Telegram makes it big in Belarus

More than 2 million people use telegram in Belarus / Euroradio​
More than 2 million people use telegram in Belarus / Euroradio​

Analysts of the Center for European Transformation have conducted a study on the use of telegram in Belarus and on how the courtyard and district chats are developing and what people discuss there.

Explosive growth since March

The authors note that for several years telegrams were not very popular in Belarus. This changed in 2019: popular channels appeared, the audience of the messenger began to grow. And since March 2020, "explosive growth" has been recorded.

It is thanks to the telegram coverage that the Belarusians "were from the very beginning better prepared for various kinds of Internet blocking, which began on August 9," the scientists say.

“Unfortunately, we do not have more recent studies on the characteristics of the Belarusian telegram audience. According to indirect data, in Belarus in mid-August 2020, there were about 2.4 million active messenger users (about 30-35% of the Internet audience). For months Telegram was the most downloaded application in Belarus (both on Android and iOS platforms). According to some data, as of September 2020, the messenger was used by about 60% of the urban Internet audience in Belarus," the authors of the work note.

The reason for this growth in the popularity of channels, researchers say, is not only the ability to quickly obtain information. The authorities also contributed to this by blocking many Belarusian media. The fact that on August 9-13 the messenger remained practically the only source of up to date information also played in favor of the telegram.

Among the channels that have over 100,000 subscribers, 14 fall in the category "news and entertainment". Five more belong to the Belarusian independent media. Incidentally, there is only one pro-government channel in the list of channels with over 100,000 subscribers.

"Rise of new districts"

In a study on the development of telegram chats, the authors refer to the data from the site database.

There are about 1.1 thousand such groups. They have about 550 thousand non-unique users.

"In the total number of participants in local telegram groups (chats), a little less than half is based in Minsk. The most active are Minsk, Hrodna and Brest regions," the authors note.

There are chats not only in large cities. They can be found both in regional centers and in separate villages.

"The map of activity in local telegram groups (chats) in Minsk confirms the protest nature of movement in Minsk as "rise of new districts"; although local chats are being created throughout the city, points of concentration are clearly visible," the authors note.

Researchers associate bursts of activity in local chats with major media events, including the People's Ultimatum and the death of Raman Bandarenka.

Most often, according to the scientists, chat participants discuss and coordinate protests. People also regularly communicate there, meet new people and discus other topics.

"Local telegram groups (chats) are increasingly performing the function of communication and support of "fighting spirit", mutual motivation. It should be noted that most local chats unite people with similar views on the current situation," the authors write in conclusion.