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Inside Moldova's Twitter Revolution

Aided by social networking tools like Twitter, LiveJournal and Facebook, demonstrators in the former-Soviet republic of Moldova are gearing for another round of protests. Just yesterday, activists seized the president's office and the country's parliament -- only to have the government take the buildings back. More crowds, however, are converging on the main square. And they are Tweeting, posting, and uploading.

Tweets are coming in every few seconds to #pman (short for Piaţa Marii Adunări Naţionale, the Romanian name for the capital city's biggest square). Demonstrators are complaining, for example, that the authorities had tried to block cellphone coverage in the center of town. Posting on Twitter, Ciprian wrote: "Communists take ur dirty hands out of our country! Don't cheat! Don't block sites and communications! Don`t block path to our freedom!" As has become the pattern during a big, Twitter-heavy events, these on-the-scene updates are bracketed by political outbursts ("Moldova is the cradle of Romanian civilization!"), retweeted news, and 140-character-or-less spam ("Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life").

Activists are also using the Cloudapp aggregation service to bring onto a single web page Twitter-streams, blog posts, video, and pictures from the protests. The Livejournal social network, wildly popular in Eastern Europe, is buzzing. Natalia Moraru, described in the Russian press as one of the organizers of the anti-Communist flash mob, posted an announcement today on her LiveJournal page. She said student organizers of the demonstrations had nothing to do with the violent riots that broke out yesterday. "The group 'I am an Anti-Communist' declares that it has nothing to do with this disaster. None of the activists in the group took part in the riots. None of them violated the laws of the Republic of Moldova."

Twitter user 1arsz is posting frequent updates (in Russian) from the center of Chisinau. He writes that the perimeter of the Parliament was now surrounded by plainclothesmen; government buildings have been cordoned off by uniformed police. But all is quiet at the moment, he observes: "They [protesters] are even waving the Romanian flags pretty lazily."

In the Russian-language Twittersphere, however, users are already debating the role of social-networking tools in organizing the demonstrations. It's all very meta: They are even passing around the translation of a New York Times analysis of the role of social media. Over at Foreign Policy, Evgeny Morozov has a great post on yesterday's events. He asks: "Will we remember the events that are now unfolding in Chisinau not by the color of the flags but by the social-networking technology used?"

Less commentary, however, has been devoted to the actual internal politics in Moldova, a poor, largely ethnic Romanian country sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. The riots in Moldova in part are a response to allegations of vote-rigging in recent elections by the country's Communist party; but protests have also been spurred by economic stagnation. And as Andrew Wilson of the European Council on Foreign Relations notes, the crisis also has a geopolitical dimension: Russia has supported the breakaway republic of Transnistria -- much as it aided separatist movements inside Georgia. The Communists, Wilson writes, flirted with Moscow for election support. "This trend could well continue," he says. "Russia is seeking to settle the dispute with the separatist 'Transnistrian Republic' on its own terms."

And sometimes a demonstration is, well, just a party that is not to be missed. One user posted this exchange on YouTube: WIRED FOR THAT POST


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