Wait, where did the astroturf go?

I just noticed that a number of pro-Russian astroturf websites — including some that I used to read regularly — have gone dark.

First off, there are the Transnistria pages. The Tiraspol Times used to provide a weekly dose of happy, upbeat news about the good times in Transnistria. It’s gone now — “account suspended”.

Then there was transnistria.co.uk, a more or less daily blog that did the same thing, interspersed with some whining about how nobody was nice to Transnistria. That’s gone too. I can’t find archives for either of them, which is a shame — there was some wonderfully wacky stuff in there.

Visitpmr,com, the site for Transnistrian tourism (really) is still up, but it hasn’t been updated for a long time now. Pridenestrovie.net, same thing — still exists, nothing new since 2007. EODE.org, purporting to be an NGO, published one “report” about the wonderful state of Transnistrian democracy three years ago and has been “under construction” ever since. And transnistria.info hasn’t updated its news feed since March.

Okay, so someone was funding a disinformation/propaganda campaign for Transnistria, and they stopped. That’s no big deal. But some of the louder voices of the pro-Russian disinformatsiya have also fallen silent. Remember the British Helsinki Human Rights Group? Their website is gone, as is their “partner” OSCE Watch. (BHHRG’s loudest voice, professional nuisance John Laughland, has moved to Paris, where he’s working for a Russian-funded think tank. Can’t find what’s happened to the rest of them.) And ICDISS — the “International Council for Democratic Institutions and State Sovereignty” — hasn’t updated their website in over a year.

It was always obvious that these various outlets were pieces of the same organism. It’s a little weird to see it confirmed this way, though. Wonder if we’ll ever find out how it all fit together behind the scenes. Eh, probably not.

Meanwhile: does anyone know a good English-language source for news about Transnistria? There’s a German-language site that’s still live, but it doesn’t update very often. There’s the Transnistrian Parliament’s website, which is interesting to look at — basically it’s like glimpsing an alternate universe where the USSR survived into the age of the internet — but not very informative. Otherwise, it’s a lot of scavenging among blogs and human rights reports and other such odds and ends.

I never thought I’d miss the Tiraspol Times and its friends, but it’s surprising how little is left now that they’re gone.

11 thoughts on “Wait, where did the astroturf go?

  1. Interesting.

    I note that Regnum.ru (which is in someway connected with organs of the Russian state, but which avoids the more brash and blatant style of propaganda churned out by a lot of those Tiraspol-linked “news websites” no longer offers an English version, although it still has a reasonable Russian section on the territory

    Although I’m unsure if their English version extended much to the land of Tsar Smirnov.

    This (from a journalists’ association in Chisinau) apparently lists all the organs of the press, with websites given as appopriate, operating across the entire territory of the former Moldovan SSR, as of last year. I don’t have time to check now, but I suppose thter is possibly a chance that some of those based in Transnistria might have English bits on their websites


  2. What did BHHRG do that was so bad?

    Question the offical Yushenko poisoning story? 5 years later investigation has been sidelined and less than half of Ukrainians believe their president was poisoned.

    Balance Yanukovich fraud with fraud in the Orange camp? In the light of what we know today, is that excessively biased or one of the few attempts to stay objective?

    If i tell you that i am convinced Saakashvili attacked Tschinval and Moscow reacted with considerate restraint, what will you make me out for?

    Why makes an opinion that is not pro-western automatically artificial in nature?

    P.S. English regnum was terrible in the quality of its translations. It could be the crisis. Kommersant and Ekspert quit their English language websites in the last months of 2008.

  3. What the hell, so this is an _international_ phenomenon?

    Just yesterday, the news came out that the weblog of adjunct professor Johan Bäckman, the infamous local pro-Putin crank and the head of the “Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee”, who is a persona non grata in Estonia, was closed. It’s still dead as a dodo:


    … frankly, I thought that it was just the exasperated reaction of the service provider after the man had posted too much shit on this messy Finnish-Russian custody fight. For those who don’t know, we have our own “Elian”-case:


    Bäckman and his friends have publically called for the “Russian elite services” to “release the son and his mother and return them to the motherland”. Which is not only pretty fucking weird, but also borders on illegal activity; Lex Finlandiae contains this paragraph that criminalizes “open and public incitement for war, conflict or military operation against Finland”.

    I thought that the authorities or the provider had pulled the plug on the man. But now, these news. So, this may be just a case of the octopus severing its own tentacles?

    Hm. Hmmmmm. Bäckman, dude, I have a feeling that I finally have your number. Goddamn, this calls for some investigative journalism. Doug, I owe you one.


    J. J.

  4. Joera, I’d mention the Srebrenica denialism; the relentless support for Milosevic — a nationalist hero, persecuted and misunderstood! — the claim that elections in Belarus were free and fair; the fondness for Robert Mugabe — a nationalist hero, persecuted and misunderstood! — the relentless hatred for Kosovo (drug dealers! human traffickers! Muslim terrorists!) and the Baltic states (fascists!); the claim that elections in Transnistria were free and fair; the support for Heydar Aliyev (not as grateful to Russia as he should be, but still… a nationalist hero, etc.!) Those for starters; there’s plenty more.

    More generally, BHHRG claimed to be an independent human rights NGO. But it was no such thing: it was a tool of the Russian state. BHHRG wasn’t unique in that respect, but I can’t think of another fake NGO that so relentlessly insisted it was in favor of democracy, human rights, and self determination while so narrowly and aggressively pursuing the policy interests of a particular state.

    I have no problem with “opinions that are not pro-western”. But the BHHRG were a bunch of tools.

    Doug M

  5. …even their name was a lie. They had nothing whatsoever to do with Helsinki; they took that name to make people think they were associated with the Helsinki Committees and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. The IHF had to put a notice on their website stating that BHHRG wasn’t associated with them; BHHRG kept silent, because the confusion worked in their favor.

    That’s just sleazy.

    Doug M.

  6. Douglas, i admit i only read BHHRG coverage during Orange Revolution days. I remember it to be less biased than general coverage in western MSM. At least not as predictable 😉

    I dunno what has been written about Milosevic, Srebrenica. I don’t mind when the case of prosecution is being questioned. That’s not the same as praising the policies when he was in power.

  7. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Russia: “Astroturf Websites” Gone

  8. My wife is from Tiraspol and I’ve spent a lot of time there and in Moldova proper. All I can say based on my experiences and observations is that the picture of Transdniester painted by BHHRG was much more accurate than that presented by any of the so-called independent western media.

    They were also right about the Orange Revolution sham and we have all seen the lunacy of Saakashvilli with his attack on South Ossetia last year.

    As for Milosevic, I can’t see the difference between what he did in the 1990s and what Abraham Lincoln did in the 1860s. One is a villian and one is a hero. Obviously depends on your perspective.

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