3 Feb 2015

A bad joke or copying the Russian method? The 'People's Republic of Vilnius/Wilno'

Yesterday, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported about a Facebook group promoting the 'Peoples' Republic of Wilno/Vilnius' demanding the deployment of 'little green men' and organization of a referendum among the 'autochton population'  in Vilnius and its surroundings.

According to Gazeta Wyborcza, a similar site had already been blocked by Facebook earlier, it is now the second attempt. The Internet address given on the site is zs.mil.pl, a rifleman association cooperating with the Ministry of Defense of Poland. Asked by Wyborcza, the Chief Commander or the association commented that they are a non-political organization, they have definitely no connection to the Facebook site and will inform the prosecutor's office about the issue which he called a provocation. 

profile picture of the Facebook site of the group

There are a lot of controversial materials on the site. For example, photos of street signs from Poland in Polish and Lithuanian, where the Lithuanian name is covered with red paint (allusion to the Lithuanian ban of street signs in languages other than Lithuanian), a photo of the tower of Gediminas in Vilnius with a photoshopped Polish flag on the top, a picture of Polish tanks with the inscription: 'Where is the Seimas?' (the Lithuanian parliament) or a video about alleged Polish volunteers fighting in Donetsk and Lugansk on the side of the separatists. The most concerning are the instructions to people living in the Vilnius area who want to take part in separatist activity. They suggest them to form small groupings (3-4 people) and carry out provocations.

Xportal, a Polish rightwing-nationalist website also writes about the initiative and says that it is supported not only by the Poles, but also the Russians and Belarussians living in the Vilnius region and suffering discrimination by the Lithuanian state. Former vice-minister of culture of Lithuania and secretary of the Association of Poles in Lithuania Edward Trusewicz called the action a 'cheap provocation'. 

Lithuanian news portal delfi.lt reported about the Facebook site already in the end of January and drew attention to the fact that it equally criticizes the Lithuanian and the Polish governments.  Delfi adds that inciting national hatred can be punished up to 3 years of imprisonment. 

The title of the page is given in Polish and Russian as well. The page has now over 1600 likes. 

Poles make up about 7% of the population of Lithuania (there are 6% of Russians). The Polish minority lives in a compact area around Vilnius where they are the majority. Poles are dissatisfied with current Lithuanian legislation which bans the use of non-Lithuanian street signs and non-Lithuanian spelling of names. The leader of the Polish minority party Polish Electoral Action and MEP Waldemar Tomaszewski was accused by the head of the Polish senate with pro-Russian sentiments when he wore the Saint George ribbon on the commemoration of 9 May last year. 






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