On Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 8:11 PM, Yaroslav M. Blanter <putevod(a)mccme.ru>
Susanna is (or was) a researcher, and every researcher
in Armenia is a
state employee. There are just no non-governmental organizations who employ
I do think there is a problem with a potential Armenian board member (that
is, Turkish and Azeri Wikimedians would basically consider board as not
legitimate), but I do not think the fact that she is or was employed by the
Academy of Sciences is in any way problematic.
In and of itself, the fact that Susanna is a government employee doesn't
worry me either. Present WMF board member Alice Wiegand is a government
employee too, if you will (she works as an aide to the mayor of a small
town in Germany, according to her write-up on the WMF website).
The difference between Alice's situation and Susanna's is that the Armenian
president turned up for the opening of the Wikimedia Armenia office in
Yerevan. The German president, in contrast, has probably never even
heard of Alice. He certainly didn't attend when Wikimedia Germany was
launched, nor did he have members of his cabinet tell the German public on
national TV that it was their duty to edit the German Wikipedia.
The Armenian Wikipedia initiative is a matter of direct and personal
interest to the President and government ministers of Armenia, a country
that suppresses political dissent. It is impossible to escape the
conclusion that the initiative is directed by them. This will be crystal
clear to anyone in Armenia who has watched the YouTube video: the
Armenian Wikipedia will be perceived as a project of the Armenian
The chilling effect on opposition sympathisers and dissidents who might
otherwise like to participate in an open encyclopedia project is monstrous.
The likelihood that the Armenian Wikipedia will flourish under such
circumstances and develop into a politically neutral reference work is nil.
I don't know Susanna, and in fact until yesterday had never heard of her.
She may well be a delightful and charming person with a genuine enthusiasm
for open knowledge. There are after all many encyclopedic topics that have
no political sensitivity or relevance at all. But she is clearly part of a
government-sponsored effort to control the Armenian Wikipedia.
Does it make sense to you that we cheer when Wikipedians stand up to the
government in France, which is a fairly democratic and open country, and
cheer equally when far more repressive regimes than that of France take
such an intense interest in their national-language Wikipedia?
What would you say if Putin started to endorse Wikimedia Russia and
attended its events, and members of his cabinet told the public to edit
Wikipedia as part of their civic duty?