North Ossetian blogger Batraz Misikov has been charged with ‘incitement to hatred’ after making comments supporting the renaming of Lenin Street in Vladikavkaz to that of a local World War II hero and criticizing the opposition of the Communist Party to this decision.
“I know in making this statement I’m already running into a ‘corner’, but magis amica veritas,” the blogger wrote on May 19, quoting a Latin phrase that translates to “truth is a best friend.” .
‘The organization “Rus” [a Russian cultural organisation in North Osseria] can rename a street,” he wrote. ‘The “Nyfs” organization [an Ossetian cultural organisation in North Ossetia] cannot rename a street’.
“That’s it,” he wrote, concluding the post with a “shrug” emoji.
At the beginning of April, the chairman of the Nyfs and a member of the Russian parliament of North Ossetian origin, Valery Gazzayev, make a request to the republican authorities and the Vladikavkaz Mayor’s Office to rename Lenin Street to Kaurbek Toguzov Street, after a famous hero of World War II who bestowed the title “Hero of the Soviet Union”.
“This symbolic act will be an important step in preserving historical memory and strengthening the patriotic spirit of the population in a difficult time for the country,” the letter signed by Gazzayev and other notable Ossetian public figures and addressed to the head of the region, Sergei Menyailo, lit.
Shortly after the letter was published, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) strongly condemned the initiative.
Renaming the street “amounts to the loss of conscience and moral principles”, and such a proposal “is not only a betrayal of the Soviet past, but also undermines Russia’s international positions and the destruction of the state”, a KPRF statement bed, before making a direct comparison with Ukraine. “It all started in the country [Ukraine] with the demolition of monuments to Soviet soldiers and commanders.
Deputy Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party Dmitry Novikov said that the proposal was a “cynical provocation” and pointed out that Toguzov had been awarded the Order of Lenin, which he said renamed the street – which he called “spitting in the direction of the founder of the USSR” – a “humiliation” of Toguzov himself.
In response to the communists’ condemnation, Misikov then posted another Telegram post in which he called the party “red sectarians” and said: “The Russians can rename the whole city of Leningrad in honor of their Tsar and his heavenly patron, but Ossetians cannot rename a street in honor of their hero.
It was after these comments that the FSB of North Ossetia sent the blogger’s remarks to two “psycholinguist experts”, Inna and Oscar Kunavin, who had to determine whether his remarks constituted “incitement to hatred”.
On May 20, the two experts concluded that the blogger’s statements contained “propaganda of the superiority of Russians over Ossetians” and directed “speech and statements aimed at inciting hatred, enmity” against the Communist Party and the Russian government.
As a result, a criminal case was opened and Misikov faces a fine of up to ₽20,000 ($310).
In a video statement posted on Telegram, the blogger said he knew the two experts consulted by the FSB and that they had had a dispute with him before – which he said influenced their decision.
Talk with OC Media, Misikov said he and others who want to rename Lenin Street simply want to honor the memory of an Ossetian hero.
“We just wanted to honor the name of Kaurbek Toguzov, a participant in the Battle of Stalingrad and a Hero of the Soviet Union, who lived on Lenin Street in Vladikavkaz,” he said. “In North Ossetia and all of Russia there are enough Lenin streets, so we hoped for understanding from the authorities.”
He said he believed the charges against him were “political” because of his independent blogging and journalism.
“This is evidenced by the insufficient reaction of the Communist Party, which compares the initiative to the perpetuation of the memory of SS soldiers. I was also accused of propagating ‘the superiority of Russians over Ossetians’, although that doesn’t make sense since I am Ossetian,” Misikov said.
North Ossetia leader Sergei Menyailo and Vladikavkaz mayor Vyacheslav Mildzikhov remained silent on the name change initiative.