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To Hell with the Games: Russians Turn from Sochi to Ukraine

A woman in Kiev reacts to the sight of two dead bodies (protesters killed in the violence). 18 February 2014. Screenshot from YouTube.

A woman in Kiev reacts to the sight of two dead bodies (protesters killed in the violence). 18 February 2014. Screenshot from YouTube.

Before the Sochi Winter Games kicked off less than two weeks ago, yours truly told US News & World Report that unrest in Ukraine might divert the attention of Russian Internet users from the Olympics. Today, after a relative lull, violence returned to Kiev’s streets, causing a dramatic shift in RuNet activity. Indeed, the images coming out of Ukraine depict something like a civil war.

While the news from Kiev is making headlines globally, comparative Twitter analytics demonstrate that today’s events in Ukraine galvanize Russian speakers to a degree distinct from the rest of the world. Indeed, in the last 24 hours on Twitter, Russian users’ interest in Ukraine has surpassed their attention on the Olympics. This reverses a trend in place since January 25, 2014, weeks before even the opening ceremony, when Russians last tweeted more about Kiev than Sochi.

The trend among Anglophone Twitter users over the last month is similar, but interest in Sochi has always dominated. Even today, with Ukraine in flames, English-language tweets about Kiev are just over half the more than 200 thousand about the Winter Games.

While it’s no surprise that Internet users are drawn to the revolutionary display in Kiev, it is remarkable that the host of the Winter Olympics seems to have lost its home audience to a foreign event.

Russian-language tweets (click to enlarge):

Russian-language tweets about “maidan” or “kiev” (orange) versus tweets about “sochi” or the “olympics” (blue).

Russian-language tweets about “maidan” or “kiev” (orange) versus tweets about “sochi” or the “olympics” (blue).

English-language tweets (click to enlarge):

English-language tweets about “maidan” or “kiev” or “euromaidan” or "kyiv" (orange) versus tweets about “sochi” or the “olympics” (blue).

English-language tweets about “maidan” or “kiev” or “euromaidan” or “kyiv” (orange) versus tweets about “sochi” or the “olympics” (blue).

Note: The results from Topsy Analytics, see above, are highly sensitive to the exact wording entered into any query. If you're skeptical that the search terms used above are the best measure for interest in Ukraine versus the Olympics, don't be shy about creating your own comparison, and feel free to share it with us. (Kevin Rothrock, February 19, 2014)
  • Jake Turk

    But what about the regional Big Story of the day, the self-tweeted Pussy Riot catch-and-release? The quick snatch, if you will.

  • Pingback: Sochi Olympics compete with Ukrainian protests for world’s attention | Twitchy

  • Julie Laumann

    Regarding your comment that “it is remarkable that the host of the Winter Olympics seems to have lost its home audience to a foreign event”: the central issue is that Russians do NOT consider the Ukraine to be a foreign country, but an integral part of Russia. In fact, eastern Ukraine is predominantly Russian-speaking and has a large proportion of ethnic Russians. So it is inconceivable to Russians that the Ukrainians would reject closer ties with Russia, therefore the protesters must be Western agents.

    In some ways, the situation in the Ukraine resembles that of Belgium, with its Flemish-speaking north and Francophone south. Fortunately for the Belgians, neither the Dutch nor the French seem very interested in exploiting those differences to their own benefit, unlike the Russians.

  • Pingback: Russians Eye Ukrainian Turmoil with Hope, Fear | Freedom, Justice, Equality News

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