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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Russian Online Revolution

Frightened of the forces of the former President and current Prime Minister Putin, Russian opposition groups decided to turn to the web in order to protest against the way the country will be led. Thus far demonstrators have held a successful so-called "Facebook rally", which involved several thousand people protesting against elections won by Putin's ruling party. The event was only the first one among many all over the country, and warned of more people to join demonstration.


Local media reported that several thousand mostly young participants braved a Russian winter in order to complain about legislative elections held last weekend, which handed a narrow victory to the present Prime Minister's party amid fraud claims. Somehow, the state TV channels mysteriously failed to report this news, telling about insignificant event instead – it seems that in Russia no-one will keep a license if showing anything opposing to Putin.

This doesn’t mean that the Russians weren’t upset. A lot of famous bloggers have been pounding their fists, and the entire web was outraged. You can now find hundreds of videos of election violations on YouTube, where fake bulletins have been thrown into real one, all marked for the “leading” party. In some areas the voters found out that they were given pens with erasable ink on the election, so that their bulletins could be marked in favor of the same party later. In respond, Putin's party insisted that online footage showing ballot box stuffing along with use of erasable ink pens was at least inconclusive and might be a faked provocation. However, the facts remain: in all areas where people were voting under independent supervision, the Putin’s party “United Russia” was only the 3rd, but somehow, after the votes from all Russia were counted, it won.

One of the independent websites reporting the online outrage appeared to be “Rain” (“Dozhd’) – its reporters called the event a “Facebook revolution”. According to local media, everything started with a couple posts on networks like Facebook and LiveJournal. It didn’t take long for the police, always loyal to the Prime Minister, to swoop on the shivering protesters and even arrest a famous blogger Alexei Navalny for standing up to Putin. That’s what they did wrong – since Navalny was respected so much among the cyber community, all other bloggers agree that there will definitely be more protests. And they were right.

Although very small, anti-Kremlin demonstrations remain the largest witnessed in the country in years. Last time you could only see a demonstration of only one guy standing still with a sign and a dozen cops around him. These thirteen people were watched by thousands of people standing around. They all knew about the event from the web, but few wanted to follow Navalny’s path and end up in jail for nothing. This means that the web remained the only uncensored outlet of mass communication, playing very important role in changing citizen's attitudes toward elections.

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