Russia’s Blogosphere: Common Space for the Priest and the Nationalist

What do a priest who writes about rappers and a nihilistic nationalist have in common? Along with their active participation and civic engagement on the Internet, both served as examples of online voices used in the Berkman Center’s “Mapping of the Russian Blogosphere.” After collecting data from the blog index of Russia’s largest search engine Yandex about a million active blogs throughout 2009 and 2010, Bruce Etling and other directors at the Berkman Center divided them into four distinct discussion zones—politics, culture, regional, and instrumental—to analyze them each separately. Not only did the researchers collect quantitative data, they also included a variety of ethnographic information taken from close observations of individual blogs.

For example, in an analysis on blogs in the religion cluster, researchers noted the idiosyncrasies of a hip-hop-loving Orthodox priest:

“He posts some rock music and trailers for Hollywood movies. He speaks a lot about faith and Christianity and says that the most important thing is to have faith in Christ, all other things a person can learn. He listens to rap music and comments on the arrest of the famous rapper who was arrested for 10 days because his lyrics which were considered offensive to police.”

Politics was also a huge topic of discussion among Russian bloggers. In particular, a section of the country’s blogosphere exhibited extreme nationalist sentiments. In an examination of a Russian nationalist’s blog:

“He describes in his blog the dangerous future found in Europe’s decline and new separatists wars that will destroy the modern world. He is very critical toward the current Russian government and in particular the development of the Russian innovation zone Skolkovo. He says that Medvedev is a neoliberal and no one in the West will really help Russia contrary to what Medvedev has argued. According to the blogger, Russia has to focus on uniting and protecting the Russian people all over the world.”

Some other interesting findings:

  • LiveJournal remains one of the most used platforms.
  • Compared to the map of the American online political landscape, the Russian blogosphere is not as isolated in terms of cross-spectrum debate. Researchers found that clusters of political blogs exhibit a degree of ideological openness (as opposed to containing themselves within communities of bloggers with similar political leanings).
  • The highest concentration of male bloggers (over 90%) belongs to the Nationalist category. On certain nationalist blogs, researchers found criticisms of the West and posts hailing Stalin. Unsurprisingly, the word cloud generated from this category indicated that “Russia” was used most often among these bloggers.
  • Russian bloggers link the most to YouTube.
  • Many bloggers use YouTube to “serve as a watchdog” on the elite class and corruption in the government.


For more information, download the report, available in both English and Russian.