27.09.22 Mobilisation Review

Yandex-Mobilisation: what search requests say about the mood of Russians


According to data by September 25th, in the previous week, Russians searched on "Yandex" the word "mobilisation" more than 33 million times, while in August, this word appeared in the requests a little more than 100 thousand times a week. The frequency of searches for the word "protests" went up seven times (280 thousand requests) and doubled the peak of early March. The search for the word "emigration", on the contrary, does not reach the March peaks, but a more straightforward request — "leave Russia" (83 thousand) — doubled the weekly number of searches at the beginning of March. However, even more Russians are looking for separate ways to escape: the request "deferment of mobilisation" was typed more than half a million times.

The previous spike in mobilisation rush was recorded in the first week of May (from the 1st to the 8th) — the number of requests with the word "mobilisation" was just over 1 million back then. The so-called affinity index, which allows us to compare the popularity of requests among different regions, demonstrates the highest rate of requests in the Kostroma, Penza, and Magadan regions, as well as the Chukotka Autonomous District. Search query analysis is becoming increasingly popular for measuring spikes in the public interest and the dynamics of public sentiment. A recent review of data from the popular "Yandex" service "Word Selection," published in the Lawfare blog, showed, for example, that Russians call what is happening in Ukraine a war: the number of searches containing this word increased from 18 million in January to 45.7 million in March (analysts came to the same conclusion based on the material of posts in social media). Over the past week, "war" was searched 11.6 million times, and "special military operation" was searched only 54.5 thousand times.

Search history for the words "mobilisation" and "war"

The failure to popularise the term "special military operation", however, is compensated by other propaganda achievements in taking over the information agenda, the authors of the mentioned review wrote: for example, in March 2022, Russians began to search much more for content related to the words "traitors of Russia," "bio laboratories," and other official propaganda topics. However, this agenda quickly came to naught: the number of such requests began to decrease and, by September 25th, was 3-7 thousand per week. A similar fate befell the term "denazification" or the phrase "liberation of Ukraine.

Search history for the words "denazification" "traitors to Russia," "bio laboratories"

At the same time, opposition sources of information are much less prevalent in "Yandex" searches than official and pro-war content. In one week in March, Yuriy Podolyaka, a pro-Russian journalist covering events in Ukraine, was searched 3.3 million times. The last week confirmed these observations: while the number of requests for the "Dozhd TV channel" quadrupled during this time, from 10 thousand to 40 thousand, the number of requests for "First Channel" increased from 500 thousand to 1.3 million.

The request "to leave Russia" appeared 83,000 times in the last week, instead of about 3,000 times per week in August, and "emigration" occurred 62,000 times. Many of these requests reached their previous popularity peaks in February and March. At the same time, while the word "emigration" did not reach its peak in early March, the word "protests" overtook it by half: during the week when Putin declared war, "Yandex" users typed it 143 thousand times, and during the week when the mobilisation was announced — 261 thousand times. The phrase "against mobilisation" was typed 273 thousand times in the past week. 

Search history for the words "protests", "deferment of mobilisation", "emigration"