Russia: The Second Blog War

Global Voices Online
Saturday, October 21, 2006

(more buttons and userpics are here)

The Russian-language blogosphere (commonly known as ZheZhe) is on fire: some users are shutting down their blogs, others are emigrating to the virtual Trinidad & Tobago - all because's owner Six Apart has decided to team up with the Russian internet company Sup, founded this year by Aleksandr Mamut, a Russian "oligarch," and Andrew Paulson, an American entrepreneur.

This isn't the first time that ZheZhe (an abbreviation of ZhivoyZhurnal - "LiveJournal" in Russian) is in rebellion: the first "blog war" has been documented by Anna Arutunyan in the July 2005 issue of the Exile.

Assurances from managers of Six Apart and Sup have left many unconvinced and still concerned over whether the Russian security services would gain access to their personal information and whether the new Abuse Team would carry out ruthless purges. A number of ethnic Russian bloggers are furious over the fact that some of Sup's top managers are Jewish; their favorite object of hate now seems to be Anton Nossik (LJ user dolboeb), whose opinion on journalist Anna Politkovskaya's assassination was translated for Global Voices earlier this month.

LJ user kimmi8, a Six Apart employee, attempts to clarify the situation (and LJ user yakovis translates her entry, posted in the lj_biz community, into Russian):

We've licensed SUP, a Russian internet company, the right to use the LiveJournal brand. They'll be operating portions of the LiveJournal service for our Russian userbase (and only for those that want this support). This partnership is an effort to improve the speed, usability, and services that are offered to our Russian community. The only changes that Russian users will see is an improvement to user experience, translation, and support.

The Russian users that have agreed to this support will still continue to be a part of LiveJournal, for as long as they want to be. SUP will be able to promote other products or services they develop to the Russian community, but they won't be able to disconnect anyone from LiveJournal or break apart the community. LiveJournal will still be in control of your journals. We're partnering with SUP to offer a better experience, since we know we've been strongly limited by not being able to serve our Russian community in their native language.

Here are a few of the common questions we know you have:

* What criteria will be used to determine whether a journal is "Russian" or not?

It will be a combination of if you write primarily in Cyrillic, have listed your location as a country from the former USSR, or use a Russian browser.

* Will there be a way to opt out of having my journal transfered?

No journals are being transferred; it's just a change in how the site will be supported. You will be able to opt out of getting the new Russian features, and to continue to be supported by LiveJournal/Six Apart).

* Will information from these journals be given to the Russian government? Personal information?

No. Not in any way that would not happen today, such as a court-ordered subpoena. SUP is acting as our agent and will be bound by our Privacy Policy.


According to the results of an LJ opinion poll, over 50 percent of respondents (1,741 votes so far) are against Sup's takeover; roughly 20 percent are still undecided and as many don't care; and only 8.5 percent consider the changes positive.

LJ user sholademi, whose post on children's drawings of Vladimir Putin was featured on Global Voices in August, thinks that ZheZhe won't last till winter.

This must be a bit of an exaggeration - even though some of the 300,000-plus Russian users' accounts will surely land in Trinidad & Tobago's blogosphere, as a result of the ongoing virtual exodus flash mob: "Let's make this small but proud state the leader of the world Internet!"

Another resistance initiative has been suggested by a Ukrainian-language blogger none_smilodon, who decided to write his entries using Greek script instead of the Cyrillic:


There are currently three LJ communities (RUS) whose members oppose Sup: anti_prodazha ("anti-sale: We are for freedom in the LJ"), antisup, and no_sup.


One LJ community, sup_ru, is maintained by dolboeb and contains suggestions to Sup's management (RUS) on how to improve ZheZhe, among other things.


LJ user yojik_yamamoto chronicles (RUS) what he calls "the hysteria."

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