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Russia: Making (Some) Sense of LiveJournal

A number of studies of the Russian blogosphere and internet use have been produced in the past by various entities. Russian-Cyberspace.org, an LJ blog (ENG) of the Russian Cyberspace Project, is a good place to learn about some of the work being done in this field; also, here's a report (ENG, .pdf file, 5.4 MB) titled Not Quite Samizdat: a Look at the Russian Blogosphere, which was published by Mmd, a PR consultancy, in April 2007.

Russian bloggers, too, are trying to make sense of the space they operate in. Recently, LJ user fritzmorgen has drawn a list of issues that, in his opinion, tend to cause controversy among LiveJournal bloggers, and assessed his own views on them – “so that anyone could look into my profile and in half a minute learn my opinion on the ‘fundamental’ questions.” In the process, LJ user fritzmorgen has also sketched explanations of some of the Russian realities. Below are excerpts from his classification (RUS):

Some classic themes divide the population of LJ into two imaginary camps. Just a couple days ago, for example, one could observe an argument between “drivers” and “pedestrians” about the BMW damaged by “grassroots avengers.” The former suggested [punishing] the vandals who damaged cars by tearing off their hands, while the latter [favored] scratching cars with nails whenever the chance presented itself.

Such topics as legalization of drugs or, for example, the categorical refusal to have children, provoke an equally emotional response.

[...]

1. [Dog People] vs. [People People]

This old and complex conflict of interest between people and dogs. Dog owners are fighting for their right to own a dog and to waste too much effort on taking care of it. People are fighting for their right to walk the streets [without fear] [...]. [...]

2. Pedestrians vs. Drivers

I'm deeply convinced that the reasons for this conflict are rooted in [...] simple ignorance and the “iron fist” mentality.

Firstly, most pedestrians, alas, don't understand drivers because they don't have enough driving experience. On the other hand, many drivers obtained their licenses not a long time ago (or, conversely, too long ago), and cannot drive properly because of that. Fortunately, the ruthless Soviet time is history now, and the numbers of people with driving licenses are growing fast. When some sort of a critical mass is reached, the conflict will lose its severity.

Secondly, [Russians] traditionally think that Czar is worthy of special privileges – for a big country, it is natural. That's why [president] Medvedev's motorcade gets whole avenues blocked, and a large segment of drivers thinks it reasonable [...]. This position – “I'm the boss, I'm more important” – goes further down the vertical of power, all the way to small bureaucrats driving black Fords, who, in many cases, are the ones creating the atmosphere of hatred on the roads. [...]

3. The Chinese vs. the Dutch

There are two ways to solve the drug problem. The Chinese one – to jail and to shoot, and the Dutch one – to educate and to cure. “The Chinese” [those who support the first option] think that legalization of drugs will lead to the increase in drug abuse, while “the Dutch” are positive that drug abuse is so widespread because drugs are banned. [...]

4. Pacifists vs. Militarists

Pacifists (those who demand complete ban on the sales of firearms) point at the Finnish school kid who shot half of his classmates. Militarists respond by arguing that carrying firearms in schools is actually banned completely. Both sides have [good] arguments. As far as I know however, the statistics says that legalization of firearms in no way affects the number of crimes committed [...]. [...]

5. [People with kids] vs. Childfree

In and outside LJ, there is a ChildFree movement, [which unites] people of both sexes who “have chosen not to have children.” The source of the conflict here is the same as the one in dog arguments: children cause problems. [...]

6. Communists vs. Liberals

On a routine level, “communists” and “liberals” have nothing really to fight about. But this doesn't ease the tensions: both sides blame each other for their problems. Communists think that they have little money because liberals are stealing from them. And liberals think that they have little money because communists are loafing around. [...]

7. Khokhly [a somewhat derogatory term for Ukrainians] vs. Moskali [a somewhat derogatory term for Russians]

This issue is, I guess, purely political. If a small country is on friendly terms with the big neighbor, it risks being swallowed sooner or later. Ukraine isn't willing to [re-unite with Russia] yet, and that's why it simply has to maintain tense relations with us. [...]

8. Slavophiles vs. Westernizers

[...] [Most people] don't know much about life in the West and do not understand that [life isn't easy everywhere there]. Emigrants, who are well-represented online, are making things worse, as they are ready to put the “Russian pigs” to shame.

I guess that in some 20 years things will calm down here, and it will be more or less as in the United States, where the person you're talking to agrees with the statement that “the American health care system sucks” – but will smash you in the face if you say that “America is a lousy country.” [...]

9. Fascists vs. Jews

It think it's a big mistake to ignore the ethnicity issue. Russians, Jews, Ukrainians, Georgians – each ethnicity has its own peculiarities, and these peculiarities should in no way be considered “cosmetic.” [...]

10. Pedagogues vs. Children

Here, just as in the case of drugs, the main reason for arguments is the lack of information. People just have no idea how it is possible to study without school. [...]

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