Nyetizdat: how the internet is building civil society in Russia


President Medvedev at a meeting with young scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs, Oct. 19, 2011.

View this Outlook as a PDF

Subscribe to the Russian Outlook series

Spring 2011

In the past decade, Russia has experienced explosive growth in the spread of the Internet and its applications. As in other authoritarian regimes, where the national media are state controlled, censored, or self-censored, the Russian "net" has become "a shelter in the world of censorship."[1] In this "shelter" capacity, "Ru.net," as it is known in Russia, is reminiscent of samizdat (literally, "self-publishing"), an underground network of banned fiction and nonfiction copied and clandestinely disseminated in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s. Samizdat was central to preserving at least a trickle of uncensored information during the bleakest years of the Brezhnev "stagnation," and in doing so paved the way for perestroika and glasnost. In breaking outside the perimeter of officially sanctioned public debate, Ru.net harks back to its legendary predecessor. It thus may be named nyetizdat, since in Russian "no" and "net" have an identical spelling and sound.[2] Growing daily in penetration and sophistication, nyetizdat is a major and evolving factor in Russian politics today and, even more so, tomorrow.

Key points in this Outlook:

  • Russia can be divided into two nations: the "television nation" and the "Internet nation." Although most Russians still get their daily news from television, the minority who rely on the Internet are more politically engaged.
  • The Internet is the backbone of civil society in Russia--giving people both a voice and the tools to self-organize--and it is a growing force against authoritarianism.
  • Russian authorities allow social and political movements on the Internet that are not permitted in real life, perhaps to allow people to "let off steam." The Internet is already a major factor in Russian politics--and its influence is growing almost daily.

Of course, just as today's authoritarian Russia is not the totalitarian Soviet Union of the 1970s, so too does nyetizdat differ from samizdat, not only in its medium but also in the regime's management of it. Unlike the producers and consumers of nyetizdat, those caught publishing, disseminating, and reading samizdat could be fired from their jobs and expelled from colleges; at worst they were sent to prisons and camps. Samizdat counted tens of thousands of readers; nyetizdat, millions. Perhaps most importantly, unlike samizdat, the Russian Web is indispensible not just for the dissemination of information and uncensored national debate; with open democratic politics a sham, the Internet has rapidly evolved into the main alternative public platform and the engine of grassroots self-organization, at once a national "town hall" and party headquarters, vital to the emergence and maintenance of thousands of social and political movements.[3]

Penetration and Dynamics

The Russian Communication and Press Ministry puts the number of regular Internet users in 2010 at 66 million, or 46 percent of the population.[4] According to far more reliable public opinion surveys conducted in the winter and spring of 2011, among those eighteen years and older, 38-43 percent (44-50 million people) use the Internet "regularly" (at least once a month),[5] which translates into an Internet penetration rate among the total population between 31 and 35 percent. (By comparison, according to the United Nations International Telecommunication Union, an agency for information and communications technology issues, the penetration rate in the United States was 77 percent: 240 million regular users in a population of 311 million.)[6] Within the same group of those eighteen years and older, 40 percent (46 million) use the Internet once a week, while 31 percent (36 million) use it daily.[7]

Samizdat counted tens of thousands of readers; nyetizdat, millions.

Since the first survey of Internet usage in winter 2003-2004, the number of monthly users has increased more than fourfold.[8] There are almost eight times more weekly users today than seven years ago, and the number of people who log on daily has grown almost ten times.[9] When the shares of Russia's most popular website, the search engine Yandex.ru, went on sale for the first time on the Nasdaq stock exchange on May 24, 2011, their price increased 55 percent by the end of the day, raising $1.3 billion for the company, which was started by a mathematician and a geophysicist in 1997.[10]

Social media are expanding rapidly as well. The Facebook-like site V Kontakte ("in touch") is fifth among Russia's five hundred most popular sites, followed by YouTube (sixth) and Facebook (seventh).[11] Twitter is number seventeen, and its growth has been "exponential."[12] Russian social media are among the fastest growing in the world,[13] and Russian Internet users are said to be among the most "engaged social networking audiences worldwide"--the percentage of those using "social" sites and the amount of time they spend on them are among the highest in the world.[14]

A Tale of Two Nations

As in most countries, the most frequent and fastest-growing engagement with the Web has occurred in demographic segments that tend to be politically active: younger, better educated, concentrated in the largest urban centers, and middle and upper-middle class.[15] For instance, in 2010, 62 percent of eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds were regular Web users[16]--or between 1.3 and 1.6 times the national rate for all adults. Education is almost as good a predictor as age: among those with higher education or unfinished higher education (that is, mostly, those still in college), 55 percent used the Internet, compared with 17 percent among those with only a high school education.[17] In large cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, the penetration rate is 65 percent.[18]

Of course, almost three times as many Russians (84 percent) watch government-controlled television (which filters and slants its content in support of the Kremlin and bars key opposition leaders, journalists, and experts) as log on daily (31 percent).[19] The gap is wider still when it comes to following the news: an estimated 94 percent of the population turns to the television and only 9 percent to the Internet.[20] Nyetizdat is somewhat more popular as a news source with those between ages twenty-five and thirty-nine (10 percent), Muscovites (12 percent), those with higher education (13 percent), and the "wealthier" (16 percent).[21]

Yet, although "only 20 percent" of Russians may get their daily news from the Internet (in perhaps the overly optimistic estimate of Alexei Navalny, the most popular Russian blogger and anticorruption crusader), these 20 percent are the "politically active class," the people who are "the drivers of political change."[22] There are two nations in Russia today, Dmitri Muratov, editor of Novaya gazeta, Russia's only national opposition newspaper, said to me in February in Moscow: the "television nation" and the "Internet nation."[23]

Democratic Opposition and the Opposition Media

The "Internet nation" is an avid consumer of independent and opposition news and commentary. Every major "unregistered" national opposition party or movement--Solidarity (Solidarnost), Strategy-31 (Strategiya-31), or the Party of People's Freedom (Partiya narodnoy svobody)--has its own website, and its leaders blog regularly, as do dozens of other prodemocracy intellectuals, essayists, and journalists on independent or opposition sites.[24] These include Ej.ru (the site of Ezhednevnyi zhurnal, or Daily Journal; ezh means "hedgehog" in Russian); Newtimes.ru (the New Times magazine), Grani.ru ("facets"), Gazeta.ru ("newspaper"), Kommersant.ru (the site of an independent newspaper of the same name), EkhoMoskvy.ru ("The Echo of Moscow," the only national opposition radio channel), and, of course, NovayaGazeta.ru. Of these sites, Ekho Moskvy is the most popular, with 3,485,948 visitors per month as of April (Russia's sixteenth most popular news and commentary site overall), followed by Novaya gazeta (810,184 visitors, sixty-first overall), Grani.ru (758,256 visitors, sixty-seventh overall), and Ej.ru (272,912 visitors, 144th overall).[25] In January 2011, Novaya gazeta announced triumphantly that its site, which started daily updates in January, was visited by the 40 millionth reader, while average weekly readership reached 420,000-450,000.[26]

Of late, independent and opposition media have branched into the social networking space. Novaya gazeta, for instance, now has a Facebook page, which, as of this writing, was "liked" by 25,925 Facebook visitors.[27] When the Novaya gazeta site was attacked by hackers in April, the April 8 issue was posted on the paper's Facebook page, from which devoted readers spread it among their "friends."[28]

The Town Hall

In addition to being the source of uncensored news and opinion for the "Internet nation," nyetizdat is also a substitute for an open public space where public opinion is shaped and through which policies occasionally could be influenced--a virtual town hall, where one's voice can be heard and debated by fellow citizens. Since 2008, the number of blogs on Ru.net has increased from 3.8 million to 7.4 million. President Dmitri Medvedev started a video blog in October 2007. In a recent study of the Russian Internet, almost 12,000 (out of 17,000 "most widely cited") bloggers were identified as the "structural and conversational core" of the Russian blogosphere.[29]

The blogosphere is dominated by four sites--LiveJournal, LiveInternet, Ya.ru, and blog.mail.ru--that combine the features of traditional open blog platforms (such as Blogger or Wordpress) with closed social network platforms (Facebook or MySpace), complete with "friends," "communities," "groups," and file-sharing options.[30] Of these, the Russian-language segment of LiveJournal (Zhivoy zhurnal, or ZhZh for short) is by far the most popular, rated ninth among all Russian websites.[31] Virtually all the most popular bloggers (and, since January 2009, Medvedev) post on LiveJournal, which Internet expert and prominent opposition blogger Anton Nossik called "the only uncensored, uncontrolled, and unmoderated channel for discussion."[32]

"I, like any person, can be frightened, bribed, removed, and so on, but this should not bring our activity to a halt."

Few, if any, topics are as prevalent in nyetizdat as government corruption. "For me, there are no opportunities to publish [in newspapers and magazines] materials about corruption in, say, Gazprom or Transneft," Navalny said in April. "Through LiveJournal, I can bring this information to a few million people, which is comparable to a television audience."[33] Navalny's most recent and widely popular anticorruption project is RosPil--a pun on "Rossiya" (Russia) and "raspilivat" (slang for dividing stolen money among government officials). In a country that "corruption is holding by the throat," as Medvedev put it,[34] Navalny's blog crusade has inspired similar sites and platforms. One of them, called Roskomvzayatka.ru (or Russiabribe.ru), is devoted entirely to publicizing and investigating bribery. "If you gave a bribe or if you were extorted to give a bribe, inform us about it. We guarantee your anonymity," reads the site's homepage.[35] "The most important thing is to find a mechanism for coordinating the supporters," Navalny told an interviewer recently. "Thousands of people ask me: 'How can we help you? How can we do what you are doing?' . . . I see my task as creating a system to which, first, everyone could contribute and, second, which would be decentralized enough not to depend on anyone in particular, including myself. Because I, like any person, can be frightened, bribed, removed, and so on, but this should not bring our activity to a halt."[36]

In March, Navalny pioneered a new Russian Internet format, when he debated Yaroslav Kuzminov, the rector (president) of the Higher School of Economics (HSE), whom Navalny had accused of abetting corrupt practices in the HSE's contract work for the Ministry of Economic Development. The debate was livestreamed on the HSE's site[37] and viewed by "tens of thousands of online viewers."[38] A few weeks later, following a radio debate with United Russia functionary and Duma deputy Evgeny Fedorov, Navalny blogged about it on the Ekho Moskvy site,[39] and the debate's full transcript was available almost immediately on the Web.[40] "If government functionaries were forced to defend publicly every controversial law, at least before the Internet's audience," wrote leading opposition political commentator Andrei Kolesnikov, "perhaps there would be a whiff of democracy in the air."[41] "Online" and "offline," he concluded, are moving toward each other.[42]

A Virtual "Street"

The line between the virtual and the real is further blurred when nyetizdat touches off national protest campaigns. Videos have proved particularly "viral." Among the most popular are those of lethal traffic accidents caused by government or business mandarins (or their sons and daughters) driving on the wrong side of the road, speeding, or disregarding traffic lights.[43] Instantly uploaded on YouTube and other sites, they have riled the Internet nation and led to public protests, like the impassioned antiregime soliloquy of Yuri Shevchuk, the singer of one of Russia's oldest rock bands, DDT, or the song by rapper Noiz MC (Ivan Alexeev).[44]

Petitions abound. Thousands signed letters to Medvedev asking for a fair trial--or at least mercy and clemency--for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former CEO of Yukos, and Svetlana Bakhmina, a former Yukos lawyer and mother of three convicted of "embezzlement" in a case even more obviously and shamelessly rigged than that against Khodorkovsky.[45] A petition for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's resignation, posted on March 10, 2010, at Putinavotstavku.ru ("Putin Must Go"), collected almost 7,500 signatures in its first five days. A month later, there were 34,655 signatures. Of those who signed the document, 79 percent were brave enough to put down not only their full name and profession, but also their address.[46] Over 70,000 people have signed the petition as of this writing, and there has been an upsurge in signatures in the past two months.

The Internet was also indispensible to organizing the national Day of Wrath in 2010, when Russia was swept by rallies from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. In the summer of that year, when federal and local authorities had failed abjectly to deal with the fires that raged throughout central Russia, volunteers used the Internet to coordinate defense and rescue efforts and to provide humanitarian assistance to the stricken areas.[47] Twitter and other social networks were activated in December 2010, when thousands of soccer fans descended and rioted on Manezhnaya Square next to the Kremlin to protest the killing of their comrade by a man from the North Caucasus--a still-rare instance of nyetizdat's use by nonliberal movements.

"The authorities may not like our show of solidarity and there may be beatings, arrests, and prison sentences. But we are free citizens of our city."

Following the arrest of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, his fellow cochairman of the Party of People's Freedom, Vladimir Milov, posted a blog post on LiveJournal titled "Bring Back Nemtsov, bastards!" (Vernite Nemtsova, gady!). The post called on readers to join him in picketing the pretrial detention center where Nemtsov and "other new political prisoners" were being held. "Let these brazen extremists know that they cannot frighten us," Milov wrote. "Dress warmly and in old clothes. The authorities may not like our show of solidarity and there may be beatings, arrests, and prison sentences. But we are free citizens of our city and have the right to walk wherever we want. I would like the bastards fully to understand that."[48] Embedded in the post was a street map of the Moscow district where the detention center was located.

An Online Democracy: Organizations, Institutions, and "Elections"

Nyetizdat uses extend well beyond single acts of political and social mobilization. It is just as vital to day-to-day grassroots self-organization (something that has been in short supply in the national political tradition), including membership development, fundraising, and the evolution of objectives and tactics.

Typical in this respect are the Internet applications of six Russian national and local organizations that I have watched closely for over a year: Fellowship of the Active Citizens of Russia (Tovarshestvo Initsiativnykh Grazhdan Rossii, or TIGR, national), Federation of Motorists of Russia (Federatsiya Avtovadel'tsev Rossii, or FAR, national), No to the Tower! (Bashne-net!, St. Petersburg), Baikal Ecological Wave (Baikal'skaya Eklogicheskaya Volna, Irkutsk), Ecological Defense (Ecmo, Moscow), and Justice (Spravedlivost, Kaliningrad).[49] Markedly different in goals and separated, in some cases, by half a dozen time zones, these organizations are remarkably similar in one respect: their homepages have been the core of online social activism and mobilization.

In addition to notifying members and sympathizers of upcoming actions, the sites provide relevant news and display the e-mail addresses of leaders and activists, as well as links to their blogs on LiveJournal, Facebook, Twitter, and most popular Russian social networking sites such as V Kontakte and Moj Mir ("my world"). There are photos and videos taken at the groups' past events, analysis and critique of relevant government actions and pending legislation, and documented instances of members' harassment.[50]

With charity collections--most often for quality medical treatment abroad--now a staple of the Russian Web, fundraising for other causes is becoming increasingly frequent as well. When Navalny asked for contributions to launch RosPil last February, he received 1.5 million rubles ($55,500) via Yandex-Wallet (Yandex-koshelyok) within the first forty-eight hours and more than double that within the first week.[51] By the most recent count, donations to Navalny have reached 6 million rubles ($220,000).[52]

Nyetizdat is attempting to forge democratic institutions to parallel the ones subverted by the regime.

Taking democratic self-organization to a national level, nyetizdat is attempting to forge democratic institutions to parallel the ones subverted by the regime. Last October, in a virtual "election" of the mayor of Moscow on the sites Kommersant.ru and Gazeta.ru, Navalny won with 45 percent of the vote. Sergei Sobyanin, who was eventually appointed mayor by Medvedev, received less than 3 percent.[53] Half a year later, Novaya gazeta launched "elections" to a "net parliament" (setevoy parlament) of Russia. The parliament was to "initiate legislation, edit and amend the existing laws, and convene offline to discuss the most urgent issues."[54] In the end, 419 candidates were nominated by visitors to NovayaGazeta.ru, in LiveJournal, on Facebook, or by e-mail. In the second round of voting, fifteen "deputies" were selected from the top 125 vote getters.[55]

The Regime: Feedback, "Letting Off Steam . . ."

For now, the Russian Internet is mostly unshackled. In the Freedom on the Net 2011 survey of thirty-seven countries by Freedom House, Russia is rated "partly free." Ru.net was twenty-second: slightly lower than Indonesia, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, and Rwanda but better than Egypt, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan, among others, and far superior, for example, to China, Cuba, and Iran.[56]

With politics and television firmly under its control, the Kremlin thus far seems to value nyetizdat as the only uncensored channel of societal feedback--next to public opinion polls. The Web, as an opposition journalist recently put it, is also the means of "letting off steam to prevent a blowup."[57] In the past two years, Medvedev has set up commissions and expert groups to look into some of the issues that lit up the Russian Web. In the overwhelming majority of cases, including the car accident mentioned above and the trial and sentencing of Khodorkovsky, these commissions and expert groups are never heard from again, and the original court decisions and regulations stand once the furor dies down. Occasionally, apolitical, "technical" regulations are amended after years of Internet protests and petitions. The recent suspension of car registration and simplification of inspection, notorious even in Russia for incompetence and bribe extortion, is one of the rare victories of nyetizdat's campaigns.[58]

With the December Duma elections approaching, some regional authorities have decided to closely "monitor" key blogging platforms, ostensibly to better analyze problems and correct them more quickly. Whether the collected information will be used, in the words of a Russian political scientist, as an "additional resource for the correction of mistakes" or a means of tracking down critics and "muzzling" them remains to be seen.[59]

. . . and Bare Knuckles

This relatively sophisticated "management" of the Internet is interspersed with a growing number of more traditional authoritarian instances of intervention, mostly by local, rather than federal, authorities. Between January 2009 and May 2010, there were at least twenty-five cases of blogger harassment, including eleven arrests, compared with seven cases reported in 2006-2008.[60] The most common legal pretexts for blocking portals or sanctioning bloggers and Internet service providers--from police interrogations and fines to arrests, trials, and prison terms--have been charges of "extremism," "incitement of inter-ethnic hatred," "hatred toward armed forces" or "hatred toward law enforcement personnel," and "insulting a representative of government."[61]

While physical attacks on print journalists, including maiming and murder, no longer shock Russians, assaults on bloggers are still rare. Only time will tell whether the still-unsolved savage beating in Moscow of Kommersant reporter and opposition blogger Oleg Kashin--following the threats posted by the youth wing of the United Russia party, Young Guards (Moloday gvardiya)--is an exception to the rule or a portent.

Although Navalny has not been subjected to judicial, let alone physical, assaults, his remarkable run of impunity might be coming to an end. First, in early May 2011, many donors of the RosPil fundraising campaign received phone calls from "journalists" asking them why they supported Navalny. (By law, Yandex is required to disclose the identities and phone numbers of e-donors to the government's "special services," should they request such information.)[62] A week later, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation announced that it initiated a criminal case against Navalny for alleged misdeeds during his stint as an unpaid adviser to a regional governor. The precise nature of Navalny's transgressions has not been disclosed, and he called the charges "comical."[63] In addition, some of Navalny's clients (he is a lawyer by profession) were visited by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents.[64]

In early April, the head of the FSB's information security branch proposed "regulation" of Skype, Gmail, and Hotmail because their "uncontrolled use" was "a large-scale threat to the security of Russia."[65] A week or so later, while denying any intent of censoring the Internet, Putin expressed concern in his April 20 address to the Federal Assembly that many of the key Internet services are "provided from across the ocean."[66]

Hacker Attacks

In the last week of March and the first week of April, LiveJournal and NovayaGazeta.ru were repeatedly shut down by distributed denial of service (DDoS) hacker attacks in which thousands of virus-infected computers (so called bot-nets) overwhelm the servers of targeted websites with requests.[67] The government professed no knowledge of the attacks, and Medvedev called them "outrageous and illegal."[68] He ordered a police investigation, but so far no culprits have been found.

With the DDoS attacks, Russia has joined a small group of the most repressive Internet regimes such as Bahrain, Belarus, Burma, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tunisia, and Vietnam, where similar attacks have occurred in the past two years.[69] Recalling previous attacks on opposition websites,[70] one of the theories bruited about in Moscow was that the shutdowns of LiveJournal and NovayaGazeta.ru could have been rehearsals for an emergency crackdown by the authorities. In this scenario, the Kremlin would attempt to shutter nyetizdat in a political crisis similar to the Arab Spring antiauthoritarian uprisings earlier this year, in which social media played a central role.

"People Need Justice"

For all the remarkable strides it has made in the past few years, nyetizdat is still far from the medium of choice for most Russians. In all probability, Russia will remain a television nation for quite some time. Yet just as certainly, the Internet nation will continue to grow, inventing more effective tools of self-expression and self-organization. "As a source of political news, the Internet is already competing with television," wrote Alexei Makarkin, a leading Russian political analyst and the director of the department of social and political problems at the Institute for Contemporary Development, chaired by Medvedev. "And among the young and highly educated audience [the Internet] all but surpasses television. Internet users are willing to expend time on a search for information that is objective, urgent, and unfiltered by censorship or self-censorship."[71]

Makarkin might be a bit ahead of the game, but as a tendency his assessment is quite plausible. The Communication and Press Ministry projects the number of regular Internet users at 80 million, or around 56 percent of the population, in 2011.[72] Consistent with global trends, growth among the young is expected to be especially dramatic: by some estimates, 95 percent of Russians between ages eighteen and twenty-four will be using the Internet daily by 2014.[73]

One of the lessons of the Arab Spring has been that even considerably low rates of penetration may become subversive.

This may be less-than-stellar news for the Kremlin. One of the lessons of the Arab Spring has been that even considerably low rates of penetration may become subversive. Or, as Navalny put it, coexisting with alternative sources of information, "the regime's inaptitude [nedeesposobnost] that has been obvious for years" cannot but result in "big problems for the regime--and these problems will continue to grow."[74]

Of course, several objective (material) and subjective (ideas- and values-related) factors must coincide to effect a major social and political change--which is why such changes are rare and their timing is unpredictable. Yet, it is clear that nyetizdat is now as much of an objective (or structural) factor contributing to the pressure for change as, for example, the popular resentment of corruption. Nyetizdat has become a backbone of Russia's civil society that is growing and self-organizing despite the blocked politics and censored media.

In the words of Kirill Kabanov, chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, a nongovernmental organization that investigates state corruption, "People are not indifferent. They are only not ready to act just yet. But this can happen at any moment, we simply don't know where that drop is that will overflow the cup of patience. People, no matter how much they are being made fools of, need justice."[75]

Leon Aron ([email protected]) is a resident scholar and the director of Russian studies at AEI.

The author is grateful to AEI research assistant Daniel Vajdic, former AEI research assistant Julia Friedlander, former Russian studies intern Lara Johnson, and senior editor Laura Drinkwine for their help in researching, editing, and producing this essay.

View this Outlook as a PDF


1. Alexei Navalny, the most popular Russian blogger and anticorruption crusader, quoted in Anand Varghese, "Mapping the Russian Blogosphere" (Peace Brief No. 72, US Institute of Peace, Washington, DC, December 20, 2010).

2. Although I arrived at the name on my own, the research for this Outlook turned up a speech delivered in April 2006 by Professor Martin Dewhirst of the University of Manchester, in which he used the term Netizdat. See Martin Dewhirst, "Why and How Does Novaya gazeta Get Away with It, and What Does It Get Away With?" (speech, University of Glasgow, Scotland, April 8, 2006).

3. Leon Aron, "Russia's New Protesters," AEI Russian Outlook (Spring 2010), www.aei.org/outlook/100964.

4. Olga Razumovskaya, "IT Market Approaching Pre-Crisis Glory Days," Moscow Times, February 7, 2011.

5. Levada Center, "Internet and bloggery v Rossii" [The Internet and Bloggers in Russia], national survey conducted March 18-21, 2011, www.levada.ru/press2011040602.hml (accessed April 29, 2011); and "Internet v Rossii" [Internet in Russia] (Analytical Bulletin No. 32, Public Opinion Foundation, Moscow, Winter 2010-2011), table 1, http://bd.fom.ru/pdf/Internet%20v%20Rossii%20Vol32.%20Zima%202010-2011_short.pdf (accessed June 21, 2011).

6. Internet World Stats, "United States of America Internet Usage and Broadband Usage Report," www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm (accessed May 3, 2011).

7. "Internet v Rossii" [Internet in Russia], table 1.

8. Ibid., table 1.2.

9. Ibid.

10. Andrew Kramer and Evelyn M. Rusli, "IPO Surge for Yandex, a Russian Search Engine," New York Times, May 25, 2011.

11. Alexa, "Top Sites in Russia," www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/RU (accessed May 3, 2011).

12. Bruce Etling, Karina Alexanyan, John Kelly, Robert Faris, John Palfrey, and Urs Gasser, "Mapping RuNet Politics and Mobilization" (Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2010-11, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA, October 19, 2010), 10.

13. Maria Lipman and Nikolai Petrov, "Russia--2020" (presentation, US-Russia Working Group, AEI, Washington, DC, April 22, 2011); and Marketing.by, "Russia Demonstrates the World's Largest Growth Rates in Number of Social Networks," http://marketing.by/main/market/analytics/0042639 (accessed May 3, 2011).

14. ComScore, "Russia Has Most Engaged Social Networking Audience Worldwide," news release, October 20, 2010, www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/10/Russia_Has_Most_Engaged_Social_Networking_Audience_Worldwide (accessed May 3, 2011).

15. See, for example, Denis Volkov, "Televizor blizhe k narodu" [Television Is Closer to the People], Novaya gazeta, March 4, 2011.

16. Bruce Etling, Karina Alexanyan, John Kelly, Robert Faris, John Palfrey, and Urs Gasser, "Mapping RuNet Politics and Mobilization," 12.

17. Prim Marketing, "Dinamika rosta chisla internet-pol'zovateley v Rossii" [Growth Dynamic of Internet Users in Russia], March 18, 2011, www.primmarketing.ru/analytics/2011/03/18/inet/61188 (accessed April 25, 2011).

18. Ibid.

19. Denis Volkov, "Televizor blizhe k narodu" [Television Is Closer to the People]; and Denis Volkov, "Blogyer polprotsyenta" [Half Percent Blogger], Gazeta.ru, March 28, 2011, www.gazeta.ru/comments/2011/03/28_a_3566465.shtml (accessed April 25, 2011).

20. Denis Volkov, "Televizor blizhe k narodu" [Television Is Closer to the People].

21. Ibid.

22. Danila Gal'perovich, "Aleksey Navalny: Kogda uydyot Putin" [Alexei Navalny: When Putin Leaves], Radio Free Europe, April 7, 2011.

23. Dmitri Muratov, interview with the author at the editorial offices of Novaya gazeta, Moscow, Russia, February 8, 2011.

24. For a sample of these blogs, see Bruce Etling, Karina Alexanyan, John Kelly, Robert Faris, John Palfrey, and Urs Gasser, "Mapping RuNet Politics and Mobilization," 24-25.

25. [email protected] [[email protected]], http://top.mail.ru/Rating/MassMedia/month/Visitors/2.html (accessed April 27, 2011).

26. "Na etoy needle Novuyu v internete posetil sorakamillionnyy chitatel" [This Week Novaya gazeta Was Visited by the 40 Millionth Reader], Novaya gazeta, January 29, 2011, www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2011/010/30.html (accessed June 24, 2011).

27. "Nam nravitsya, chto vam nravitsya" [We Like What You Like], Novaya gazeta, January 29, 2011, www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2011/010/30.html?print=201104060016 (accessed June 24, 2011).

28. Konstantin Poleskov, "DDoS-ataka na sayt 'Novoy gazety' i Setevoy parliament" [A DDoS-Attack on the Novaya gazeta Site and on the Net Parliament], Novaya gazeta, April 9, 2011.

29. Bruce Etling, Karina Alexanyan, John Kelly, Robert Faris, John Palfrey, and Urs Gasser, "Mapping RuNet Politics and Mobilization," 13.

30. Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media (Washington, DC, April 18, 2011), 274; and Bruce Etling, Karina Alexanyan, John Kelly, Robert Faris, John Palfrey, and Urs Gasser, "Mapping RuNet Politics and Mobilization," 12.

31. Alexa, "Top Sites in Russia."

32. Michael Schwirtz, "Russians Riled by Attacks on Blogging Service," New York Times, April 8, 2011.

33. Ibid.

34. "Korruptsiya derzhit za gorlo ekonomiku rossii" [Corruption Is Holding the Russian Economy by the Throat], Forbes.ru, March 30, 2011, www.forbes.ru/news/65639-medvedev-korruptsiya-derzhit-za-gorlo-ekonomiku-rossii (accessed May 26, 2011). According to Medvedev, a trillion rubles (around $37 billion) or around 3 percent of the country's GDP is stolen annually from government contracts. See "Myedvyedyev: Vorovstvo pri goszakoopkah dostigayet bolyeye 1 trilliona roob" [Medvedev: Theft in State Purchases Reaches More Than 1 Trillion Rubles], RIA Novosti, October 29, 2010, www.rian.ru/economy/20101029/290523085.html (accessed May 26, 2011); and "Myedvyedyev: V sistyemye goszakoopok yezhyegodno vorooyoot odin trillion rooblyey" [Medvedev: In the System of State Purchases, One Trillion Rubles Is Being Stolen Annually], Grani.ru, October 29, 2010.

35. Ilya Abishev, "U Navalnogo poyavilis posledovateli. Ili konkurenty?" [Navalny Has Spawned Followers. Or Competitors?] BBC Russia, April 7, 2011, www.bbc.co.uk/russian/russia/2011/04/110406_roskomvzyatka_project.shtml (accessed April 7, 2011).

36. Danila Gal'perovich, "Aleksey Navalny: Kogda uydyot Putin" [Alexei Navalny: When Putin Leaves].

37. Higher School of Economics, "Pooblichnaya diskoossiya Yaroslava Kooz'minova i Alyeksyeya Naval'nogo" [Yaroslav Kuzminov and Alexei Navalny's Public Discussion], March 18, 2011, www.hse.ru/news/recent/27534931.html (accessed June 22, 2011).

38. Anastasia Litvinova, "Dooel' Naval'nogo i Kooz'minova zakonchilas' so schyetom 0:0" [Navalny and Kuzminov's Duel Ended with a Score of 0:0], RBK Daily, June 24, 2011, www.rbcdaily.ru/2011/03/19/focus/562949979890676 (accessed May 26, 2011).

39. Alexei Navalny, "Itog dyebatov: Ochyernit' Yedinooyoo Rossiyoo mnye nye oodalos'" [Debates' Result: I Have Failed to Blacken the Image of United Russia], Ekho Moskvy, February 22, 2011, www.echo.msk.ru/blog/navalny/752177-echo (accessed May 26, 2011).

40. "'Yedinaya Rossiya'--partiya vorov i korrooptsionyerov ili chyestnih, printsipial'nih patriotov?" ["United Russia"--Party of Thieves and Corrupt Officials or Honest, Principled Patriots?] Finam.fm, February 21, 2011, http://syzran-courier.ru/index.php?go=Pages&in=view&id=34 (accessed May 26, 2011).

41. Andrei Kolesnikov, "Politekonomiya: Setevaya democratiya v oflayne" [Political Economy: Internet Democracy Offline], Vedomosti, March 23, 2011.

42. Ibid.

43. For instance, in March 2010, a vice president of Lukoil, Russia's largest privately owned oil company, killed a seventy-two-year-old mother and her thirty-six-year-old daughter when his Mercedes turned into oncoming traffic (the "right" of siren-equipped elite cars) and rammed into their small car. As usual, the police blamed the victims, but the family would not give in, and Internet-generated publicity soon produced an outpouring of support from, among others, the FAR. Thirteen nationally prominent cultural figures posted an open letter to Medvedev on the Internet, asking for his help in ensuring an unbiased investigation. See Leon Aron, "Russia's New Protesters."

44. Noize MC (Ivan Alexeev), "Mercedes S666," YouTube, February 28, 2010, www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPXtawGmZgQ (accessed March 29, 2010). For details, see Leon Aron, "Russia's New Protesters."

45. For details, see Leon Aron, "Putinism," AEI Russian Outlook (Spring 2008), www.aei.org/outlook/27958.

46. Leon Aron, "Russia's New Protesters."

47. Elena Chinyaeva, "The Russian Use of Internet: A Virtual Discourse Shapes Reality," Eurasia Daily Monitor, January 11, 2011.

48. Vladimir Milov, "Vyernitye Nyemtsova, gadi!" [Return Nemtsov, Bastards!] LiveJournal, January 4, 2011, http://v-milov.livejournal.com/305621.html (accessed June 27, 2011).

49. The goals, strategy, and tactics of these organizations and movements will be further explored in the summer Russian Outlook, to be written after a field research trip to Russia.

50. I am grateful to Russian studies interns Lara Johnson and Valentina Lukin for the sites' content research on which I draw in this section.

51. Dmitri Muratov, interview with the author at the editorial offices of Novaya gazeta; and Julia Ioffe, "Net Impact," The New Yorker, April 4, 2011.

52. Ilya Abishev, "U Navalnogo poyavilis posledovateli. Ili konkurenty?" [Navalny Has Spawned Followers. Or Competitors?]

53. Artem Krechetnikov, "Navalny: Intsident s 'RosPilom'--davlenie na internet" [Navalny: The 'RosPil' Incident [Is] Pressure on the Internet], BBC Russia, May 3, 2011, www.bbc.co.uk/russian/russia/2011/05/110503_navalny_incident_comments.shtml (accessed May 3, 2011).

54. "Setevoy parlament: Registratsiya kandidatov zakanchivaetsya segodnya" [The Net Parliament: The Registration of Candidates Ends Today], Novaya gazeta, March 25, 2011, www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2011/031/13.html?print=201128041412 (accessed April 28, 2011).

55. "Setevoy parlament Runeta pervogo sozyva" [The First Net Parliament of the Ru.net], www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2011/049/49.html (accessed May 11, 2011). Among the elected "deputies" were (in order of the number of votes they received) Shevchuk; Navalny; Mikhail Vel'makov, cochairman of the Moscow chapter of Solidarity; Andrei Altukhov, executive director of the Party of Young Conservatives; Evgeny Konovalov, chairman of the Russian Social-Democratic Union of Youth; Andrei Piontkovsky, a prominent opposition blogger, essayist, and writer; and Vladimir Ryzhkov, cochairman of the Party of People's Freedom.

56. Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media, 12-13.

57. Yuri Geyko, "Podbrosim v vozdukh chepchiki" [Let's Throw Our Caps in the Air], Novaya gazeta, May 2, 2011.

58. Ibid.; Will Englund, "Russian Car Inspections Suspended over Bribery," Washington Post, May 27, 2011.

59. Maria Gutorova, "Meriya uznaet vsyu pravdu ZhZh-zhizni" [The Mayor's Office Will Learn the Entire Truth of the LiveJournal's Life], www.kommersant.ru/doc/1629724 (accessed April 27, 2011).

60. Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media, 269.

61. For instance, a prodemocracy activist in Penza has been under investigation since July 2010 for a cartoon of Ramzan Kadyrov, the dictator of Chechnya, on his Facebook page. In January 2011, a court in Ulan-Ude (the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Buryatia in southeastern Siberia) levied a fine against two Solidarity activists for allegedly "inciting hatred toward the members of the military and law enforcement." In February, an eighteen-year-old man in the Autonomous Republic of Mari-El (east central Russia) was charged with the incitement of hatred of police for a posting on his V Kontakte page. In April, the leader of the Orel (south central Russia) regional chapter of the prodemocratic United Civil Front was called in for an interrogation after his post in LiveJournal allegedly "insulting" Putin. Also in April, a court in the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Bashkortostan, Ufa, sentenced a blogger to three and a half years and a website editor to six years for "calls to extremist activity." See "V Ufe bloger i oppozitsionnyi publitsist osuzhdeny po 282-y stat'e" [A Blogger and Opposition Commentator Are Convicted per Article 282 (of the Criminal-Procedural Code)], Grani.ru, April 19, 2011, www.grani.ru/Society/Media/m.187920.html (accessed April 29, 2011). In August 2010, a local provider in Tula (central Russia) blocked a portal for posting articles "critical of the government," and in December a regional network provider blocked access to the environmental site Ecmo.ru after the site posted a petition for the dismissal of a local mayor. See Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media, 272.

62. Artem Krechetnikov, "Navalny: Intsident s 'RosPilom'--davlenie na internet" [Navalny: The 'RosPil" Incident [Is] Pressure on the Internet].

63. Danila Gal'perovich, "Navalny + FSB--naydyotsya vsyo?" [Navalny + FSB--Will They Find What They Are Looking For?] Radio Free Europe, May 10, 2011, www.svobodanews.ru/content/article/24097239.html (accessed May 20, 2011).

64. Ibid.

65. Michael Schwirtz, "Russians Riled by Attacks on Blogging Service"; and Will Englund, "Top Officials Diverge on Internet Freedom," Washington Post, April 9, 2011.

66. Vladimir Putin, "Ob otchyotye Pravityel'stva Rossiyskoy o ryezool'tatah yego dyeyatyel'nosti Fyedyeratsii za 2010 god" [The Russian Government's Account about the Results of Its Activities for 2010] (address to the Federal Assembly, Moscow, Russia, April 20, 2011), www.duma.gov.ru/representative/government-hour/otchet2011.pdf (accessed June 23, 2011).

67. Konstantin Poleskov, "DDoS-ataka na sayt 'Novoy gazety' i Setevoy parliament" [A DDoS-Attack on the Novaya gazeta Site and on the Net Parliament]; and Michael Schwirtz, "Russians Riled by Attacks on Blogging Service."

68. Michael Schwirtz, "Russians Riled by Attacks on Blogging Service."

69. Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media, 6.

70. For instance, in 2008 DDoS attacks temporarily shut down Kasparov.ru, at that time the Internet portals of the United Civil Front party, Grani.ru, Human Rights in Russia, Ekho Moskvy, the March of Dissenters, and Kommersant. See "Russian Opposition Websites Shut Down by Attacks," The Other Russia, December 25, 2008, www.theotherrussia.org/2008/12/25/russian-opposition-websites-shut-down-by-attacks (accessed January 15, 2011).

71. Alexei Makarkin, "Otkrytie politiki" [The Opening of Politics], Gazeta.ru, May 12, 2011, www.gazeta.ru/comments/2011/05/12_x_3614193.shtml (accessed May 12, 2011).

72. Olga Razumovskaya, "IT Market Approaching Pre-Crisis Glory Days."

73. Prim Marketing, "Dinamika rosta chisla internet-pol'zovateley v Rossii" [Growth Dynamic of Internet Users in Russia].

74. Danila Gal'perovich, "Navalny + FSB--naydyotsya vsyo?" [Navalny + FSB--Will They Find What They Are Looking For?]

75. Ilya Abishev, "U Navalnogo poyavilis posledovateli. Ili konkurenty?" [Navalny Has Spawned Followers. Or Competitors?]

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author



What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30
  • 31
Monday, October 27, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
State income taxes and the Supreme Court: Maryland Comptroller v. Wynne

Please join AEI for a panel discussion exploring these and other questions about this crucial case.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 9:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
For richer, for poorer: How family structures economic success in America

Join Lerman, Wilcox, and a group of distinguished scholars and commentators for the release of Lerman and Wilcox’s report, which examines the relationships among and policy implications of marriage, family structure, and economic success in America.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
The 7 deadly virtues: 18 conservative writers on why the virtuous life is funny as hell

Please join AEI for a book forum moderated by Last and featuring five of these leading conservative voices. By the time the forum is over, attendees may be on their way to discovering an entirely different — and better — moral universe.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
A nuclear deal with Iran? Weighing the possibilities

Join us, as experts discuss their predictions for whether the United States will strike a nuclear deal with Iran ahead of the November 24 deadline, and the repercussions of the possible outcomes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
The forgotten depression — 1921: The crash that cured itself

Please join Author James Grant and AEI senior economists for a discussion about Grant's book, "The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself" (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.