The Caucasus Network: Personable Blogger, Svetlana Anokhina

Svetlana Anokhina, 1 July 2013, photo by Sergey Ponomarev.

Svetlana Anokhina, 1 July 2013, photo by Sergey Ponomarev.

This article is part of an extensive RuNet Echo study of the North Caucasus blogosphere. Explore the complete report and personal stories on The Caucasus Network page.

Svetlana Anokhina runs a blog called “Kavkazkaya Plenitsa” (Кавказская пленница), named after the highly popular Soviet film “Kidnapping, Caucasian Style” (a slapstick comedy that portrays individuals from the North Caucasus as ingenious brutes). While some questions remain about bloggers like Hard Ingush, Svetlana Anokhina—a 50-year-old journalist, writer, and community manager from Makhachkala, Dagestan—is as personable and undoubtedly real as netizens get.

Anokhina started blogging somewhat reluctantly in 2008, when a friend proposed that she establish a LiveJournal account to host any work that she could not publish in the professional news media. She resisted, saying she was already an acclaimed and accomplished author, but eventually she gave in and remained highly “plugged in” ever since:

В 2008-ом году в августе мой друг Боря Бергер по пьяни сказал – а давай-ка я заведу тебе ЖЖ. Совершенно не понимала на тот момент, на фига мне это может быть нужно. Спросила – а зачем? Он отвечал – будешь публиковать то, что не напечатали в газете. Ха! – ответила я, – у меня нет неопубликованных текстов я востребованный журналист и прочая звезда! Но перед его напором устоять не смогла. Согласилась. Заводи, – говорю. И понеслось. Сейчас я фактически живу в сети.

One day in August of 2008, my friend Borya Berger said to me, slightly intoxicated: “Let me make you [an account on] LJ.” At the time, I couldn’t understand why on earth I’d ever need [to be on LiveJournal]. I asked, “What for?” He answered, “You’ll publish what they won’t print in the newspaper.” “Ha!” I said, “I have no unpublished texts, and I’m a journalist in demand—a star!” But I could not resist the pressure, and finally I agreed. “Do it,” I said, and so it began. Now I’m practically living online.

Anokhina, who writes in fluent Russian, defines her style as “gentle, unburdensome nonsense” (нежная необременительная хрень). Her posts tell the stories of her family, friends, and colleagues and their experiences living and working in Dagestan. In the spirit of her “gentle” form, Anokhina in her blogging tries to avoid moralism and extraneous pathos, maintaining a nonjudgmental, “it-is-what-it-is” perspective on local life. Anokhina is no fan of analytical prose, believing that an “absence of real characters” neuters any text. She says that her preferred blogging platform is LiveJournal because it allows for personable as well as emotionally charged posts and commentary that often turns into protracted dialogues between groups of individuals. When asked about Facebook, Anokhina says that it is better suited to a “ping-pong game of sharp puns” than serious blogging.

Writing mostly apolitically and without a pseudonym, Anokhina says others have not censored her blogging, though she does practice some degree of self-censorship to remain safe.

On the subject of personal security, she states:

“Безопасность”, как таковая на кону никогда не стояла. Но часто приходится саму себя останавливать и сдерживать, чтоб не обидеть знакомых и друзей. Я очень негативно отношусь к внезапной религиозности соотечественников, у меня накопилось много неласковых слов в их адрес, но в ЖЖ и на Фейсбуке все же выбираю слова помягче.

My “safety,” as it were, has never really been on the line, but often I have to stop myself and take a step back, so I don’t offend my acquaintances and friends. I have a very negative opinion of the sudden religiosity of my compatriots, and I’ve bottled up more than a few unaffectionate outbursts, but on LJ and Facebook I try to choose softer words.

Contrary to Anokhina's own view of her blogging as “irreverent but pleasant,” her work online often generates long and heated debates about religion, politics, and morality. On May 8, 2013, for example, Anokhina entered into a heated dispute on Facebook about an article on that addressed Dagestan’s brothel culture. The conversation quickly turned into a personal attack on her.

Angry with the report, Dagestani blogger Naila Dalgatova shared it on Facebook and suggested “punishing” and “adding to a list” the article’s authors. In response to this proposal, Anokhina casually suggested that Dalgatova’s response to PublicPost’s coverage, however inspired, was ludicrous. Anokhina’s tone only further incensed Dalgatova and her supporters, who piled on over 300 comments, many of which were rather nasty ad hominem attacks on Anokhina.

Anokhina says her blogging has had an immense impact on her life. For instance, LiveJournal has brought her much closer to her readers, and even to some of her critics. Before joining the blogosphere, those who disagreed with her work had no way to voice their opinions, but the Web finally offered an outlet for expressing their views directly to the author. Since joining LiveJournal, Anokhina’s online and offline lives have merged. She sees both spheres of activity as integral parts of one another and has befriended in reality many of the people she’s met virtually. In the past several years, Anokhina has created a number of Facebook groups and accidentally published a book of her personal correspondence with another LJ author.

До недавнего времени всем остальным предпочитала Живой Журнал. Самый оптимальный для меня формат. Там можно размещать длинные душевные или стебные тексты. Приходят люди комментируют, ты им отвечаешь… Создается впечатление живого вдумчивого разговора. Но на Фейсбуке удобнее трепаться, насмешничать, язвить, особенно в группах. Да и обсуждение там проходят ярче и экспрессивнее. Так что я разделила сферы.

Для меня текст без участия конкретного человека с именем-фамилией – мертвый. Не верю в аналитику, так как хорошо знаю многих «аналитиков».  Мне необходима не столько объективность, сколько авторский подход, живая личность за буквами. К сожалению, тут я плохой журналист, меня увлекает чужая страстность и если автор талантлив – хочется немедленно с ним соглашаться.

Until recently, I preferred LiveJournal above all other platforms. It’s the most optimal format for me. There you can post texts long, emotional, or ironic. On LJ, people come to comment and you respond to them… It creates the impression of a living, thoughtful conversation. But Facebook is better suited to chitchat, jokes, and quips, especially in groups. And the discussion on Facebook plays out more expressively, with more flash. So I’ve split my spheres.

For me, any text without a concrete individual’s full name is a dead text. I don’t believe in analytical blogging styles, аnd I know many analysts quite well. I’m not interested in objectivity so much as an individual author’s approach—the living personality beyond the words. Sadly, I’m a lousy journalist, I’m drawn to others’ passion, and I want instantly to agree with any talented author.

In addition to being a prolific blogger on LJ, Anokhina runs several Facebook groups, most notably “Journalists of Dagestan,” where colleagues discuss everything from optimal prices to news sources. The group is also dedicated to analyzing the media, identifying bogus claims published about the region.

In addition to her activity on Facebook, Anokhina leads a number of community projects coordinated through social networks. For example, Anokhina curated There Was A City’s 400-hundred-page socio-historical review of Makhachkala, built on content gathered online and offline, that included archived documents, photographs, and select memoirs.

Most of Anokhina’s online activity addresses her local community, earning her regional popularity, but not national acclaim. Her popularity is personality based. And she gets through to readers, because they can easily related to what she says (much like with literature and cinema) and imagine themselves in the situations she is in, even if the content itself does not concerns them or their places of residence directly.

This article is part of an extensive RuNet Echo study of the North Caucasus blogosphere. Explore the complete report and personal stories on The Caucasus Network page.

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