People’s Daily Microblog Banned for Posting Photos of Soviet Collapse

By Rona.Rui
August 3, 2013 Updated: August 3, 2013

Chinese netizens were surprised on July 22 when a microblog account belonging to People’s Daily published a blog post commemorating the defeat of a 1991 coup attempt by Soviet hardliners and the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union. They were further surprised when Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging service similar to Twitter, censored and shut down the account belonging to the official Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece. 

The blog post, titled “History Repeats Itself,” recapped the defeat of the Soviet coup attempt of Aug. 19, 1991 with 15 captioned photos. Hard-line members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had attempted to wrest control of the country from then-Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev, but were defeated when troops sent to besiege the Russian White House defected in the face of mass popular demonstrations.

The first of the 15 photos, dated Dec. 3, 1990, is of a blind and homeless man standing in front of the hotel where Soviet delegates were staying, carrying a sign that read “Builder of Communism.”

The next photo shows a mass rally of 100,000 people that took place outside the Kremlin in Moscow on Jan. 20, 1991. The rally had gathered to call upon Gorbachev, who had participated in the repression of the Lithuanian Independence Movement, to resign.

The third photo shows soldiers patrolling Moscow’s Red Square on March 27, 1991, where authorities, expecting a rally would take place, had blockaded it in advance.

This was followed by several photos depicting the people’s reaction to the coup attempt by the conservatives against Gorbachev, which took place on Aug. 19, 1991 and was led by then Vice-President Gennady Yanayev. 

With Gorbachev under house arrest, then-president of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin led the resistance to the coup. The blog post shows photos of Yeltsin supporters setting up roadblocks along the streets to stop tanks and soldiers, Moscow residents preventing tanks from entering Red Square, and Boris Yeltsin making his historic speech against the coup from atop a tank.

There were also photos of the troops waving the tricolor Russian flag in a declaration of their loyalty to the people, before leaving Moscow on Aug. 21, and people displaying the tricolor flag on Red Square on Aug. 22, the day after the tricolor was declared a replacement for the red Soviet Union flag. 

The last pictures showed a concert held in Moscow on Sept. 28 celebrating the fall of the Soviet Communist Party, attended by 500,000 people, as well as a picture of the red Soviet Union flag being quietly lowered and replaced by the Russian flag on Dec. 25, 1991. The Soviet Union was dissolved the following day.

The People’s Daily editorial blog account, which had been officially recognized by Sina Weibo, was revoked after the post was published. However the post can still be viewed on the website Freeweibo, which gathers and displays Weibo posts censored by the Chinese authorities.

One netizen from Hangzhou, capital of eastern China’s Zhejiang Province, commented in an online post, “I remember that in the past, the People’s Daily was the political weather vane, and the Party paper was the only one who could discipline others. No one would have dared to discipline the Party paper!”

A researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that the Central Propaganda Department had ordered the shutting down of People’s Daily’s Weibo account. Sina Weibo did not have the right to do so.

Translated by Cheryl Chen. Written in English by Shu Yan Tan.

Read the original Chinese article.