Russia: Blogosphere Helps Man Fight Local Administration

Pumping station of Beyev's family.

This story has everything for an unconventional blockbuster: a lonely hero facing dozens of armed bad guys, corrupt police forces, private security firm, contract killers, and… thousands of bloggers fighting the system.

“‘I cannot hold on any longer’ is how one can describe my attitude during the last week,” Anatoly Beyev wrote in his blog [RUS] on August 1. “I did not think I could be in such despair, I lost my heart… at least I had enough strength to write this post.”

Beyev described how his family – particularly his father – had been fighting for the last six years to keep a pumping station, a profitable family business built from scratch, from a group of armed men with high connections in a local administration. Beyev meticulously narrates everything that happened since 2004 and you slowly realize how six years of fruitless efforts to defend a family business in the Rostov Federal District can lead to despair:

С 2004 года группа бандитов решила всё это захватить. Вначале они действовали по-простому: приезжали на машинах и с огнестрельным оружием в руках угрожали, требуя отдать им всё и убраться. Но мой отец смело защищал наше имущество.

Since 2004, a group of bandits decided to take it all. At first, they acted simply: they would arrive in their cars and threatened with guns in their hands. They demanded to give it [a pumping station – GV] up and leave. But my father fearlessly defended our property.

В 3 часа ночи с огнестрельным и холодным оружием на 2 машинах без номерных знаков они приехали на насосную станцию. Отец тут же вызвал милицию и встретил злоумышленников с охотничьим ружьём, вдвоём с моим дядей против десятка бандитов. В ужасном напряжении они продержались до приезда милиции, не дав преступникам совершить каких-либо действий, ни скрыться.

At 3 o'clock at night, they [people who threatened the father – GV] arrived at the pumping stations with guns and in cars without license plates. My father immediately called police and met the intruders with a hunting riffle. There were only my father and uncle against a dozen of bandits. They managed to keep the criminal until the police arrived.

But local police decided to accuse the father in assaulting “poor tourists” who “were passing by and decided to swim in a nearby river. ” Beyev writes:

Вопросы почему «туристы» были вооружены до зубов, почему на их машинах не было номерных знаков и зачем они полезли на огороженную и охраняемую территорию отмеченную табличкой «Частная собственность» в деле отражены не были. По приказу прокурора Дубовского района, у нас и у брата отца дома были произведены обыски.

In this case nobody asked questions why the “tourists” were heavily armed, why their cars did not have license plates, why they crossed the territory that was fenced and guarded, the territory with the sign “Private property.” The prosecutor of Dubrovsky district ordered to search our and uncle's houses.

The story continued with repeated phone calls with threats against Beyev's family, attempts to  break into his apartment and, at its climax, an attempted murder of Beyev's father that put him in hospital for two months. It turned out the people who tried to kill the father were hired by someone with a sole purpose to eliminate the man.  The local police purposefully ignored all efforts to prosecute the alleged contract killers.

In 2006, unknown men entered the storage owned by Beyev's family and located near the pumping station and stole most of the things including a welding machine, car trailer and tractor spare parts. The thieves even brought several cars  to transport the stolen goods.

The police did nothing until Beyev's father found the place where the stolen things were and figured out who owned it. Even then policemen asked the father to pay for their transportation expenses before they could go and arrest the men responsible for the theft.   Beyev describes the result of the arrests:

Когда подозреваемого привели к следователю, цинизм и глумление просто зашкаливали! Следователь спросил его: «Ты крал?» – он в ответ: «Нет, не крал» – следователь, обращаясь к отцу: «Вот видишь, он не крал» – и тут же отпустил преступника. Отец чуть не упал со стула от удивления. После жалобы отца на действие этого следователя и обвинение его в коррупции, Дубовкое РОВД отреагировало незамедлительно – завело уголовное дело на отца, что он якобы привлекает незаконно иностранную рабочую силу. Как раз в то время по всей стране это была актуальная тема. Потом дело было прекращено за недоказанностью.

When they brought the suspect to the investigator, cynicism and mockery were out of this world. The investigator ask him, “Did you steal?” “No, I did not,” the suspect replied. “See, he did not steal,” the investigator said to my father and immediately released the suspect. The father almost fell off his chair in disbelief. After the father filed a complain against this investigator and accused him of corruption, the Dubrovskoye Regional Department of Internal Affairs reacted immediately. They opened a criminal case against my father for hiring illegal immigrants. It was a hot topic across the whole country at that time. The case has been suspended later due to the lack of evidence.

The story goes on with countless attempts of Beyev's family to find justice. They kept losing legal battles on a local level. The family would win appeals on a regional level but it did not help their situation. Corrupted judges, policemen, investigators, and bailiffs made sure the pumping station was given to the bandits at the end. The surrounding territory, also owned by Beyev's family, was suddenly occupied by the same people without any reason and with full understanding that they can do whatever they want.

Beyev concludes his post with a cry for help:

Написал этот пост в надежде на вашу помощь, люди помогите нам!Я не могу больше держать всё внутри и изображать жизнерадостность.

I wrote this post hoping for your help. People, help us! I cannot keep everything inside me anymore and pretend that I am full of joy.

Along with the cry for help, Beyev also posted the scanned copies of all documents related to the case [RUS] and photos of the pumping station in question [RUS].

It is symbolic how an average person from a Russian region decides to use the blogosphere as the last line of defense against injustice. Beyev did not think about contacting media before he posted his cry for help online. Nor did he think about writing to the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. As the case shows,, a popular blogging platform in Russia, slowly but surely becomes the first-come-to-mind tool and platform where citizens voice their frustration with local administrations and call for help.

Aware of the power that the Russian blogosphere gradually acquires, many bloggers help in promoting those reports of injustice by linking to the post or re-posting the whole thing on their blogs. From the other side, the Russian government, more vulnerable and lacking the overwhelming support of population it enjoyed before the current economic crisis, is more attentive to the stories from average citizens and tries to respond to them thus recognizing the power of online media platform. The Beyev's case is a perfect example.

Russian bloggers heard Beyev's story and reacted. Thousands of comments were left on Beyev's blog within the matter of days with different recommendations for resolving the situation (including offers to “whack” the bandits). Around 600 bloggers re-posted Beyev's cry for help. Because of this, the most popular charts of Russian blogs featured the post and kept it at the top for several days increasing visibility of the story.

Russian media finally stepped in and started promoting the case even further by interviewing Beyev. Following the advice of fellow bloggers, Beyev also described his situation on several high-profile website including the site of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (in the section “Letter to Prime Minster”) [RUS], the site of the Russian President [RUS], the blog of the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [RUS], etc.

Finally realizing the power of online media, Beyev cheerfully reported:

Друзья отдолжили ноутбук, так что теперь работаем сразу с 2 компьютеров днюм и ночью. Я 2 ночи уже совсем не спал, сегодняшнюю надеюсь посплю часа 3 хотя бы. Информация, информация и ещё раз информация. Как же Я раньше недооценивал блогосферы! Ух… каюсь… Спасибо друзья блогеры уговорили, почти заставили.

Friends gave me a laptop and we now work at the same time from two different computers day and night. I have not slept since 2 o'clock at night. I hope I can sleep tonight for at least three hours. Information, information and information. How I underestimated the blogosphere! Guilty… Thank you, friends-bloggers, for talking me into it [using the blogosphere to promote the case-GV], you almost made me.

And his another comment on the power of re-posting:

Многие продолжают спрашивать, какая нужна помощь. Повторяю, главная помощь – это распространение информации. Причём очень прошу самим делать ссылки тоже, а то у меня не сто рук выполнять рекомендации “перепостите туда-то”. Очень буду признателен, если сами будите писать и делать ссылки туда, куда считаете нужным.

Many continue asking what kind of help do I need. I repeat, the biggest help is to spread the information. I kindly ask to post the links to where you think is necessary. I don't have a hundred of hands to follow recommendations to “re-post it there.” I would appreciate if you can write and post the links to where you think is necessary.

The story is far from being over. But, as Beyev wrote, the governor of the district had heard about the story and decided to take it under his personal supervision. He even called the regional prosecutor and ordered him to sort out the case.

“Now, as I think, the governor wants to help,” Beyev wrote, “We shall see.”

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