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Russia: Overview of Top RuNet Trends and Events in 2011

RuNet Echo This post is part of RuNet Echo, a Global Voices project to interpret the Russian language internet. All Posts · Learn more

This post is part of our special coverage 2011 on Global Voices.

2011 was full of important – and sometime surprising – events in the blogosphere and social media scene in Russia. Having effectively replaced the ‘kitchen talks’ of Brezhnev’s era, blogs and social networks became a place where millions of Russians discuss the country's present and contemplate its future.

Russia's booming Internet community is now the largest in Europe [ru] with at least 52.9 million monthly visitors – a very important milestone in itself with countless implications. The country's netizens are rapidly becoming more confident and – with the wall of Soviet-style censorship and propaganda largely failing online –  more dissatisfied with political stagnation.

At the end of this turbulent and inspiring year, RuNet Echo editors present you with a list of events that had a profound impact on the Russian Internet in 2011 and serve as important steps in the development of the country's online community.

7. Domodedovo airport bombing.

This tragic event at the beginning of 2011, highlighted the fragile security situation in Russian airports (in 2011 Russia had been recognized as the most dangerous airspace) and incompetence of the authorities in face of a crisis. It showed how fast and effective social media can be in the coverage of breaking events.

As a counterweight to heavily censored traditional media, blogs and social media sites effectively presented an up-to-date picture of what happened in the airport and became a space to vent frustration with the lack of adequate coverage of the event on Russian TV and radio.

6. Troubles with newspapers

The rise of the Internet inevitably led to the start of newspapers’ demise. Although the situation with traditional journalism platforms in Russia is far from being as bad as in the United States, newspapers seem to be more aware of the roles they are asked to play in the era of the information abundance.

More and more often, blogs and social media become places for reporting breaking news (as in case of Domodedovo airport bombing) and traditional media merely follow the Internet in their coverage of important events.

5. President Medvedev recognizes the power of online communities

two-and-a-half hour meeting between Dmitry Medvedev and representatives of Russian Internet community  highlighted the importance of growing Internet in the eyes of the Kremlin. Earlier, Medvedev publicly praised Gdecasino.ru, an online crowdsourcing project identifying illegal casinos in the country. This stood as a contrast to the official policy of ignoring the Internet in previous years – Vladimir Putin famously bragged about not using the Web.

4. Successful crowdsourcing projects

Along with Navalny's anti-corruption website Rospil.info, 2011 saw the growing popularity of crowdsourcing projects such as Gdecasino.ru and Kartanarusheniy.ru, a project mapping violations during the recent parliamentary elections in the country.

Other notable projects include LizaAlert.org, a volunteer community dedicated to saving missing people (read Gregory Asmolov's interview here), numerous Fix-my-street startups (RosYama.org, Map of Potholes, and others), democracy2.ru, a citizen-funded open source e-democracy platform, platforms against bribes (vzyatochnik.info and roskomvzyatka.ru as well as minor ones), emergency-related mapping platforms (holoda.info, rynda.org, radiation.crowdmap.org). Our author Marina Litvinovich talked about Russia's crowdsourcing initiatives in her article in March.

3. Online attacks

“Russian online space is getting more violent,” Alexey Sidorenko, an editor of Global Voices RuNet Echo, wrote in April. Indeed, DDoS attacks against Livejournal.com, the most popular bogging platform in the country, demonstrated the vulnerability of the Internet and led to re-shaping of the blogosphere. It also motivated numerous discussion on Internet politics.

The use of “human bots” to fight the opposition online has also contributed to the notion of intensifying efforts to discredit the Internet as a democratic platform.

2. Rise of blogger Alexey Navalny.

Largely unknown outside of the RuNet in 2010, controversial blogger and civic activist Alexey Navalny (see his interview with Global Voices here) turned into “Putin’s greatest challenger” by the end of 2011. Due to his extremely popular online crowdsourcing and crowdfunding project Rospil.info, Navalny positioned himself as a fierce fighter against corruption in the government.

“The Party of Crooks and Thieves,” Navalny's name for the party of power, United Russia, became the most recognized Internet political slogan that has effectively migrated to a real life. In the country with tightly controlled political opposition, Navalny's rise would have been impossible without the Internet.

1. Post-electoral protests

The end of 2011 was marked by widespread demonstrations against allegedly rigged results of the parliamentary elections (see Global Voices’ extensive coverage here). Blogs and social media played an extremely important role in coordination of the protests.

The Internet became a place for failed attempts to compromise opposition leaders and a platform for mobilizing the opposition supporters. It was also a key tool in promotion the information about the demonstrations and their purpose. As a result, strictly censored traditional media outlets had no choice but to report on the protests.

Without any doubt, the role of the Internet in these demonstrations is the most important milestone in the development of RuNet whose ripples we are very likely to feel for years to come.

Bolotnaya rally, Moscow, December 10, 2011. Photo by Dmitry Chistoprudov. Courtesy of Ridus.ru

Bolotnaya rally, Moscow, December 10, 2011. Photo by Dmitry Chistoprudov. Courtesy of Ridus.ru

This post is part of our special coverage 2011 on Global Voices.

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