Stories from Quick Reads and RuNet Echo
Scholars and researchers of the Russian Internet can rejoice this week, for Russia's leading search engine, Yandex.ru, is now the second website in the world, after Bing in the United States, to gain access to Facebook firehose data [ru]. This means that Yandex can now search Facebook's streaming API and provide live results for all public posts. The new deal with Facebook is limited to users based in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. Currently, only Yandex's blogs-specific search feature is capable of returning Facebook results, but the company's spokesperson told TechCrunch on January 13, 2014, that Yandex hopes to incorporate Facebook links in its general Internet search results soon.
After almost two years in federal custody, Pussy Riot's two most famous members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, will hold their first post-prison press conference [ru]. The event will be hosted by the online TV station Dozhd and take place on Friday, December 27, 2013, beginning at 2:00 PM Moscow time (5:00 AM US Eastern Time). Those interested in watching can tune in at www.tvrain.ru [ru] and Twitter users are encouraged to submit their own questions using the hashtag “#askPussyRiot“. Though the discussion will be in Russian, questions can be submitted in English or other languages.
Activists from the LGBT equality T-shirt company FCKH8.com are planning to send 10,000 copies of a pro-gay coloring book titled “Misha and His Two Mothers” to families with children in Moscow and Sochi, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics. The book's core message, captured by the catchphrase “Gay Is Okay!” (Гей – окей!), is to let children know that being gay is not criminal. Writing in the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Angelina Galanina condemned [ru] the coloring book as “propaganda.” RuNet reactions have ranged from the vitriolic to the measured [ru]. LiveJournal user kolyaka [ru] quipped:
Так примерно во времена железного занавеса к нам проникала запретная литература, тлетворная музыка и даже библии в СССР забрасывали. Как относиться к подобной раскраске? Не знаю.
This is roughly how banned literature, dangerous music, and even the Bible reached us in the days of the Iron Curtain and flooded the USSR. What to make of such a coloring book? I don't know.
Following Saturday's scoreless soccer game that catapulted Moscow's CSKA club to its fourth Russian Premier League title, the team's fans clashed with riot troops in downtown Moscow. Police detained 140 people [ru], later releasing all but two. Bloggers posted photos to LiveJournal here, here, and here [ru], alleging police brutality.
Dissidents have fled Russia for as long as there has been a Russia from which to flee. Earlier this week, April 7, 2013, activist Ilya Yashin startled many when he announced [ru] on Twitter that protest figure and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov had abandoned his leadership position in the oppositionist group “Solidarity,” and likely decided to emigrate. (more…)
As RuNet Echo previously reported [GV], Alexey Navalny has appealed to his readers to make up their own minds about his innocence or guilt in an upcoming embezzling trial by releasing for download the financial documents of the firms involved. Now, his opponents appear to have taken a page out of his book, creating a website which is a direct copy [ru] of Navalny's original [ru]. Unlike Navalny's “Why is Navalny Not Guilty?”, this one is titled “Why is Navalny Guilty?” and makes available for download allegedly relevant excerpts from Navalny's previously hacked email correspondence [GV]. Since the emails have been publicly available for quite some time, the page is likely created in the spirit of “trolling” rather than any real attempt at an exposé.
A photo-blogger based in the city of Voronezh, located in central Russia not far from the Ukranian border, has taken a series of striking photographs [ru] (including an animated panorama) of a small, forgotten “slum” hiding in the center of an otherwise modern and populous urban area. The “slum”, which turns out to be mainly abandoned buildings, looks like a set for a WWII movie — ironic in a city that was rebuilt after heavy destruction during the war.
On February 1, the Russian human rights group Agora released a report [ru] on RuNet censorship in 2012, titled “Russia As a Global Threat to a Free Internet,” documenting various limitations on Internet usage in Russia, including violence, administrative pressure, and other forms of intimidation and punishment used against netizens by state authorities. Agora has also created [ru] a “map of free Internet violations” for 2012, showing which areas of Russia are least friendly to bloggers and netizen journalists.
BestPozitiv.ru, also known as “Tol'ko Pozitiv” (Only the Positive), is a Russian website that promises to “fill you with positivity every day” by bringing its viewers “the most interesting” videos, GIFs, photographs, lists, and other multimedia “that the Internet has to offer.” The site aggregates everything, from memes of cute cats replete with whimsical rhymes to photos of ships with amusing names.
Here are a few of the best highlights from Tol'ko Pozitiv:
Photos of “Russia in all its glory,” depicting quirky scenes from the Motherland, capturing the lovable zaniness of Russian culture.
While the pardoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky [Global Voices report] doesn't appear in any hurry to set up Twitter or Facebook accounts and join Russia's chattering classes, the recently amnestied Pussy Riot band members [Global Voices report], Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, are already micro-blogging up a storm. Of course, unlike the former head of Yukos, they didn't spend the last 10 years in prison — as Khodorkovsky noted in his press conference [ru], both Facebook and Twitter didn't even exist when he was arrested.
Alekhina opened a Twitter account, @malehina [ru], and has already tweeted 82 times. A sizable portion of these tweets, however, are a seemingly random collection of pithy sayings, like:
Всегда выбирайте самый трудный путь — там вы не встретите конкурентов!
— Мария Алехина (@Malehina) December 24, 2013
Always choose the most difficult path — there you won't face competition!
Tolokonnikova, on the other hand, resumed tweeting from her old account @tolokno [ru]. Her tweets are also eclectic. For instance, a few hours ago Tolokonnikova wondered [ru] why Russian prisons ban eyebrow tweezers — one can go to solitary confinement if found with a pair. (I am no expert on Russian prisons, but the reason is likely the same as why they are banned on airplanes.) At the same time, she appears to have mixed feelings about her early release during the holiday season:
Меня выпустили – а завтра бы Рождество с моими протестантками осужденными встречали.
— Надя Толокно (@tolokno) December 24, 2013
I've been released – but otherwise tomorrow we would be celebrating Christmas with my Protestant convicts.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's exact whereabouts were unknown for the past three weeks, after prison authorities announced that the Pussy Riot icon would be transferred from a prison in the Republic of Mordovia to an unknown location. On November 12, 2103, authorities finally revealed some information about Tolokonnikova's new home. The federal human rights ombudsman had this to say [ru] about Tolokonnikova's “re-integration”:
Руководству ФСИН России было рекомендовано перевести Толоконникову Н.А. для дальнейшего отбывания наказания в исправительную колонию […]. […] По сообщению руководства ФСИН России такое решение обусловлено тем, что Толоконникова Н.А. является уроженкой Красноярского края, постоянно зарегистрирована в г. Норильске и отбывание ею наказания в этом регионе будет способствовать её ресоциализации.
Senior officials in the Federal Penitentiary Service were encouraged to transfer Tolokonnikova for the remainder of her incarceration […]. […] According to FSIN heads, the decision was due to the fact that Tolokonnikova is a native of the Krasnoyarsk Krai, permanently registered in the city of Norilsk, and serving out her remaining sentence in this region will facilitate her reintegration into society.
At this very moment, Kirov police are searching [ru] Alexey Navalny's local headquarters, established to coordinate the blogger's public outreach in the city where he currently stands trial for embezzling roughly half a million dollars. The case has attracted international attention as the latest in a long series of politicized Russian judicial proceedings, including the trials of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, three members of Pussy Riot, and others. (more…)
Russian Internet censors at Roskomnadzor have reversed a decision to ban Wikipedia's entry for “cannabis smoking,” following a reexamination of the article after a new round of edits by Wikipedian volunteers. In a statement [ru] on its website today, April 10, 2013, Roskomnadzor announced the unbanning, though at least nine [ru] other Wikipedia articles apparently remain on the RuNet blacklist.
On April 1, 2013, the 20 year anniversary of Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper critical of the government and known for its investigative reporting, Head of the Chechen Republic (formerly President) Ramzan Kadyrov took to his Instagram [ru], as he often does these days, to publicly express respect for the publication and its journalists, even thought he “sometimes disagrees with them.” Some bloggers [ru] were flabbergasted [ru] — after all, it is a widely held belief on RuNet that Kadyrov (then Chechen Prime Minister) is at least partially responsible for the assassination of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.
Сегодня исполнилось 20 лет "Новой газете", которая по сей день является одним из немногих островков настоящей журналистики. И хотя я часто не согласен с мнением некоторых журналистов, тем не менее я высоко ценю Ваше желание докопаться до истины и дать возможность Вашим читателям узнать ее. Надеюсь, что и я смогу Вам помочь в этом нелегком деле. Всегда готов ответить на Ваши вопросы и донести до Ваших читателей максимально объективную точку зрения о Чечне.
Alexey Navalny, unofficial protest leader, took to his blog [ru] on March 27 to defend himself from what he says are unfair allegations of corruption. Navalny is currently a suspect in two different embezzlement investigations. One of these, the so-called KirovLes case, involves the supposed use of a shell company to steal several million rubles worth of materials from a Kirov Region lumber mill.
Earlier today, the Russian Railways concluded its official investigation into the death of Elena Soboleva, who died on January 18 crossing the tracks at the Saltykovskaia train platform [ru], located just east of Moscow. The Railways (or RZhD, as it's known in Russian) determined [ru] that Ms. Soboleva was responsible for her own death, having elected to cross the tracks despite numerous signs and signals that a speeding train was approaching. (more…)
Anonymity affords ordinarily timid individuals the courage and opportunity to behave dishonestly. That, anyway, is the story we typically hear, especially in the context of the Internet. As Oleg Kashin recently pointed out in his column [ru] at openspace.ru, however, it takes two to make a successful prank (the prankster and the sucker)—a point on vivid display in a minor RuNet scandal last week. (more…)
LiveJournal, owned and managed by Russian company SUP Media, just announced [ru] a grant program that will target the development of “interesting, but less well known blogs.” The grant funds could be used by a starting blogger to promote their blog through various paid “promo” services run by the company.