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Russia: Reactions to the Polish Tragedy

April 10, 2010, the day that should have started a new era in the Russian-Polish relations, brought tragic news [EN] instead. Airplane with the highest Polish establishment on board crashed in the Smolensk forest. The reaction of the Russian blogosphere was divided as usual when it comes to the Russian-Polish relations.

The discussion went into several directions: 1) copy-pasting of the news, 2) figuring out whose fault it was, 3) messages of sorrow and solidarity with the Polish people, 4) conspiracy theories accusing Russian security services of causing the crash, 5) hate speech about Lech Kaczynski, the Polish President who died in the crash, and other politicians, and mystical justifications of the crash, 6) discussions on the future of the Russian-Polish relations, 7) comparison with previous deaths of Polish presidents connected with Russia (Bierut [EN] and Sikorski [EN]).

The first wave of information about the tragedy led to copy-pasting and attempts to find whose fault it was. The topic gathered about 5,200 blog posts. Even though posts of sorrow and solidarity weren't numerous on the blogs, Facebook users were much more willing to share their feelings. Facebook status updates were more personal, usually very short (and written by more internationalized audience). A Facebook group “Bring flowers to the Polish embassy” [RUS] was set up.

Facebook message status by Sergei

OMG :( Poland :(

Facebook message status by Yulia

Facebook message status by Yuri

The President of Poland died…

Warsaw-based Aleksander Pryazhnikov posted a picture of people listening to Prime Minister Tusk's speech at one of Warsaw's shops:

Warsowians looking at Premier Tusk's speech, photo by Alexander P.

Warsawians watching PM Tusk's speech, photo by Alexander Pryazhnikov

Marina Litvinovich was the first to call Russians to bring flowers [RUS] to the Polish embassy, providing the address of it in Moscow. Later Veronica Khokhlova [EN] posted pictures of the candles and flowers by the fence of the embassy (more pictures are available here [EN]):

Flowers at the Polish embassy in Moscow, photo by Veronica Khokhlova

Flowers at the Polish Embassy in Moscow, photo by Veronica Khokhlova

Sergey Kornienko, a businessman from Kaliningrad region (former Eastern Prussia, Russia's only region with direct border with Poland), posted pictures [RUS] of the Polish Consulate in Kaliningrad:

Flowers at the Kaliningrad consulate, photo by Sergei Kornienko

Flowers at the Kaliningrad Consulate, photo by Sergei Kornienko

Those who were mostly focused on the reasons of the crash were either blaming the President or the pilots. On the other side of the discussion was former pilot Sergey Verevkin, who suggested [RUS] it might have been the error of the airport equipment. However, the version that it was Kaczynski's fault was more widespread. Bloggers referred to a similar case in 2008, when Kaczynski had a conflict with a pilot [PL] about landing in Tbilisi during the South Ossetia War [EN].

Besides this interpretation, an ugly, anti-Polish version was widely transmitted, implying the plane was full of “anti-Russian” politicians and it was a “higher justice” that the crash happened on the Russian ground. Those who transmitted this version were bringing to example Kaczynski's decision to name one of Warsaw streets after Dzhokhar Dudayev [EN], a controversial figure who is considered a national villain in Russia and an independence leader in Poland, as well as other controversial sayings by Kaczynski and other right-wing politicians who were on the plane. As kirpits wrote [RUS]:

Этот самолёт был переполнен ненавистью к россиянам и России, он просто не мог не упасть – слишком много было камней за пазухой…

This plane was full of hatred towards Russians and Russia, he couldn't but fall down – there were too many snakes in their bosoms.

Alexey Melnikov, member of the Yabloko party, made a list of the most common hate-speech sayings [RUS] on the topic. He concluded that ten years of Putin's reign has brought to life a whole generation of people ready to react joyfully to such horrible events.

The other “extreme” view was expressed in a series of posts with conspiracy theory versions. LJ user shimerli suggested [RUS] there could have been deliberate misinformation of the pilot. LJ user esselt questioned the mainstream media messages. Jaga-lux tried to critically analyze [RUS] the circumstances of the flight.

Russian liberals were uniform in their solidarity with the Polish people. The first page of the website [RUS] of Echo Moskvy (a liberal radio station and recently a blogging platform) was filled only with the reflections on the Polish tragedy. Russian political celebrities and bloggers wrote their condolences: Eduard Limonov [RUS], Vladimir Soloviev [RUS], Leonid Radzikhovski [RUS] and others. But the most appealing was Matvey Ganapolski's address (widely cited in the Polish media):

я прошу прощения и перед Польшей, как страной. Я понимаю, что лично ничем перед ней не провинился, но я россиянин и поэтому чувствую частичку своей вины просто потому, что на моей территории погибли граждане его страны.

I apologize to Poland as a country, too. I understand that I'm not guilty as a person, but I'm a Russian citizen and this is why I feel a bit of personal guilt just because citizens of [Kaczynski's] country died on my land.

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