Like 40% of other Sandum citizens, I am a trained historian. When historians get busy and they start doing that thing they call analysis, context matters. Context can determine the difference between something that is simply a contingent fact versus an underlying cause. I also think context matters because it shows intent. Why do people do the things they do, at the time they do them?
Because I am aware of the context, I will not sign the Montediszamble Convention.
To be clear, I agree with the principles of the convention. I agree in civility and in professionalism. I believe that conflicts should be peacefully and amicably resolved. I also believe in freedom of expression, of conscience, and even protection of intellectual property. I also think that these values are generally agreed upon in the micronational community, meaning they are not controversial in and of themselves.
But, when it comes to the content and the convention’s author, Yaroslav Mar, I smell a fish.
Well before July 2014 when Charlotte Katrínsdóttir and I drafted the Denton Protocol, Mar and Tezdzhan-Smahin insulted and harassed transgender micronationalists, including trans women like Charlotte herself. Over the years, this harassment, a behaviour I would call unprofessional and that frequently resorted to insults, has spread to other areas of the community that Mar and Tezdzhan-Smahin cannot peaceably and amicably engage with. In 2015 and 2016, Mar harassed Jean Pierre IV and his partner Olivia-Eugénie [see editorial note below]—simply for publicly commenting on a Pavlovian law that said that all homosexuals will banned and will receive capital punishment. (This was before Pavlov only recently told us that they were satire, putting the onus on all of us to know that they were only joking. I am sure that doesn’t “damage the micronational community as a whole” at all!)
This all came to a head when the OMF, the intermicronational organisation of French-speaking micronations, blacklisted Tezdzhan-Smahin and Mar.
There were no behind-the-scenes peace-making deliberations then, nor any respect for freedom of expression when they criticised the law—let alone for human dignity! Read against the grain, it is no wonder Tezdzhan-Smahin and Mar do not want people to air their bad behaviour in public and on micronational news media: it shows that they are often the instigators of conflict and are themselves uncivil.
Rather than go behind doors, Mar and Tezdzhan-Smahin have flaunted their harassment out in the open, often with the tacit permission of the community and community leaders. After years of abuse, some micronationalists recently decided that enough was enough.
Beginning in early October, many micronations joined Sandus in adopting the Augusta Accord, an international agreement that does much of the same work as the Denton Protocol. This time, unlike in 2014, the accord was overwhelmingly successful. Less than 24 hours after the accord’s announcement, as a sign of Mar’s civility, I am sure, he posted a simple opinion in one of his Discord channels.
Some have defended Mar by claiming he didn’t know any better or saying that his culture makes it taboo for someone else, living thousands of miles away and in their own culture, to be transgender. As someone who subscribes to cultural relativism, even I find this a stretch. First of all, he certainly has been in the community since before 2014 when the first transgender micronationalists came out. (His history is wrong here, too.) It is now 2020 and, for someone so in touch with American and European micronationalists, I find it odd that his transphobia can be simply excused as “he is Russian.” I have news for him too: there are trans people in Russia, too.
Second, he is a citizen and resident of Israel, a country that publicly and widely markets itself as the most LGBT-friendly country in the Middle East—a fact that has led Jasbir Puar to invent the term “homonationalism.” If Mar was woefully unaware during all his extensive travels of Spain and France that people generally believe there and elsewhere that his opinion would be an insult, certainly he would have discovered that then.
Third, cultural relativism is not an excuse and it is not one-directional. The same relativism that some may appeal to in order to defend Mar’s or Tezdzhan-Smahin’s (a life-long resident of the liberal Netherlands!) is the same relativism that would say that transgender micronationalists deserve the same defence because they are of a different culture.
Yet there was no closed-door diplomacy then. Eryn Lewis, the prime minister of New Virginia, knows this all too well, as do many others who have had to interact with Lostisland, Pavlov, and countries in their sphere.
Rather than apologise to those offended, Mar and his friend Denys Tezdzhan-Smahin hunkered down. Only a week later, I learned that Tezdzhan-Smahin and one of Mar’s friends had taken to calling each other a racial slur historically used against Black Americans. I will let you imagine what slur that was. To this, Sophia Albina of Nordale came out and explicitly denounced them—perhaps in words I would not use, but the denunciation was warranted in my opinion. For a country built on satire and simulation like Pavlov is, too, you think they would have appreciated her own. Alas, they did not.
But certainly there was closed-door diplomacy then? No. Not a word but empty legal threats.
As a result of this, a more concerted effort was made to condemn both micronationalists’ use of the slurs, and I joined in their efforts and signed on to a statement.
When Mar announced his omnibus convention, there was no mention of this historical context. No wonder! They would have shown him as being aloft on a rather meagre high horse. What this amounts to, though, is an attempt to change the narrative. Rather than accept responsibility and apologise for his many prolific past mistakes, as I believe a responsible, civil, and professional micronationalist would do, I have not heard or seen him doing anything of the sort.
This newly peddled narrative instead puts responsibility on an unnamed other party—someone not signatory to the convention who is presumed to have been uncivil or (quelle horreur !) have written something about it like you are reading now—to be the civil one. That is an implicitly compulsory narrative that I won’t play along with.
That isn’t to say that I blame those who have signed and co-signed the convention. Of those who have I count them among my friends, my closest working partners from outside Sandus, and people I deeply respect and whose contributions to micronationalism I cherish. Many of them, I understand, are unfamiliar with the context—especially of the past month—and that is simply because of how community divisions exist in practice. This is why I think context matters and why I am a historian:
Analyse. Cite. Write.
Of all of the points the convention raises, however, they all read a little differently to one who knows the context. They ring a little empty knowing Yaroslav Mar wrote them, especially to someone who has heard how his close friend and confidant Denys Tezdzhan-Smahin threatened to bring litigation in US court against another younger micronationalist because she used his publicly accessible picture on a micronational blog—all on the rather extreme interpretation that she stole his intellectual property. Rather then resort to closed door diplomacy, he had others make his threats for him. When it comes to ‘cancel culture,’ you only need to look back to May of this year when Denys Tezdzhan-Smahin wanted to cancel me for giving an opinion on my (professional!) field of Roman history and his use of it for his micronation.
Even this claim that signatories will use tacit diplomacy I have never seen from them. In the same breath as invoking freedom of expression, Mar and Tezdzhan-Smahin have otherwise demonstrated that they wish to cover up and cancel expression they disagree with. I too believe civility is necessary for the micronational community, but the bell tolls a little differently when you hear two megalomaniac micronationalists, ever wanting to be numbered among the “greatest” and “largest” micronations in the world, invoke civility.
I do not need the world’s largest micronations to dictate my ethics or my values.
To be clear, I like the convention. Its provisions that many of our allies have subscribed to are magnanimous and fair. But its provisions we already follow, and I also believe that the convention clarifies after the fact what civil micronationalism looks like. When compromise has been impossible to reach, Sandus has leaned heavily into ceasing communication. That is why we, together with our partners in the OMF, have long maintained a diplomatic barrier between Sandus and Lostisland and Pavlov since 2016. But when extraordinary instances of incivility occur, such as when Mar and Tezdzhan-Smahin insult transgender women who are in the micronational community—often the subject of taunts from these two adults and often younger than them at that—I won’t hesitate to use my national media to share facts so that others are aware of their poor behaviour and to condemn it.
The convention contains many righteous principles. As a country founded on a sincere and profound philosophy, I can appreciate and subscribe to the principles, but I baulk when a hypocrite tells me I should walk a certain walk that he refuses to. A prime example of “do as I say, not as I do,” but one all the more incriminating.
Editorial Note: This article previously characterised Yaroslav Mar’s actions in 2015 against Olivia-Eugénie and Jean Pierre IV as threatening. We still stand by this characterisation, since it is the characterisation that our partners in Aigues-Mortes have used in the OMF since events in 2015 and since the aims of his actions were homophobic in intent. We see no reason to doubt them, nor any reason to believe Yaroslav Mar’s portrayal of his still insulting and still unprofessional actions—though it is still a portrayal that clears him of homophobic intent.
Despite the event happening several years ago on the Russian social media website VK and although the events involved no Sandum citizen, and certainly not the author, Yaroslav Mar has complained that the characterisation is unfounded and has requested that Veritum Sandus lose its accreditation on the MicroWiki server over not having evidence for others’ accusations that (in the OMF at least) are common knowledge. We have decided instead to characterise the events as harassment, since he has admitted to this behaviour though he fails to see how gay-based harassment and shaming on a Russian social media website may be seen as threatening.
The author again highlights the deep irony and hypocrisy of attempting to dislodge Veritum Sandus from its ability to share its media on the MicroWiki server over a single opinion editorial that criticises him, out of our otherwise widespread news media related to the State of Sandus. Meanwhile, he claims in print and in an international treaty that he supports freedom of expression and that he condemns ‘cancel culture.’
Editorial Note: As of 9 December 2020, Veritum Sandus has changed reference to the Emperor of Pavlov’s and the Prime Minister of Lostisland’s name to his micronational name. The name previously used, which has been claimed to have been “private” though being demonstrably untrue, was replaced to conform to conventions in the MicroWiki community’s standards on micronational names.
On 30 November, Veritum Sandus published an article that demonstrated that Tezdzhan-Smahin’s name was not a pseudonym. This article has been redacted in order to make changes to its text to conform with that website’s standards. We unequivocally remain firm in our commitment that Tezdzhan-Smahin’s name is publicly accessible, publicly known in the community, and has been used in his and his friend Yaroslav Mar’s own media.