ZheZhe on the Brink?
Our charming hosts here at WordPress appear to have scented blood in the virtual waters. On January 8th they published a post implying that the LiveJournal blog (known as “ZheZhe” in Russia, where it is the leading host of blogs in the country — the New York Times operates a ZheZhe blog onto which it translates some of its stories) is on its last legs, and invited ZheZhe bloggers to transfer their content to WordPress. Two days earlier it had been reported that ZheZhe was laying off at least a fifth of its staff because of incipient financial woes. It is closing down its entire operation and moving its headquarters to Russia, apparently its last bastion of strength.
Let’s be clear: Any manpower or technical resources belonging to ZheZhe that are located in Russia are at risk of being liquidated by the Kremlin at any time. Despite what some say about the vitality of the Russian blogosphere, in fact only about 20% of Russians have Internet access and e-commerce is woefully underdeveloped in the country since credit cards are rare and banks are corrupt and unreliable. Given those facts, its hardly suprising if ZheZhe finds it difficult to sustain itself.
If the Russian blogosphere is serious about speaking truth to power and defending its status as the last vestige of free media in Russia, then it must take immediate action. It must develop ways to raise funds so that it can operate indefinitely, and it must find ways to house server data far outside the reach of the Kremlin’s clan of KGB spies. If this isn’t done, and done quickly, we will wake up one morning and read that the Kremlin has simply pulled the plug on the Russian blogosphere.
We’ll read about it, but the people of Russia won’t, because state-controlled, neo-Soviet Kremlin TV won’t report it.