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The Latest LiveJournal Sensation, Courtesy of the Russian Special Forces

The anonymous LiveJournal blog hardingush [ru] was created on September 15, 2012. Now, less than two months later, the blog, subtitled Spetsnaz Ingushetii (Ingush Special Forces), is number 425th [ru] in LJ's general user rating. Netizens have left over 4,000 comments on its various posts. Four of these posts also made it into the October top-25 list [ru] of North Caucasus bloggers (a monthly rating compiled by Moscow-based blogger timag82 [ru]).

The growing popularity is easy to understand. The man behind the blog is an irreverent, no-nonsense member of the Ingush Special Forces, working in the troubled and mountainous Russian republic that borders Chechnya and North Ossetia. His topics range from abstract discussion of terrorism and radical Islam, to detailed descriptions of anti-terrorist operations, often illustrated with photographs and videos.

Screen capture of a special forces soldier from a YouTube video posted on hardingush's LiveJournal.

For example, in an October 29 post [ru] titled “What Are the Militants Fighting For?,” hardingush tries to explain his understanding of what keeps the fundamentalists in business. His explanation is simplistic and muddled, but probably attractive to many: the Ingush are a warlike people, without war they get bored, and Islamic fundamentalists take advantage of this, indoctrinating the dregs of Ingush society:

Всегда найдутся фанатики, лентяи, обиженные, недовольные, обделенные… С ними и проводится основная работа

There will always be fanatics, slackers, resentful, angry, and deprived people… The main [propaganda] work is carried out with them

Earlier, hardingush portrayed one such “slacker” in another post titled “Hasik, hold on!” [ru]. Hasik, or Hasan Esmurziev, is a suspected militant, who in the process of being detained threatened to activate his suicide vest, presumably in order to avoid arrest. Here is how hardingush describes what happened next:

Хасик поднимает футболку а там пояс. Но сотрудники не первый день на свете живут и видят, что у пояса нет проводов и кольца. Он еще не доделан. Они ему говорят, мол, Хасик, не гони беса, как ты будешь его взрывать? А он, не долго думая, достает хатабку, прижимает ее к поясу и тянет кольцо. Выстрел в руку и хатабка падает.

Hasik lifts his t-shirt — and there’s the vest. Well, this wasn't exactly the first time for the officers, so they see that the vest lacked wires and a detonating ring. It’s not complete yet. They say to him, Hasik, quit bullshitting us, how are you going to detonate it? He, not thinking too long about it, takes out a hatabka [a handmade grenade], holds it to the belt, and pulls on the ring. A shot in the arm, and the hatabka falls.

The hapless Esmurziev hid in a shed, and was finally arrested several hours later, having been shot in both arms and one leg. Along with the tongue-in-cheek description of what happened, hardingush posted photos of Esmurziev’s suicide vest [photo link] and of spetsnaz forces providing him with first aid.

These and similar posts have led pro-Kremlin writer Eduard Bagirov to tweet [ru]:

Кстати, показываю поразительно интересный, уникальный ЖЖ ингушского спецназовца: http://hardingush.livejournal.com ; я проглотил его весь, не отрываясь.

By the way, here is the remarkably interesting, unique LJ of an Ingush spetsnazovets: http://hardingush.livejournal.com ; I devoured it in one sitting.

Others are less impressed. Some accuse hardingush of running a propaganda blog, especially when he makes provocative statements like this [ru]:

Если вы девушка и вас вербуют в смертницы, изнасиловав и сняв на камеру, то лучше вам связываться с ФСБ и требовать программу защиты свидетелей.

If you are a woman, and you are being recruited as a suicide bomber through having been raped and filmed on camera, you should contact FSB and request witness protection.

Some go even further in their propaganda accusations. Ingush blogger Magomed Tariev points to how well-spoken hardingush is to claim [ru] that he is a government sock-puppet:

Мы ведь профессиональные журналисты, а не менты. Ваша грамотность, стилистика, развеяли последние сомнения. А спецназовца, который вам помогает вести этот блог стоит отправить исполнять его прямые обязанности.

We are professional journalists, not policemen. Your literacy and your writing style have dispelled my remaining doubts. You should send the Special Forces soldier who helps you run this blog to do his actual work.

Accusations like this are common for an anonymous blog. Hardingush himself claims that he is on the level. According to the scant information [ru] he’s provided about himself, he is well spoken because he comes from an intelligentsia family and was a straight-A student in school and at the university. He has also stated [ru]:

Нет, я не ингуш, несмотря на такой ник. Да, я русский [...] Нет, я не корреспондент. И не писатель. И упаси бог, не поэт.

No, I’m not an Ingush, notwithstanding this nickname. Yes, I’m Russian […] No, I’m not a journalist. And not a writer. And not a poet, thank God.

Nevertheless, some questions remain. If one looks at hardingush’s posting history [ru], an interesting picture emerges. During the first month of the blog’s existence, from September 15 to October 20, hardingush published twenty-two posts, with intermittent breaks. Since October 22 (in the last two weeks), he has published multiple posts every day — twenty-seven posts in all. That is, his posting rate has gone up by more than a factor of two. It’s curious that this has happened just as the blog began to gain traction on RuNet.

Would a special forces operative on active duty have the time to write as many as four posts per day? In Russia, who knows?

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