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In a recent article, Anger in Russia as scores of troops killed in one of Ukraine war's deadliest strikes. Polityuk, Pavel, there is a reference to “Russian nationalist military bloggers”.

One such blogger, “Archangel Spetznaz Z”—presumably a pseudonym, is mentioned in the article. However, I couldn’t find any reference to this person, except in Cyrillic articles which I could not translate.

If someone could please explain:

  1. What are military bloggers in this context? Do they have specific military access or positions? Are they military or political directed, or are they unaffiliated individuals?

  2. Are the identities of these bloggers publicly known, or do they exist only behind the pseudonym? Who is Archangel Spetznaz Z?

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    presumably people who are Russian nationalists and write blogs about military stuff Jan 2, 2023 at 23:05
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    Also fairly often abbreviated as milbloggers in Western media coverage. Jan 2, 2023 at 23:34
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    They exist in every country, They are superficial simpletons who are motivated by promoting war through battlefield footage, explosion videos, military news. It's no different for a military blogger from Russia, zimbovakia or mexaly. They produce lots of promotion material of national fervor, real and fake battlefield stories, videos, blogs, twitters. Jan 3, 2023 at 12:59
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    It's like teenage mutant ninja turtles. It sounds official, but it's just a series of adjectives.
    – user2578
    Jan 3, 2023 at 16:24

3 Answers 3

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You can use this rating of influential military bloggers by Readovka, which is itself in the rating of most influential mass media this year.

Some comments:

  • Almost exclusively, these bloggers use Telegram as their main channel. Sometimes also VKontakte, YouTube or LiveJournal, but primarily Telegram.
  • They don't doubt that Russia has to win the war, but tend towards a realistic rather than propagandistic angle.
  • They mostly do what may be called open-source intelligence (OSINT).
  • They are usually anonymous or do not disclose their identity. Some of them may disclose their identity, but in this case, the actual copywriting may be done by other people (staff).
  • They aggregate information about the course of military action, often having sources in the military or of civilians near the front line.
  • They also repost each other, so you don't have to follow every single one of them.
  • Their quality of content varies greatly.

There is also another phenomenon, whereby some people with a known name and some position in the military (or known military reporters) also have Telegram channels and participate in the same cloud of reposts.

As the result of this network, most important events are known to most onlookers of the Ukraine war within hours.

With regards to information policy, there's a lot of variability, but the general approach is that important information should go first, and then some morale-boosting war trivia: you will not see random Russian dead bodies on these channels, but occasional Ukrainian dead bodies and a lot of footage of destroyed vehicles. However, they are going to cover important bad news as well in a lot of detail.

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    Does Russian government tolerate any (even if grounded) criticism of the generals or otherwise managers of they army? Otherwise they should probably be anonymous.
    – Stančikas
    Jan 3, 2023 at 10:57
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    I'm not aware of any attempts of persecuting milbloggers, and I'm not sure which leverage does Russian government have on them behind the scenes. The management of military campaign is still extremely opaque even when milbloggers are taken into account, so it's genuinely clear which criticisms are grounded in reality and which are not.
    – alamar
    Jan 3, 2023 at 11:45
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    genuinely not clear
    – alamar
    Jan 3, 2023 at 12:32
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    @Stančikas I mean, Prigozhin and Kadyrov have openly criticized Shoigu/Gerasimov, and neither has fallen out a window (yet). By now, it is clear that endemic corruption has crippled the RU military perhaps far more than Western aid, and Putin does not get reliable reports through the chain of command. To that extent, the milbloggers offer a much closer version of ground truth to the highest levels of command. Even so, there is occasional house-cleaning/threatening to keep them somewhat in line. Jan 3, 2023 at 20:17
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    Another angle is that perhaps Prigozhin and Kadyrov wanted Lapin out, and put somebody else (Surovikin?) in his place, so they astroturfed the popular dissatisfaction using fellow milbloggers. We don't have enough data to judge.
    – alamar
    Jan 3, 2023 at 20:31
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What are military bloggers in this context?

People who write blog entries about military affairs. (For example, I am a military blogger, although not a very famous one, and certainly not a Russian nationalist one.)

Do have specific military access or positions? Are they military or political directed, or are they unaffiliated individuals?

All of the above, and this isn't necessarily disclosed publicly.

Are the identities of these bloggers publicly know, or do they exist only behind the pseudonym?

Some have real names that are publicly known and some do not.

What are “Russian nationalist military bloggers”

Military bloggers who write material that supports Russia's nationalist aspirations as legitimate and assume support of Russia's national well being.

This doesn't necessarily mean that these bloggers agree with everything that the Russian military does. One can be a Russian nationalist patriot while offering constructive criticism that could make the Russian military better. But, generally speaking, they want the best outcome possible for Russia and consider the Russian cause in the Ukraine War to be a just one.

For example, a Russian nationalist military blogger might very well criticize a decision of Russian generals to house large numbers of troops with visible ammunition stockpiles in an unfortified building within the range of Ukrainian missiles.

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    @alamar In practice, neither socialism nor communism precludes nationalism: consider that the two biggest communist nations on earth fought battles and came near to war over ownership of various bits of land on the border between them. Support for the idea that Ukraine should cease to exist as an independent country and instead be incorporated into Russia is pretty clearly a (Russian) nationalistic viewpoint.
    – cjs
    Jan 3, 2023 at 0:50
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    You’re both correct. Nationalism is antithetical to orthodoxy of Socialism. Socialism, in it original doctrine, predicted that it would occur in an international of all laborers. It was predicated on this being the case, because it really cannot coexist with capitalism. It doesn’t produce for consumerism, but instead for egalitarian distribution. Jan 3, 2023 at 1:24
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    However the theoretical conception did not occur as Marx foresaw. Instead it often overlapped with a bait and switch once power was concentrated into a new central power, propaganda, and the abuses, failings and whims of those who rise to power. Jan 3, 2023 at 1:30
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    @EliotGYork Quoting Marx on sociology is like quoting Ghandi on vaccination: however their merits in other fields, they were sorely lacking knowledge in this area. Marxism failed, among other things, because as Sigmund Freud criticised in the very moment of the publication of the Communist Manifest, Marx didn't seem to know much about human condition. It's all good to speack about a single world nation, everybody being on the same page and speacking the same language, until you try to specify which nation, which language, and who would rule it.
    – Rekesoft
    Jan 3, 2023 at 11:12
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    @cjs Fun trivia: a Soviet commander who died in that battle was called Demokrat Vladimirovich, so really we are talking about democratic communist nationalists there.
    – alamar
    Jan 3, 2023 at 12:05
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The milblogger community in Russia has become a major player in the country's narrative on the war despite its critical commentary on the conflict. This group of over 500 independent authors has a pro-war and nationalistic perspective and is connected to various military groups and Russian nationalist ideologists. While censorship and repression are on the rise in Russia, the Kremlin has allowed the milblogger community to remain independent and grow in influence. They offer a more informal way of sharing their firsthand accounts of the war and often publish on social media platforms. Some milbloggers even hold official positions within the Kremlin, and President Vladimir Putin has personally met with and appointed some of the more prominent members of the community to positions of influence.

Kateryna Stepanenko, Frederick W. Kagan, and Grace Mappes at the Institute for the Study of War wrote a good report on the subject here:

The milblogger community reportedly consists of over 500 independent authors and has emerged as an authoritative voice on the Russian war.1 The community maintains a heavily pro-war and Russian nationalist outlook and is intertwined with prominent Russian nationalist ideologists. Milbloggers’ close relationships with armed forces – whether Russian Armed Forces, Chechen special units, Wagner Group mercenaries, or proxy formations – have given this community an authoritative voice arguably louder in the Russian information space than the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD). Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the milbloggers from MoD attacks and protected their independence even as he increases oppression and censorship throughout Russia.

The Kremlin has allowed the ever-growing informal milblogger community to gain a quasi-official but independent position despite otherwise increasing domestic repression and censorship. The Kremlin has historically promulgated its state narrative via Russian federal outlets, TV, and print media, but has allowed the highly individualistic and often critical milblogger community to put forth its own narratives regarding this war. The milblogger community is composed of a wide range of characters ranging from those who support the Kremlin while criticizing the Russian military command to some who have directly blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s consistent military failures in Ukraine. That the Kremlin tolerates the miblogger community is astonishing given its censorship of other more traditional outlets including opposition and foreign media.

Russian milbloggers are not merely cheerleaders for the war – they are emerging as a group with a distinct voice within Russia. Milbloggers offer a highly informal platform that differs dramatically from the Russian MoD’s structured presentation of the war. Milbloggers largely publish self-authored content on Russian social media platforms such as Telegram, VK, and RuTube in a casual and approachable manner. Most prominent milbloggers either operate on the frontlines or have sources within Russian military structures, which allows them to form assessments based on first-hand accounts independent of MoD information and censorship.

The milbloggers are not fully separate from the Russian government, however. Russian investigative outlet The Bell, for example, uncovered that the creator of one of the most influential Russian Telegram channels, Rybar, is a former employee of the Russian MoD’s press service.[2] Other milbloggers are correspondents of Russian state media outlets such as Komsomoslkaya Pravda, Ria, and RiaFan where they maintain their highly opinionated coverage of the war and even offer recommendations to improve the conduct of the Russian military campaign. Some proxy officials from occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts also operate as milbloggers because they voice their opinions, share analysis from other milbloggers, and disseminate footage from the frontlines independent of the Kremlin and often at odds with the official MoD and Kremlin lines.

Select milbloggers are now holding official positions within the Kremlin. Putin has promoted some prominent milbloggers with large numbers of followers in order to reach the nationalist constituency to which they speak and most importantly to prevent this group from turning against Putinism. Putin appointed a prominent Russian milblogger and correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda, Alexander (Sasha) Kots as a member of the Russian Human Rights Council on November 20, for example, as ISW has previously reported.[3] Putin has met individually with some Russian milbloggers and invited them to attend his annexation speech on September 30.[4] Putin’s engagements with these milbloggers have not softened their commentary on the war, however. They continue to criticize the Russian war effort and especially the Russian MoD even as Putin defends and promotes them.

Some Russian milbloggers have close ties with prominent nationalist ideologists. Nationalist and former member of the Russian State Duma Zakhar Prilepin (known for creating a volunteer battalion in occupied Donetsk Oblast in 2017) and founder of the modern-day National Bolshevik Party Eduard Limonov reportedly celebrated Russian milblogger Semyon Pegov (known under the alias Wargonzo).[5] Milbloggers also host podcasts with widely known Russian neo-nationalists such as Alexander Dugin and perestroika-era Soviet TV personality Alexander Lyubimov.[6] The milbloggers’ affiliation and mutual promotion with these figures foster a maximalist goal of full Russian supremacy in Ukraine within the information space. Dugin even directly blamed Putin for Russia’s military failures following the Russian withdrawal from Kherson City, in fact, criticizing Putin for failing to embrace Russian nationalist ideology fully enough.[7] Dugin’s criticism did not lead other milbloggers to criticize Putin explicitly, but neither did the milbloggers defend Putin against Dugin’s critique or attack Dugin.

Putin has likely blocked MoD attempts to purge or otherwise control the milbloggers. ISW reported on October 14 that unspecified Russian senior officials within the Russian MoD attempted to criminally prosecute the most prominent milbloggers.[8] Russian milbloggers publicly criticized the Russian MoD for the censorship attempt, continued their normal war coverage, and did not report receiving criminal charges. Unknown Russian officials had previously attacked Russian milbloggers by accusing them of revealing Russian positions to Ukrainian forces.[9] Putin has apparently stood by the milbloggers, however, recently commenting on the importance of transparency and accuracy in war reporting—a comment that could only have been aimed at the milblogger coverage.[10]

The prominence of the milblogger community is likely a direct result of the Kremlin’s failure to establish an effective Telegram presence stemming from Putin’s general failure to prepare his people for a serious and protracted war. Russian media statistics center Brand Analytics noted that between the start of the war on February 24 and October 1, the number of Russian bloggers on Telegram increased by 58% while the use of banned Western social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter decreased markedly.[11] Telegram also has the highest percent increase of daily published content (23%) compared with to other Russian social media outlets over that period. The Bell noted that Rybar’s following increased sharply in September and October to over a million followers amidst partial mobilization and the start of Ukrainian counteroffensives in the east and south.[12] The growth of Telegram and the case of Rybar highlight Russians’ distrust of the Kremlin’s official narratives and search for more accurate reporting. The Ukrainian government, it is worth noting, took the opposite approach. Instead of attempting to centralize reporting on the war, Kyiv tasked all regional officials to start official Telegram channels to provide information regarding the war in real time.[13]

The Kremlin struggles to emulate the success of Russian pro-war siloviki figures online. Chechen leader and silovik Ramzan Kadyrov is the most followed Russian milblogger with over three million followers on Telegram. Kadyrov’s Telegram channel closely resembles the other milbloggers’ in format and features Kadyrov’s video rants, combat footage, and unfiltered opinions on the course of the “special military operation.”[14] Kadyrov’s channel, however, has a more coherent narrative than the individual milbloggers given his personal interests in promoting his troops.[15] Wagner Group-affiliated milbloggers also promote mercenary forces at the expense of criticizing the Russian MoD and traditional forces.[16] Prominent Kremlin state TV propagandists Vladimir Solovyov and Margarita Simonyan, on the other hand, only have 1.4 million and 500,000 followers on Telegram respectively and have begun echoing some Russian milblogger critiques on their Telegram channels.[17] The Russian MoD channel has even fewer followers on Telegram than Solovyov and Simonyan despite the growth of the platform – only 480,000.

Putin continues to double down on support for the independence of milblogger reporting even as he doubles down on efforts to mobilize the Russian population for war. These two phenomena are almost certainly related. Putin likely recognizes that the Kremlin and especially the MoD has lost whatever trust many Russians may have had in the veracity of its claims as well as the need to rely on such voices as pro-war Russians find authentic to retain support for the increasing sacrifices he is demanding. Putin’s defense of the milbloggers’ criticisms of his chosen officials is remarkable. It suggests that he sees retaining the support of at least some notable segment of the Russian population as a center of gravity for the war effort if not for the survival of his regime and that he is willing to endure critiques from a group he perceives as loyal to secure that center of gravity. Will the milbloggers remain loyal to Putin and the war effort if the Russian military continues to struggle and suffer setbacks? How will Putin react if they do not? These questions could become significant as Putin increases his demands on his reluctant population to provide cannon fodder for a failing war.

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    That is a long quote. Shouldn't there at least be a summary or conclusion? That is, your own words. From this site's help center: "Do not copy the complete text of sources; instead, use their words and ideas to support your own. In particular, answers comprised entirely of a quote (sourced or not) will often be deleted since they do not contain any original content." Jan 3, 2023 at 21:03
  • I think the outside world greatly overestimates the ability of Kremlin to moderate public discussion; whereas in reality, they have one vicious stick they usually not wanting to use (criminal persecution) and practically no carrots.
    – alamar
    Jan 3, 2023 at 22:34

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