The situation in Moscow : a network reconstruction
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Over three days in August of 1991, the future of the Soviet Union hung suspended between two incompatible visions of Soviet history. A cabal of hardline communists assumed power and declared a state of emergency throughout the country. The plotters of the coup attempted to control the flow of information and shut down newspapers and television stations in Moscow and throughout the country. At the same time, a small private cooperative called DEMOS was operating a network called Relcom. This network allowed its users to connect to other internet users world-wide. This paper seeks to understand both the context for this remarkable network and how participants in the network viewed its purpose during the coup. I transform an archive of messages from that three-day period into a social network and use social network analysis measures and methodologies to reveal the structure and meaning of the discourse. I find that social network analysis can help identify the most important actors and topics, that the effect of the messages was limited, that these early internet users self-consciously mobilized to help Russian participants, and that Russian users and Western users were almost entirely isolated from one another. It is my hope that this research will serve as a testament to the utility of social network analysis in analyzing Russian and East European new media.