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Russia: Bloggers Debate Military Operation in Libya

This post is part of our special coverage Libya Uprising 2011.

The situation in Libya, especially after the start of military operations by Western countries, has become one of the main topics of discussion in the Russian blogosphere. The peak came during the period of 20-21 March, 2011, when people became aware of the resolution adopted by the United Nations (UN) regarding Libya. This is how it looks on the chart compiled with the help of Yandex's Pulse of the Blogosphere:

Pulse of the blogosphere (keywords Libya and Qaddafi). Yandex

Pulse of the blogosphere (keywords Libya and Gaddafi). Yandex

Development of discussion

When analysing the development of a discussion around Libya in Russian blogs, one can highlight several of its characteristics:

  1. Strong polarization of views in this debate;
  2. Pronounced mobilization of groups around certain points of view;
  3. Participation of top bloggers and opinion leaders in the discussion – almost all of them have formulated their views on March 20-21, immediately after the adoption of the UN resolution;
  4. A close correlation between the Libya theme and the Russian reality, which led to even greater polarization of the opinions of bloggers.

Thematically, the discussion about Libya is built around discussions of the following topics and information events:

  1. Assessment of the situation in Libya, Gaddafi policies and his personality;
  2. Evaluation of the admissibility of a military operation against Gaddafi;
  3. Disagreements between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin on Russia's position during the discussion of the UN resolution;
  4. The resignation of the Russian ambassador to Libya, Vladimir Chamov.

Also, in discussions around the theme of Libya in Russian blogs, one can highlight several prevailing propaganda themes:

1. Massaging the theme of innocent victims of the bombing among civilians. Here, photos and videos from Libya depicting the wounded and the consequences of the bombings were used very actively. One important element of this line was an open letter of Russian medical doctors [ru] in a Libyan hospital to President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin with an appeal to take a tough stance and stop the military operation. The text of this letter is full of bloody details:

Бомбы и ракеты поразили ЖИЛЫЕ дома и упали рядом с больницей. В здании Кардиологического центра были выбиты стекла, а в здании родильного отделения для рожениц с заболеваниями сердца рухнула стена и часть кровли. Результатом этого стало десять выкидышей, часть новорожденных детей погибла, женщины находятся в реанимации, врачи борются за их жизнь. Мы и наши коллеги работаем без выходных, чтобы спасти людей.

Bombs and rockets struck RESIDENTIAL houses and fell near the hospital. The windows were broken at the cardiac center building and a wall and a part of the roof collapsed in the maternity ward for pregnant women with heart condition. This resulted in ten miscarriages, some newborns died, the women are in intensive care, doctors are fighting for their lives. We and our colleagues are working seven days a week to save people.
Rebels' blockpost near Bengazi, Libya. Image by al-mak, copyright Demotix (03/03/11).

Rebels’ blockpost near Bengazi, Libya. Image by al-mak, copyright Demotix (03/03/11).

2. Discrediting Libyan insurgents,  presenting them as criminals, pointing to their connection to al-Qaeda. This line has actively used photo essays from Libya. The image on the right shows one of the typical pictures of a Libyan rebel – similar to a pirate from a medieval ship – published by many bloggers.

3. Proof and illustration of the propaganda war led, according to bloggers, by Western television networks. The bloggers point out that Western media do not provide a real picture of what is happening in Libya, and form their own picture beneficial for Western countries.

Blogger kulebyaka1 wrote on 18 March:

Я не знаю и не берусь судить о характере режима Каддафи – демократический ли он, легитимный ли он – не знаю. Кровавый ли – не знаю. Во всяком случае, за последний месяц ни одна сводка или репортаж из Ливии от Евроньюс или си-эн-эн (о русских сми вообще говорить не приходится) меня не смогли убедить в том, что Каддафи ради сохранения личной власти топит в крови Ливию. Показывают картинку одну – а говорят другое.

I do not know and do not presume to judge the nature of the regime of Gaddafi – I don’t know whether it is democratic or legitimate. I do not know whether it is bloody. Anyway, last month, no report on Libya by Euronews or CNN (I am not even talking about Russian media) could convince me that Gadhafi drowns Libya in blood for the sake of preserving his personal power. They show one picture and they talk about absolutely different things.

4. Description of life in the Libyan Jamahiriya as “socialist paradise.” A huge number of bloggers re-posted a short post [ru] full of dry facts and figures that identified the indicators of life in Libya, positively distinguishing it from Russia:

  • ВВП на душу населения — 14 192 $.
  • На каждого члена семьи государство выплачивает в год 1 000 $ дотаций.
  • Пособие по безработице — 730 $.
  • Зарплата медсестры — 1 000 $.
  • За каждого новорожденного выплачивается 7 000 $.
  • Новобрачным дарится 64 000 $ на покупку квартиры.
  • На открытие личного бизнеса единовременная материальная помощь — 20 000 $.
  • Крупные налоги и поборы запрещены.
  • Образование и медицина бесплатные.

[…]

  • Квартирная плата — отсутствует.
  • Плата за электроэнергию для населения отсутствует.

[…]

  • Покупку автомобиля до 50% оплачивает государство, бойцам народного ополчения — 65%.
  • Бензин стоит дешевле воды. 1 литр бензина — 0,14 $

+++
Население Ливии при тиране Каддафи увеличилось в три раза.
Ливийцы при тиране Каддафи впервые получили достаточное количество питьевой воды.
Ливия при тиране Каддафи стала самой грамотной страной Северной Африки.

  • GDP per capita – $14,192. [All figures US dollars]
  • The state pays an annual subsidy of $1,000 for each family member.
  • Unemployment benefits- $730.
  • Nurse’s salary – $1,000.
  • For every newborn, a family is given $7,000.
  • Newlyweds get $64,000 to buy an apartment.
  • One-time financial aid for opening a business – $20 000.
  • Major taxes and levies are prohibited.
  • Education and health care are free.

[…]

  • The rent is abolished.
  • Electricity payment is abolished.

[…]

  • The state subsidizes the purchase of a car up to 50% and the state militia fighters get 65%.
  • Petrol is cheaper than water. One liter of gasoline -is $ 0.14

+ + +
The population of Libya under the tyrant Gaddafi has tripled.
Libyans under the tyrant Gaddafi for the first time received a sufficient quantity of drinking water.
Libya under the tyrant Gaddafi has become the most literate country in North Africa.

It is difficult to find the source of this post, but it has become the most important piece of propaganda within this last theme.

Russian bloggers’ interest in Libya

The fact is that Libya has never been of interest to Russian bloggers, with the exception of a narrow group of people with leftist and socialist views. However, when the level of interest toward Libya increased recently and more bloggers became interested in this country, its regime and Gaddafi himself, they were quickly given short and very compelling information illustrating the good life of Libyan people under Gaddafi. [This information originated from aforementioned leftist and pro-socialism bloggers – GV]

If we try to categorize the basic position of Russian bloggers in relation to the situation in Libya, we can distinguish three main positions:

1. Support for Gaddafi and his regime and harsh criticism of “the NATO aggression” against Libya. This position is typical for the bloggers with leftists, left-patriotic and socialist views. It is worth noting that this group is well-mobilized and actively involved in discussions. In addition to activities on the blogosphere where a community “I am for Gaddafi” [ru] was established, the websites in support of Gaddafi – kaddafi.ru and za-kaddafi.ru [ru] – have been opened. Support groups have been also opened on Facebook [ru] and Moy Mir [ru].

2. Criticism of Gaddafi’s regime and the military operation against it. This position is typical for popular bloggers and opinion leaders; journalist and former editor-in-chief of Nezavisimaya Gazeta Vitaly Tretyakov writes [ru] on March 20:

Я никаких симпатий к Каддафи не испытываю. Но что-то гнусное на севере Африки сейчас явно происходит. Третью войну затевают страны НАТО вне своих территорий за последние 10 лет. Это уже даже не тенденция. Это просто реальный “мировой жандарм”, причем безответственный.

I have no sympathy for Gaddafi. But there is something awful happening in the north of Africa. The NATO countries are plotting the third war outside of their territories in the past ten years. It's not even a trend. It's just real “world policing,” and he is irresponsible.

Popular Russian blogger Rustem Adagamov wrote [ru], also on March 20:

Помогать устранению диктатуры с помощью “Томагавков”, конечно, можно, но толку от этой помощи, когда речь идет о странах космически далеких от ценностей западного мира, будет немного. А вернее его не будет вовсе. Печальный пример Ирака тому подтверждение.

To help eliminate the dictatorship with “Tomahawks” is, of course, possible, but the return from this assistance, when it comes to countries with the values far from the Western world, will be minimal. Or rather, the return will not even exist. The sad example of Iraq confirms it.

According to popular blogger and founder of many online media Anton Nosik [ru]:

Давно и не нами замечено, что каждый народ имеет то правительство, которого заслуживает.
К арабскому миру это относится в той же степени, что и к любой другой части человечества.
Механическая смена Саддама, Каддафи, Мубарака или Арафата на другую арабскую фамилию никак не сказывается на способности его электората устроить нормальную жизнь без людоедства, братоубийства и исламского фанатизма.

It’s been noted, and not by us, a long time ago, that every nation has the government it deserves. It refers to the Arab world to the same extent as it does to any other part of humanity. The mechanical change of Saddam, Gaddafi, Arafat, Mubarak for any other Arab name does not affect the ability of the electorate to create a normal life without cannibalism, fratricide and Islamic fanaticism.

Blogger puffinus briefly expressed [ru] his position:

Поддерживать Каддафи – это, конечно, себя не уважать. Но и одобрить натовскую интервенцию никак нельзя.

Supporting Gaddafi means losing all respect for oneself. But one cannot also approve the NATO intervention.

3. Position in support of the Western countries’ operation against Gaddafi and his regime. It is interesting that this position is represented by some bloggers with liberal-democratic and pro-Western orientation, as well as by the so-called “protectors” (bloggers supporting Putin and his regime).

Writer Bagirov said [ru]:

Лидера страны, который не стесняется во всеуслышание шантажировать цивилизованный мир тем, что он консолидируется с Аль Каидой, совершенно необходимо убить. Убить на **й, убить вместе с семьей – с детьми, внуками, правнуками, женами, племянниками, тещами, собаками и прислугой. Просто так. На всякий случай. Во избежание.

Очень надеюсь, что эту выжившую из ума грязную сволочь Каддафи убьют.

The leader of a country who does not hesitate to publicly blackmail the civilized world by saying that he would consolidate with al Qaeda should be killed. He should be f…ing killed along with his family – children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, wives, nephews, mother-in-laws, dogs and servants. Just because. Just in case.I really hope that this crazy bastard Gaddafi is killed.

Igor Drandin, the representative of “Democratic Choice” party leadership wrote [ru]:

Честно скажу, я очень надеется, что ливийская оппозиция сумеет справиться сама, и режим головореза Кадаффи рухнет так же быстро, как и аналогичный режим бессменного президента Египта Хосни Мубарака, но, увы. Безумцам почему-то всегда везёт.

Сейчас важно, чтобы начатая военная операция стала быстрой и эффективной.

Когда в противостоянии бандита Кадаффии и народа Ливии, начал побеждать бандит, стало очевидно – военная операция необходима. Преступника следует уничтожать, а так же всех его подельников.

Honestly, I really hoped that the Libyan opposition would cope with all that by itself and the regime of thug Gadaffi would collapse as fast as the similar regime of the permanent Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But, alas, madmen are always lucky for some reason.

Now, it is important that the launched military operation is fast and efficient.

When in the confrontation between mobster Qadaffi and people of Libya, the mobster started winning, it became clear that the military action was necessary. The criminal should be destroyed, as well as all his accomplices.

Blogger 5-513 wrote [ru] on March 19:

Если некая политическая группа осуществляет на определенной территории высшую публичную власть и при этом данная власть не основана на результатах очередных выборов (всеобщих, равных, с тайным голосованием, с внешним контролем за подсчетом голосов, международно признанных) то такая политическая группа совершенно ничем не отличается от банды террористов, захвативших людей в заложники (в роли заложников в такой ситуации выступает все население страны).

Никакие насильственные действия в отношении подобной политической группы и ее отдельных представителей не могут именоваться “вооруженным мятежом”, “войной”, “вторжением” и т.п. Это не более чем операция по обезвреживанию террористов.

If a certain political group performs on a certain territory the role of the highest public authority and, at the same time, this role is not based on the results of elections (general, equal, with the secret ballot, with an external control of the counting of votes, internationally recognized), then this political group is absolutely no different from a gang of terrorists who took people hostage (in this situation, the entire country’s population serves the role of hostages).

No acts of violence against this political group and its individual members can be called “armed rebellion,” “war,” “invasion,” etc. This is nothing more than an anti-terrorism raid.

Bloggers do not shy away from using derogatory epithets against Gaddafi: “old monkey Gaddafi” (blogger Andrey Malginavmalgin), “mad Amanita” (blogger archi-com), “the ruling cannibal” (blogger runo-lj), etc.
Interestingly, one can find in blogs support for the military actions of Western countries against the Gaddafi regime; bloggers hope or wish that one day the West might begin a similar operation against the Putin regime. Blogger chernyshkov [ru] wrote on March 20:

Наконец-то начали бомбить Ливию. – Давно пора.

Надеюсь, однажды руки дойдут и до России, свалившейся в самую гнусную обскурацию, в позорное гноище.

Режимы полковников мало между собой различаются: ложь, насилие, нищета и человеческий материал удручающе низкого качества. Социальное пространство, в котором тошно существовать…

Любить родину и ненавидеть государство – ещё одна извечно русская забава” – пишет блогер chernyshkov.

They finally started to bomb Libya. It's about time.

Hopefully, those hands will eventually reach up to Russia that fell in the most vile obscuration, in shameful abscess.

The regimes of colonels differ little among themselves: lies, violence, poverty and human material of disappointingly low quality. A social space in which it is sickening to exist…

To love the homeland and to hate the state is one of the immemorial Russian occupations.

The same theme serves as an argument for “anti-West” bloggers. They, in turn, fear that Western countries may march against Russia in the struggle for its oil reserves. It is interesting that some Russian opposition sympathizers have the same fear. Blogger egorka-me wrote:

А тем, кто радуется за повстанцев (а там реальные повстанцы, а не какой-нибудь марш несогласных), могу сказать, что капиталистам пофигу на взгляды – они поддержат тех, кто им будет нефть давать.

Сейчас в России для них все замечательно – Путин и Медведев дают. Делаем выводы, кого будут бомбить “Миражи” в случае народного восстания в России…

And to those who are happy for the rebels (and they are real rebels, and not simply dissidents), I can say that capitalists don’t give a damn about views – they will support those who will give them oil.

Now, everything in Russia is fine for them – Putin and Medvedev give [the oil]. Let’s draw a conclusion: whom would “Mirages” [fighter aircraft] bomb in case of a popular uprising in Russia…

This post is part of our special coverage Libya Uprising 2011.

3 comments

  • Dean Fox

    We the CIA aka Open Voices did its homework, however as biased as Langley can be. Interesting how much time you guys spend on trying to open some fault lines in Russia.

    As Open Voices as you tink you may be, please read “confessions of an economic hitman” to open your mind to what you guys participate in.

  • for our (American) perspectinve on Libya, and military actions check out our blog at:

    http://allourblogsblogs.blogspot.com/2011/07/libya-why-this-sucks.html

    We would appreciate your input, telling us you hate it, love it, your opinion! anything. We enjoy reading Global Voices, now please visit our site so we can have your input!

  • […] engaging in discussing recent events in Libya. Compared to April 2011, when Global Voices first analyzed Russian reactions on the conflict, opinions seem to be more polarised now; bloggers had divided […]

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