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Russia: Largest Political Community Online Removed And Restored

Vulgarity and tons of unrelated information may be a part of open conversations online but that alone rarely leads to elimination of the most popular communities on the Internet. The recent case of Russian popular online community ru_politics revealed how fragile those conversations are and showed the willingness of online community to stand up for free speech on the Internet.

The most popular Russian online political community ru_politics [RUS] has been suddenly  shut down by one of its moderators on January 1. Blogger and political activist Grigoriy Pashukevich (a.k.a. LJ user alter-gregor) was the one who decided to terminate ru_politics for its “wastefulness and vulgarity.” Pashukevich also prevented other moderators of the community from restoring it.

This led to many speculations and questions on the blogosphere. Unwilling to believe in the actions of Pashukevich, bloggers created an alternative political community ru_politics2 [RUS]. They also suggested that the moderator's account had been hacked and someone used the account's privilege to shut down the community. Pashukevich immediately dismissed those rumors and explained the decision [RUS]:

Мне надоел тот пиздец который происходит, и я это нафиг удалил. Надо новое создавать.

I got tired of all the bulls…t that is happening and that's why I removed it. We need to create a new community.

Pashukevich's radical measures toward ru_politics immediately became a hot topic on Russian blogosphere. Liberal and conservative bloggers expressed their outrage and disappointment with Pashukevich.

One of the well-know liberal bloggers Oleg Kozyrev (a.k.a. LJ user oleg_kozyrev) expressed his take on the incident [RUS]:

В том, что крупнейшую общеполитическую площадку блогосферы убил формально демократ, член Солидарности и Яблока, есть какое-то своеобразное безумие.

Ни левые, ни националисты, ни охранители этого не делали, а демократ сделал. Причем не побыв там и чуток времени в модераторах.

И кажется искренне даже не понимает, чего он такого учудил неверного.

Больше всего для провала демократии стараются демократы – вот что грустно и поражает.

There's some sort of a craziness in a fact that the largest general political forum of the [Russian – G.V.] blogosphere has been killed by a formal democrat, member of Solidarity [EN] [liberal political movement – G.V.] and Yabloko [EN] [liberal political party – G.V.]. Neither leftists nor nationalists nor conservatives did that, but a democrat did. Without even being a moderator of this community for a considerable amount of time.

And it seems like he sincerely doesn't understand what he did wrong.

Democrats are trying their best to fail democracy – that's what is shocking.

Conservative blogger Ruslan Nikolaev (a.k.a. LJ user obshinnik)  sarcastically wrote [RUS]:

…. и после этого либералы будут пугать нас кровавой гэбнёй и ОМОНом? Да вам никакой ОМОН не нужен, вы сами себя сожрете. Горланите о свободе слова – и спьяну закрываете каналы свободной информации. Вам не то что власть в России, вам свободного выхода в интернет доверять нельзя!

…. and after that liberals will be scaring us with bloody KGB and SWAT teams? You don't need SWAT, you'll eat yourselves without any help. You're crying about the freedom of speech – and, being drunk, close the channels of the free information by yourselves. It's dangerous not only to give you power in Russia, it's dangerous to give you Internet access!

Vladimir Milov, one of the leaders of a Russian democratic movement “Solidarity”, expressed his understanding [RUS] of motives that led to the closure of the community but explained why this might not be a right decision:

Гриша не устает волосы дыбом поднимать у окружающих. Гришенька! Ру-политикс, конечно же, мерзопакостная помойка, а вовсе не “свободная площадка для дискуссий”, однако такими шутками ты, мягко говоря, настроишь пол-интернета не только против себя, но и против демократов вообще. Про существование ру-политикс в окружающем нас реальном мире знать никто не знает, а про тебя теперь всегда будут говорить: “А, это тот самый чувак, который…”

Grigoriy isn't getting tired of putting others’ hair stand on their end. Grigoriy! Ru-politics, of course, is an awful garbage can and not a “free forum for discussions;” but with such jokes you, to put it mildly, can set a half of the Internet not only against you, but against democrats in general. In the surrounding real world nobody knows about the existence of ru-politics, but everybody will always tell about yo: “Ah, that's the guy who…”

Giving up to the pressure of the blogosphere, Pashukevich later restored ru_politcs and tried to explain his actions as a New Year joke.

Whatever were the reasons that motivated Pashukevich to close down the online community, the incident showed an incredible fragility of the Russian political blogosphere. Aside from the disturbing fact that the new appointed moderator was able to close ru_politics and prevent other moderators from restoring it, Pashukevich's actions resulted in criticism of Russian democrats who are apparently willing to limit free speech online.

Additional info:
Community ru_politics has been created in 2003. It is the 62th most popular community on Russian popular blogging platform Livejournal.com. An average number of subscribers is 7,500. There are almost 100,000 entries. There are currently six moderators. Four of those (e_dikiy [RUS], pavell [RUS], slavamakarov [RUS] and haeldar [RUS]) are allegedly connected with pro-Kremlin PR-agencies and two (karimova [RUS], welgar [RUS]) are associated with the liberal opposition. The community had an open policy toward the posts and generally allowed anyone to publish anything related to politics. However, some oppositional bloggers – Vladimir Pribylovsky, for example – were expelled from the community.

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