2011 Russian Protests

2011 Russian Protests

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Updated Dec 12, 2012 at 03:22PM EST by Brad.  

Added by Brad.

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Overview

The 2011 Russian protests is an ongoing, nationwide demonstration that began in response to the Russian legislative election results which many in the media, political activists considered to be rigged by the ruling party United Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin. Russian social networking site VKontakte, Twitter and Facebook played a vital role in mobilizing the protests, according to the media.

Background

On December 4th, legislative elections were held across Russia, with four major political parties racing for the 450 seats in the State Duma (the lower house of Federal Assembly): The Communist Party, The Liberal Democratic Party, A Just Russia and the ruling United Russia led by Vladimir Putin. The election results were reported as a victory for United Russia with a 49.32% of votes and an aboslute majority of Duma seats.

Cyberattacks

One notable target was Golos, Russian for “voice,” the country’s sole independent election monitor. Harassed by police and smeared as traitorous by the media, Golos was also the victim of cyber-attacks, which shut down the organization’s web site, including an online map that allowed people across the country to report voting violations. The websites of the country’s few remaining independent media, such as the radio station Ekho Moskvy, were also shut down, as was LiveJournal, Russia’s leading blogging host.

Turnout Controversy

However, numerous irregularity reports by foreign observers and watchdog groups led to speculations of foul by Russian bloggers and journalists. Golos, the only independent election monitor in Russia, received 5,300 reports of election violations and vote count from Chechnya reported a 99.5 per cent of the votes in favor of Putin’s United Russia, although the total number was several thousand more than the number of registered voters in the area.



Notable Development

While Russia’s state-run media remained silent on the issue, news stories about rigged votes quickly spread across Russia’s Facebook, Twitter and Livejournal. In the following week, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Moscow and St. Petersburg, which were cracked down and resulted in over 300 arrests.

140% Turnout Satires

Image macro jokes in both Russian and English began to flood on various internet humor forums and Facebook pages, including English-language sites Memebase, Memegenerator and 9gag.



Online Mobilization

Blogger and activist Alexey Navalny, who denounced United Russia party and Vladimir Putin as the "Party of Crooks and Thieves,” has been credited with helping the message spread through Twitter and LiveJournal. The Facebook group “Суббота на Болотной площади” (Saturday at Bolotnaya Square) also played an instrumental role in organizing the meeting points and event dates. By December 8th, over 30,000 had accepted the Facebook invitations to protests.



Similar Twitter posts calling for protests on December 10th were spammed by a botnet and a YouTube video, Москва! Болотная площадь! 10 Декабря! (Moscow! Bolotnaya square! 10 December!) was posted of orcs storming a castle shouting, “Russia without Putin.”



Protests

During the protests, several foreign journalists reported that 3G telephone signal in Bolotnaya Square had been shuft off. The Telegraph reported that Russia’s biggest state-controlled television station, Channel One, has no mention of the popular unrest on its website. In addition, protest organizers launched a fundraiser campaign on Facebook and had raised four million rubles, about $129,000, through a Russian online-payment system, financing what on Dec. 24 became the country’s largest antigovernment demonstration in two decades.



Dmitry Medvedev’s Facebook Message

In response to the protests, President Dmitry Medvedev announced over his Facebook account the next day that, while he did not agree with the opposition’s demands, he had ordered an investigation into the allegations of electoral fraud. Many thousands of Russian Facebook users responded angrily to his post.



Putin’s Campaign Website

On January 12th, 2012, Vladimir Putin launched a new website[16] in gearing up for the presidential campaign, featuring a suggestion forum. In the first hour, the suggestion box became flooded with negative comments, with the most voted comment on the site being “please leave politics” by commenter named Arkady Vishnev.



By 1:45pm on the same day, the majority of website’s users suggested politely that he make a quiet exit. The negative comments continued for hours, but the main comments section had been outnumbered by supporters’ comments by that evening. Meanwhile, a LiveJournal blogger published a post explaining how to access comments that had been submitted but not published. In response to this discovery, Putin’s press secretary explained that only expletive remarks were moderated from public display.

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