For roughy seven hours earlier today, Rostelecom's customers in Omsk were unable to access YouTube. The short-lived ban prompted a flurry of panicked online activity, including urgent tweets [ru] from the city's most vocal netizen, Viktor Korb. The short-lived ban was apparently in response [ru] to YouTube hosting clips from the film “Innocence of Muslims,” which sparked recent anti-American riots across the Muslim world. Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov indicated [ru] on Twitter that he expects Russian courts formally to ban the film soon, which Google will then block on YouTube.
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Former presidential staff member Konstantin Kostin [ru] and pro-Kremlin blogger Stanislav Apetian (online moniker: PoliTrash) have released new details about an upcoming initiative from their think tank [ru], the Civil Society Development Foundation. In an interview [ru] with Izvestia newspaper, Apetian says the group is deploying technology developed by the American firm Crimson Hexagon to introduce a “new standard” for the study of RuNet social media. The product is expected to compete directly with Prizma [ru], an existing service offered by the Russian company Medialogia.
In an interview [ru] with the Orthodox website Pravmir.Ru, Patriarch Kirill's press secretary, Aleksandr Volkov, complained that LiveJournal users are too often permitted to engage in “school bathroom” humor that derides the clergy. He appears to be responding to blogger Artemii Lebedev's August 31 online contest [ru] for best mock-ups of the Patriarch. Writer Dmitri Olshanskii criticized [ru] the Church in a post on Facebook, calling Volkov's reaction ‘un-Christian.’
RuNet blogger Vladimir Kharitonov honored the 40th anniversary of the “Summit Series” – eight hockey games played on two continents between the USSR and Team Canada in September 1972. Although Canada emerged with more wins, the series allowed the Soviet Union to showcase some of its hockey talent that had previously been unknown in the West – Valeri Kharlamov and Vladislav Tretiak. Canada's Phil Esposito said publicly that the series’ Most Valuable Player (MVP) was unequivocally the USSR's Alexander Yakushev.
Writing in his own LiveJournal, Sergei Nikitskii (the director of Governors.Ru) ranked [ru] the LJ accounts of Russia's 13 blogging governors. Kirovskaia oblast Governor Nikita Belykh [ru], a former oppositionist politician, scored highest on the list. Andrei Turchak [ru], the Governor of Pskovskaia oblast, was ranked last, on the grounds that he's apparently abandoned his blogging efforts. Nikitskii claims to have rated both the quality and quantity of LJ activity, including post frequency and interactivity with commenters.
On his Tumblr blog, Michael Idov, editor-in-chief of GQ Russia, writes that “pop conspirology, a favorite Russian pastime, is a projection of discomfort with slackened gender roles.” He explains: “It’s not just about the ‘Jews’ or the ‘world government’ any more. It’s about weird semiotic clusters organized around degrees of perceived masculinity.”
After news that Russian television will soon be forced to curtail showings of a classic children’s cartoon “Nu, Pogodi!” [wiki] (the Soviet version of Tom & Jerry but with wolf and bunny instead of cat and mouse) because it is too violent for a new law protecting children from the media, bloggers wonder [ru] what other [ru] cartoons may be affected. Some amusing forecasts include [ru] censorship of Winnie the Pooh for vagrancy and theft, and H. C. Andersen’s Snow Queen for kidnapping. Apparently, some scenes being removed [ru] from “Nu, Pogodi!” are ones where the wolf character is smoking [YouTube].
The Moscow police department has determined [ru] that Aleksei Navalny's email and Twitter accounts were hacked in late June from a German IP address. Fellow liberal blogger Andrey Malgin criticized [ru] the announcement, accusing the authorities of disguising their own responsibility for supposedly stealing [ru] Navalny's passwords in a June 11 search [ru] of his home and offices. Germany is the suspected location of the infamous “Hacker Hell,” who took credit for infiltrating Navalny's accounts.
In the aftermath of a hacker attack on the court that convicted Pussy Riot's 3 members, Kremlin youth group organizer and Senator Ruslan Gattarov [ru] has proposed [ru] making criminal penalties stricter for those who target government websites. Gattarov suggests equating hacks with illegal physical occupations of government buildings, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Writing on Openspace.Ru, Oleg Kashin discusses [ru] a short-lived but disconcerting report [ru] from state-owned Vesti.Ru about Patriarch Kirill's recent trip to Białystok, Poland, where he visited the Nikolsky Cathedral — home to the relics of Gavriil Belostoksky, the patron saint of children in the Russian Orthodox Church. Vesti.Ru temporarily featured language endorsing the now-taboo legend that Gavriil was a victim of Jewish blood libel.
On August 21, just days after Moscow's Khamovnicheskii Court sentenced the 3 members of Pussy Riot to 2 years in prison, hackers attacked and vandalized [ru] the court's official website [ru]. Hackivist groups self-identifying as “Anonymous” claimed responsibility and also leaked [ru] some internal (though largely uncontroversial) emails. Popular blogger Anton Nosik condemned [ru] the attack, calling it a “terrorist act” against the public.
Yekaterinburg's Ural Federal University is for the first time offering a Masters Degree [ru] in “political journalism” with specific training in blogging and “image-making.” In February 2011, UFU hosted [ru] journalist and blogger Oleg Kashin for a discussion with students, where Kashin emphasized the growing importance of blogging. The new program [ru] lasts two years, and costs 5,000 USD to complete, though there are subsidized spaces for five lucky students.
Russian collective “Chto Delat? // What is to be done?” published an essay by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, who considers Pussy Riot “conceptual artists in the noblest sense of the word: artists who embody an Idea,” and fight against the cynicism of power-mongers who strive to return Russia to the tsarist level characterized by Leon Trotsky (1905) as “a vicious combination of the Asian knout [whip] and the European stock market.” The text has been translated into various languages [en, ru - middle of page, it, sr, sr, mk, gr] and reprinted by bloggers and progressive portals throughout Europe.
Egyptian political activist and graffiti artist Ganzeer writes [en] about the Pussy Riot case: “[...] the consequences of freeing Pussy Riot may be mistaken for a fair and liberal Russian judiciary system, which is clearly not the case. [...] Pussy Riot's actions are all about exposing the reality of Russia's corrupt regime. By demanding the freedom of Pussy Riot, the band's supporters are harming the very integrity of their mission. [...] Asking for Pussy Riot's freedom is easy, but taking Putin out is where it's at.”
The blog Chtodelat publishes an English translation of the closing statements of one of the defendants in the Pussy Riot trial. Three of the punk group members are charged with “hooliganism” after performing an anti-Putin prayer in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow earlier this year. The prosecutors asked for a 3-year jail sentence, while a large palette of human rights NGOs and artists have taken a stance in defense of the three women.
Twitter user @zhenya_jane wrote on the U.S. native Becky Hammon‘s contribution to #London2012: “She's 35 years old, 168 cm tall. Becky Hammon is in the starting lineup of the Russian national basketball team. Thought they wouldn't take her.” In 2008, Hammon faced ridicule from Americans when she gained Russian citizenship in the hope of playing on the international stage. Today she led her team in scoring (19 points, 5 assists) as Russia defeated Turkey (66-63) in a quarterfinal match. Team USA and Russia could meet in the final if Russia defeats France and if Team USA defeats Australia in the semis. Hammon's Facebook fan page is here.
Bloggers celebrate the recent conclusion of the “Like It. Art.” graffiti art festival in Kazan, which was co-financed by the local municipal government, along with funds from telecommunications company Beeline and other private sponsors. Blogger stan_one concludes [ru] that the European continent has never before hosted a better festival for street artists. Beautiful photos can be found online here [ru].
Novgorod Senator Dmitri Krivitskii has accused [ru] local blogger Vadim Beriashvili of violating the Russian criminal code's infamous Article 282 [en], alleging that he incited hatred against “a social group” when he wrote [ru] facetiously in April 2012 about Senator Krivitskii's suspiciously low income declaration. After local investigators questioned Beriashvili, he responded by filing his own claim [ru] against Krivitskii for a knowingly false denunciation. Beriashvili recommends countersuits using the false denunciation [en] legal tactic as a defense for other bloggers targeted with violations of Article 282.
Anti-Kremlin blogger Vladislav Naganov responded to this week's shooting in a Denver, Colorado, movie theater by arguing [ru] that American gun violence proves the need for expanded gun rights in Russia, explaining that “gun-free zones,” such as “schools, college campuses, and large stores,” are left defenseless against armed madmen because citizens are forbidden to carry firearms into these spaces.
There are indications that Russian lawmakers might soon consider levying a tax [ru] on bloggers who profit from advertisements on their sites. Blogger Oleg Kozyrev [ru] argues that such a crackdown could backfire on the Kremlin, as pro-government RuNet “trolls” could then be compelled to report illicit income received from the state coffers.
Writing in the politics-ru LiveJournal community [ru], user oficer2001 [ru] alleges that pat-index, the blogger at the center of the case in Yaroslavl (where LJ was banned by court order), is actually a United Russia member, raising concerns that the Russian authorities are already using state-sponsored trolls to flood the RuNet with illegal material, in order to justify censorship. Oficer2001‘s theory has holes, however. In a June 2007 post [ru], for instance, pat-index slammed United Russia as a “shrewd,” “anti-people” party. Other aspects of oficer2001‘s allegations are similarly questionable.
Subscribers to Netis Telecom in Yaroslavl (an estimated 6,000 people) can no longer access LiveJournal, Russia's most popular blogging platform, after a local court today agreed to a request from the Kirovskii raion Prosecutor's office and banned the online resource [ru] because of extremist content on a specific LJ webpage. Internet-providers have vowed to appeal the ruling, which is also opposed by the federal monitoring agency, Roskomnadzor.
Watcher.com.ua reports [uk] that on July 10, when Wikipedia's Russian-language section suspended its service [en] for one day to protest the Russian draft law “On the Protection of Children From Information Harmful to Their Health and Development,” the Ukrainian-language Wikipedia saw a five-time traffic increase. On that day, according to Wikimedia-Ukraine Foundation [uk], there were over 103,000 visits to the uk.wikipedia.org homepage, which normally receives 20,000-25,000 visitors daily: “The Russian-language Wikipedia's strike shows that Ukrainian Wikipedia has a significant potential, which is not revealed because many Ukrainians prefer [to use Wikipedia in Russian].”
Following the recent hacking [en] of activist Alexey Navalny's email, LJ user vishka shares some basic tips [ru] on “computer security for the Russian opposition”: “Having set it all up once, you'll never notice the difference in usability. I've armed you, and if they continue to hack you, it means you are fools.”
The social documentary film makers behind “Srok” [ru] (“The Term”) have published footage [ru] on YouTube of two men who apparently tried to steal supplies from a collection point in Moscow at Vorob'evy Gory, where citizen volunteers were gathering humanitarian aid to send to the flood victims in Krymsk. The video has had over 10,000 views in just 24 hours.
NTV has announced [ru] that RuNet sensation and Nashi member Svetlana Kuritsyna will host a weekly TV show where she interviews Russia's “greatest newsmakers.” Kuritsyna is known online as “Sveta from Ivanovo” and is infamous for her incoherent and widely mocked pro-Kremlin comments from a December 2011 YouTube video [ru] (now with nearly 2 million views). Bloggers have responded to Kuritsyna's appointment with a mix of disbelief [ru] and irony [ru].
Amnesty International started a sms action campaign calling for the release of three jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot. The women — Nadezhda, Maria and Ekaterina — were detained after performing an anti-Putin song in a church in Moscow [video] back in February. An announcement on their blog [ru] said an anonymous source from the presidential administration confirmed the three women would be set free on July 9. The outcome, however, was very different: the women remain in detention [ru] after the Court refused to consider a letter in their support. Amnesty considers them “prisoners of conscience.”
In a widely shared Facebook post [ru], journalist Sergei Parkhomenko lists a series of contradictory official statements by the Russian authorities about the flooding in Krymsk, arguing that the state is flip-flopping and deceiving the public.
Krasnodar environmental activist Suren Gazarian blogs videos from the wreckage in Krymsk, dismissing the theory [ru] that the flooding was caused by water released from the Neberdzhaevsky Reservoir. Marina Litvinovich, meanwhile, provides background [ru] on the reservoir's corporate ownership, including recent criminal charges against members of its board of directors.