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Russia: LJ and Politics

On October 25, International Herald Tribune published Evgeny Morozov's opinion piece on the recent developments in the Russian blogosphere. On his blog – Sharp & Sound: Perspectives On Modern Politics – Morozov wrote:

[...] I’ve been surprised how little coverage the story has received in the Western media…Hm, virtually none…

Russian bloggers, unlike the world media, have been all over the controversial Six Apart-Sup deal in the past few weeks – and some, including Maxim Kononenko (LJ user mrparker, creator of Vladimir Vladimirovich™ spoofs on Vladimir Putin), have also been monitoring what little is being written outside Russia. Never too congenial, Kononenko passed an extremely harsh judgment (RUS) on Morozov's piece – and Morozov provided a translation:

I’m honoured: Mr Parker, one of the most odious figures on the Russian blogosphere, has just awarded with “prize of the month” for “the most clinical idiotism, which can only be reached in analytic journalism”.

Coming from him, it’s equivalent to Nobel Prize in literature… ;-)

I’m anxious to see other prizes from the Russian bloggers.

[...]

What unnerved Kononenko was Morozov's assertion that Anton Nossik – LJ user dolboeb, “a former associate of Gleb Pavlovsky, the Kremlin's spindoctor” and the “chief blogging officer” of the company taking over LJ's Cyrillic sector – may be aiding the Kremlin “in destroying a viable and vibrant public forum.”

But Nossik is not alone in the Russian blogosphere when it comes to having ties to one of Putin's chief image-shapers: Kononenko co-hosts a political TV show with him, and there are also Marina Litvinovich (LJ user abstract2001) and Marat Guelman (LJ user galerist), who were both closely linked to the Kremlin and Pavlovsky in the past – and are in opposition now, to various degrees.

Guelman – a gallery owner, among other things – founded the Foundation for Effective Politics think tank together with Pavlovsky in 1995 (and Pavlovsky is still its president). Litvinovich – founder of PravdaBeslana.ru, among other things – served as the head of the Foundation's Internet department (Pavlovsky doesn't seem to have a blog).

Guelman has been having an eventful time lately. First, on Oct. 20, Russian customs officials at Sheremetyevo-2 airport seized 11 photo collages by Blue Noses that were being transported from the Guelman Gallery in Moscow to Matthew Bown's gallery in London. On his blog, Guelman posted reproductions of two collages created five years ago and depicting Vladimir Putin, George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden lounging together in underwear (here and here). He also wrote (RUS) that the authorities were threatening to persecute him for offending the Russian president, and noted that some media, both local and international, were using his blog to gather information:

[...] Others called me and Matthew, but one way or another, 13 publications[,] two radio stations and [R]euters – [their] source was LJ. Who needs press conferences ;))

The following day, on Oct. 21, a group of men described as skinheads burst into Guelman's gallery, destroying paintings by an ethnic Georgian artist Aleksandr Dzhikia and beating Guelman up. In his journal, he later posted a brief note (RUS), which received 287 comments, most of them “get well” wishes:

;alive and in one piece)

LJ user mnog posted photos of the gallery after the pogrom (150 comments, RUS).

Litvinovich, like Guelman, had been attacked and badly beaten earlier this year; like Guelman, she posted a brief update on her blog shortly after the incident took place in March and received some 500 “get well” comments from her readers.

Lyndon of Scraps of Moscow was following the story at the time and, among other things, he provided some background information on Litvinovich and her involvement with Gleb Pavlovsky:

Perhaps the powers-that-be are even more angry at Litvinovich because, years before her recent attempt to get possible Putin successor Sergei Ivanov booted from his job as Defense Minister, she seemed to be on their side. Without wanting to call her opposition cred into question, it seems relevant to mention that she got her start working for Kremlin spin-doctor Gleb Pavlovsky's Fond Effektivnoi Politiki, though, to be fair, I think back in '99 Pavlovsky wasn't considered to have gone over to the dark side – actually, back in '99, concern about the Putin administration becoming a “dark side” was rather muted overall.

Recently, Litvinovich has posted photos from her visit to Chechnya soon after the beating – here, here and here: ruins again and again, ads calling people to “come out of the shade” and pay taxes, Ahmad Kadyrov‘s monument in Grozny – “The only monument I know of a man with prayer beads.” On several photos, one can still see scars on Litvinovich's face.

Also recently, Litvinovich posted photos from her visit to the Korallovo children’s home and lyceum, founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. She wrote (RUS):

Have been to the birthday party of the Podmoskovny Lyceum in Korallovo. As you know, orphans live and study there. Including many children from [Beslan], orphans of [Nord-Ost], the fallen planes, children of the border guards, etc.

The lyceum is still under arrest. Nevertheless, they exist and continue to develop. Few people know, but the lyceum's motto is “Duty. Honor. Fatherland.” They say it as part of the lyceum student's oath, too.

Last I was there was three years ago, with Mikhail Borisovich [Khodorkovsky], a week before his arrest. Today, only [Khodorkovsky's mother] Marina Filippovna was there. [Khodorkovsky's fahter] Boris Moiseyevich was in the hospital.

The children performed a wonderful concert. If you are interested, you can see the photos I took (part 1 and part 2).

God willing, all should be good for them and the lyceum.

  • http://www.sharpandsound.com Evgeny Morozov

    well, I think I know what unnerved Kononenko (I wish you had expanded on his other favorite past-time activities like asking people to post obituaries for him on his blog — and awarding the winner with a bottle of vodka): as a current, not former, associate of Pavlovsky he is a much better fit for the role of the bad guy ;-) And all the coverage in IHT goes to Nossik–his friend and foe…what a shame.

    I’ve been monitoring reaction to this piece on the Russian blogosphere–and the most often reproach is “how dare you say that Russia still mourns over Politkovskaya in this oped? We never did, never will”. now, THAT’s scarry…

  • http://www.sharpandsound.com Evgeny Morozov

    since people at http://mrparker.livejournal.com/6923967.html are asking about this, yes, I meant “pastime activities”…

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