A recent news item in the Moscow Times cites a VTsIOM poll (Russian language link) released a few days ago in connection with “National Internet Day” which reveals the following information about Russian Internet use:
69% of Russians never use the Internet
11% use it daily
9% use it several times per week
3% use it a few times per year
VTsIOM is controlled by the Kremlin, yet even it admits that the Internet is a non-factor in Russian political life. 70% of the country makes no use of the Internet for any purpose, and 90% lacks daily contact with the only conceivable source of news which might give them real information, as opposed to merely repeating Kremlin propaganda. Less than half of those who do access the web do so in order to get news about national and international events. Even in Moscow and St. Petersburg, 60% of residents do not use the Internet. In the main part of the country, the Internet may as well not even exist. For this reason, as we report below, the Kremlin has been able to effectively hide the recent stock market collapse from the vast majority of the population simply by not mentioning it on TV and in the nation’s major newspapers.
But despite all this, the Kremlin is still obsessed with controlling the web, because it is the only flickering source of real information left in Russia. Bloggers have faced criminal prosecutions and whole websites, especially those involving Chechnya, have been shut down (the eXile magazine faced a similar fate). And now, the MT reports, “president” Dima Medvedev wants to be a blogger.
Medvedev “will be regularly addressing citizens in a new ‘video blog‘ section launched Tuesday on the Kremlin’s web site.” You can watch him with English subtitles by following the link. Commenting, however, is not allowed.
The “president” was hardly a model of transparancy when speaking about his interest in the blogosphere. He said he “likes to begin his day by surfing his favorite web sites” but woudn’t say which ones they are. He has spoken about Odnoklassniki, the Russian facebook, but he won’t say whether he has a page there (the MT found 29 pages claiming to be Medvedev, six displaying his photograph). He claims to be fluent in the “Olbanian” language, Russia’s version of pig Latin for the Internet, stating: “One cannot ignore the necessity of learning the Olbanian language.”
Maybe “president” Medvedev will do a video blog about the mass media’s failure to report the collapse of the Russian stock market. Mabye, after that, he’ll do one to review the massive coverup in the murder investigation related to hero journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Both of these realities are reported on this blog today. Maybe then Medvedev will review the utter disaster that is Russian foreign policy, with the entire world repudiating Russia’s actions in Georgia and the American presidential candidates vying with each other to see which one can condemn Russia’s government in more strident terms.
Or maybe not. Maybe Medvedev will instead simply act like what he is, the dictator Vladimir Putin’s sock puppet. Just try to name one single decision Medvedev has taken since he took power with which Putin might even mildly disagree. Hard, isn’t it? That may well be, of course, because he hasn’t actually taken any decision of any kind whatsoever (maybe not even which suit to wear to work), but rather simply acts as the mouthpiece of Putin’s continuing power behind the scenes.
In that case, Medvedev’s attempt to infiltrate the Russian blogosphere will rank as one of the most sordid and contemptible acts of the neo-Soviet state.