Is Belarus finally crossing the Facebook language divide?

Mar 13, 2012
One Comment

We all remember the Facebook map of the world, where the regions with an active Facebook presence are highlighted. The map states the obvious: the light represents the areas with domination of English, Portuguese, French, Spanish-even Polish languages.

In other words, the Western European languages are on Facebook; Russian is not. Belarus, which remains largely Russified, clearly belongs to the dark area.

Belarus and other former USSR countries are mainly on Vkontakte.ru (with the exception of Kyrgyzstan, which is mostly on mail.ru,  another Russian network infamous for its record of bad security and spamming). The reason for this divide is simple: language. Regionally, Russian is still a lingua franca, and VKontakte allows users who perhaps don’t know one of the more popular Facebook languages to interact internationally on a social network.

However according to socialbakers.com, it seems Belarusians are now starting to come over to Facebook. The availability of the Facebook interface in Belarusian and Russian has definitely played its part; however I have a personal impression that the overwhelming amount of spam, information garbage,  fake accounts, annoying promotional materials and phishing applications is beginning to divert Belarusians from the Russian network.

It should also be kept in mind that in repressed societies, people want to communicate. VKontakte has offered no such opportunity to communicate one’s message to a group of people: once you entered it, you would be redirected to your personal account page. While in Facebook, you would get to the feed of your friends’ messages, enabling you to quickly post replies.

Also, VKontakte has only recently enabled users to see their friends’ feed upon login–though this is still not popular based on what I have observed with my friends and acquaintances in Belarus. They all still go to their own accounts or search for movies. VKontakte.ru also has no user lists that I can make according to different categories of users (close friends, business contacts, my management team, my Kyrgyz folks, etc.). VKONTAKTE IS FOR ONE-TO-ONE COMMUNICATION, WHILE FACEBOOK IS FOR WIDE COMMUNICATION.

Vkontakte survives just by the amount of movies and music it stores illegally (or rather its users have uploaded there  illegally). However in terms of communication and safety, people are moving to Facebook. Communication prevails.


About the Author

Alaksiej Lavoncyk

Alaksiej Lavonczyk is a media activist and social media expert from Minsk, Belarus. He had been in charge of the training projects for the NGOs and media on building their capacity in online campaigning and end-user security. Alaksiej had also acted as a consulting and technical expert for NGOs and media in Belarus and four countries of Central Asia (except Turkmenistan) on upgrading media/NGO websites to meet contemporary standards, and on their promotion online. Alaksiej is also running an online training centre for the Central Asians preparing the specialists in SMO promotion.
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