Team 29: 🔎 What search engines are hiding

29 February 2020

Hi, Tanya Torocheshnikova here.

The end of February is probably the most difficult time of year. It so happens that at least two unhappy dates fall in the last week alone of this short month.

One of those, 23 February, marks the start of the mass deportation of the Chechens and Ingush. In 1944, half a million people: men, women, children, and the elderly were loaded onto freight trains and taken away to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – forever. They were only allowed to take with them what they could carry. The whole operation, code named Lentil (‘Chechevitsa’), took two weeks and it became one of the biggest ethnic deportations in the history of the USSR. We have reconstructed events from 76 years ago, and here we tell the full story of the Chechen-Ingush deportations.

Many of those who were deported are no longer with us, but their children live on and keep their memory alive. For that article, I spoke to Oyub Titiev, who was actually born in Kyrgyzstan. “I always remember 23 February being the hardest day in the lives of our people,” says Oyub. “There may have been worse days, but it’s difficult to talk about such heavy losses from everyone being deported.” There Oyub stops speaking, and I can see that it’s just not going to be possible to keep asking questions.

Speaking of memory, towards the end of the week, Yandex removed several links from search results relating to Aleksandr Udodov, the former brother-in-law of the new Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin. Not long beforehand, Aleksei Navalny had published an investigation into Udodov’s involvement in tax fraud and the movement of money out of the country. So why would search engines be hiding the links? What about the right of access to information? Was such a thing ever possible? We have answered all of these questions in our memo on how the right to be forgotten works. It seems like it’s about time for a recap on the subject.

And here’s the most important thing about memory. Five years ago, yet another day was added to the list of unhappy dates to fall in late winter. On 27 February 2015, on Moskvoretsky Bridge, Boris Nemtsov was murdered. It seems impossible that this would ever be forgotten – even if all the search engines in the world suddenly removed links to it from their search results.

If you’re in Moscow and are reading this mailing on Saturday, maybe we’ll see you on the remembrance march. If not on Saturday, then I hope that you’re back home and all’s well. And that perhaps Spring has even come where you are.

With love and hope,

Tanya & Team 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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