Sunday, January 20, 2019

Moscow Steps Up Campaign Against Regionalist Sites and Portals

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 20 – No longer are arrests and harassment of particular groups the best or even the only measure of how worried Moscow is about this or that issue. Its attacks on the online resources of groups is also a useful gauge of its concerns. Using that measure, the center is quite worried about regionalist movements.

            Andrey Romanov who runs the Free Ural portal even though he has been forced to flee Russia says that over the year that the Free Urals portal has been in operation, Moscow has stepped up its attacks on it, a reflection of what he says is growing concern in Moscow about regionalism there (

                Roskomnadzor has blocked the Free Urals portal,, on the territory of Russia and included it on the list of sites banned because they supposedly carry calls for mass disorders, territorial changes and violations of other laws. In October 2017, the Russian government forced the ISP that had been supporting the project to drop it.

            Fortunately, Romanov continues, “the work of the portal was restored by our Ukrainian friends.”

            In addition, he says, Moscow has blocked for than 25 Urals regionalist groups on the VKontakte; and it has succeeded in getting Twitter to block at least one of them, “the MFA of the Urals.”  This is in addition to its harassment and persecution of those who organize and write for these online groups.

            Aleksey Moroshkin, a Urals regionalist, has been in a psychiatric hospital for a year and a half. Romanov himself has been forced to flee abroad where he nonetheless is constantly threatened by Moscow representatives, and Rafis Kashapov, a Tatar activist who cooperates with the Urals regionalists, recently had to seek political asylum in Great Britain.

            Regionalism may not be as strong in Russia as many of its proponents say; but by their actions, the Russian authorities are clearly worried that it is or could be – and are devoting a great amount of effort and resources to prevent regionalism from gaining new adherents via the web. 

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