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Censorship in the Motherland

Censorship in the Motherland

Life in Russia as it is Today 

By Emmett Pennington-Guthrie 

The free media that once existed in Russia before the war with Ukraine is no more, according to Gleb Drumi, junior business accounting major here at Walla Walla Univeristy. [1] 

Drumi moved to the U.S. from Russia in 2018 and currently maintains contact with individuals in Russia and Ukraine. Drumi explained that since the start of the war, “many Russian journalists had to leave the country due to concerns about their safety in Russia.” [2] 

The impacts of this have included the closure of the liberal radio station “Echo of Moscow,” as well as what Drumi considered possibly the last independent TV channel, “TV Rain.” [3] 

“Echo of Moscow” was taken off the air shortly after its website was blocked, as a Russian state censorship watchdog declared it was spreading “deliberately false information about the actions of Russian military personnel.” [4] 

The censorship watchdog in question had previously “instructed outlets covering the war in Ukraine to use only official Defense Ministry information, and banned words like ‘invasion,’ ‘war’ and ‘offensive’ in favor of Russia’s preferred ‘special operation,’” according to The Moscow Times. [5] 

Furthermore, Drumi explained that the Russian government has continued to shut down independent magazines and websites on a nearly daily basis. [6] 

“As a result, I think that today there are no fully independent media platforms that can say the truth about the war… The government TV in Russia is basically the only source of information about the war,” Drumi stated. [7] 

This may explain why a poll in early March showed 58% support for the invasion of Ukraine among Russians, with only 23% of those polled being in opposition to the invasion. [8] 

Even other forms of communication are limited by Russian law, with Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, being banned. Even TikTok no longer allows people in Russia to upload videos, after Russian laws banned “false information” about the invasion. [9] 

In response to these restrictions, demand for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in Russia has skyrocketed, going up 2,692% on March 14th compared to a week before the invasion. [10] VPNs allow Russians access to websites that would otherwise be blocked by spoofing the location of the computer trying to access the blocked sites. VPNs are used in other countries with internet restrictions for the same reason. 

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Even with the bans on forms of social media and crackdowns on independent media, there have been anti-war protests in Moscow leading to thousands of arrests of protesters. [11] 

Life in Russia has become harder for many of its citizens because of the war, as economic sanctions have collapsed the value of the ruble by a third, and foreign bank cards and payment platforms such as Apple Pay have stopped working. [12] 

Additionally, Russian citizens are subject to purchasing limits in stores, as prices go up for goods almost daily. [13] 

These impacts on daily life aren’t the only ones hurting Russian citizens as young Russians also have concerns about the draft, especially with an annual conscription beginning April 1. 

While Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu pledged that new recruits wouldn’t be sent to front lines in Ukraine, this claim has been met with skepticism after videos online showed new conscripts having been captured after being sent to the front lines, which occurred early in the invasion. [14] 

Sources: 

  1. Interview with Gleb Drumi, 3/24/22. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. (2022, March 3rd). Russian liberal radio mainstay Ekho Moskvy closes after pulled off air. The Moscow Times. https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/03/03/russian-liberal-radio-mainstay-ekho-moskvy-closes-after-pulled-off-the-air-a76730 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Interview with Gleb Drumi, 3/24/22. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Parker, C. (2022, March 8). 58 percent of Russians support the invasion of Ukraine, and 23 percent oppose it, new poll shows. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/08/russia-public-opinion-ukraine-invasion/ 
  1. Bond, S. & Allyn, B. (2022, March 21). Russia is restricting social media. Here’s what we know. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2022/03/07/1085025672/russia-social-media-ban 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. McCarthy, H. (2022, March 17). What is life like for Westerners in Russia amid the war in Ukraine? Euronews. https://www.euronews.com/2022/03/17/what-is-life-like-for-westerners-in-russia-amid-the-war-in-ukraine 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. (2022, March 31). War in Ukraine fuels fears among draft-age Russian youths. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/war-ukraine-fuels-fears-draft-age-russian-youths-83804199 
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