misc / random musings

A tale of five sites

Take an amateur RAS* student, still recovering from an intense period of studying and research. Now, remove all assignments, give her a blog and far more time than she could ever use, but keep her curiosity about Russia intact. What do you get? Exploratory and opinion posts!

This is another of those rare times when I’ll actually share my raw thoughts about something, and this time it’s about five prominent (or not so prominent) media outlets in the Russosphere. I use all five of these sites for either language practice or news. There’s no guarantee you’ll agree with my criticisms, but I try to offer resolutions when possible. So here’s my opinion of each Russia media outlet, for what it’s worth.

inoSMI

The mission of inoSMI is to translate news pieces from all over the world, from their original languages (for example, English, French, German, etc.) into Russian. InoSMI is a fantastic source of news and opinions, and it is one of my favorite resources for Russian reading and vocabulary practice. I don’t read it religiously or anything, since I don’t have much time to spare, but there’s always something interesting there; the comment forums are lively. With the comments, I get to read Russian as it’s actually used in informal situations, as compared to how I use it in class (mostly discussing classic Russian lit). Another feature which makes inoSMI a great resource is that the original piece is linked within the translation. So after a RU to ENG translation exercise or vocab exercise, I can go back and read the original article to see if I got the words right.

But I’ve noticed something strange about inoSMI: there’s a surprising amount of egregious anti-Russian agitprop from the foreign press on the site. Like, anti-Russian op-eds by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Anne Applebaum and such. Not that there’s anything particularly bad about that – after all, the purpose of the site is to inoculate Russians against foreign “propaganda”, right? And you can’t do that without providing examples, right?

Apparently not. After digging a little deeper into inoSMI’s history, I discovered it’s actually a neo-liberal enterprise. It was created by Russian liberals who wanted to bring the Western POV to ordinary Russians (who I’m assuming they thought were brainwashed by Putinite ways of thinking or someth.). I found a Wikipedia piece about inoSMI’s founder Yaroslav Ognev which quotes him as saying:

InoSMI broadens one’s conscience. It occurred so, that it’s read by those who aren’t satisfied with the Russian press. By those, who are touched with the intelligence of Western journalists and experts, their professionalism and analytical capabilities. By those, who understand a deal of the free media, democracy and Russian bears that they love so much … The activity of InoSmi led yet to the one sensible result — foreign media now can be considered actually worldwide. They are not only being avidly read, but also loved in Russia. Without that “avid” love of the Russian people the audience of the foreign media would be incomplete and their influence won’t be worldwide.

So that’s that, I guess. I’m not sure how successful the project has been then, since many articles from The Source of Truth are mocked in the comments as being BS. Still, inoSMI’s a very useful site.

Russia Insider

Russia Insider was launched in September 2014 by a group of expats living in Russia who felt that coverage of Russia is biased and inaccurate. Its declared goal is to combat one-sided negative coverage of Russia in the Western MSM.

I hold Russia Insider in similar regard as I do RT: There are a handful of very respectable and balanced experts writing for RI (like Danielle Ryan and Brian MacDonald for RT), and its media criticism is often spot-on in my opinion, but there are also many pieces that are far below that. And don’t even get me started on the discussions going on in the comment sections. RI is definitely more emotional than cerebral in its Russia coverage – I’m not sure that’s a good thing. See this article for an example of how emotional appeals can weaken what could be a very good piece.

Still, I’ve got to admire RI’s passion and efforts to correct misconceptions about modern Russia – few news outlets even bother to try. I think RI has the potential to become a very good source of information on Russia – with a little cleanup of its editorial policy. Often RI seems to be too one-sided in its treatment of issues; this could be resolved by providing well-argued but opposing views and allowing the readers to make up their own minds. The inclusion of more scholarly articles and in-depth analysis could be an added plus, though I understand RI might not have the resources. Also, less ‘spiritual values’ and ad hominem, please.

One last thought: though Russia Insider has every right and very good reason to be skeptical of the MSM, I don’t think labeling one’s site as THE Media Skeptic site is going to attract wider readership. Whether we want to admit it or not, in the present political climate there are many people who will dismiss an otherwise good site simply because it identifies with alternative media (which they’ll likely think of as the home of loopy conspiracy theories).

Johnson’s Russia List

The JRL is another great resource for the Russia-watcher on the go. It aggregates many of the web Russia articles published daily onto the JRL site and into an easy-to-read email newsletter, so you don’t have to visit all of those news outlets individually for your Russia fix. JRL strives to be a balanced resource by including all voices from Russia Today to Radio Free Europe. Unfortunately, the sad reality of the information war is that most of those articles collected in the daily newsletter will be of the Western or anti-Russian viewpoint.

Russian Insight

I discovered Russia Insight by accident one day as I was browsing Twitter. The best that I can describe it as is “off-JRL”. It has no editors, only an algorithm that browses Twitter, YouTube and over 110 news portals to aggregate the most popular and talked about Russia content, as decided by fellow Internet users. In my opinion, it has the same irremediable problem as the JRL, because of its reliance on trending stories.

Politrussia.com

PolitRussia is another site I found on Twitter. It’s apparently an online magazine that was launched in 2014 to “create objective media, and take part in a constructive debate with the audience” (создания объективного СМИ и привлечь к участию в конструктивной дискуссии аудиторию). I haven’t been reading PolitRussia for long, and like the other portals I don’t read it religiously, but I have noticed a fairly diverse range of opinions among articles: conservative, statist, liberal and even what I call “pseudo-patriotic”. Pro-government and anti-government. So that’s good.

That’s all I can really say about PolitRussia, since again, I haven’t been reading it for that long.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Know of any other good sites that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below. I’m always looking for new things to read.


*Russian area studies.

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19 thoughts on “A tale of five sites

  1. For something exotic in Russian you could try oper.ru. It is a sort of a sect in certain respects (and has a lot of commercial posts) but I’d bet language and ideology will be interesting (even if for one visit). Comment section and videos is what worth looking at since except videos it mostly just reposts.

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    • Alexey, have do you have a conscience?! Giving directions to the dreaded tupi40k to a young and easily impressed American youth? Not even a couple of words about its owner and propitiator, St. Pete’s resident Dmitri “Senior Operative Goblin” Puchkov, films translator and author? Shocking, absolutely shocking! 😉

      Yours truly is ages-long lurker (quelle surpise!) on oper.ru. No, I never bothered registering or post there, That’s already fine by me. But this site is a must see for you if you want to learn what really makes the vast majority of these evil, sub0human Russian sovoks, vatniks and zaputintsi tick.

      #FeelThePowerOfTupic40k

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      • Use to visit it every day dozen years ago but now only watch Zhukov’s and Yakovlev’s videos on history. May be I’m just too old but place now seems infested with grim idiots in comments and frauds like Yulin in videos.

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        • Actually, I’m very respective of Yulin. Can’t call him a “fraud”. Kurgyinyan? Sure, he’s a fraud. Not Yulin though. The man is honestly a communist. I (probably) can’t become one. I’m “Red” enough by the mere fact of denouncing the “Freest 90s” and “The Russia That We Have Lost” ™. But I can as easily denounce all the usual slanders aimed at Boris Godunov, Ivan IV, Richard III and Gilles de Rais.

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          • I call him a fraud because although I’m sure he is specialist in his field, be it history of USSR or Communist Party or whatever. But he has a strong opinion on EVERYTHING usually expressed in arrogant and offensive manner. From medieval warfare to pederasty in Classical Greece. And it is worth noting that although he knows next to nothing on those subjects apparently he feels that being forceful with expressing his opinion makes up for lack of knowledge.

            Considering that he does all that under cover of being historian I struggle to find another term to describe him.

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            • “But he has a strong opinion on EVERYTHING usually expressed in arrogant and offensive manner.”

              Sure he has. Any person can have this kind of passion. Personally, I was not impressed with his comments in the comment section to Maria Zakharova’s (the Foreign Minostry Spokeswoman) interview to Goblin. But I can’t either ignore both her orevious remarks and facts of her dodginf answering some very pointed questions.

              I’ve yet to read/listen to Boris Vitalyevich expressing his opinion on things that he is totally ingorant of. Although I support Klim Zhukov in the debate of whether there was any infantry in Kulikovo field battle present (i.e. – there wasn’t any) I won’t write off Boris Yulin as a mere “fraud”. Have you watched his videos on the Soviet period, or on the essentials on communism like the class theory?

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              • Few. And as I said I’m sure his knowledge in those areas is significant. Just like Fomenko’s knowledge of mathematics, I might add. (Have you seen his video on Fomenko btw?)

                Yet he doesn’t limit himself to area of his specialization, especially in comments or on forum pretending to have expertise and authority he doesn’t have. That is the reason I use this term describing him.

                P.S. For lulz I recommend searching for his tread on homosexuality in Classical Greece.

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                • How about a link to spare me the trouble?

                  And I can’r equate him with Fomenko. They are figure of different caliber. Should you provide me with a straight up examples of Boris Yulin eating the proverbiasl shit due to his crappy comments – sure, I’ll admit him as yet another putz-ients. But not sooner.

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                  • Hmm… I have a link trough search and even short quote from his epic “out of closet” post but now it is apparently closed to lesser beings

                    Боевые пидарасы античного мира? – Tynu40k Goblina
                    “…это позиция пидарасов, которые везде ищут своих. Наиболее ярким примером являются, кстати, псевдоисторические книжки М.Гиссен.”
                    http://oper.ru/oforum/read.php?page=1&thread_id=1049542095

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                  • Hmm… I have a link trough search and even small quote of his epic “out of the closet” post but forum it appears is now closed to lesser beings.

                    Боевые пидарасы античного мира? – Tynu40k Goblina
                    > это позиция пидарасов, которые везде ищут своих. Наиболее ярким примером являются, кстати, псевдоисторические книжки М.Гиссен.
                    http://oper.ru/oforum/read.php?page=1&thread_id=1049542095

                    And equating him with Fomenko although a way too radical, yet so in accordance to Yulin’s own style that I find it just too tempting to pass by =)

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                    • Ошибка 404 – нет такой страницы на этом сайте

                      Google without any doubt is now weaponized by the Dark One. When I try to search for “боевые 3.14дарасы” it links me to a new article about Sacramento’s mass stabbing. Reading it after a thoroughly handshakable article from, say, the VICE news brings a new definition to the concept of “cognitive dissonanace”.

                      Can we at least agree on one thing? Yulin, Zhkov and now Igor Pykhalov are all people who came to tupi40k from the now defunct “Ledokol” program of lectures on Russian history and communism. I respect all of them for their knowledge – Pykhalov most of all. When other’s were just talking the talk he decided to go to Donbass as a volunteer in summer of 2014 and even fought in Luhansk oblast in August that year. He is also an author of the books on history that make liberasts and anti-Sovietists cry their tasty tears of butthurt.

                      Boris Yulin is, without doubt, a broad spectrum specialist and really a smart(ass) man. He is outspoken, right. I don’t know the context of this phrase about Greece’s combat gays but I won’t deny such thing like Thebes “Sacred Band” (oh, the amount of jokes cracked by your average student of history in the 1st year!) and, well, basically anything written by Herodotus. I have no idea how you can deny this.

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        • “Easily impressed American”?!

          Of course you are, J.T! How else can you explain your own most caring and thoughtful government attempts to curb and squash the attempts of insidious Kremlenite propaganda gining more ground in the Land of the Free? That’s how Vlad Poutin gets inside your skull! How else could you will kill people in the name of ‘Murika, ‘Mocracy and The Apple Pie?!

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  2. The Duran is a news site edited by Alexander Mercouris which has a lot of potential. Mercouris’ analyses are pretty good. He was one of my favorite writers at RI – back when he was writing for them.

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  3. 2 Lyttenburgh

    Apparently forum now is closed to lesser beings but here is search summary. You could find second page (admittedly not as good as first) of this tread in google cash:

    Боевые пидарасы античного мира? – Tynu40k Goblina

    But this is as far as I would go with searching for his pearls. Off the top of my head I also recall him also claiming England to be youngest nation of Europe (How anyone could come to such conclusion is beyond me) but it’s been a long time since I paid much attention to him so that’s it.

    Calling him a fraud and making Fomenko comparisons indeed could be radical… But I mean common! This is Yulin! It is so fitting with his own style that I couldn’t pass the opportunity

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  4. Again 2 Lyttenburgh

    I don’t deny Thebes’ “Sacred Band” and many other things about Classical Greece. This is Yulin who denies those things, denies general consensus of specialists (not all but current orthodoxy) on this subject and literally calls them all “пидарасы” for supporting idea of widespread homosexuality in Greece of the time. It is highly vulgar thing to say nowadays, but he acts to quote from Pelevin: “as a person who has forsaken pleasures of homosexual love in honor of misunderstood social contract”.

    I mean this whole tread was totally ridiculous and was last straw in my attitude to Yulin which was building up for some time. I can’t take him seriously and don’t consider any kind of “broad specialist”. He thinks he is but he is not and more than that he lives in his own fantasy land getting offended every time someone casts doubts on its reality.

    I do respect Zhukov and Pykhalov (and many others) but Yulin sharply stands out from this list for me. If you don’t see anything fundamentally wrong with him as historian, well we have to agree to disagree.

    And let’s finish this argument since it went far from the topic and highly unlikely to change opinion of any of us =)

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    • Yeeaah, I probably should’ve pointed this out earlier, but this conversation violates Rule 1 of the comments policy (staying on topic). Consider this a warning.

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