Politics 17:32 06/11/2015

Wikipedia editor says article about Jabrayilov has no chance to be restored

 As a result of active discussions and a large-scale research carried out by Wikipedia editors, an article about Ahmadiyya Jabrayilov (Ahmed Michel), a French Resistance hero from Azerbaijani village Ohud and “Charles de Gaulle’s friend” famous in the USSR, was deleted from the online encyclopedia, which brought about Azerbaijani media’s flurry of indignation and accusations.
Panorama.am asked Wikipedia editor Vadim Gomoz to comment on the situation.

Panorama: The deletion of the article about Ahmadiyya Jabrayilov – an official Soviet hero and “Charles de Gaulle’s friend” – literally boomed the media. Did you expect such an effect?

VG: I supposed. I see a big interest and mainly positive feedback from the Russian side. People have got tired of the dressed up false veterans, whose number grows every May 9. Certainly, there is also another position. Following the collapse of the USSR, the question of building a new post-Soviet identity arose. The victory in the Great Patriotic War was taken from the Soviet ideology as a key element for building national backgrounds, and many perceive the destruction of the myths around it as a personal catastrophe. I am just lucky not to have many such people in my surroundings.

Panorama: The article was deleted from the Russian and French Wikipedia. How would you explain that it is still available in the English version?
VG: Every language sector of Wikipedia is an autonomous project deciding independently what to do with the articles in its space. The English Wikipedia marked the article as possible hoax. However, given that they are not particularly interested in the case, it can take long until someone makes up their mind to push the matter through. The issue was much more significant for the Russian and French Wikipedia. It is our shared history, and therefore, much effort was put on finding out the real picture. A couple of carelessly compiled French documents, as well as the absence of any mentioning about Jabrayilov’s “acquaintance” with de Gaulle in any memoirs was enough for the French Wikipedists to remove the article. I think soon the English version will be deleted, too.

Panorama: The Azerbaijani side met the news about the deletion of the article extremely painfully. How would you comment on this? Do you find the criticism of the editors’ work appropriate?
VG: Jabrayilov’s story is embedded in the Azerbaijan national narrative, and it is too painful to part from such myths. Azerbaijani press and numerous free commenters interpreted the case as a part of the global Armenian-Azerbaijani confrontation, and even as a centuries-long plot by the Armenians. Where the “holy war” begins, there remains no space for peaceful discussions. The Azerbaijani side also made balanced comments, though few. I have not seen any reasonable criticism of our work.
What is curious is that anyone reading our discussions understands that Jabrayilov’s story is questionable, to put it very mildly. Judge yourself. That man was decorated with many honours and awards under the Soviet authorities. Meanwhile, real Azerbaijani war heroes often vegetated in obscurity. I can imagine their indignation at being forced to read and hear those fantastical stories about a commandant in the German garrison or the speech on behalf of the Soviet soldiers in liberated Paris. We somehow leave without attention the injustice towards them. There used to be a public institute of “official heroes” in the Soviet times. So, when a fake hero is unmasked and there is a good chance to speak about the real Azerbaijani heroes of war, complaints of destroying the beautiful myth start. However, after all, filling the media with that simulacrum, the Soviet propaganda did not give a chance for many real Azerbaijani war heroes to speak out. No one produced films or wrote books about them. Well, their stories are not so Hollywood-like, they did not tear Germans into pieces, as in the films, and de Gaulle did not ask them for advice. They just honestly risked their lives every day for the victory.
I do not have any special pretensions to Jabrayilov, either. Apparently, after the eastern legion, he just tried to survive and did not get back to the USSR. After his return, he probably slept unwell realising that he could be caught any moment. One cannot erase his past after all; it can leak out.

Panorama: Remarkably, your personality is discussed most with you being called “Azerbaijanophob” on the allegation that you are “bribed.” In this regard, we wonder, would you do the same in case the hero of the article were not Jabrayilov but, say, Arakelyan?
VG: I have not come across such heroes from the Armenian side, but I would certainly proposed such an article for deletion, as well. For example, the articles about Angela Teryan and Alexander Varpetyan, insignificant Armenian historians, were deleted on my proposal. For the third case, Martiros Gavukchan, relevant sources were found. We have no fault that no such sources confirming Jabrayilov’s participation in the Resistance were found. Had we found sources, the article about Jabrayilov would still be in Wikipedia.
Or, for instance, take the operation Long Jump in Tehran in 1943, where Gevork Vartanian, a famous Soviet intelligence agent, played a key role. Some authors think it is a mystification or a KBG special operation of circulating false information. There is also the contrary point of view, that the operation really took place. I included both of the opinions in the article about the operation Long Jump, including the critical one. The article presented the event as an indisputable fact before me. These are Wikipedia’s rules. No matter I like the point of view or not, it has the right to be presented in the article. However, I cannot recall any scandal made by the Armenian press on that.

As for the discussion of my person, I regularly learn from the Azerbaijani media that the Armenian side has worked on me for years. The editor-in-chief of 1news.az, Rahman Hajiyev, is especially active in that area. He has written a lot about me on both his website and his Facebook account. Of course, I am grateful to Hajiyev for his interest in my work, his compliments to me, as well as the free advertisement of my Wikipedia articles. Every time he advertised them, the visits number grew by 3 or 5 times. As for Hajiyev’s analysis of the process of the deletion of the article about Jabrayilov, it abounds in trivial mistakes. For example, take the claim that we allegedly analysed Jabrayilov’s legendary life in accord with the Wikipedia text, which we could have falsified by ourselves. This is absolutely wrong. Suffice it to have a look at the discussion of deletion, which clearly shows that we considered Soviet and Azerbaijani publications about Jabrayilov, museum documents provided by an Azerbaijani colleague and responses from archives. There has been no analysis of the “Wikipedia text.” Moreover, it could not be to start with, as the Wikipedia rules directly prohibit using it as a source. In case the 1news.az editors, led by Rahman Hajiyev, decide to write about Wikipedia or me again, they may feel fry to turn to me. I am ready to help and consult them on all the unclear questions.

Panorama: What steps can bring the article back?
VG: The article can be brought back to Wikipedia in two ways. First, finding relevant sources confirming Jabrayilov’s glorious biography, for instance, in case Encyclopaedia Britannica or a specialist on the French Resistance write an article about him. However, given that Jabrayilov’s biography does not concur with widely known facts, I exclude the possibility of such a development. Second, describing Jabrayilov’s media propaganda phenomenon in an academic article as a legendary character created in the USSR and Azerbaijan, rather than a real personality. Still in that case, it will be an article about propaganda rather than a Resistance fighter. I do not see any other versions for the moment.

Source Panorama.am
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