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A Telethon to Save Russia's Independent TV

TV Rain's official logo.

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.

The remaining staff at TV Rain.

Pavel Durov's Seven Reasons to Stay in Russia

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.

Accenting the Positive on the Russian Internet

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:

The Most Beautiful Pictures of Wild Animals

Photos of “Russia in all its glory,” depicting quirky scenes from the Motherland, capturing the lovable zaniness of Russian culture.

Cats and Women in Pinup Poses

 

Pussy Riot Free to Tweet at Last!

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.

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina reunited in Krasnoyarsk.

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:

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:

I've been released – but otherwise tomorrow we would be celebrating Christmas with my Protestant convicts.

Update: Alekhina's Twitter account turns out to be fake and was suspended by Twitter. The counterfeit was good enough that Tolokonnikova herself was fooled, although she later deleted her tweet welcoming Alekhina to the service.
Update 2: According to BuzzFeed's Foreign Editor, Miriam Elder, Alekhina has now officially joined Twitter using the handle @MashaAlekhina, though Alekhina has yet to tweet anything as of December 26, 2013.

Pussy Riot's Tolokonnikova Transferred to Krasnoyarsk

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.

 

Update: Russia Blocks Fifth Liberal Website

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:

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.

Facebook Teams Up with Russia's Top Search Engine

Yandex gets to drink from Facebook's firehose. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock, pulled from YouTube captures.

Yandex gets to drink from Facebook's firehose. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock, pulled from YouTube captures.

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.

#askPussyRiot Wants Your Questions

The masks come off this Friday, as two of the newly freed Pussy Riot members hold their first post-prison presser.

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.

LGBT-Friendly Coloring Books for Russians

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.

fckh8.com's new Russian-English coloring book. T-shirt reads, “Gay is okay!”

Moscow Soccer Fans Clash with Police

Following Saturday's scoreless soccer game that catapulted Moscow's CSKA club to its fourth Russian Premier League title, the team's fans clashed with riot troops in downtown Moscow. Police detained 140 people [ru], later releasing all but two. Bloggers posted photos to LiveJournal here, here, and here [ru], alleging police brutality.

Police “detain” a soccer fan, Moscow, 18 May 2013, photo by Sergey Danilov, posted to his LJ.

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