The Russia Desk
S2 E2

Why Russian Teens Were Jailed for Chatting Online

These two Russian teens are facing up to 5 years in prison for “inciting extremism” simply by sharing memes online.

People can be arrested for liking or sharing posts that insult religious sensitivities, such as one meme that depicted “Game of Thrones'” Jon Snow (played by actor Kit Harington) as Jesus. In the past year, 604 people have been arrested, most of whom are under the age of 25.

One major case involves a group called “The New Greatness” which formed on the social media app Telegram, essentially Russia's equivalent to Facebook. The New Greatness became a political opposition group that the Russian government called an extremist community. The extremism and organizing began when a man who called himself “Ruslan D” joined the group. After protesting led to ten arrests, the only detail authorities could uncover about Ruslan D was his ‘real” name: Alexander Konstantinov. But was that actually his real name at all? Here's what you need to know.