The administrators of the Micronations and Royal Houses Facebook group have accused another micronationalist of potentially defrauding the community in order to gain fame and money.
Yaroslav Mar and Christian of Emden-Holstein allege that Anastasia von Elphberg, engaged in deceitful conduct, which included a history of making unverifiable claims, the use of sockpuppets, and the creation of a fictional non-governmental organization (NGO) to defraud sponsors of MicroCon.
Their allegations, outlined herein, have not been proven in a court of law.
The use of unverifiable claims and sockpuppets are rooted in the simulationist culture and history of Elphberg’s micronation, Ruritania, where she also played the character, Georg von Strofzia, who acted as foreign minister until his “death” last year.
Such use of multiple characters by one “flesh and blood” participant in a simulationist micronation is not unusual, nor is the development of a backstory for each character that may quote fictional events and achievements. Such practice became widely adopted by the Micras community in the late 2000s as the wider micronational population dwindled, making micronations less dynamic. Where used, the practice primarily supports local cultural and historical simulation to better mimic the workings of a real country. When the practice is not disclosed upfront, it has been interpreted as an indicator of deception by micronationalists, both present and past, including simulationists.
While the accusers acknowledged Ruritania’s simulationist roots and the acceptable or tolerable use, to a degree, of fictional achievements and sockpuppetry, they suggested that Strofzia’s sockpuppet status was purposefully withheld by Elphberg over the course of years. That caused members of the micronational community to believe that Strofzia was a real person.
Months before last year’s MicroCon conference, a physical meeting of micronationalists, which Strofzia was expected by some to attend, Elphberg informed the community that he died. That Strofzia was not widely known as a sockpuppet led to an outpouring of condolences from micronationalists, it was alleged. “[She had] the audacity to receive condolences for the faked death of a person who never existed,” read the accusers’ statement, suggesting that it was an indicator of her deceitful nature.
One micronationalist, with the screen name”Hrm Richard”, suggested that the accusers were one of only a few individuals who didn’t know that Strofzia was a sockpuppet. “I am unaware of anyone … that did not know Georg was, effectively the name for an email address. … [His death] was preceded by weeks of discussions about how [Ruritania] would no longer be using the pseudonym for whomever was responding to emails that month,” he said, suggesting that Strofzia’s sockpuppet status was common fact within Ruritania’s circle of micronations.
Leading up to MicroCon, in which she acted as organizer and host, Elphberg participated in the founding of the Organization of Micronations and Alternative Politics (OMAP), which she described as a YAMO meant to add believability to sponsorship letters for the event. The seriousness with which OMAP was to be taken was unclear as the use of “YAMO” generally indicates a tongue-in-cheek reference to the organization being useless; however, the accusers allege that it was to be considered an NGO, a much more serious international organization, especially in non-simulationist realms.
The creation of OMAP, the accusers allege, was “for the sake of defrauding potential sponsors of MicroCon.” Elphberg’s stated intent to use OMAP to add believability to the letters to convince sponsors to fund MicroCon is a central pillar of the allegation. That said, there is no evidence that Elphberg, in fact, crafted or sent any such sponsorship letters, with or without the OMAP name, or ever asked for money by invoking the name.
Christian acknowledged that there was no evidence of a successful fraud perpetrated by Elphberg; however, for him, the implication of her OMAP announcement was clear. “What I see in the language of her post and her past behaviour of faking citizens and their fictional deaths is disturbing behaviour which makes use feel obliged to protect the members of this group before they communicate with her or her representatives,” he said. He suggested that the letters, if sent, would have attempted to raise money for MicroCon would have reflected poorly on the wider micronational community when the sponsor learned that OMAP was not a real NGO.
Mars agreed. “We don’t claim [that] she did defraud sponsors. She did however tell the participants to present themselves as members of a fictional organization which in our opinion accounts for an attempt at doing so.”
The allegations were supported by Donald Garcia-Dwyer. “To create an organization where you’ll collect additional funds in order to be ‘believable’ is pretty fraudulent,” he said.
Their interpretation of Elphberg’s actions was, however, not supported by all.
“I am not entirely clear I understand what the problem is,” said Will Sörgel, who throughout the discussion maintained his belief that the allegation was unsupported. “You have not clarified who these sponsors are, if she [was] successful, and if she did in fact gain sponsors.”
For “Hrm Richard”, both accusers lacked standing. “I don’t recall either of you being at MicroCon but as someone who attended I assure – “fraudsters” don’t spend a great deal of their own money so others don’t have to,” he charged. “[Elphberg used] her own money to reduce or eliminate fees for the attendees.”
While a serious discussion regarding the accuracy of the allegations ensued, that discussion at times was marked by tongue-in-cheek and direct insults directed between the participants. The resulting strained personal relationships may end up being the biggest fallout of the allegations, which themselves appear unlikely to ever be tested in a court of law.