Staunton, June 13 -- Everyone today is familiar with the process by which an article posted online can be reposted and thus reach a far larger audience than otherwise would be the case. But many have forgotten that with a centrally controlled media, the Soviet government was able to engage in “reposting” before the word entered the language.
One such case involved Nina Andreyeva’s infamous anti-Gorbachev diatribe, “I cannot give up my principles” which appeared in Sovetskaya Rossiya on March 13, 1988, when Mikhail Gorbachev was out of the country and his opponents in the leadership opened the pages of that RSFSR newspaper to her.
But they did more than that, commentator Tikhomir Pavlov says. They arranged for it to be “reposted” 936 times in republic, oblast, local and departmental newspapers, simultaneously signaling central support for her ideas and spreading them throughout the entire country (odnarodyna.org/article/kak-razrushali-sssr-ne-postupivshayasya-principami-nina-andreeva).
The article and its reposting happened because Gorbachev was in Yugoslavia and his liberal ideology secretary Aleksandr Yakovlev was simultaneously in Mongolia. As a result, the chief editor of Sovetskaya Rossiya could act without getting their approval, and others could disseminate what he published elsewhere.
When the two reformers returned, they stopped this process, and they succeeded in removing some of those behind the declaration, including those who had helped prepare it. But the damage had been done, the fissures in the central leadership shown to all, and the dangers of “reposting” highlighted for everyone.
After her letter was published, the journalist reports, Nina Andreyeva received “more than 10,000 grateful letters over the next two years.” And she provided ideological support for those who opposed Gorbachev and the reforms that he instituted and that followed after he left office and the USSR disappeared.
She lived on until July 24, 2020 without ever having sacrificed her principles and with a remarkable number of allies, many of whom came to her side precisely because of what may come to be recognized as the first “reposting” in Soviet times of dissidence within the elite, an outcome that certainly shapes how many Russian leaders now view the Internet.
Perhaps especially among those who appear to share her “principles.”