The old saying is that Russia never changes through elections but only through revolutions. It is tempting to see the recent protests on Moscow’s streets as the embryonic stages of the next upheaval. But behind them, there is a different kind of revolution in the making, which the Kremlin is having a difficult time addressing.
Russia now has over 50m internet users and a lively online community. Alexei Navalny, a prominent figure in the protest movement, who was arrested on a demonstration last Monday, made his name as an anti-corruption blogger and the protests themselves have been coordinated through social media.
Yet while the Kremlin keeps strict control over traditional media (especially television), its attempts to make inroads into online media have proven underwhelming.
Sunday’s election drew the now familiar denial-of-service attacks on the websites of blog sites, media outlets and election observers. But with Twitter, Facebook and mobile phone networks still functioning, the attacks did little to derail the coverage.