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.
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.
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.
A Taste of Russia

A Taste of Russia

The definitive modern cookbook on Russian cuisine has been totally updated and redesigned in a 30th Anniversary Edition. Layering superbly researched recipes with informative essays on the dishes' rich historical and cultural context, A Taste of Russia includes over 200 recipes on everything from borshch to blini, from Salmon Coulibiac to Beef Stew with Rum, from Marinated Mushrooms to Walnut-honey Filled Pies. A Taste of Russia shows off the best that Russian cooking has to offer. Full of great quotes from Russian literature about Russian food and designed in a convenient wide format that stays open during use.
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. 
Chekhov Bilingual

Chekhov Bilingual

Some of Chekhov's most beloved stories, with English and accented Russian on facing pages throughout. 
Steppe / Степь (bilingual)

Steppe / Степь (bilingual)

This is the work that made Chekhov, launching his career as a writer and playwright of national and international renown. Retranslated and updated, this new bilingual edition is a super way to improve your Russian.
Okudzhava Bilingual

Okudzhava Bilingual

Poems, songs and autobiographical sketches by Bulat Okudzhava, the king of the Russian bards. 
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
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.
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Tolstoy Bilingual

Tolstoy Bilingual

This compact, yet surprisingly broad look at the life and work of Tolstoy spans from one of his earliest stories to one of his last, looking at works that made him famous and others that made him notorious. 

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