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<nettime> Russian LiveJournal: National specifics in the development of
olia lialina on Mon, 7 Jun 2004 21:16:14 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Russian LiveJournal: National specifics in the development of a virtual community by Eugene Gorny

There is a very interesting article on Russian online community and its 
total removal to Live Journal published now in Russian Cyberspace magazine.


Eugene Gorny
Russian LiveJournal: National specifics in the development of a virtual 

The community of users at LiveJournal.com (LJ) is currently the largest 
virtual Russian-speaking community, uniting Russians from all over the 
world. In February 2004, it reached 40,000 users and this number is 
rapidly growing. In April 2004, according to the statistics of user 
distribution by countries, the Russian Federation with its 48,000 users 
was in fourth place after the United States, Canada and the United 
Kingdom and leaving behind Australia, Germany and Singapore. To gain a 
more accurate idea about the population of Russian-speaking users, one 
needs to add those living abroad. According to “The LJist Companion: A 
Guide to Russian Language LiveJournal”, their number can be roughly 
estimated at 2,000, most of them living in Ukraine, United States, 
Israel, Estonia, Germany, and Latvia.

Dynamics of RLJ


1. Conception

The early history of RLJ was highly personalized. Admittedly, “the 
father” of RLJ is Roman Lejbov, lecturer at the University of Tartu, 
Estonia, an online journalist and one of the pioneers of the Russian 
Internet. However, chronologically he was not the first Russian in LJ. 
The first user from Russia registered on the LJ site on November 27th, 
1999. His username was “linker” and his journal got a notable number 666 
[80]. However, he created his account “just in case”, did not write 
anything for a long time and has not produced anything noteworthy 
afterwards. The fact of his appearance was discovered much later. The 
first entry in the Russian language [81] was made in LJ three days 
later, on November 30th, 1999 by user “at” [82], in real life Aleksej 
Tolkachev, a Russian programmer working in the US. After writing one 
more entry, he abandoned his journal and returned to it only two years 
after, when LJ became a hit [83]. Both users stayed in prehistory 
because just to be the first in time does not create an event, which is 
the basic unit of history.

The real history of RLJ began on February 1st, 2000 when Lejbov (who had 
opened his account the day before) started his journal with a test entry 
that ran as follows: “First attempt at writing [proba pera]. Let’s try 
it in Russian… A funny thing!” [84] As he asserted later [85], he knew 
about LJ from Misha Verbitsky’s posting of December 22nd, 2000 at the 
guestbook at his site “Lenin”, the so-called "Anti-culturological 
journal". Verbitsky, having analysed the referrer log for his site, 
found out that two users visited Lenin from LJ, followed the links and 
then made a short note about LJ: “It is exactly for such sites the 
Internet exists. People sit there day and night and tell about 
themselves, in hundreds.” [86] Having become curious, Lejbov followed 
the link and decided to play with the new toy.

Unlike his prehistorical predecessors, who content themselves with the 
mere fact of becoming users, Lejbov started immediately to explore the 
possibilities of LJ for creativity and self-expression. On his first 
day, he made 18 entries in various genres including an opinion (about 
the qualities of LJ), a pun, a characterization of his psychophysical 
state (insomnia), a remembrance of dream, a sketch (about his wife and a 
cat), a quotation (from right-wing philosopher and nationalist 
politician Dugin) with an ironic commentary, a plan for action, a 
reflection (on the idea of the taught course of history as a reverse 
narrative), a joke on an actual political event, a critical remark on a 
musical group, a description of a fact of life, a rumour, a poem (by 
Pushkin) and an extract from the encyclopaedia. He also downloaded an 
animated photo of himself. Thus, on the very first day he used LJ in a 
variety of ways and sampled most of the genres that would be exploited 
later on. He went on writing and experimenting and missed not a single 
day that February. Many of his innovations have been widely accepted by 
the RLJ community. He coined the word “lytdybr” - the Russian word 
dnevnik meaning “diary” mistakenly typed using English keyboard layout - 
which become a standard genre designation for entries devoted to 
description of events in users’ personal lives. Being a prolific 
dreamer, he frequently described his dreams in his journal and inspired 
many users to do the same. He also was one of the first who began to 
post photographs on the regular basis and introduced other innovations.

Some time Lejbov kept his journal privately but gradually the rumours 
about the mysterious thing called “blog” ran through Runet and more 
people followed his example. [87] At the first stage, LJ become popular 
amidst Internet professionals, many of whom came onto the Internet in 
the period of "Sturm und Drang" of the 1990-s and formed the so-called 
“Runet elite”. As a rule, they did not use their journals for work but 
rather for fun, for personal self-expression and interpersonal play. The 
idea of using LJ for collaborative creative work was gradually emerging 
from this playful activity but it was fully realized at the later stages 
of RLJ evolution.

However, RLJ could not gain popularity in the masses and would stay a 
toy for a few if the pioneers had not propagandized it and recruit new 


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