivainen, who is indeed a professor of world politics at Helsinki University, and two masked women did stand outside Uspensky Cathedral at around 6pm on 3 August 2012 and took some photos as part of a protest walk that consisted of several stops. They were well aware that the church had closed its doors at 4pm, and they made no attempt whatsover to enter the church. Naturally, there was no jerry can of urine.

No charges have been brought. However, Johan Bäckman and his friends have submitted a complaint to the police, which they have every right to do. The complaint will very likely not lead to any investigation, and any talk of possible jail time is just rubbish.

The article regarding the wearing of masks can only be applied if it is clear that the masked person intends to engage in violent acts or destruction of property. It is not forbidden to be photographed in a yellow balaclava outside a church. Nor does it seem very likely that a few persons who photograph each other in front of a church would have disturbed a church service, especially when taking into account that the church was, in fact, closed at the time and there was no church service underway.

Given that Johan Bäckman has apparently been the main source, possibly the only source, for all Russian media “reports” about the event, Teivo Teivainen called him and asked whether he was the source for the claim about a non-existent jerry can of urine. Bäckman first did not want to answer and claimed that he did not remember everything he said to Russian media, but then finally asserted that he had not said anything about urine in particular.

Whatever is the truth on that point, it is quite obvious that the purpose of this particular disinformation campaign is to discredit the global campaign of solidarity in defence of Pussy Riot and, at the same time, assert, without any basis in fact, that such acts would lead to lengthy prison sentences in other countries as well.

The disinformation campaign was so successful that the claim about the “jerry can of urine” ended up on at least one less well-known Finnish news site, which simply republished the Russian media reports without checking the original source. The canard was quickly shot down in Finland and the website removed the “news” and apologised. In Russia, however, the rumour mill is still in full speed.

As if all this was not enough, Bäckman’s claims about “charges” to be laid against Professor Teivainen spread via Russia’s state-owned news agency, RIA Novosti, to international media. UPI, which has lost much of its credibility, went even further and claimed that Professor Teivainen had been arrested because of his terrible crimes.

Read the original article in Swedish:

Bäckman i farten igen
Kalle Kniivilä, 15.08.2012

…and the author’s own translation into Russian:

Бекман набирает обороты
Калле Книйвиля, 16.08.2012



  1. kallekn says:

    You could have asked for permission before translating and publishing the complete text of my article. Please do, next time. I’ll let this one pass. The translation seems generally more or less OK. However, "Whatever the facts of the case…" should read "Whatever is the truth on that point…" or something in that direction.

  2. Kerkko Paananen says:

    Thought I was doing a public service, ended up violating your copyright. My apologies. Will be more careful next time. Made the corrections. Thank you! 🙂

  3. kallekn says:

    No problem, I just wanted to make the point.


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