It was done on the request of the General Prosecutor, along with five other nationalist sites. They claim to have found evidence of them “justifying” Right Sector, the Islamic State, Al-Nusra, and other terrorist groups, fighting in Syria. Formulaic reminder about how the Islamic State is banned on the territory of the Russian Federation, in case anyone forgot. The resources in question “propagandize the ideas of national and religious discord, which constitute a threat to social peace and incite extremism.”
Apart from the inherent absurdity of implying Russian nationalists have sympathies for Islamists – an absurdity that any honest person can recognize regardless of ideological orientation – the more telling characteristic is no particular offending material was identified. This means “correcting” a sentence or even removing an article or two doesn’t appear to be an option. SiP’s editors seem to have recognized this, and are mulling switching domain names and directing readers to guides on how to install VPN. (Though the Russian government is working on banning VPN too).
As a reminder, SiP isn’t some fringe Neo-Nazi blog bedecked in swastikas and dug up from the bowels of the Internet. It is a glossy magazine with long, high-quality articles about Russian history that now garners 1.5 million monthly visits, despite many of its articles being paywalled. It has been remarkably successful at penetrating its way into the Russian elites: Alexander Voloshin, Igor Strelkov, and Ksenia Sobchak (!) are known to be readers. Combining the visitor numbers of the top Alt Right websites with the intellectual sophistication and elite influence of the upper-tier neoreactionary blogs, SiP’s success as a media phenomenon cannot be denied. As the ultimate “compliment,” many of the large federal MSM organizations have already written about the pogrom of Sputnik i Pogrom.
It is highly critical of the Putin regime for what they see as its corruption, privileging of ethnic minorities, open borders with Central Asia, laxness in Ukraine, and the stiffling climate of political authoritarianism and social conservatism. One can agree or disagree with these assertions to varying extents, but one cannot credibly accuse it of being an agent for Western (or Islamist) interests; in 2014, they actively supported Crimea’s incorporation into Russia and the Donbass resistance, contributing 60 million rubles for humanitarian needs, sending volunteers, and crowdfunding an APC for the people’s militias.
Nor could SiP have been banned for its relative social and political liberalism, such as their criticism of organized religion and homophobia. The website of the Russian Imperial Movement, which whom I became acquainted in Saint-Petersburg, has also been blocked, even though they are hardline social conservatives and require applications for membership to be Orthodox Christians.
In totality, all this points to one conclusion: The Russian government has increasingly had it with Russian nationalism.
To be sure, the General Prosecutor balked at stating that directly, but the very lameness and lack of specifics of its accusations indicates that this is indeed the case. (More than half of Russians agree with the implicitly ethnonationalist slogan “Russia for Russians,” so perhaps that was a wise decision on their part).
What are the consequences and implications?
From a political perspective, the Russian elections are coming up in March 2018, and the authorities might have decided that oppositionist nationalism is not a media factor they want in play. This might imply that Navalny will be allowed to run after all (even though SiP has in truth been opposed to Navalny as much as Putin).
Another predictable theory that rears its head at times like these is that a “Putinsliv” (betrayal) is being planned for the LDNR, so the screws are being tightened in preparation for that – needless to say, a capitulation there will infuriate oppositionist nationalists more than any other group. This is very highly unlikely. Russia is coming out out of recession, so concerns about the economic impact of Western sanctions should be at a relative minimum. Besides, this is not the first time that SiP has been subjected to state harassment; its chief editor Egor Prosvirnin had his apartment searched and electronic devices confiscated back in September 2015.
Finally, it would be amiss to end this without a brief discussion of this event in the current political and sociological context.
First, there is a rich irony in that just a few weeks ago, Egor Prosvirnin was disinvited from the Saint-Petersburg “Geek Picnic” tech conference thanks to the no-platforming efforts of SJWs of “multinational nationality” such as Mikhail Gelfand, Boris Stern, David Homak, and Asya Kazantseva. Their logic being that Prosvirnin is a Kremlin attack dog and an imperialist Russian chauvinist (all these terms are interchangeable to them). The rather more banal reality is that Russian nationalists are squeezed between globalist “ZOG” and the “Putletreich” that loathes them in almost equal measure.
Second, it is just beautiful that SiP is now banned not just in “brotherly” Belarus, but in Russia as well, but not yet in “Banderite” Ukraine. Needless to say, this has nothing to do with any particularly Ukrainian respect for free speech. It is just that Ukraine is the least competent of these three Russophobic states. It’s still funny, though.