It was reported last week that Russian “president” Dima Medvedev’s six-month-old blog, which was however opened to commenting less than a month ago, has recorded its 10,000th registered reader (registration is required to comment). What Kremlin mouthpiece RIA Novosti didn’t care to mention, however was that only 50 of those “readers” signed up to receive regular updates on the blog’s contents and, according to Yandex, Dima’s blog wasn’t in the top 400 in Russia based on link activity. It was behind the blog of so-called “liberal” politician Nikita Belykh, for instance, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s blog has more than 10,000 readers receiving updates, Belykh more than 2,000. The Moscow Times reported: “Of the more than 6 million blogs tracked by Yandex, Medvedev’s was ranked No. 293,326 according to the number of subscribers. President Dmitry Medvedev may be the most powerful man in the country, but it appears to be a different story in the Russian blogosphere — at least for now.”
From the 10,000 registered readers only 2,500 comments have actually been published to date, so at most a quarter of those who registered have talked back to the “president” (less for each reader who commented more than once). The Committee to Protect Journalists suggests why that might be: Not that they didn’t write, but that they got censored.
[In mid-January] the Russian news Web site Gazeta reported that Kremlin moderators did not allow comments on the recent helicopter crash in the Altai region of southern Siberia to be posted to Medvedev’s blog. The crash took place on January 9 and claimed seven lives, including the president’s envoy to the State Duma, Aleksander Kosopkin. According to local press reports, authorities suggested fuel problems and pilot error could be potential causes of the crash. Regional news agencies alleged that the high-ranking officials’ decision to hunt argali–an endangered species of wild sheep–from the helicopter had led to the accident.
The local news agency Altapress published an image from the crash site with bodies of dead argali next to helicopter parts, Gazeta reported. The images infuriated local environmental activists, including the Russian chapter of the World Wildlife Fund, and prompted Internet users to seek an explanation from Medvedev on his blog, Gazeta reported, citing active conversations in the blogosphere. Since hunting is a type of recreation, bloggers said they [had been] trying to post their questions on the incident under Medvedev’s last video post [about recreation and sport in Russia].
But in the first two days, moderators posted none of the helicopter-related comments, Gazeta said. (CPJ confirmed the absence of comments on Wednesday evening.) Gazeta tested the president’s blog further: Staffers tried to post a comment about the helicopter crash and another innocuous comment (about how often Russian ministers take part in sporting activities). Only the sporting comment made it on to Medvedev’s blog.
Confronted with the apparent blocking, IT guys in the Kremlin told Gazeta that it was a technical failure.
Is it more palatable to believe that Medevdev is so incompetent that he can’t manage the relatively minimal traffic at his blog rather than to think he’s intentionally wiping out the possiblity of criticizing his government? Which would be the more neo-Soviet reality?
Medvedev has only published six posts on his blog in the last six months. WE translate one of the verbatim in today’s issue, the only one where he discusses the national economic crisis and blames it entirely on the United States. He talks about his trip to Latin America, but not about race murder. He talks about his ski trip, but not the collapse of the Russian stock market, FOREX reserves and currency. He talks about helping students pay for higher education, but not about the atrocity of slave wages for teachers. He talks about an average workday for the “president” but fails to mention his efforts to abolish jury trials. He does not discuss the assassination of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova (he lacks the courage, of course, to answer the letter he received from the Committee to Protect Journalists about the murders demanding that he speak out) or the spying efforts of the Kremlin’s Nashi youth cult on opposition organizations like Oleg Kozlovsky’s Oborona. He boldly predicts Russia would avoid serious consequences from the economic crisis, which affected Russia only because of its “openness” to the world, and then says nothing when his prediction proves wholly bogus.
In other words, Medvedev’s “blog” (one can’t discuss neo-Soviet Russia without heavy use of quotation marks) is as much a sham as his “presidency” — he can’t address substantive issues even if he wanted to, because he’d need Uncle Putin’s permission to do so, and won’t get it. Which doesn’t much matter, because Medvedev is about as reform-minded as a block of granite.
This so-called blog is an insult to the intelligence and courage of everyone who actually blogs about Russia, as noxious a presence in the blogosphere as Medvedev’s “presidency” is in the world of politics.
We spit on it.