Several propagandists of homophobia and totalitarian ideology have been invited to speak at public events in Helsinki and Tampere on 20-21 May 2013. The venues for these events will be provided by Hotel Seurahuone in Helsinki, Tampere City Library, and Lenin Museum. The speakers include Vitaly Milonov, member of the St Petersburg Legislative Assembly, who is the author of the city’s anti-gay bill. Another speaker is historian Nikolai Starikov, who is well known for his sympathy for Soviet totalitarianism.
UPDATE (20 May 2013 @ 12:45): Ulla Aatsinki, Board Chairman of the Lenin Museum, announced that the museum would NOT host the presentation of Nikolai Starikov’s pamphlet, Stalin and Finland. Ms Aatsinki confirmed the information with museum director Aimo Minkkinen.
UPDATE 2 (20 May 2013 @ 14:00): The City of Tampere CANCELLED the reservation for the event with Vitaly Milonov and Nikolai Starikov at the Tampere City Library, Deputy Mayor Olli-Poika Parviainen announced.
Mr Parviainen expressed his gratitude for the appeal of the representatives of the civil societies of Finland, Russia, and Estonia. “The City of Tampere has cancelled the reservation for the event because the content of the event ran counter to the city’s policies on ethics and equal rights,” he stated. “The Mayor of Tampere is patron for the local Gay Pride parade, and the city will continue to promote equal rights and universal human rights,” Mr Parviainen assured.
Normally, the system for reserving premises at Tampere City Library did not check the content of the planned events, the Deputy Mayor noted. This is why the reservation for the event with Milonov and Starikov had gone unnoticed, he explained. The City of Tampere would review its procedure for the reservation of premises, Mr Parviainen said.
Kerkko Paananen, Chairman of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum thanked the Lenin Museum and Deputy Mayor Parviainen for their quick reaction to the appeal of the civil society representatives. “The decisions reinforce our confidence in Finland’s democratic system,” Mr Paananen stated.
St Petersburg’s anti-gay bill was adopted in March 2012, and it has been condemned internationally as a serious violation of basic human rights. Similar bills have since been proposed in other Russian cities and the country’s federal parliament, the State Duma. These legislative projects are manifestations of officially sanctioned homophobia that is gainining strength throughout the Russian Federation. Vitaly Milonov is one of the most vocal advocates of policies targeting Russia’s LGBTI community.
Condoning Soviet totalitarianism is commonplace in today’s Russia, and official policy has lent its support to initiatives undermining the ability of Russians to come to terms with the country’s past. Nikolai Starikov has been invited to Finland to defend Stalin, who was responsible for war crimes against independent Finland. For most Finns, this is akin to defending Hitler’s Nazism in Russia. One of the organisers of Starikov’s visit to Finland, Johan Bäckman, has openly defended Stalin’s policies.
Bäckman’s group has engaged in homophobic and totalitarian propaganda for many years. Its prime objective has been to attack those working to defend and ensure the human rights of people in Finland, the Baltic States, and Russia. Furthermore, the group has striven to create discord between Russian-speakers and the authorities in those countries by feeding the bitterness of people who may have found themselves in the margins of society. Its actions are an affront to all democratically-minded people.
We, the undersigned, would like to ask whether providing a platform for this kind of hateful propaganda is in keeping with the ethical guidelines of the organisations that have offered their premises for the events in Helsinki and Tampere. We are very surprised that the organisations should choose to associate themselves with groups that seek to undermine the foundations of free and democratic societies, including our own. We urge the organisations to renege on their cooperation with these groups and reaffirm their commitment to human rights.
* Amnesty Finland LGBTI Group
* Dmitry Dubrovsky, Director, Human Rights Programme, Department of Liberal Arts and Science, St Petersburg State University
* Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee (SAFKA)
* Finnish PEN
* Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM)
* Krister Karttunen, LGBT activist
* Tarja Koivumäki, LGBT activist
* Jevgeni Krishtafovitsh, Chairman, Center of European Initiatives
* Jukka Mallinen, author, translator, Russia expert
* Imbi Paju, author, filmmaker
* Russian LGBT Network
* Side by Side LGBT Film Festival
* Ksenia Vakhrusheva, member of Yabloko, member of Steering Committee of EU-Russia Civil Society Forum