Russia’s Internet, Officially Dead
It doesn’t get much more official than this: Sergei Mironov, speaker of the Council of the Federation (Russia’s version of the U.S. Senate or British House of Lords) openly declares (Russian language link), contradicting both Dima Medvedev and the Russophile hoards: “RuNet doesn’t perform the civic and social functions that it does in other countries.” (In Russian: “Хуже то, что Рунет варится в собственном соку и не выполняет тех гражданских и социальных функций, которые являются общепринятыми в других странаx.”) He continues:
It was expected that the Internet would help crystallize and mobilize parts of the civil society that are interested in a broad sweep of constructive reforms. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened yet. Sites of NGOs – including those of human rights organizations that defend the interests of the population – recieve less than 1% of the Russian Internet traffic.
Well, that’s it then.
Russia and the Internet
As we’ve said before, we feel that the most pernicious lie being circulated by the Russian Kremlin and its Russophile apologists is that it doesn’t matter if the Kremlin crushes the life out of news reporting on television and in print because Russia’s Internet can pick up any slack there may be. Of course, such a position is illogical, since if it were true the Kremlin’s frenzied efforts to dominate TV and newspapers would be a laughable waste of time, and not even the Kremlin is that stupid. It isn’t, of course, because for two simple reasons hardly anybody in Russia can get their news from the Internet. First, it costs too much. When the average national wage is $3/hour and inflation is double-digit, people have better things to do with their money. Like eating and staying warm. Second, it’s under seige. Bloggers have been arrested and prosecuted, they’ve been threatened and attacked, and service providers have been shut down outright.
The data, even Russia data, proves this beyond the shadow of any doubt.
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.
Writing on Robert Amsterdam’s blog, opposition leader Oleg Kozlovsky, whose recent conviction and 13-day sentence for civil disobedience has now been reversed on appeal and declared to have been illegal, calls the Kremlin to task for its recent assault on blogger Dmitry Soloviev:
Dmitry Soloviev, a leader of the Oborona youth movement in Kemerovo region, faces criminal charges for criticizing the “siloviki” in a LiveJournal blog. He is accused by the regional prosecutor of posting information that “incites hatred, hostility and degrades a social group of people—the police and FSB”. According to the anti-extremist legislation introduced in 2006 (more specifically, the infamous paragraph 282 of the Criminal Code), he may face up to two years imprisonment if convicted.
We’ve previously documented the shockingly long list of political murders of Kremlin enemies which have occurred on Vladimir Putin’s watch, with not a single mastermind of any such killing ever being brought to justice. Now, we can add yet another name to that horrible litany. The Moscow Times reports:
The owner of the embattled opposition web site Ingushetiya.ru was killed Sunday after being detained by police, and his supporters promised massive protests that could lead to a sharp escalation in violence in the restive region.
Oleg Kozlovsky of Oborona has given an interview to the Oleg Dusayev of the New Times internet portal. Watch it and read the Russian transcript here.The following is our staff translation of the transcript (corrections welcome).
OLEG DUSAYEV: – Greetings. You are watching the New Times portal, I’m Oleg Dusayev. A criminal investigation has been opened against Dmitry Solovyev, an activist with the Oborona organization. He’s threatened with prison. I’m here with Oborona coordinator Oleg Kozlovsky to discuss the matter. Hello, Oleg.
OLEG KOZLOVSKY: Hello.
For the benefit of those who are not long-time readers of this blog, Oleg Kozlovsky is the leader of an opposition group in Russia called “Oborona” (“Defense”).
Several months ago, just as he was about to take part in the formation of new shadow parliament organization called the National Assembly, he was drafted into the Army although he was both medically and educationally except. The Washington Post, among others, reported on the illegality of his treatment, and then gave him an op-ed to explain the situation further. Oleg recently opened an English-language blog where he lays out further details (he’s also been arrested numerous times on spurious charges, often preemptively to keep him from participating in protest rallies).
Now Oleg’s blog reports that Oborona’s coordinator in the city of Kemerova, one Dimitri Solovyev, has been arrested and charged with “extremism” because of five posts he wrote on his Russian language Live Journal blog.