Staunton, December 27 – In some regions and republics of the Russian Federation just as in some union republics in Soviet times, the media are able to publish or post online materials that their counterparts in Moscow and in Russian could not, although in others the regional authorities are even more repressive than the central ones.
The author of these lines explored this pattern more than 25 years ago in “Readers, Writers and Republics: The Structural Basis of Non-Russian Literary Politics,” in Mark Beissinger and Lyubomyr Hajda, eds., The Nationalities Factor in Soviet Politics and Society (Boulder, 1990), pp. 131-147.
The larger the republic, it found, the more Moscow insisted on tight censorship, while the smaller the republic, the less the center was worried about doing do. Moreover, the larger the republic, the more differentiated were its journalistic and political elites and thus the more willing the latter were to sacrifice the former, while the smaller the republic, the reverse was true (cf. windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/07/some-regional-russian-media-may-now-be.html).
That this pattern may be re-emerging is suggested not only by the daily offerings of regional aggregator sites like 7x7-journal.ru/ but also by Russian journalists who say they often find things of great value in the regional media that they do not see in Moscow outlets (stoletie.ru/russkiiy_proekt/prosvetit__znachit_vooruzhit_372.htm).
Something similar may be happening again; but just as it is easier for those who follow Russian affairs to track the regional media than it used to be, so too it is easier for the authorities in Moscow to do the same – and, on the basis of what they see, use the same kind of repressive actions against regional and non-Russian-language outlets.
Evidence of that trend is provided by the decision of Roskomnadzor to fine the Seven by Seven regional Internet portal 20,000 rubles (330 US dollars) for publications in Komi and in English translation (7x7-journal.ru/news/2019/12/26/rkn-vs-7x7 and znak.com/2019-12-26/izdanie_7_7_po_isku_rkn_oshtrafovali_za_materialy_opublikovannye_na_yazyke_komi).
Pavel Andreyev, the director of the portal, says he does not view the fine as justified. “Russia is a multi-national country although it seems some have forgotten that.” Seven by Seven was set up in the Komi Republic and people there and elsewhere “have the right to speak and write in their native language.”
“We consider it important to support linguistic diversity in Russia. We have never had plans to censor a blogger who publishes in his native language,” the editor says. As for the English translations, they came from Russian-language originals rather than from Komi materials.