Belarus, Russia: Bloggers React to Graphic Chechen War Video

On July 3, 2009, Belarusian blogger Tatsiana Elavaya posted a provocative video showing the assassination of captive Russian soldiers by Chechen guerrillas during the 1999 war in Chechnya. The video had been available elsewhere before, but when Tatsiana – whose LJ nickname is Zmagarka, “Female Warrior” – posted it on her blog, the reaction of the Cyrillic blogosphere was unprecedented. More than 2,000 comments brought Tatsiana’s blog to the top of Yandex, Russia's leading search engine.

In a way, Tatsiana did her best to provoke the reaction. She wrote this description (RUS) in her blog post:

Russian soldiers are being slaughtered by Chechens as swine. […] The carnage will continue until Chechnya becomes completely independent. […]

Mostly hateful, the comments to Tatsiana's post sound far angrier than the one below, posted by LJ user rassenstolz:

Chechnya can’t be left behind. It is not a people, but an utter bloody unit of gunmen. If Chechnya were independent, we would get an Islamic aggression breeder, an outpost of Muslims for their Northern advance. I also do not endorse Kremlin’s actions. But if someone is saying that Kremlin oppresses poor Chechens, I think that it is too soft against them. [Father-Kadyrov], a former rebel fighter, has been put to rule them, and monthly unrequited budget infusions are being made. What for? We need to cut this people out as cancer. They can do nothing but rob and kill. While Chechens kill ours on their land, we will be killing these bastards on our land. Russians will respond with no less cruelty.

The absolute majority of the feedback happened to be cursing and threatening. Some bloggers promised to find and kill Tatsiana. LJ user gutnik_real posted a bureaucratic-style request to the Prosecutor General of Belarus to arrest Tatsiana. Not only Chechens were insulted in the comments to the post, but Belarusians, Ukrainians, Georgians and Jews as well. Thousands of angry voices hardly showed 30 percent of decent lexicon. Hateful posts and discussions like this one are common for LJ blogs.

Some Russian bloggers appealed to LiveJournal to have Tatsiana's post blocked, but LiveJournal reacted by adding an Adult Content Notice to the post: “The content that you are about to view may contain material only suitable for adults. To continue, you must confirm that you are at least 18 years of age.”

The sensational post drew attention of the Belarusians both in blogs and in the independent media. On July 26, Mikola Buhaj published an article titled “Russian Nazi Threaten to Kill Belarusian Blogger” (BEL) in the Nasha Niva. The article has generated more than 140 comments, which is unprecedented for this opposition-run newspaper. Most of them condemn Tatsiana’s intolerance, but xenophobic comments get even more condemnation. Krywich wrote:

I thank Tatsiana for her bravery, her deed has helped to preserve the honorable face of modern pragmatic youth.

Tatsiana’s position was supported by a number of Belarusian LJ bloggers. In her later post, she wrote (BEL, RUS):

So far, some 1,010 people have added me as a friend. What gladdens me is that there is a number of kind, reasonable and interesting people among them. Resonance methods help them to show their true face and decide whether our paths are coinciding.

Ukrainian nationalists also showed some support. LJ user guzj, a representative of an ultras organization, wrote:

The National Alliance stands with you! Guys are ready to defend you, say when and where to go!

On her publicly available Facebook page, Tatsiana wrote this (ENG):

I did my best not to let this conflict spread outside of livejournal. I didn't want to write anywhere about it. But Belarusian independent journalist thought other way. E.g. that's link to article from “Nasha Niva” about one post in my blog entitled “Chechens cut russian soldiers as pigs”. It contains video with Chechen separatists killing russians + my comment. Idea of the comment: “I do not approve such violent acts, but they are going to continue until russian occupation troops remain in Chechnya.” Huge scandal has burst. 2000 comments and plenty of other stuff. Several requests where written to Prosecutor's Offices of Belarus and Russia to initiate criminal proceedings for inciting ethnic hatred. 2000 people wished me death. But I'm still alive and going to make you happy with truth. Even if it's not so nice. As they say welcome to the real world. Without the pink glasses ;)

Being an activist of the Belarusian Bunt (“Rebellion”) youth organization, Tatsiana is known for her active anti-Russian position. She widely supports former Soviet states that have problems with Russia. Also, she is very concerned with the fate of the Iran elections.

Pro-government Belarusian bloggers have also responded to Tatsiana's post. Stas Allov, an author with the pro-government “Ring of the Patriotic Recourses of Belarus” portal, thinks that bloggers are directed by the West. Here is what he wrote (RUS) on his blog about the coverage of the recent events in Iran and China by Belarusian bloggers:

A number of the so-called “Belarusian” “jeans” opposition activists […], as if following a wave of the conductor's baton, […] together with their Russian colleagues began to defend the Iranian opposition and the Chinese rebels.

And [they were quite synchronous about it]. When the peak of the Western coverage was on Iran, these opposition activists were synchronously writing materials on Iran. When the pendulum moved to the Chinese Uighurs, […] these LJ users suddenly began to write materials on China. There was lots of material. Many photos ([where did they take them from?]), reports in the Persian ornate lettering (as if they've all learned Persian all of a sudden…). […]

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