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Russia: Bloggers React With Cynicism to Bin Laden's Death

This post is part of our special coverage The Death of Osama Bin Laden.

The death of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011, has provoked condemnation and talk of conspiracy theories among Russian bloggers.

Quickly becoming one of the hottest topics of the Russian Internet, the death of bin Laden did not divide netizens. In a rare instance of unity, Russian bloggers revealed their cynicism toward one of the most important events of this year.

Russian bloggers’ reactions resemble the reaction of their counterparts in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. Criticism of the United States and the popularity of conspiracy theories – a clear sign of distrust of any government – characterize the Russian society. The death of bin Laden has spotlighted those characteristics even more.

Osama Bin Laden. Collage by Alexey Sidorenko.

Osama bin Laden. Collage by Alexey Sidorenko.

Did Bin Laden exist?

One of the most popular blog posts on the topic was the one by liberal blogger Andrey Malgin (avmalgin) who wrote [ru]:

В сообщении об убийстве Бен Ладена меня кое-что смущает. Почему не сфоткали убитого c разных ракурсов, вообще не дали изображения трупа в интерьере, а тут же сбросили тело в море? Почему Обама объявил о ликвидации Усамы до того, как станут известны результаты генетической экспертизы?

Причем появляется не только вопрос: убит ли Бен Ладен? Возникает вопрос: а существовал ли он вообще?

There is something that confuses me in the announcement of bin Laden's death.Why they did not photograph him from different sides? Why they did not release the picture of the dead but threw the body to the sea instead? Why did Obama announce the elimination of Osama before the results of DNA tests?

The questions arises if bin Laden was killed. Another question is did he exist at all?

Malgin went even further and posted a “picture” of the dead bin Laden [ru] that, according to the blogger, “had been released that morning.” Following the same principles as a crime novel, the blogger went on to prove that the picture was fake.

Malgin claimed that he saw the pictures on CNN and Euronews; other bloggers quickly pointed out that neither the CNN or Euronews websites contained any information on the fake photo.

Anton Nosik (dolboeb), another popular Russian blogger, joined Malgin in the theory that bin Laden did not exist [ru]. According to Nosik, a farmer from Afghanistan may have played the role of bin Laden for 100 US dollars.

A post [ru] in the ru-politics Livejournal community cites Steve Pieczenik, an outspoken conspiracy theorist, who claimed that Bin Laden was killed in 2001. This is a popular theory on the Russian Internet; many bloggers are convinced that Osama bin Laden has been dead for a long time.

Who is next?

Russian bloggers have also wondered who will take bin Laden's place. Yuri Krupnov (krupnov), chairman of the “Movement for Development,” and a former government advisor, wrote [ru]:

Теперь фронт «борьбы с международным терроризмом» будет сдвинут в другое место, скорее всего, в Йемен. Главным террористом будет назначен, скорее всего, 40-летний йеменец Анвар аль-Авлаки – и весь Земной шар будет учить наизусть это новое имя.

Now the front line of “the war with international terrorism” will be moved to another place. More likely to Yemen. Likely, Anvar al-Awlaki, a 40-year-old resident of Yemen, will become the most important terrorist. The whole world will be learning his name.

Tina Kandelaki (tikandelaki), a popular Russian TV host, compared [ru] Osama bin Laden to Julian Assange and hinted that, unlike bin Laden, Assange was somehow beneficial for the CIA and that is why he still was not “stopped.”

Andrey Malgin contemplated on the possibility of naming Vladimir Putin as the next enemy of the United States. But LiveJournal user chudinovandrey argued [ru] that Putin is vital for the US because with his demise Russia would be split into several districts with no control, and terrorists would be able to obtain nuclear weapons.

“Our Internet is not that simple

Liberal blogger and a co-chair of the party “Right Cause” Leonid Gozman (leonid-gozman), outlined [ru] other popular reactions of Russian bloggers to the death of the most wanted man in the world:

  • They shouldn't have killed him. They should have captured him and put him on trial. They did not do it because he knew too much and could expose Americans;
  • They tried to capture him for a long time. That means they are ineffective and weak. They killed him when he became useless;
  • It's not right to cheer the death;
  • Terrorism will become stronger. Other people will retaliate. New leaders will be as string as Bin Laden;
  • Who gave the right to Americans to kill someone they did not like?
  • It is all because of oil and Obama's rating;
  • Those are the games between the CIA and Pakistan's intelligence service.

“Bin Laden is dead,” Gozman wrote. “I though it was definitely good. I thought the opinions would be unanimous, except the ones by the Taliban, Hamas, etc. Indeed, the world leaders are unanimous. But our Internet is not that simple.”

Georgia-based blogger Oleg Panfilov also brilliantly summed up [ru] the tone of the Russian net:  “There are two heroes in Russian blogosphere. Navalny is an enemy [popular blogger Alexey Navalny], bin Laden is a friend. Earlier, the friend was Saddam Hussein. And then and, in a way, now, it is Qaddafi.”

“I want to live in the world where the good triumphs and the evil is punished,” Gozman wraps up his blog post. “I don't believe the world became safer but I believe it became better.”

“Solzhenitzyn once said through one of his characters that everything is, in fact, simple: ‘A wolfhound is right and a cannibal is wrong.’ My congratulations to the wolfhound.”

This post is part of our special coverage The Death of Osama Bin Laden.

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