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21 Apr, 2009 23:58

Blogger Medvedev expands on the Internet

The Russian president is expanding his online presence. Dmitry Medvedev has opened a blog at the LiveJournal website to be more in touch with the web community.

A long-standing internet fan, Medvedev is well-known for using the worldwide web to spread his political messages.

He regularly posts video addresses to his blog on the Kremlin's website. Now all his posts are mirrored on LiveJournal, which is the most popular blogging website in the Russian segment of the Internet

Commenting on the decision to expand his blog, Medvedev said LJ fit best for public debate.

Naming expectations

When the launch was announced, there was much speculation among Russian bloggers about which name the president would choose. Light-minded folk hoped he would adopt the name of a popular web character, and one of the first popular online images in Russia, the Medved bear.

Authored by American actor and painter John Lurie as “Bear Surprise,” the character was adopted by Russian internet surfers, and became an instant hit back in 2006. Dmitry Medvedev surprised the community in his own way when he revealed during a conference his familiarity with Medved along with undercurrents of the IT world.

The hopes for a tongue-in-cheek name didn’t come true, though. The president’s new online community was named straightforwardly “blog_medvedev”.

Instant hit

While the official opening of the blog was scheduled on Wednesday, it was available online since Tuesday. The team of moderators wanted all technical details checked one last time before the inflow of the public began.

The name, however, quickly leaked out, and in a matter of six hours it scored a thousand subscribers, which is considered a milestone for Russian bloggers on LiveJournal. By Wednesday morning, the number more than doubled and is likely to grow further, since Medvedev’s videoblog on Kremlin website after a month online had more than 10,000 subscribers.

Since being sworn in last May, Medvedev has encouraged Russian officials to work on developing internet and digital TV outlets to reduce the degree of government control over the media.

Medvedev speaks on Internet benefits

In a new video address released on the day when Dmitry Medvedev’s new blog was made public, the Russian president spoke on how the Internet can help the country weather the global financial crisis, and make the work of public servants more transparent.

A full transcript of the address follows:

“The Russian Internet Forum starts off today. This year it will be held in conjunction with the “Business and Internet” conference. By the way, I took part in it last year and had a chance to see the most interesting projects. I shared my own thoughts on Internet development in our country and globally.”

“I wish the participants of the Forum success in their work, creative and interesting ideas, and valuable communication. I think that in your talks, you won’t be able to avoid a not so pleasant topic that has recently become dominant – the global financial crisis. Naturally, it has seriously affected the financial capability of our companies, including Internet companies as well.”

“By the way, recently this topic came up in our talks with United Russia representatives. Obviously, the amount of investment has decreased, advertising profits have fallen, the volume of on-line sales has shrunk, and salaries have gone down.”

“The Internet community has one asset that is of major advantage – it always has interesting ideas and unconventional solutions. Moreover, despite any kind of shock, the potential of this industry still remains great.”

“I am certain that answers to the financial problems will emerge as new projects start up that will help not only the Internet community as such, but to some extent, our economy as a whole. Even more so, I am sure that it is the internet that will help create additional employment and new opportunities for our people.”

“Recently, the Internet has developed into a fully-fledged independent system that rather strongly affects all areas of our lives. Social networks and blogs have come to the foreground. I’ve actually noticed that my blog has started living a life of its own. People talk to each other and discuss pressing issues – and I am happy about it. It is actually very difficult to try and regulate the Net, especially if it’s done in a primitive way. But one needs to be on the Internet on the Internet’s terms. And it seems to me that there is something we all can work on together. The Internet can not be an environment with dominating rules set by one country only, no matter how advanced or strong that country is. International standards should be developed in wider partnership.”

“The worldwide web should be developing as it has done up to now – like an open environment. Only in this case we can fight terrorism, xenophobia, and other illegal phenomena on the web. Copyright can be protected only on the basis of common agreements – I believe, I even insist, that this is of crucial importance.”

“So what can and should the State do to develop the Internet in our country, in Russia? I think the main task is to create all the conditions for maximum accessibility to Internet services. This is a very challenging task if we take into account the size of our country, you can trust me with this one – I started working on this task several years ago. And the second task, which is not less important, is to ensure authorities on all levels are transparent in this area. The situation with transparency, with the state’s readiness to provide different state services, so far leaves much to be desired, to put it mildly, and to be absolutely honest – such transparency hardly exists.”

“Nevertheless, there are steps being taken n this direction. Several state agencies have already launched quality websites; there are several examples of successfully implemented e-government – for example, in Tatarstan. The appearance of this video blog is also a big step, and many state officials could not resist temptation, and have followed my example. Recently, data on our senior officials' incomes has been published online. It is very important, however, that these separate examples do not end up as one-offs, but turn into some systematic endeavours. To fulfill this task, the Council on Information Society Development has been created by Presidential decree. The Council is aimed at stirring up the activity connected with the development of information transparency in our country. So I believe these two tasks, the first being providing full, high quality, and affordable Internet accessibility, and the second being information convenience for the citizens, with fully fledged e-government, are the key priorities for us in this sphere.”

“I’d also like to say that I’ve decided to expand discussion opportunities in my video blog. You’ve asked me for that. From now on, this blog will be a part of LiveJournal. All the records will be transferred to a LiveJournal community, where you’ll be able to do what you’ve always wanted to: make comments on the comments. So if you want to say something directly to the person who’s left comments, which was quite difficult earlier – now you have this opportunity, and you are welcome to use it.”