LR Rates the Russia Blogs
It goes without saying, of course, that La Russophobe is the best Russia blog in the known universe. Considering the amount of original content (including translations), overall traffic and comment traffic, no other blog in existence can touch us.
But what about the others? Just because we’re the best doesn’t mean there aren’t a signficant number of other important Russia blogs out there, and today we take time out to recognize them. The comforting fact is that even if this blog were to go dark tomorrow by some malignant act of the Putin Kremlin, perusing these other ten blogs together would be a perfectly adequate substitute for LR. Each of them offers its own unique and uniquely valuable contribution to the world’s understanding of the true nature of Russia.
In rank order the top ten English-language Russia blogs in the world today based on our criteria (again: amount of original content, comment and overall traffic and contribution to the world’s insight and understanding of Russia) are as follows:
THE TOP TEN
#10 John Helmer
What can we say about John Helmer? He’s Russia in a nutshell, and we do mean nut. He’s the New York Post of the Russia-blogging world, and as such his blog carries the most flavor of that insane, brutal, demented land known as neo-Soviet Russia. Blogging as “Dances with Bears,” Helmer is significant enough to have drawn the persecution and ire of the Putin Kremlin, and undaunted he has carried on poking a finger (likely painted pink polka dots) into the Kremlin’s eye. All we can say is: Respect!
Three of our top-ten English-language bloggers are Russians, and Alexei Sidorenko, blogging as RuNet Echo at Global Voices, is the first of the three. Nobody, not even La Russophobe, offers more insight into the Russian-language blogsphere than Sidorenko, whose blog is the only one in the world devoted to accomplishing this daunting task. Sidorenko tirelessly sifts through Russian blog posts and highlights material that would otherwise go unnoticed. Though it would be much better if he more often and more extensively translated the material he unearths, rather than simply leaving readers often to fend for themselves, beggars can’t be choosers. Nobody else is even trying to do what Sidorenko is doing, and more should be following his example.
No English-language Russia blog on this planet offers a greater wealth of information about the Russia’s tortured, tortuous Caucasus region than Caucasian Knot. When talking about the Caucasus, one can’t help but also mention the indefatigable Norbert Strade‘s “Chechnya List,” but that can’t be considered a true blog, and more resembles David Johnson’s Russia List. Caucasian Knot brings readers directly inside the quagmire that is the Caucacus, and as incidents of domestic terror in Russia grow daily the blog becomes more and more essential reading. Remembering the brutal murders of other Caucasus journalists like Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova and Stanislav Markelov, one can’t help but be awed by the courage of the Caucasian Knot bloggers, and we are indebted to them for their inside insights about the region, which plays critical role in determining Russia’s future.
#7 Julia Ioffe
Only one blogger in our top ten — indeed, as far as we know, only one blogger on this planet — has the guts to openly blog against the Putin regime from a position on the ground in Russia. In the tradition of Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estimirova and Galina Starovoitova, it fills us with pride to know that blogger is a woman, Julia Ioffe, a woman born in Russia, raised in the USA, and now returned to her homeland as a journalist documenting the rise of the neo-Soviet state. Blogging as “Moscow Diaries” on the TrueSlant website, Ioffe boldly goes where no man (or woman) has gone before. Right onto Vladimir Putin’s doorstep. Of all the Russia blogs in our top 10, Ioffe’s has the most promise, is the most likely to move up should we repeat this exercise one year from now. That is, if she lives that long and can stand being in Russia for such a prolonged period. We congratulate Julia on her recent column in the Washington Post, which we republish in today’s issue.
There is only one English-language blogger who has been repeatedly arrested and done time in prison for blogging against Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship, only one who routinely joins (and leads) street protests against Putin, and that blogger is Oleg Kozlovsky, the second of three Russian bloggers in our top 10. Though Kozlovsky produces far less content than the other bloggers on our list, his excuse is more than good enough for us. We are proud to say that it was our determined efforts that originally brought Kozlovky to worldwide prominence when he was illegally drafted into the Russian army by a Putin regime equally determined to extinguish his relentless demand, backed up by non-violent protest, for a more civilized country.
The English-language blog marshalled by opposition leader Garry Kasparov’s “Other Russia” opposition movement represents the voice of the highest-ranking Russian political leaders who speak out against Putin’s dictatorship. No other Russia blog offers this kind of insight and access to the corridors of anti-power, and OR’s translations are often critical windows into the Russian press. By way of constructive criticism, we can’t but point out OR’s failure to offer much direct feedback and interplay with readers. No comments, and no original pieces from Kasparov or the other members of the OR coalition. OR ought to open itself up more to reader feedback and to the inner workings of the opposition coalition. If it were doing so, it might be among our elite top five.
We consider the top five Russia blogs, including La Russophobe, to be indispensable daily reading for anyone truly interested in understanding current events in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. It’s just this simple: If you don’t read them, you don’t really understand what is going on in Putin’s Russia. The first member of that elite group we recognize today is academic economist Craig Pirrong, who blogs as “Streetwise Professor.” Pirrong is the only member of our top ten group of bloggers who does not devote his blog entirely to Russia, meaning that his content has to be truly special to even deserve placement in our top 10, much less the top 5, and that’s exactly what his content is: special. Nobody, not even La Russophobe, offers insight into the c0mplex world of Russian economics like SWP. After La Russophobe, Pirrong’s blog also offers the liveliest and most informative reader comments section of any Russia blog, insane anal-retentive drivel of the demented Russophile freaks it attracts notwithstanding.
Robert Coalson’s brilliant op-ed pieces in the Moscow Times will be common knowledge to any serious student of Putin’s Russia, as will be the reporting for that same mighty little gazette of Brian Whitmore, Coalson’s protege on the formidable Power Vertical blog operated by Radio Free Europe. There is no doubt that Coalson’s blog belongs in the top five. If you think you can understand Russia without tuning in regularly to Coalson, you need to have your headski examined. PV does a unique job of melding information obtained from the Russian press and analysis gleaned from Western learning, and the bona fides of RFE in regard to human rights cannot be challenged.
We’re willing to bet that we’re Robert Amsterdam’s toughest public and private critics. Yet, we’re also his biggest fans. Sure, attorney Amsterdam has an axe to grind against Putin’s Russia. After all, as he’s tirelessly proven, the Putin regime has shamelessly railroaded his client Mikhail Khodorkovsky into a Siberian prison cell, likely for life. Sure, he’s sometimes as kooky as a three-dollar bill, and sometimes adopts an editorial line (particularly on partisan issues like Barack Obama) that’s a tough as a bowl of oatmeal. Sure, the blog insanely doesn’t allow readers to see if individual posts have comments from the home page, for that reason among many others has feeble comment traffic, and doesn’t have a public counter. None of that changes the fact that Amsterdam’s eponymous blog has managed to get the heroic Russian journalist Grigori Pasko repeatedly into print in English in original exclusives, the single greatest individual achievement of any Russia blog on this planet except for La Russophobe’s translation of the the brilliant white papers published by Boris Nemtsov. And Amsterdam hasn’t stopped there. He’s the only one of our top ten bloggers who routinely gets published in the mainstream media, and he’s interviewed a number of prominent Russian activists both on video and in print. He’s faced hands-on harassment by the Kremlin, and his efforts a daily digest of business, energy and political news is the most ambitious daily project in the Russia blogosphere. He’s got it going on! And even if he were to fix all his “issues” he still wouldn’t take over the top spot from . . .
#1 Paul Goble
Scholar Paul Goble, blogging as Windows on Eurasia, stands alone even in the rarefied company of our top 5. We can’t imagine that any of the other top-five Russia bloggers, or anyone else with half a brain for that matter, could or would disagree. If we could read only one other Russia blog besides La Russophobe, we would read Paul Goble, and we don’t hesitate for a single solitary second in making that statement. He takes our breath away with his work ethic and his intellect and his dedication each and every single week as he probes the Russian press an regularly unearths heroic Russians struggling to shine the light of truth on the dark malignancy of the Putin regime, and we republish his content far more than that of any other single source on Russia except the Moscow Times, where his blog has been incorporated for some time now. The only thing we can say about this outstanding and heroically courageous scholar, who like Ioffe has the courage to actually blog from former Soviet space (albeit not, like Ioffe, from Russia itself), is this: Mr. Goble, we’re not worthy!! There’s no two ways about it: Goble’s blog is a physical mess. No paragraph formatting, no hyperlinks, no comments, no images. It makes no difference. Goble proves that, in the final analysis, window dressing, flash, bling and all that are just so much emptyness, what really matters is substance. And more than any other Russia blog, Goble has it in spades.