- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Russia: Anti-Government Protest Covered By Bloggers, Ignored By Media

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Russia, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Media & Journalism, Protest, RuNet Echo

At least 7,000 protesters gathered on the streets of Kaliningrad [1] [ENG], the country's westernmost city, on January 30 to demand, among other things, the resignation of the regional governor Georgy Boos [2] [ENG] and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. But don't count on the leading Russian media outlets to tell you about it.

The biggest and most popular TV channels keep their silence. Mainstream newspapers and radio stations ignore the rally and go about their business like nothing happened. But it only takes a quick glance at the most popular blog posts on RuNet (Russian Internet) to realize that the protest in Kaliningrad is the hottest topic of the day. Famous political leaders, journalists and regular netizens flooded the blogosphere with their takes on the protest.

Boris Nemtsov (a.k.a. LJ user b-nemtsov), a former Russian Deputy Prime Minister, wrote an inspiring post “Kaliningrad is the hope of free Russia” where he stressed the uniqueness of the protest in Kaliningrad [3] [RUS]:

Такого грандиозного митинга я не видел лет так 10. На митинге четко и ясно были выдвинуты политические требования: отставка Путина и губернатора Бооса.
Исключительной особенностью калининградского феномена стало участие всех оппозиционных сил области в протестной акции.

I haven't seen such a grandiose rally for the last ten years. At the protest, people expressed their political demands: the resignation of Putin and governor Boos. The uniqueness of the Kaliningrad phenomenon is participation of all oppositional groups of the region in the protest.

Blogger olegmakarov added [4] [RUS] that, unlike in the past, the police forces in the city did not even try to prevent people from protesting. Nemtsov later talked about the unusual friendliness of the Kaliningrad police in a short video [5] [RUS] shot during his detention in Moscow on January 31. Ilja Yashin (a.k.a. LJ user yashin), a political activist and columnist for an oppositional Russian newspaper “Novaya Gazeta,” explained [6] [RUS] the friendly attitude of the police:

Совершенно спокойно вела себя милиция. Никакой агрессии, четкое соблюдение законов, ОМОН мирно дремал в автозаках, припаркованных в стороне. Причина очевидна: когда на площади собирается больше десяти тысяч человек – милиция с народом. Потому что разогнать сто человек легко. А 12 тысяч сами кого хочешь разгонят, если понадобится.

The police forces stayed calm. No aggression, following the law, a SWAT team peacefully slept in trucks parked on the side. The reason is obvious: when more than 10,000 people gather on the square, the police are with people. Because it is easy to disperse 100 people. And 12,000 people can themselves disperse anyone if needed.

Many hundreds of comments to those blogs cover a wide range of feelings. Many people seem to believe that the protest will change the situation in the country for the better. The vast majority of bloggers agree with the claim that something like this was unimaginable several years ago when the approval rating of Vladimir Putin was through the roof. Many people see the protest as a sign of big changes in political landscape of the country.

But not everyone on the bogosphere shares the optimism. Nikolay Troitsky (a.k.a. LJ user _kutuzov), a political analyst for the Russian Information Agency, is not that exited [7] [RUS] about the rally's results:

Много народу вышло протестовать в Калининграде, немало недвольных выходили во Владивостоке, может выйти на улицы хоть весь Тамбов, Липецк, Петропавловск-Камчатский – всё это неважно.
Ничего не сдвинется и не изменится, пока на массовые акции протеста не начнут выходить в Москве. И не 9-12 тысяч, это чепуха, это мало, а хотя бы тысяч 50 для начала. Как это было в 1989-91 годах

Many people went to protest in Kaliningrad, many unhappy people went out in Vladivostok, the whole city of Tambov, Lipetsk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky can go on the streets. All this is not important. Nothing will move and nothing will change until the mass protests start happening in Moscow. And not 9,000-12,000. It is rubbish. It's too little. At least 50,000 to start with. The way it happened in 1989-1991.

LJ user clen_lj replied [8] [RUS] to Troitsky:

Большое начинается с малого. Пару лет тому назад трудно было представить выход десятка тысяч человек различных политических взглядов в том числе и под лозунгом отставки Путина.

Everything big starts with a small thing. A couple of years ago, it was difficult to imagine that ten thousand people with different political views would go out under the slogan of Putin's resignation.

But Troitsky is still not convinced:

Так еще лет 10-15 будет начинаться с малого.

It will take another 10-15 years for everything big to start with a small thing.

The posts on the lack of media coverage of the protest also occasionally emerge in the blogosphere. Blogger kt-withlove wrote [9] [RUS]:

Почему митинг с 10 000 человек освещен только в Lenta.ru [10] ?
rian молчит vesti.ru молчит… Чувствуется цензурка то)))

Why the protest with 10,000 people is covered only by Lenta.ru? RIAN [Russian Information Agency – GV] is silent. Vesti.ru [Web site of a news program on TV channel “Russia” – GV] is silent. One can feel the censorship )))

But it looks like the mainstream media censorship is no match for an open information access online where Russians can easily practice free speech.  But as the Russian blogosphere is gradually becoming mainstream, the question is how long does it take for the government to start treating it the way it treats the mainstream media.