It’s Dangerous to Quote Voltaire
January 10, 2015
In Adygea, Valery Brinikh, chair of the regional branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation (VOOP), has been charged with aiding and abetting extremist activity and subjected to travel restrictions. According to investigators, Brinikh “aided unidentified persons in disseminating information aimed at abasing the dignity of a person or group of persons on the basis of ethnicity and origin by creating extremist material.” Abasement of dignity charges (Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 282.1) were filed in December 2014. They were occasioned by publication of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” on the website For Krasnodar! The article details the environmental damaged caused to Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District by pollution from an industrial pig-breeding facility. The company that runs the facility, Kiev0-Zhuraki Agrobusiness JSC, was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, who represents Karachay-Cherkessia in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament.
Several days after the charges were filed, the article was deemed extremist. According to Brinikh’s defense attorney, Alexander Popkov, the [next-to-last] sentence in the article, which quotes Voltaire’s argument that God helps those battalions that shoot best, could have been the main reason it was deemed extremist.
“The word ‘shoot’ is forbidden; it is an awful word. ‘Battalions’ is also an awful word. And Voltaire was a freethinker,” Popkov says ironically.
Brinikh was for a long time officially regarded as a suspect in the case. According to Popkov, investigators have no proof that it was his client who wrote the article, but they claim he aided “persons unknown” in disseminating it.
The indictment does not make clear exactly whose dignity was abased by the article. Popkov recounts that, initially, investigators said that Brinikh “had offended public officials.” Ethnic motives were also discussed.
In the written petition, filed by the Adygea Prosecutor’s Office, asking the court to deem the article extremist, it says that “according to the findings of the linguistic analysis carried out by the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs in Krasnodar Krai (No. 17/7-119i, dated September 15, 2014), the text of the article ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ contains statements negatively evaluating a group of persons, united on the basis of ethnicity, the Adyghe (identified in the text as ‘cowards,’ ‘persons who lack self-esteem,’ and ‘lambs’).”
The article’s authors complains about the passivity of the local populace, who refuse to defend their own interests.
Popkov notes Brinikh would not have wanted to humiliate the Adyghe.
“On the contrary,” says Popkov, “he advocated for them and visited them.”
The prosecutor’s petition also claims the article contains “statements that could be understood to incite ethnic Adyghe to take actions, probably involving violence, against a group of persons, i.e., the local authorities.”
According to Popkov, Brinikh’s aiding and abetting persons unknown “is supposedly confirmed by a phonoscopic examination: he allegedly spoke by telephone about posting the article on the Web.”
However, since the article was posted on the Web before criminal charges were filed and before it was declared extremist, it follows that Brinikh’s telephone was bugged before these events took place.
“The question arises: on what basis were they bugging him?” asks Popkov.
Translated by the Russian Reader
Editor’s Note. The following day, January 11, ovdinfo.org reported that Valery Brinikh’s trial on the above-mentioned charges would begin in Maykop City Court on January 19.
Please read my previous posts on the Brinikh case: