December 16, 2010

Internet security and cybercrime experts often complain that Russian law enforcement agencies don’t place a high priority on investigating and arresting hackers in that country. While that criticism may be fair, it may also be that Russian bureaucrats simply do not wish to call any attention to any sort of crime in their country — at least not to Westerners’ view.

I discovered something fascinating while searching for information on the Web site of the Russian Interior Ministry (MVD), the organization that runs the police departments in each Russian city: The Russian version of the site features dozens of stories every day about police corruption, theft, murder, extortion, drug trafficking and all manner of badness. If, however, you opt to view the English version of the site, the MVD shows you only news with a positive slant.

Here are all of the MVD news headlines on the English version of the site for Dec. 14:

“Photo-exhibition ‘Ministry of Interior. Open lens’ opened in trading and entertaining center in Perm”
“Photo exhibition ‘Open lens’ opened at Internal Affairs Directorate in Tomsk region”
“‘Round table meeting'” devoted to interaction of militia and youth associations took place in Kaluga”
“Krasnoyarsk militia officers rescued life of man”
“Ryazan militia officer is awarded medal of RF Ombudsman”
“Visit of police officer of state Washington, assistant to sheriff of district King Steve Bitsa to Sakhalin has finished
National team of Petersburg Central Internal Affairs Directorate won world mini-football tournament
Campaign ‘Tell your friend about traffic safety rules’ took place in Adygea

And here are just a few headlines (roughly Google-translated) from the dozens of press releases on the Russian version of the MVD’s site for that same day:

“In the Volgograd region officer arrested for bribery”
“23 Don policemen were encouraged to cash prizes”
“Arrested: Eight who kidnapped businessman”
“Sent to the court: Case about the contract killing of Sverdlovsk entrepreneur”
“In Kabardino-Balkaria killed militants who were wanted for committing grave and especially grave crimes”
“In St. Petersburg members of an international gang of drug traffickers sentenced”
“Transport police officers prosecuted for fraud”
“Penza police destroyed more than three tons of confiscated weapon”
“Counterfeiters in Orenburg convicted”
“Money to develop science stolen through fraud”

At first, I thought this was just a case of MVD translators being slow to post translated versions of Russian press releases, but this same pattern can be seen throughout the MVD news archives.

Jeff Carr, a cyber security and intelligence expert and author of the book Inside Cyber Warfare, said he’s noticed the same behavior on many Chinese government Web sites. Carr said both countries try very hard to filter out bad news.

“If you want a starting point for finding out what’s really going on in these countries, you have to use something like Google translate,” Carr said.

28 thoughts on “Russian Police Only Translate the Good News

  1. Avanor

    How natural for any government website advertising problems within the ministry? You should see russian tv, really. We’ve got enough news about corruption… well, pretty much anywhere.

    In any contry bad news filtered out to some degree. Nothing new about it. And government websites just made to advertise how good things are, especially when they are not.

  2. Yuri

    Good point, Brian . But when I am thinking about that – I am yet to see ANY agency willing to get its dirty laundry out to the public. I did the obvious thing – searched Google and on terms like ‘fbi agent arrested’, ‘fbi agent sentenced’ and such , and somehow I always got more results from press/free web than I got from , what might be the reason 😉 ?
    Also run search on names listed here and got only spy agent story.

    1. BrianKrebs Post author

      I thought the juxtaposition of the news on the Russian and non-Russian (they have more than one language) versions was glaring enough to be almost laughable.

      As several have pointed out, very few (if any) U.S. Web government Web sites translate any of their press releases into other languages, so it’s difficult to make an apples to apples comparison. And injecting the Wikileaks controversy into this discussion seems like lashing out in an emotional argument.

      I would argue that the United States government by and large *does* air its dirty laundry for the world to see..eventually. Sure, government agencies have their own lexicon and try to spin things, but one only need look to the truckloads of unflattering documents released to the public each day by U.S. government auditors, inspectors general, etc. to see what I mean.

  3. Advanced Commentator

    Why you are so interesting in Russia, not in Pakistan or Mongolia?

  4. Faust

    Only a native English speaker would find it surprising, or even newsworthy, that Russians and Chinese don’t spend effort airing their dirty laundry in languages other than Russian and Chinese.

    I suggest you scour US gvmt websites to see what they’re “hiding” by not providing complete translations in Russian and Chinese.

    1. TheGeezer

      “scour US gvmt websites”
      gvmt websites are not news sites. Dirty laundry is always aired on english news sites. Any “native English speaker” would know this.

    1. TheGeezer

      You didn’t mention what unfiltered/unedited sites the Russian Federation military are not allowed to view.

  5. Jim


    Good point. I noticed this during coverage of the arrests in Ukraine related to Zeus. The Ukrainian media outlets published a fraction of information in the English section, compared to what was published within the native language section.
    However, is it a fair assumption that this is divisive, rather than a internal resource issue? News outlets are exactly overflowing with personnel ready to translate every news iota. Have you noticed a theme in the differences (say domestic vs world news)?

    Most of us that follow your blog are suspicious and inquisitive by nature, but I wonder if this is more of a simple issue.

  6. Mark Kerzner


    I have noticed that if one needs hacking products, he will get them easily when searching in Russian, and much harder, if searching in English.

    I’d be happy to help you with Russian, if you want.

    PS. You were the first one to report on stuxnet (I heard it on – as the Russians say, for that you get “респект и увага”.

    1. Alex

      респект и уважуха, что является словом и его “калькой”
      На самом деле употребляют или то или другое, но никак не вместе.

      1. Mark Kerzner

        Алекс, меня так учили, что нужно было говорить, “за это вам, конечно, респект и уважуха”, но потом это изменилось, “уважуха” стало старомодным, и теперь говорят “респект и увага”. А каков ваш источник?

        1. Alex

          Я первый раз увидел такое слово именно здесь. В нем слышатся больше польские интонации, но никак не русские.
          Я вспомнил, увага, если я не ошибаюсь, в русской транскрипции, это польское слово “внимание”. Запомнилось по старому советско-польскому фильму “Четыре танкиста и собака”, года так 1970-го.
          Источник не искал, это личные наблюдения.

          1. Mark Kerzner


            “Респект и уважуха” дают 600,000 хитов на Гугле, а “респект и увага” – в десять раз меньше. Но если одно выходит из моды, а другое – входит, то так и должно получаться. У меня личный интерес к правильному использованию и я спрашиваю людей, которые держат нос по ветру, поэтому ваши личные наблюдения тоже считаются. “Четыре танкиста и собака” я помню, хотя и предпочитаю “Трое в лодке, не считая собаки”.

          2. Alex

            Марк, возможно, я слишком радикальный грамманаци, но, имхо, увага – так по-русски не говорят. И мода тут не при чём, просто не русское это слово, даже на сленге. Не приживётся оно, по моему скромному мнению.

            “Трое в лодке” – это более поздний фильм, 1979-го года выпуска, а танкисты-панцерны – 1966-го, мои юные воспоминания ещё довольно свежи.

          3. Alex

            Я тоже серьёзно изучаю этот вопрос, т.к. хочу, чтобы мои боты наконец заговорили по-русски, но так, чтобы их нельзя было отличить от людей. У Вас клерикальный интерес, насколько я понял из Вашей жежешки.

          4. Mark Kerzner

            Алекс, вообще-то между нами нет спора. Когда я перевожу на русский, я тоже не использую жаргон, потому что он или выйдет или уже вышел из моды. Как недавно все говорили, “аффтар, пиши ищщо” – и этого уже почти не слышно. Однако внутренним слухом я слышу, что если бы братаны взяли бы пацана, который и на их языке кумекает и Ницше понимает, то вот какой бы вышел перевод.

            Пока вы рассматривали мой блог, я рассматривал ваш. Один из моих интересов – преподавание Талмуда, да, и в том числе на русском. Поскольку он не звучал на русском так долго, то особой заботы требует, чтобы он не звучал архаично.

            Другие мои интересы – это знать о хакерах, а третьи – автоматическая обработка языка, НЛП. Я даже написал главу в книге, о программе, которая выиграла тест Тьюринга в том году – чтобы её не отличили от человека. Только я не был главным разработчиком. Хотели её использовать для авто-ответов посетителям сайтов.

            Сейчас, мне кажется, самые популярные методы основаны не на аналитике, а на статистике. И кого её больше, тот и лучше. Ну и конечно, это ведёт к большому количеству комьютеров, к Hadoop, и т.д. Интересно, какие методы вы используете.

        2. Alex

          В моём блоге интересного мало, так, по капле цежу иногда.
          Я не хакер, это отпадает, я любопытный человек, скажем так. Программист слабенький, особых знаний нет, закончил академию АСУ очень давно.
          Анархо-коммунист, атеист, если интересно.
          Методы для обработки текста у меня доморощенные, примитивные, свои собственные, короче. Начал писать ботов для ЖЖ на php+mysql три года назад, о-очень неспешно, ввиду постоянной борьбы за хлеб насущный, дописал и в августе с.г. пошла первая прибыль. В ЖЖ забанен намертво за взломы и ковровые бомбардировки ботами.
          Ваша книжка в сети есть почитать?

  7. Wladimir Palant

    This behavior has long tradition and is rooted in the Soviet era – all problems were always swept under the carpet, the country had to present itself as the most perfect place possible, especially when dealing with foreigners. While the Soviet Union is long gone, many of the thought patterns developed there still have very significant influence on todays Russia.

    @Jim: This is not a resources issue – if you have too few people to translate to English you translate the important announcements only. And then you drop the news on “mini-football tournament”, instead you might translate the kidnapping story. Here it is clearly a conscious decision to translate only good news, that’s something different.

    1. BrianKrebs Post author

      Thanks, Wladimir. I had meant to point that out in the story, in fact — that if you have limited resources you actually translate the “news” instead of the fluff (teaching kids traffic safety rules using ice skating rinks, to take one example).

  8. BrianKrebs Post author

    I just wanted to share a funny observation that one of my Twitter followers wrote in response to my Tweet about this post:

    @wmeberle: Interesting! Seems our news sites strip the good news 🙂

  9. JBV

    This isn’t a propaganda issue, it’s a lack of education plus an American expectation of being spoon-fed information by the internet.

    Americans seem to have a sense of entitlement that everything should be presented to them in English.

    Most Europeans are taught at least basic English in addition to their native tongue. Americans don’t always learn any other languages, and rarely study Cyrillic or Asian ones.

    If you want real local news, learn the local language and go to the local news sites to read it. Or at least use use Google translate, as Brian did. Otherwise, you will get pablum, which is what you deserve.

    1. samnjugu

      I disagree with you on this I come from a country where english is not our native language, yet our news is published in english with all the dirt in it, without forcing foreigners to translate it to get “all” the news.

    2. T.Anne

      I would have to disagree as well. I don’t think it’s as much to do with American’s expecting to be spoon-fed or a sense of entitlement. English is considered one of the world languages and hardly implies one has to be American. Many Europeans do speak more than one language as to were, in many cases, Americans do not. But I think this may be because Europeans have so many languages around them – to travel around Europe often brings other languages. While traveling in the United States doesn’t bring other languages – most states all speak English. Now yes, Spanish is becoming more common and there are multiple other languages spoken within the US – I just don’t think it’s as common there as it is in Europe.

      Plus, if local news was only intended for people from that area – why bother translating it to any other language at all?

  10. George

    I agree with Wladimir, and I speak from experience, having grown up under communism.

    “This behavior has long tradition and is rooted in the Soviet era – all problems were always swept under the carpet, the country had to present itself as the most perfect place possible, especially when dealing with foreigners. While the Soviet Union is long gone, many of the thought patterns developed there still have very significant influence on todays Russia.”

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