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Russia: One Year in Prison for Blog Comment

On July 7, Savva Terentyev, 22, a Russian blogger and musician from Syktyvkar, received a one-year suspended jail sentence for a comment (RUS) he posted on Feb. 15, 2007, on the blog of a local journalist Boris Suranov.

Here is a rough translation of the comment:

I hate cops [menty], [swear word omitted]

I don't agree with the thesis that “policemen still have the mentality of a repressive stick in the hands of the powers that be.” First, they are cops [menty, not militsionery, a less respectful way to refer to police]. Second, their mentality isn't still here. It's simply ineradicable. Once a musor [a synonym for ment; non-slang meaning of the word is "trash"], always a musor, even in Africa. Those who become cops [menty] – rednecks and thugs – are the dumbest and least educated representatives of the live/animal world. Would be great if there was an oven, similar to those in Auschwitz, in the center of every Russian city, at the main square (in Syktyvkar, right in the center of Stefanovskaya, where the New Year's tree stands, so that everyone could see), and there'd be a daily ceremony – or, even better, twice a day (at noon and midnight, for example) – of burning a dishonest cop [ment] there. The people would be doing the burning. This would be the first step towards cleansing the society of the dirt that the thuggish cops are.

The court found Terentyev guilty of inciting enmity and publicly humiliating representatives of a social group (Article 282, part 1 of the Russian Federation's Criminal Code).

Here is a rough translation of a tiny part of the 12-page “guilty” verdict (RUS), posted by one of the defense witnesses, LJ user mezak, on his blog (the original of the passage below is on p. 11; the post also has photos of Terentyev, his defense team, and the judge reading the verdict; there are 376 comments to the post so far):

[...] Defendant Terentyev S.S. [Savva Sergeyevich], by means of the language, by having a negative impact on the public opinion and mood, and by aiming to incite social enmity and hatred, to escalate social conflict, to sharpen social contradictions, to awaken base instincts in people, contrasted the people and police officers, calling to [their] physical annihilation by the people. The text does not allow for ambiguous understanding and interpretation of [its] content and meaning, because it should be understandable to any average native speaker of Russian who has basic oral and written language skills. [...]

LJ user sholademi re-posted the verdict on his blog and added this note (RUS) at the end of his entry:

Hmm, it has to be noted that the court's verdict contains many orthographic mistakes. This, in addition to the legal side of the case (namely, the questionable linguistic analysis). In short, it's getting crazier and crazier.

In another post, LJ user sholademi posted a 5-question survey (RUS), explaining that Terentyev's defense team was planning to appeal the blogger's sentence and, among other things, would like to “find out how Savva Terentyev's case is going to affect the discussion environment in the Russian blogosphere.” Below are the survey's results so far:

1. Before Savva Terentyev's case, were there many LJ bloggers who allowed themselves to speak harshly of law enforcement and other state institutions and officials?

a. Many bloggers made such statements – 842 (75.4%)

b. Only some bloggers made such statements – 233 (20.9%)

c. I've never encountered such statements on blogs – 41 (3.7%)

2. Before the verdict on Savva Terentyev's case, how often did you encounter harsh statements about law enforcement and other state institutions and officials on your friends feed?

а. Such statements were pretty frequent on my friends feed – 664 (59.7%)

b. Such statements were pretty rare on my friends feed – 347 (31.2%)

c. Such statements were never present on my friends feed – 102 (9.2%)

3. If the verdict on Savva Terentyev's case comes into force, how will it affect the number of bloggers who would allow themselves to make harsh statements about law enforcement and other state institutions and officials in open posts and comments?

a. Their numbers will grow significantly – 193 (17.4%)

b. Their numbers will grow, but not significantly – 239 (21.6%)

c. Their numbers will decrease, but not significantly – 550 (49.6%)

d. Their numbers will decrease significantly – 126 (11.4%)

4. If the verdict on Savva Terentyev's case comes into force, how will it affect the number of bloggers who would allow themselves to make harsh statements about law enforcement and other state institutions and officials in locked (friends-only) posts?

a. Their numbers will grow significantly – 386 (34.9%)

b. Their numbers will grow, but not significantly – 470 (42.5%)

c. Their numbers will decrease, but not significantly – 219 (19.8%)

d. Their numbers will decrease significantly – 31 (2.8%)

5. Do you consider Savva Terentyev's sentence fair?

a. I consider it fair – 73 (6.5%)

b. I consider it unfair, as it is too soft – 12 (1.1%)

c. I consider it unfair, as it is too harsh – 71 (6.3%)

d. I consider it unfair in principle, because, in my opinion, Savva did not commit a crime – 963 (86.1%)

On July 14, Savva Terentyev and his lawyer held a press conference in Moscow (see photo of Terentyev at LJ user mezak‘s blog). LJ user dolboeb – Anton Nossik, the self-described “Social Media Evangelist at SUP,” the online media company that owns LiveJournal.com – announced the event on his blog and added this note (RUS) at the end of his post:

[...] Each month, 10-12 million comments appear in the Cyrillic LJ (10.5 million in June, 130.5 million in the past 12 months). On the average, every post gets 3.7 comments. [The police unit that initiated Savva Terentyev's case] has plenty of work ahead (unless, of course, they've got nothing else to busy themselves with).

At the press conference, LJ user dolboeb reiterated his point (RUS, link to an article in Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper for which Anna Politkovskaya used to write):

[...] Of course, spending 15 minutes on the web and finding a criminal is a lot more convenient than running around the dark, narrow streets with a gun. As a taxpayer, I'm not satisfied with this situation. [...]

5 comments

  • sam

    I was just planning on making a few comments to some blogs I find interesting today and this article came in front of me.

    So what do i do now? so will this have a devastating effect to other bloggers out there in Russia?

    I think not because I believe that bloggers by nature feel free to write and make their own comments to interesting posts, just as I did now here.

  • Duprost….

    Duprost….

  • we must be more carrefull lol

  • Damn.. that’s a serious penalty for a comment.

  • We are lucky we aren’t in RUSSIA.LoL

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