MOSCOW — Since Ukraine's protests began, with various constituencies struggling for the country's future, maps offering to explain the crisis have been flashing through the Web. One shows where local citizens have risen up to seize government offices; another depicts where the dominant Party of Regions, affiliated with President Viktor Yanukovych, has been banned; a third points out the division between Russian speakers in the east and Ukrainian speakers in the west.
Now, Russian social media users are circulating a satire of the Ukraine maps with their own map "explaining" Russia, posted at the top of this page and translated into English. Russian activists have been feeling abashed and envious about the degree to which Ukrainians have been standing up to authorities and demanding their say, first about integrating more with Europe, then refusing to accept laws restricting freedom of speech and assembly. Russians may wish their own protests had been more robust, enduring and successful, but they haven't lost their sense of humor.
You'll notice that, unlike the Ukraine maps that are awash in red to indicate protests that have seized local administrative buildings, the Russia map has none at all. In Russia, protests against election fraud and President Vladimir Putin's authoritarianism began in December 2011 but dissipated by late summer 2012. Ardor began to cool after a couple of dozen people — mostly ordinary, few leaders among them — were arrested on the eve of Putin's inauguration and charged with instigating mass riots, attacking police and other crimes that threatened to keep them in prison for years. Demonstrators in Russia never got close to occupying a building, nor were they even able to camp out in a major square as they have done in Ukraine. Moscow protesters who set themselves up in a small park were soon roughly evicted.
Then there's the lonely blue spot, in the Chechen region of the North Caucasus. Local ruler Ramzan Kadyrov, who is backed by Moscow, wields nearly unlimited and often frightening power there. In charge since 2007, Kadyrov is granted such autonomy in exchange for tamping down any signs of insurgency — Islamic or otherwise.
The vast white spaces are another dark joke. Russia's 2011 and 2012 demonstrations were concentrated in Moscow. Unlike in Ukraine, they didn't sweep through the country. So, vast Russia is depicted as almost entirely white: No one cares.
Wait. Did we say this was funny?