Russian Entrepreneurs Prepare to Launch Instagram Alternative Where ‘Sad’ Can Be Shared

By Nicholas Dolinger
Nicholas Dolinger
Nicholas Dolinger
Nicholas Dolinger is a business reporter for The Epoch Times and creator of "The Beautiful Toilet" podcast.
March 30, 2022 Updated: April 1, 2022

An unusual social media startup has arisen to fill the void left after the banning of Instagram in the Russian Federation with a unique pitch to prospective users: the promise to share their sadness online.

As part of its longstanding practice of restricting access to Western social media, the Russian government banned the social media site Instagram on March 14, while accusing parent company Meta Platforms (formerly known as Facebook, Inc.) of “extremist activities” after the company allowed users to post death wishes for Russian invaders and praise of the far-right Azov Battalion. While users may continue to access Instagram using VPN services, this barrier to entry has occasioned a demand for native Russian alternative platforms.

Enter Grustnogram: The brainchild of entrepreneurs Ivan Semkin and Alexander Tokarev, Grustnogram promises users a melancholy alternative to Instagram, with an emphasis on photos portraying contemplative sadness rather than the smiling extroversion for which Instagram is best known.

A description of the platform reads like a satire of the archetypal Russian temperament: The company’s website promises users the opportunity to “be sad together” and features a morose black and white photo of a user named “putinzdaughter” posing joylessly in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.

However, it is clear upon close reading that the founders of the site are not oblivious to the humor of their app: the website’s terms of service page flippantly dismisses its own content as “obligatory boring legal information,” and Semkin has admitted that the site’s concept began as a “joke among friends,” as reported by Reuters.

However amusing its central conceit, Grusnogram will likely face competition from a more straightforward competitor: a Russian Instagram substitute called Rossgram, which closely imitates the interface of the popular American photo-sharing app, scheduled to launch on Monday, although the release has been delayed for reasons that remain obscure.

Nonetheless, there appears to be significant demand for an Instagram alternative that is acceptable to the Russian government. While Grusnogram appears to be a niche site, its fast emergence just weeks after the banning of Instagram places it among the ranks of multiple social media companies that have arisen to fill the void of Western social media in the increasingly isolated Russian Federation.

Nicholas Dolinger is a business reporter for The Epoch Times and creator of "The Beautiful Toilet" podcast.