By Paul Goble
Given the role of the Internet and social media in the spread of popular revolts in many countries, there has been a great deal of speculation about how these new media are developing in places like Chechnya, but most of the commentary on such issues has come from outsiders rather than direct participants.
The current issue of the Daghestani online newspaper, “Nastoyashcheye vremya,” provides a welcome exception with its publication of information supplied anonymously by a Chechen blogger about how the Internet with its blogs and social media is developing in his republic (gazeta-nv.ru/content/view/5875/109/).
The paper’s Bagdat Tumalayev who writes frequently about new media in the Caucasus but relatively seldom about developments in that sector in Chechnya reports that “a Chechen blogger who wishes to remain anonymous has decided to talk about the state of affairs with regard to the Internet in his native region.”
The Chechen blogger’s desire for anonymity, Tumalayev says, “is understandable even though today this region has become stable” because “it isn’t especially comfortable for anyone living in Chechnya itself to write about this openly.” But the Daghestani journalist continues, “judging [from his text], the Internet in Chechnya is developing in a not bad way!”
Moreover, he continues, conditions are being created for its future growth. Vaynakh-Telecon, the leading Internet provide in Grozny, has recently “significantly lowered [its] prices.” Now, Chechens who want to go online can do so at a speed of 1mb/second for only 1200 rubles (40 US dollars) a month.
Among the most popular sites in Chechnya are Chechen-republic.com, Checheninfor.ru, and Chechnyafree.ru, a project of the Golos Rossii radio station. A social network for Vaynakhs, waynahi.ru, has arisen and offers itself as “a national social network for Chechnya and Ingushetia,” although the paper says “it is difficult to speak about how well known it is.”
But social networks are growing. There are already 211,000 Chechen residents registerd on the Russian social network, Odnoklassniki.ru, and there are 26,000 Grozny residents who use the Vkontakte.ru service. Also important in this regard, the Chechen blogger relates, is the Internet forum, vchechne.ru, where there are discussions about all kinds of issues.
The Grozni.org site carries photographs of the Chechen capital today, while Grozny.vrcal.com has photos from before the first Chechen campaign. Current news about the city is available on grozny-inform.ru, the Chechen blogger says, without indicating what he thinks of the content of that outlet.
Other interesting cites the blogger refers to include moct.org, the site of the graduates of the Grozny Oil Institute, fc-terek.ru, terek-grozny.ru,and Chechen sport.com which follow sports clubs. Also important are chechenasso.ru, which features news on Chechen communities outside of Chechnya, garikish.com and gakish.livejournal.com, which discuss social issues.
Ratings of these and other Chechen sites is available at chechentop.ru. There are also “several dozen” Chechen bloggers. The most widely read of these sites are the blog of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, ya_kadyrov.livejournal.com and that of Chechen journalist Timur Aliyev, timur_aliyev.livejournal.com.
Other blogs of note include the diary of Murat Mamirgov, the editor of Islamtv.ru, at mamirgov.livejournal.com, the blog of Arslan Khasavov, a Chechen writer of Daghestani origin, ubl.livejournal.com, and the blog of Leko Gudayev, the webmaster of the Checheninfor site, leko007.livejournal.com.
According to the anonymous Chechen blogger, the Chechen government is actively supporting these bloggers by giving them gifts and prizes as part of what it calls “The Golden Site of CHENET.” He does not say whether such arrangements are intended to ensure that the government knows what is going on, but that possibility cannot be excluded.