Sunday, August 28, 2016


Russia

The Mysterious Professor Haag: Russian Media's Favored 'Expert' Has Dubious Credentials

Quotes from German "Professor" Lorenz Haag often appear in Russian media even though his level of academic expertise appears to be bogus.
Quotes from German "Professor" Lorenz Haag often appear in Russian media even though his level of academic expertise appears to be bogus.
By Yury Veksler and Claire Bigg

German Professor Lorenz Haag is what you'd call a Kremlin apologist. 

Russian media regularly quotes him as praising President Vladimir Putin's leadership, defending Russia's actions in Ukraine, and urging the West to take a softer line toward Moscow.

"Professor" Haag, however, is by all accounts no professor.

And the organization he allegedly heads, the German "Agency for Global Communications," has also been denounced as bogus.

Dmitry Khmelnitsky, a noted Russian architectural historian based in Berlin, was the first to cast doubt on the purported academic's credentials.

"Professor Lorenz Haag, the head of the Agency for Global Communications, exists only in the imagination of ITAR-TASS correspondents who have interviewed him regularly and for many years in the capacity of 'German expert,'" Khmelnitsky wrote in an October 6 post on Facebook. "There is no such professor in Germany. And no such agency."

Khmelnitsky's allegations have sparked intense speculation on the Russian Internet about Haag's identity, motives, or even existence.

According to Russian blogger Pavel Gnilorybov, the state-run ITAR-TASS agency -- which recently reverted to its Soviet-era name TASS -- created the fictitious professor back in 2007. 

"Russian media have always had difficulties with foreign mouthpieces," he wrote. "ITAR-TASS workers went for broke; they made up a German professor with a resume and a title."

Since his alleged creation, "Professor Haag" has been actively solicited by TASS -- more particularly by its correspondent Vladimir Smelov -- and his comments have been republished in a range of Russian newspapers, inducing "Izvestia," "Vzglyad," and "Duel."

Over the years, Haag has backed the Kremlin's stance on South Ossetia, slammed U.S. plans to deploy missile-defense components in Poland, praised the Soviet Union's role in World War II, and waxed lyrical about the legacy of Yuri Gagarin's space flight.

More recently, in an article published by "Vzglyad" in May and based on a TASS interview, he claimed that many Germans understood "the actions of Russia toward Crimea and the desire of Crimeans themselves" to join the Russian Federation.

The current Ukrainian government, he continued, has "no sympathy" for Russian speakers -- who, he rather oddly declared, inherited their language "genetically." 

"For them," he concluded, "Russian land is where Russian people live."

Research conducted by RFE/RL into Haag's academic record failed to produce any result or even indication as to what discipline he allegedly holds a professorship in.

No trace, either, of his Agency for Global Communications.

A picture of Haag, however, does show up on the website of the Institute for Economic Innovation in Chemnitz. The snapshot identifies him as chairman of the institute's scientific advisory board.

Calls placed to the contact number given on the institute's website were answered by a prerecorded message saying it was "not assigned." 

Haag also appears to hold the title of "member of the presidium of the Russian Federation of Cosmonauts in Europe, the United States, and Canada."

According to Khmelnitsky, Haag used to work for the so-called Security Academy, a German-based organization with ties to Russian security services.

The academy, he says, was shut down by Moscow in 2008 after being exposed in German media as a recruitment operation for Russia's security service, the FSB.

The allegation appears to have stung Haag.

"What I said in my comments to TASS represent another point of view in Germany, but it is held by many here," he said in remarks published by the Russian news agency on October 10.

Haag also accused Khmelnitsky -- the author of numerous history books -- of falsely posing as a historian.


Claire Bigg

Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


 

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