Its growth in users has far outpaced that of VKontakte and Odnoklassniki and compares with the losses that YouTube, now banned in Russia, has suffered, the experts say. While it still has fewer users than VKontakte, 8.73 million compared to 13.2 million, it has become “the most important source of information,” while outlets like YouTube are dominated by video bloggers.
The Kremlin initially tried to block it as it has many other social media platforms, but recognizing its power, the powers that be have shifted their approach and now are actively engaged in using it, putting out their own messages in competition with those of others (ridl.io/ru/samizdat-dlya-vladimira-putina/ andnewizv.ru/article/general/16-11-2022/telegram-vs-televizor-messendzher-stal-v-rossii-vazhneyshim-istochnikom-informatsii).
There have even been reports, since taken down in most cases, that Putin himself plans to open a telegram channel much as Ramzan Kadyrov and some other leaders already have. On that, see centrasia.org/newsA.php?st=1668789540 which reposts a smi.media/ru_news/ report that has been removed.)
According to Leonid Zlotnikov of Novyye izvestiya, “the Russian propaganda machine is actively using Telegram to increase its influence” at home and abroad. This past summer, Kyiv published a list of 100 Telegram channels posing as Ukrainian but disseminating pro-Moscow messages.
But the largest part of this official effort on Telegram involved those who pose as military correspondents and formulate a political agenda, “probably to a greater extent than even television propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, the journalist says, taking parts in debates among various factions within the security forces and the government.
Thus, “while remaining equally useful to the opposition and pro-government structures,” Zlotnikov argues, “Telegram is increasingly becoming a rival and a replacement for television in shaping national political agendas and as an instrument for spreading informational influence.”