December 01, 2019

Piercing Russian Propaganda


Piercing Russian Propaganda

Since Russia's leadership ordered to invade Ukraine, it's also been waging war inside the country, against the last independent media standing. New legislation makes it possible to prosecute anyone who calls the war in Ukraine by its name; this has swiftly led to most outlets with uncensored coverage being blocked.

Here are five news websites that continue to provide unbiased coverage of Russia despite overwhelming odds, offering coverage that does not include Russian state propaganda. All are asking for and accepting donations from readers, including using foreign bank cards.

Meduza

What is it?  Meduza was launched in 2014 out of Riga, Latvia, by journalists and editors formerly working for Lenta, a legendary news website that was taken over by pro-Kremlin owners who then promptly fired its editor in chief. Meduza also has an English-language version and podcast called The Naked Pravda.

Why does it need support? Meduza was declared a "foreign agent" by Russia's authorities in 2021. This means it has to label all of its articles with a demeaning label which deters most advertisers, leading it to shift to crowdfunding finances from readers. Recently Meduza announced it can no longer accept money from Russia and has to rely on support from readers abroad. In March 2022, Meduza's website was blocked in Russia.

How does Meduza's coverage stand out? Recent articles include a report from the frontlines in the Donbas region, an interview a former executive of Gazprombank who went to Ukraine to join Kyiv's territorial defense and an investigation from Bohdanivka, a village near Kyiv where Russian soliders raped and killed civilians before retreating.

Where to donate: https://support.meduza.io/en

Mediazona

What? Mediazona was founded in 2014 by PussyRiot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. Originally, its focus was on Russia's police, court, and prison system. Mediazona has also launched news websites focusing on Belarus and Central Asia. It is known for providing especially good coverage of political trials, often publishing live transcripts of the proceedings.

Why? In 2017 Mediazona switched to relying exclusively on readers' donations, due to lack of funding from its western media partners. In 2021 it was branded a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. In March 2022, Mediazona's website was blocked by Russia's media watchdog Roskomnadzor, due to its war coverage.

How? Mediazona was perhaps the only Russian outlet that went to Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Other notable recent articles include the story of a postal worker who sabotaged deliveries of military service summons, an analysis of Russia's casualties in the war, and a look at how mentions of Ukraine are being erased from Russian school textbooks.

Where? Donate.Zona.Media

Holod

What? Online magazine Holod (The Cold) was launched in 2019 by a former Kommersant and Meduza journalist, with the goal of publishing long-form articles on overlooked stories from provincial Russia. 

Why? Holod is funded largely by donations and online voluntary "subscriptions" (it does not have a paywall). Founder Taisia Bekbulatova was branded a "foreign agent" at the end of 2021, and in April 2022 Holod was blocked by Russia's media watchdog for its war coverage. 

How? Holod's wartime coverage has included a look at how the war has galvanized some of the indigenous movements inside Russia, interviews with Russian-Ukrainian couples about how they are handling the situation, and accounts by Ukrainian women who were victims of rape by Russian soldiers.

Where? Holod.Media/Donate

DOXA

What? Doxa was launched in 2017 by a student organization at the Higher School of Economics, publishing sociopolitical news and commentary with a focus on education and student life. It became widely known for its coverage of political protests and sexual harassment in Russian universities and eventually took on wider issues. Its dissenting stance in 2019 cost Doxa its status with the HSE, which cut off its funding.

Why? Doxa came especially under fire during the series of political protests in 2021 in support of Alexei Navalny. Four Doxa staff were placed under house arrest and prosecuted for posting a freedom of assembly video addressed to Russian students. They were recently convicted and sentenced to correctional labor.

How? Recent stories include accounts of Mariupol refugees about their treatment in Russia's filtration camps, an interview with a young woman whose own father reported her to the police for an anti-war online post, and a guide for young men on what to do if you receive a draft notice.

Where? Patreon

Bumaga

What? Bumaga is an online media outlet based in St. Petersburg, founded in 2012, and initially launched by some graduates of the St. Petersburg University. Its focus historically has been city news from Russia's "cultural capital."

Why? In April 2022 the Russian government blocked Bumaga's website over its war coverage, making it impossible for it to make money through online marketing. 

How? Bumaga has written about how the war caused an increase in domestic violence in Russia, profiled Sasha Skochilenko, an artist (and former Bumaga employee) who faces 10 years in jail for writing anti-war messages on supermarket price tags (this story has been translated into English), and an overview of police raids on homes of anti-war activists.

Where? Use the form on the right-hand side of this page to donate from a non-Russian bank card.

See Also

Fighting for Truth

Fighting for Truth

While state censor Roskomnadzor objects to the terms attack, invasion, or war being used for the Russian "special military operation" in Ukraine, average Russians are showing their disapproval.
Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
White Magic

White Magic

The thirteen tales in this volume – all written by Russian émigrés, writers who fled their native country in the early twentieth century – contain a fair dose of magic and mysticism, of terror and the supernatural. There are Petersburg revenants, grief-stricken avengers, Lithuanian vampires, flying skeletons, murders and duels, and even a ghostly Edgar Allen Poe.
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
The Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
The Moscow Eccentric

The Moscow Eccentric

Advance reviewers are calling this new translation "a coup" and "a remarkable achievement." This rediscovered gem of a novel by one of Russia's finest writers explores some of the thorniest issues of the early twentieth century.
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955