Staunton, December 21 – For the last two decades, various surveys have reported the rising number of Russians who use the Internet for news or entertainment. But now a new one provides a measure of their more active use of that new communications medium. It finds that nearly half of all Russians have written something on social networks.
The study, prepared by Brand Analytics and presented at a recent conference in St. Petersburg by one of its authors, Vasily Cherny, reports that the number of Russians who report actually posting something on social networks has risen from 27 million in 2019 to 64 million this year, most only on Instagram, Vkontakte, YouTube and TikTok (gorod-812.ru/polovina-naseleniya-rossii-chto-to-pishet-v-soczsetyah/).
Some of this explosive growth no doubt reflects the fact that many Russians were restricted to their homes because of efforts to fight the pandemic and thus exploited this communication channel more than might otherwise have been the case. But even if the number declines, it is significant for two reasons.
On the one hand, half of all Russians are certainly more like two-thirds or even three-quarters of working age ones, are now familiar and even comfortable with these channels. They are likely to continue to use them and cause others to use them as well, even if there is a slight fallback after the pandemic ends.
And on the other, this sets up a potential conflict with the regime of a size few other of the Kremlin’s repressive measures has. Most repressive measures do not directly affect most Russians even if the suppression of dissent and imposition of more media controls harms them in essential ways.
But now that the powers have turned to moving against social media – on the latest measures, see krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/82699 -- obviously fearful that such media work against the Kremlin, they are dealing not with hundreds or thousands of people who might go into the streets but tens of millions who expect to be able to use the Internet in the way they now do.
Meanwhile, according to a second study, the Internet is producing another change in Russian society that is creating additional problems for the regime. Because villagers are exposed by online materials to city life, even more of them are interested in leaving rural areas and moving not to local cities but to the megalopolises (realtribune.ru/news/people/5622).
That means that the major cities of Russia once again will find themselves with a large fraction of their population consisting of former rural residents, people who are often referred to as peasants. That helped to define the cities of the USSR in the 1930s and 1940s; and the Internet appears likely to lead to a repeat of that phenomenon.
That is especially so because the Internet like collectivization and industrialization in Stalin’s time is leading so many to move from villages to the major cities so quickly that they likely will not have the chance a slower process would have given to acculturate them to urban norms.
Instead, and thanks to the Internet, they may challenge precisely what attracted them to the cities in the first place.