Bot Wave Tries to Remind Russians of Rosier Olympic Times

Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

What follows is a full English-language translation of an article by Vadim Yelistratov that appeared in Russian on the website TJ on February 7, 2015.

“Labor, Sports, and Vladimir Putin,” by Vadim Yelistratov

On February 7, the Sochi Winter Olympics celebrated its one-year anniversary. Exactly 12 months prior, one of the greatest sporting events in Russia’s history began. Many Russians experienced a surge of patriotism during the Games (Russia won the medal count, and the spectacle was well organized) and they hoped hosting the competition would improve the country’s reputation on the world stage.

Nevertheless, today in February 2015, Russia is in the midst of an economic crisis, and its relations with the US and European Union have reached rock bottom. Largely because of this, there has been a concerted effort across the airwaves to remind Russians about the anniversary of the country’s Olympic triumph.

TJournal draws attention to a wave of identical tweets, launched on February 7, “written” by bots about the Olympics’ anniversary.

Some of the replicated tweets focused simply on reminding readers about the Olympics’ anniversary. There were a few different versions of this message, which recycled various news headlines.

Critical. Peace, labor, sports, Vladimir Putin … Olympics!

The Olympics in Sochi. One year later.

Russia: well, I’m off. The Olympics! We beat everyone! Hooraaaay!

Exactly one year ago in Sochi, the Olympics started.

The Olympics in Sochi: one year later. Russia remembers the Olympic Games today…

Personal testimonies
Other tweets tried to sell the Olympics as a personal event in the life of every Russian.

The Olympics. How it was for me.

Today is the #YearAfterTheGames. The Olympics will always been in my heart.

Russian prestige
A large number of the bot tweets stress that the Olympics were a “national triumph” for Russia that produced a “positive impact for the country’s image.”

The Sochi Olympics: the year of our national triumph 33/13 [The text “33/13” signifies the medals won by Russian athletes (total medal and gold medals).]

I was all eyes as I watched. :) The Sochi Olympics were a monumental event that reflected positively on the country’s image.

Polling results
Very actively and without any hyperlinks to the source material, bot accounts tweeted headlines from articles published at The Russian Times and RBC, drawing on survey results from the polling agencies Romir, Gallup International, and VTsIOM.

Poll: Crimea and the Olympics have made Russians happy.

49 percent of Russians are confident that the Olympics raised Russia’s prestige.

Quotes from Putin and other world-class athletes
Bot accounts most often recycled extremely positive statements by Vladimir Putin, triple Olympic champion figure skater Irina Rodnina, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, and Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov

Vitaly Mutko: the Sochi Olympics were a long road with a good finish

Putin: the Sochi Olympics caused a surge of good feelings.

Rodnina: the Sochi Olympics showed that Russia can manage any challenge.

United Russia: Fetisov: the Sochi Olympics were a holiday for the entire country.

Zhukov: the Sochi Olympics stimulated the development of sports in Russia.

The high price tag
Finally, one identically tweeted message awkwardly tried to diminish the enormous amount of money spent on the Olympics by recalculating its cost in depreciated rubles.

When you recalculate its cost in today’s rubles, the Sochi Olympics weren't all that expensive…

The Russian mass media
Most Russian media outlets also reported on the Olympics's anniversary in purely positive terms, without mentioning anything about the country’s subsequent economic crisis. Of all the biggest newspapers, only Argumenty i Fakty published anything remotely critical.

This is a full English-language translation of an article by Vadim Yelistratov that appeared in Russian on the website TJ on February 7, 2015.


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