Russians Put The “Citizen” In Citizens’ Media

by | Feb 25, 2007

Anna G. Arutunyan, an editor at the Moscow News, writing about the Russian blogosphere for The Nation, reports that 700,000 LiveJournal users post in Cyrillic, making them second only to English speakers.

The LiveJournal community in Russia is known as Zhivoi Zhurnal, or ZheZhe for short. Arutunyan says Russian bloggers are becoming a lively alternative to mainstream media, and they’re using the site as an online organizing tool for offline protests.

LiveJournal founder Brad Fitzpatrick first visited Moscow last October when his company, Six Apart, announced a partnership with the Russian media company SUP-Fabrik, which would service the enormous Cyrillic sector. What struck him was the social magnitude of ZheZhe and the serious content of its journal entries. In America, “LiveJournal is lots of people writing to ten people [each, and] reading each other,” he told me. In ZheZhe this is magnified into thousands of readers. What for Americans is an electronic diary accessible to a few chosen acquaintances became, for Russians, a platform for forging thousands of interconnected virtual “friends.” And Fitzpatrick believes it has potential as a tool for activism. “I really appreciate what it is as a political platform.”

What ZheZhe seems to illustrate is that a crucial aspect of civil society is not just the freedom to report on what you see but the ability to get people inspired enough to react. Russians are already notorious for their centuries-old communal spirit–or sobornost. ZheZhe might be one of the technologies that will finally get them to act on it.

For additional user-generated content from Russian, check out RuTube.