Letter From the Editors: April 3 - 9, 2017

Author: Xenia Grushetsky

Troubles Rarely Singly Come - St. Petersburg Subway Explosion, Chemical Attack in Syria, Alleged Attacks on Gays in Chechnya

If this week’s issue of the Digest is ever found in a time capsule, future generations would (rightly) think that the world had gone insane. First, a horrific chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed from 58 to 100 people and injured several hundred, by various estimates. A day earlier, a bomb exploded on the St. Petersburg subway, killing 14 people and injuring dozens more. The casualties could have been much higher, but another bomb was discovered before it went off. To top it all off, human rights activists are reporting that gays are being kidnapped and tortured across Chechnya by the republic’s authorities in an anti-gay witch hunt. All this news is almost too much to handle.

But even in all this tragedy, a few rays of hope remain. Take, for instance, St. Petersburgers’ incredible show of strength in the face of tragedy. According to local journalist Angelina Davydova, "a spirit of solidarity electrified the city" following the subway blast as people opened their homes and offices to those stranded after the subway system was shut down. Meanwhile, Uber and taxis canceled fares to help people get where they needed to go. "There was almost no panic or anger. Many residents, having felt sad and lost, spoke about a clear need to help others. People were willing to share their pain and to provide emotional support," writes Davydova. She attributes this growing social solidarity to the rise of grassroots movements and online connectivity.

Given the importance of a (relatively) free Internet in Russia, any hint of government meddling creates a storm. After Aleksei Navalny blasted Russia’s top online news source, Yandex, for basically ignoring the nationwide protest rallies on March 26, the site claimed technical glitches were to blame. Still, ...

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