LJ unblocked in Kazakhstan

I began a new Russian course a fortnight ago, which gives me a good excuse to spend more time reading Russian-language Livejournals.

The importance of LJ in the Russian-speaking world probably isn’t obvious from the English-speaking side. Pick any Russian journalist, writer or (non-corporate) public figure under 35, and there’s a decent chance they’ll have at least a nominal presence here*. LJ is home to independent journalism, to political discussion and organizing across the spectrum, to essays on art and culture, and generally to a large chunk of the Russian-speaking public sphere. That and the cat pictures, of course.

So it’s nice to read that LJ has just been unblocked in Kazakhstan. The block was imposed in 2008, apparently because the president’s estranged son-in-law rakhataliev, had been using it to criticize him. [LJ helpfully disabled the account in question, but apparently without any effect]

Now it’s been unblocked, apparently as a result of lobbying by the glitterati. Or so says e-grishkovets, Russian writer/actor/director Yevgeni Grishkovetz. He put on a play in the Kazakh capital last month. The president saw it, so the following day the political elite duly turned up en masse, all wanting to talk to him. Grishkovets knew what to do:

“I said that…I regret that many of my acquaintances, as well as Kazakh citizens I don’t know, are unable to take part in the life of LJ; that it is nonetheless a significant resource, whose users include not just me, but many other important and famous people, communication with whom is important for many people in Kazakhstan”

A month later, the Kazakh government has unblocked Livejournal. Quite possibly coincidence, of course, but in any case a Good Thing.

* Other Russian sites are comparable in volume of users, but IMO less politically important. Or maybe that’s just my pro-LJ bias speaking.

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