Sold down the Volga - The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Sold down the Volga

The straw that breaks the camel's back.

There is a fundamental inconsistency between a company that aggressively promotes the policies of a particular political party, and one that has purchased a say-what-you-like site. If the fundamentalist conservatism of Six Apart wasn't bad enough, it's now sold Livejournal to SUP, part of the Russian mafia.

Owner Alexander Mamut is the epitome of a vulture capitalist, who has been assisted by his nepotistic ties to the Kremlin under ancien president Yeltsgin and prochain ancien president Poutine. He was a co-conspirator with Roman Abramovitch (now of CSKA Kensington) in the theft of Transneft, still has to answer questions about money laundering 1999. He foreclosed a loan for independent television channel TVS, effectively forcing it into state hands. He hasn't brought anything to the table except dishonour, and money. Kommersant, the Russian equivalent of the FT, reports the sale price was USD 30 million (€20.5m, £14.5m). Just to put that in perspective, the number of accounts last Friday was 14.35 million. We now know the value of a Livejournal account.

A one pound coin

It is abundantly clear that Mamut is in the pocket of Poutine, and does anything and everything in his power to suppress any dissent against the regime that has made him obscenely rich. It is also clear that this man cannot be trusted to run a bath, let alone guard free speech. We already know that Livejournal is the de facto blogging platform of choice in Russia, to the extent that it houses 30 of the top 50 bloggers in Russia. By comparison, not a single Livejournal blog makes Technorati's top 100.

Our belief is that Mamut has bought Livejournal with a view to its Russian userbase, and with a view to forcing them into line with Poutine and whoever succeeds him as president next year. Coming on the same morning as the news that Poutine's party continued to nakedly steal parliamentary elections, we must assume that this is nothing more than an attempt to repeat the errors of the 20th century, and keep Russia in line with a different but equally inflexible prevailing orthodoxy.

We should also remember that Livejournal suffered a massive denial of service attack in early June. According to Six Apart, the cause was an attempt to promote (or oppose, it was never made clear) the opposition DPNI and NBP parties. It's possible that this was a promotional activity by two far-right parties. It's also possible that this was a deliberate operation by forces loyal to Poutine, and a demonstration of just how miserable things are going to be when the anti-democrats are in charge.

The 2005 sale of Livejournal to Six Apart was a business error. The 2007 sale to the Ruskies looks set to prove a philosophical error.

We see this as a bridge too far. The RSS feeds of this site and Glickoblog to Livejournal have been suspended with immediate effect, and we have relinquished the authentication for those who posted under the Friends-And-Enemies-Of-The-Revolution Lock. (In other words, we've deleted two old accounts forever, and deleted our main account, at least for the moment. Not that this has stopped us from being able to read security-locked posts, which is rather interesting, and probably means that we'll be undeleting the account for a few minutes each week, then re-deleting it again.)

Nothing in this is permanent, and we will return to the matter towards the end of the month, taking a view on whether there have been significant improvements in things worth improving, without damaging things worth preserving. We will welcome comments and correspondence from those who still keep journals there on this or any other matter.

The only commitment we will make: the Decline of Livejournal This Month series of posts has now finished.

This post was revised a number of times in the first day or so of its existence. Modulo spelling errors, we now deem it to be complete, though we reserve the right to partially reverse ourselves.

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