Stories from Quick Reads and RuNet Echo
Over the past several hours rumors [uk] have spread [ru] through [ru] the Russian Internet claiming that Alexander Muzychko, second-in-command to Ukraine's ultra-nationalist “Right Sector” leader Dmytro Yarosh, was gunned down near the Western Ukrainian city of Rivno. Muzychko had earlier posted a YouTube video [ru] claiming he had information that he was going to be eliminated by Ukrainian security forces. If his death, yet unconfirmed, is true, it will be unclear who to blame — too many people have reasons to take him out of the picture. A Chechen blogger, Zulikhan Magomadova [ru], writing in Russian, blamed the Kremlin for the assassination, with the motive of fomenting civil war in Ukraine. Muzychko fought along side Chechen separatists during the first Chechen war. Magomadova ended with “Sleep well, our dear brother-in-arms. We will avenge you.”
In addition to Grani.ru, EJ.ru, Kasparov.ru, and Alexey Navalny's LiveJournal blog [Global Voices report], today some ISPs also blocked the website of the liberal radio station Echo Moskvy (Moscow's Echo). According to antizapret.info, the website was blocked at the behest of the Attorney General's office because it contains a mirror of Alexey Navalny's blog at www.echo.msk.ru/blog/navalny. Echo Moskvy Deputy Editor-in-Chief Vladimir Varfolomeev tweeted that at least one ISP is working on resolving the problem:
Пресс-секретарь Акадо сообщил, что идёт работа по возвращению доступа к сайту Эха, но по-прежнему будет закрыта страница Навального на нём.
— Владимир Варфоломеев (@Varfolomeev) March 13, 2014
Akado's [ISP -ed.] press secretary told me that they are working on returning access to Echo, but Navalny's page there will still be blocked.
Some bloggers are also reporting [ru] problems accessing their LiveJournal blogs, likely because of the same issue of over-zealous blocking.
Scholars and researchers of the Russian Internet can rejoice this week, for Russia's leading search engine, Yandex.ru, is now the second website in the world, after Bing in the United States, to gain access to Facebook firehose data [ru]. This means that Yandex can now search Facebook's streaming API and provide live results for all public posts. The new deal with Facebook is limited to users based in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. Currently, only Yandex's blogs-specific search feature is capable of returning Facebook results, but the company's spokesperson told TechCrunch on January 13, 2014, that Yandex hopes to incorporate Facebook links in its general Internet search results soon.
After almost two years in federal custody, Pussy Riot's two most famous members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, will hold their first post-prison press conference [ru]. The event will be hosted by the online TV station Dozhd and take place on Friday, December 27, 2013, beginning at 2:00 PM Moscow time (5:00 AM US Eastern Time). Those interested in watching can tune in at www.tvrain.ru [ru] and Twitter users are encouraged to submit their own questions using the hashtag “#askPussyRiot“. Though the discussion will be in Russian, questions can be submitted in English or other languages.
Activists from the LGBT equality T-shirt company FCKH8.com are planning to send 10,000 copies of a pro-gay coloring book titled “Misha and His Two Mothers” to families with children in Moscow and Sochi, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics. The book's core message, captured by the catchphrase “Gay Is Okay!” (Гей – окей!), is to let children know that being gay is not criminal. Writing in the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Angelina Galanina condemned [ru] the coloring book as “propaganda.” RuNet reactions have ranged from the vitriolic to the measured [ru]. LiveJournal user kolyaka [ru] quipped:
Так примерно во времена железного занавеса к нам проникала запретная литература, тлетворная музыка и даже библии в СССР забрасывали. Как относиться к подобной раскраске? Не знаю.
This is roughly how banned literature, dangerous music, and even the Bible reached us in the days of the Iron Curtain and flooded the USSR. What to make of such a coloring book? I don't know.
Russia’s only independent television station, TV Rain, is on its last leg. Following what appears to have been an orchestrated campaign to rob the channel of its cable and satellite distributors, advertisers have run for the hills and the station is being evicted from its Moscow studio at Red October later this year. There’s even a rumor that Lifenews.ru—a Kremlin-friendly outfit that often miraculously reports news before it’s happened—will take over TV Rain’s office space.
As funds dwindle, staff are reduced, and time runs out, many have been asking what TV Rain can do to avoid ruin. We now know what the station will try to do to save itself: a weeklong telethon. “Tomorrow there might not be a TV Rain,” reads the telethon's manifest, “and this week will decide everything.” The station says it will seek viewer funding to continue operating, following the model of public television, which Dmitri Medvedev famously promoted (without great success).
Beginning tomorrow, March 24, 2014, TV Rain will display onscreen a crawling fundraising total. The ticker will convert the money collected into the amount of time the donations can keep TV Rain operating.
Может быть, хватит всего на один день. А может быть, на неделю. Но кто знает — может быть, и на месяцы — всё зависит от вас.
Maybe there will only be enough for another day. Maybe for a week. But who knows—maybe it will be enough for several months. Everything depends on you.
Pavel Durov, Russian entrepreneur and the brains behind the social networking site VKontakte.ru, recently wrote on his page there, that more and more young people are deciding to emigrate from Russia over the past eight months. Durov quipped [ru], “In typical fashion, I've decided to go against the trend — and want to outline seven reasons to stay put in Russia.”
Here are Durov's seven reasons:
1) Low Taxes — Russia has a flat income tax of 13%, something that Europeans can only dream of.
2) Talented People — Russians often show off their talents by becoming champions in many fields, from computer programming to figure skating.
3) Breathtaking Scenery — Russia is a leader in terms of the volume and diversity of natural resources on its territory.
4) Beautiful People – As someone who has spent several years outside of Russia, Durov says that he can confirm that the percentage of beautiful girls in Russia is significantly higher than in most other countries.
5) Freedom of Expression — Taking a creative approach to pushing the envelope is Russia's national characteristic.
6) Potential for Economic Development — Many like to underscore Russia's lack of development. However, thanks to the lack of development, this leaves the possibility to create new possibilities, which developed countries lack.
7) A Rich Cultural History — Russia gave the world dozens of writers, architects, composers, artists, and scientists.
It remains to be seen if these positive aspects of Russian life are enough to outweigh the negative, and convince potential emigrants that they have more of a chance at home.
BestPozitiv.ru, also known as “Tol'ko Pozitiv” (Only the Positive), is a Russian website that promises to “fill you with positivity every day” by bringing its viewers “the most interesting” videos, GIFs, photographs, lists, and other multimedia “that the Internet has to offer.” The site aggregates everything, from memes of cute cats replete with whimsical rhymes to photos of ships with amusing names.
Here are a few of the best highlights from Tol'ko Pozitiv:
Photos of “Russia in all its glory,” depicting quirky scenes from the Motherland, capturing the lovable zaniness of Russian culture.
While the pardoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky [Global Voices report] doesn't appear in any hurry to set up Twitter or Facebook accounts and join Russia's chattering classes, the recently amnestied Pussy Riot band members [Global Voices report], Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, are already micro-blogging up a storm. Of course, unlike the former head of Yukos, they didn't spend the last 10 years in prison — as Khodorkovsky noted in his press conference [ru], both Facebook and Twitter didn't even exist when he was arrested.
Alekhina opened a Twitter account, @malehina [ru], and has already tweeted 82 times. A sizable portion of these tweets, however, are a seemingly random collection of pithy sayings, like:
Всегда выбирайте самый трудный путь — там вы не встретите конкурентов!
— Мария Алехина (@Malehina) December 24, 2013
Always choose the most difficult path — there you won't face competition!
Tolokonnikova, on the other hand, resumed tweeting from her old account @tolokno [ru]. Her tweets are also eclectic. For instance, a few hours ago Tolokonnikova wondered [ru] why Russian prisons ban eyebrow tweezers — one can go to solitary confinement if found with a pair. (I am no expert on Russian prisons, but the reason is likely the same as why they are banned on airplanes.) At the same time, she appears to have mixed feelings about her early release during the holiday season:
Меня выпустили – а завтра бы Рождество с моими протестантками осужденными встречали.
— Надя Толокно (@tolokno) December 24, 2013
I've been released – but otherwise tomorrow we would be celebrating Christmas with my Protestant convicts.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's exact whereabouts were unknown for the past three weeks, after prison authorities announced that the Pussy Riot icon would be transferred from a prison in the Republic of Mordovia to an unknown location. On November 12, 2103, authorities finally revealed some information about Tolokonnikova's new home. The federal human rights ombudsman had this to say [ru] about Tolokonnikova's “re-integration”:
Руководству ФСИН России было рекомендовано перевести Толоконникову Н.А. для дальнейшего отбывания наказания в исправительную колонию [...]. [...] По сообщению руководства ФСИН России такое решение обусловлено тем, что Толоконникова Н.А. является уроженкой Красноярского края, постоянно зарегистрирована в г. Норильске и отбывание ею наказания в этом регионе будет способствовать её ресоциализации.
Senior officials in the Federal Penitentiary Service were encouraged to transfer Tolokonnikova for the remainder of her incarceration [...]. [...] According to FSIN heads, the decision was due to the fact that Tolokonnikova is a native of the Krasnoyarsk Krai, permanently registered in the city of Norilsk, and serving out her remaining sentence in this region will facilitate her reintegration into society.