- A Russian blogger told Insider that life for content creators in Russia has become more difficult.
- Since Russia invaded Ukraine last month, Natalia Konstantinova said she’s struggling to make money.
- She also cited an uptick in online attacks targeting her Russian identity.
As prices across Russia begin to skyrocket in the face of international sanctions, one Russian TikToker told Insider that content creators in the country are struggling to make ends meet while simultaneously battling an uptick in internet attacks as a result of their country’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine.
Natalia Konstantinova, who runs popular TikTok and Instagram accounts, both under the moniker of @natashasrussia, where she educates her sizeable audience on all things Russian culture, said Russia’s war efforts are starting to be felt in her home city of St. Petersburg.
She still posts video updates and educational content for hundreds of thousands of followers, just as she’s done for the past four years. But since the war began, some aspects of her role as a content creator have begun to change, she said.
Konstantinova told Insider that Russian bloggers and creators are struggling to make money after a slew of payment services suspended operations in the country.
Earlier this month, PayPal announced that the company would cut off business with Russia in response to its attacks against Ukraine. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express were also quick to announce bans in the country linked to sanctions targeting Russian financial institutions.
“So we can’t get tips, we can’t get donations,” Konstantinova said. “We can’t be supported in any way.”
Konstantinova said she previously used PayPal and
— a membership platform service that allows content creators to run personalized subscription services — to garner income.
Patreon CEO Jack Conte earlier this month said he was taking a different approach from many other tech companies by allowing the service to continue operating in Russia, where it is used by thousands of creators in the region.
Conte said he didn’t want to punish individual creators for their president’s political decision. Still, he acknowledged that the move was likely more symbolic than practical, as banks and other financial services that have pulled out of the country may stop the payments from functioning.
Konstantinova withdrew all her money from PayPal before the system was blocked in Russia, so she’s not yet certain what the impact will be on her finances now that the platforms are null.
“We will see next month how it’s gonna be, as people can’t donate directly anymore,” she said.
The financial blocks come as Russians begin to feel the brunt of international sanctions. Konstantinova told Insider that prices are rapidly rising in shops across the country and ordinary citizens are starting to lose their jobs.
In addition to economic woes, Konstantinova said Russian content creators are also struggling to combat an increase in online hate.
Since the war began, Konstantinova said random accounts have started to leave hateful comments on her content targeting her Russian identity. She cited a wave of online abuse blaming her and average Russian citizens for the war and suggesting that Russians ought to be ashamed of their nationality.
“So all of us get these messages that we are baby killers, that we are awful,” she said. “That we are the killers, we are the evil ones.”
But Konstantinova said she refuses to buy into that idea.
“It’s not a shame to be Russian right now. Nobody should be ashamed of their nationality or ethnicity,” she said. “It is a shame to be Putinist, yes.”
She tries to use her account to spread awareness of the devastation in Ukraine, which she called “a catastrophe,” and said she’s helped her friends still in the war-torn country.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine one month ago on Thursday, February 24. The United Nations on Thursday said the Ukrainian civilian death toll now exceeds 1,000 and more than 3 million people have fled the country.
Konstantinova said she knows several people in Russia who have bought into Kremlin propaganda and support the war — or as Russians have been instructed to call the conflict, the “special operation” — but blamed Russian censorship and state-controlled media for the general lack of accurate knowledge.
“It’s almost impossible to debate with them, even,” she said. “You show them fact and they don’t believe because they think that the West is lying.”
Konstantinova spoke candidly about her country and the ongoing war efforts, despite the ever-present threat of punishment. Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law that would punish anyone who shares “false information” about the war with up to 15 years in prison.
“Before, it could be just 10 or 15 days in jail,” she said. “Right now, we are risking 15 years.”
But with her platform, Konstantinova said she feels a weighty responsibility — both to educate her followers on the realities of Russia’s Ukrainian assault and to help combat hate toward her countrymen and women at home and abroad.
“I understand the threat. I understand the consequences that it might cause,” she said. “But I guess we just live with it.”
“It’s a great responsibility,” she added. “If I’m not going to speak, who’s gonna do this?”