This week I’ve been observing how a scandal, published on the famous social media platform Livejournal.ru spread to the mass media and within 24 hours caught the attention of Vladimir Putin’s press office.
Unsurprisingly, the story is about corruption and theft during the construction of a pipeline by the state-owned Transneft. A famous Russian blogger, Navalnyj, who has investigated the case for a few months, collected supporting documents and displayed his findings in an earnest and vigorous post , which he ironically called “How do they saw at Transneft”. In Russian there is an expression “ to saw the money “ from something. Usually, it’s used to describe situations where corrupt authorities steal large sums while working on government projects. The main message of the post is to point out that the highest echelons keep stealing and make a mockery of the country. The author passionately encourages his readers to repost and get as much publicity as possible. There is a press release in English for the international media. The post provoked a gush of anger from the Livejournal community and received 10000 comments.
I am fascinated by the role Facebook plays in Russia. As I mentioned in my earlier posts the Livejournal community has always been the place for highbrow discussions where small communities of Russian intellectuals spark debates about sociopolitical issues. However, it has always been limited and never enjoyed a greater outreach to a mainstream audience. I think its structure didn’t provide opportunities for sharing material as easily as Facebook does now. There were no Share and Like buttons. For example, I wouldn’t know about this post as I don’t have a Livejournal account except I saw a link to Navalnyj’s Livejournal post published on my wall, as one of my friends shared it. I was intrigued by the name of the post and, as I know that my friend is peculiarly interested in Russian political affairs sharing newsworthy stuff , I immediately followed it to check it out. Navalny has a page on Facebook with already more than 2000 friends. On the wall his status update says that he is not sure how to use Facebook and what kind of opportunties it has for dissemination of information and asks people to share the link.
It looks like it’s going to be a great case study of how to use social media in Russia while lobbing political parties. Alexey Navalnyj directly asks the government to comment on the story and start an investigation. He suggests that top managers of the construction company should be arrested for theft and corruption. So far the story has received coverage in an influential business-focused Russian media outlet Vedomosti The mainstream media like Pervj kanal typically praises the opening of a new Transneft pipeline. It’s amazing how the situation is changing. Just a while ago to draw attention to such a dangerous story you had to go to great lengths to convince editors to publish it and make available it to public. Nowadays, a well written post creates such a fuss and gets noticed by the premier within 24 hours. Great news for Russia and I am going to keep an eye on this event which will make it into the textbooks of political PR.