Anton Nosik, one of the key figures in developing the Russian-language Internet into a vibrant platform for news and debate, whose outspoken views saw him slapped with an extremism conviction, has died at 51, his friends and family said Sunday.
Nosik in 1999 was one of the founders of Russia’s first Internet news publication, called Gazeta.ru, and went on to launch other hugely popular news sites including Lenta.ru and Newsru.com, working as a start-up manager and editor, and later becoming one of the country’s most-read bloggers.
“Nosik was one of the pioneers of the Runet,” wrote Vedomosti business daily, using the slang term for the Russian-language web.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also joined tributes, writing on Facebook that Nosik “was a real professional, a trailblazer for the Russian Internet.”
Russians have increasingly turned to the Internet to find alternative points of view, while national television gradually ceased putting opposition speakers on air after Vladimir Putin became president in 2000.
Internet-savvy opposition leader Alexei Navalny called Nosik his “mentor” in a post on his website, saying “he had a decisive influence on my views and activities connected to the Internet and journalism.”
In recent years, Nosik stepped away from media management and was primarily known as a popular blogger and commentator, while the Internet news sites he helped launch changed ownership and became less opinionated and critical of the Kremlin.
Nosik was a strident critic of the Russian government’s moves to crack down on Internet freedoms in recent years with harsh legislative regulation.
Speaking to AFP in 2014, he warned that “Russia’s shift to the North Korean model of managing the Internet will have far-reaching consequences for the country’s economy and public sentiment.”
In 2016, Nosik was convicted and fined by a Moscow court of making public calls for extremism over a 2015 post on his Live Journal blog in which he said Syria should be “wiped off the face of the Earth” because it threatens Israel.
Nosik’s death was announced by his close friend, media publisher Demyan Kudryavtsev, who wrote on Facebook: “Yes it’s true, Anton Nosik died in Moscow last night.”
Nosik was born in Moscow and moved to Israel in the early 1990s where he wrote for The Jerusalem Post, before returning to Russia in 1997, RIA Novosti state news agency reported.