A number of nominations have now come in for the affiliate-selected board
One of the people who have put their names forward to date is Susanna
Mkrtchyan of Wikimedia Armenia. In her nomination statement Susanna
refers to the 2014 "One Armenian, one Article" Wikipedia campaign.
The BBC reported at the time that the campaign was government-supported.
The related YouTube video (in Armenian with English subtitles) features
appeals for people to edit Wikipedia from (in order of appearance):
1. The Armenian Defense Minister, who says he's joining the "One Armenian,
one Article" marathon by editing an article about the Armenian army
2. The Armenian Education and Science Minister, who says creating Wikipedia
content in Armenian is part of Armenians' "duty toward our nation and
country" and indicates he will personally participate too
3. The Head of Armenian Public Radio
4. An Armenian TV announcer
5. The Head of Matenadaran Archive
Now, according to Freedom House, all is not well in Armenia. Corruption
is widespread in government and law enforcement. The press is not free.
Journalists have to "contend with violence and harassment", although
"Independent outlets continued to take advantage of the country’s
relatively open online space."
Clearly, the Internet presently provides a platform for opposition voices
that have trouble making themselves heard in conventional media, a fact
that the government cannot be terribly pleased about.
Returning to Susanna's nomination statement, she says that Wikimedia
Armenia has signed a contract with the "Armenian Encyclopedia Authorities"
to re-use their content.
Western countries don't really have a tradition of state-published
encyclopedias, but the Soviet Union had the Great Soviet Encyclopedia for
about sixty-five years. It was an instrument of state propaganda. Trying to
shoehorn national encyclopedias modelled on the Great Soviet Encyclopedia
into Wikipedia is a thought that seems to occur quite naturally to
politicians in ex-Soviet states, many of whom started their political
careers and held office in the days of the Soviet Union. It is a good way
of exercising control over the Internet, just like the Great Soviet
Encyclopedia was designed to shape intellectual life in the USSR.
According to her LinkedIn profile, in her professional life Susanna is a
Sector Manager at the State Committee of Science, which is part of the
Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia.
Susanna further notes that she received an honourable mention from Jimmy
Wales at Wikimania 2015's Wikipedian of the Year award, a fact duly noted
at [[Wikipedia:Wikipedian of the Year]].
Now, why are we bestowing Wikipedian of the Year honours on government
employees of repressive regimes? If we had the US Secretary of Defense
writing Wikipedia articles about the US Army, or had employees of the
German government running Wikimedia Deutschland, I'm sure there'd be an
outcry, even though those are countries with quite favourable records on
human rights, press freedom and so on. The idea of an award would not even
What is different about ex-Soviet countries that makes this a good thing to