Person of the Week: Aleksandr Byvshev

posted 23 Jan 2017, 05:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Jan 2017, 05:15 ]
On 17 January 2017 'anti-extremism' police searched the home of poet Aleksandr Byvshev in Orel region, seizing his computer, in connection with new charges related to his poetry. On 18 January, RFE/RL reported that 'Russian authorities have launched a fresh investigation targeting a former teacher in Russia's western region of Orel who was convicted of inciting ethnic hatred and sacked from his job for writing a pro-Ukraine poem.' Aleksandr Korgin, an official in Orel region Investigative Committee, was reported as saying Byvshev may be charged with inciting ethnic hatred after linguistics experts concluded one of Byshev's poems contained 'extremist connotations.' In 2015 Byvshev was found guilty of inciting ethnic hatred for a poem entitled 'To Ukrainian Patriots' that was published on the Interent and sentenced to 300 hours of community service and deprived of the right to teach for two years. reports that the poem in question is 'On Ukraine's Independence', written by Byvshev in 2015 in what the author has described as 'the style of Iosif Brodsky.' Halya Coynash, writing in Human Rights in Ukraine, notes that 'the poem certainly presents Ukraine as under attack, with Moscow, for example, enraged and threatened by Ukraine’s wish for freedom and Maidan. There are highly critical words about Russia, but the argument that these incite enmity could just as well be directed at those western commentators who criticize Russia’s imperial hankering and aggression against its neighbours.' Coynash cites Aleksandr Podrabinek as saying that the charges are again under Article 282 of the Russian criminal code, with the investigators claiming that the poem constitutes ‘incitement to hatred or enmity, and denigration of human dignity’. 

Halya Coynash goes on to report: 'Byvshev was first summoned to the Investigative Committee on September 15, 2016 with the deputy head Dmitry Zubov informing him that a ‘check’ was being carried out in connection with publication of the poem. At the time, Byvshev used his right under Article 51 of the Constitution to not testify against himself. The criminal proceedings were initiated on September 30. [...] This is the third prosecution against Byvshev with all of them linked with his criticism of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, including its invasion and annexation of Crimea.'

Coynash writes that the Sova Centre, which monitors abuse of extremism legislation and law enforcement practice, 'reported that an article published in a local paper under the title “There is no place for such patriots in Russia” was totally in the style of the Stalinist fight against cosmopolitanism. The linguistic assessment of the new poem has yet to be made public, but that used for the first conviction was truly surreal. Ludmila Vlasova from the Oryol State University concluded that “the hostile nature of the statements related to Russians in the poem is expressed in expressions regarding Russian state bodies and President Putin (“not one inch of Crimea to Putin’s chekists”).” She asserted that they contain direct and covert calls to Ukrainian patriots to carry out physical and other actions in relation to the enemy – Russians: to meet the enemies like their ancestors did; to prepare and hold weapons in readiness, etc. This, she claimed, meant that the poem “To Ukrainian Patriots” contains statements which denigrate Russians. The Sova Centre disagreed and pointed out that the hostile attitude in the poem was not to Russians as an ethnic group, but to a form of activity.'

Photo of Aleksandr Byvshev: Human Rights in Ukraine
'Против поэта Бывшева возбуждено новое дело об экстремизме,', 17 January 2017
'Russia Investigating Ex-Teacher Who Wrote Pro-Ukraine Poetry,' RFE/RL, 18 January 2017
Halya Coynash, 'Russian Poet Faces New Criminal Charges for Poem in Support of Ukraine,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 20 January 2017