In 2015 Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a project to build a new national Internet. The new network controlled by the regime was supposed to be ready by the end of this year. Has Russia’s gigantic plan been realized? Is anything like the national internet even possible?
The Soviet Union lost the Cold War, but its successor, modern Russia, might win the digital armaments race. The largest country in the world in recent years has become a hatchery of online trolls, hackers and capable programmers. The authoritarian state ruler places a bet on cyber-development and invests heavily in artificial intelligence research. The project to create a new internet that would be independent of global corporations such as Google or Facebook is a part of this Russian web offensive.
Russians, just like Chinese, started by copying others. Today, most of the Federation and other Russian-speaking countries use the WKontaktie (Russian. ВКонтакте). An exact copy of Zuckerberg’s flag platform Facebook, won because it was in Russian and was closer to the average habitant of Moscow, Vladivostok or Bishkek. It’s quite interesting to take a look at this strange Russian-e-microcosmos to see what the e-spirit of a Great Federal citizen looks like
This platform was the beginning and the test: whether the Russians prefer a local, “patriotic” product or an imperial toy that “was created only to steal Russian data” (official statement from the Russian media). This social media test has awakened the need for the Kremlin leaders to go the whole hog and make their own digital universe. However, the realization of such a huge project is not such an easy road.
Member of the Federation of Maksim Kawdagaradze announced that Russia must create its own internet a few years ago. He even suggested a name referring to the name of the protagonist of children’s books and films – Cheburashka.
An innocent name also suggested an important feature of the new internet. As an independent but controlled creature, it was supposed to be free from all the swamps that were in the network, it was supposed to be safe from the viruses we had to take into account nowadays.
It didn’t end up with declarations, today Russia is in progressive expansion of its system based on Android, which was to be developed, also an alternative to Booking.com. The ultimate goal of this project was to get rid of Google. The government’s excluded the global search engine for a few hours on June 22, 2017 from its network as a test. It turned out that the citizens – from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka – noticed the lack of the global side. This clipped a bit the wings of Russian designers of the new web universe.
It’s not easy to play the role of the Creator
According to this ambitious project, the new network was expected to be ready by the end of 2017, to faithfully serve the Putin’s presidential election in 2018. The ambitious project, however, proved to be much more difficult than expected.
The creation of a new network had to involve an automatic exit from the global (we have to admit it strongly Americanized) one. Last June’s test showed that this could lead to the biggest protests in the history of the country and cause revolution even greater than the October Revolution. After all, Russia (still) is not the North Korea. An isolated country from the peninsula can afford to own a real intranet because the citizens of Kim-land have never known anything else.
Disassembling the global network and building your own (even if this is a perfect copy) is not possible even in Russia. Despite the entire governmental support, Cheburashka is just not possible.
DIGITAL REVOLUTION MAY BENEFIT THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS BUSINESS ALLIES. YOU ONLY NEED TO HANDLE AND CRUSH AN ORDINARY IVANOV.
After experimenting this year, the authorities decided to change their strategy. A well-known mechanism of “hybrid change” has been set up. Under the Kremlin’s eye, the great programming is now taking place. Facebook, Booking and Windows replacement are on their way and a Skype replacement is rumored to appear soon. Russian citizens will get a bit of good old propaganda – the strategy they have been using for years: Western programs are spy tools (eventually full of viruses and bugs!), The West is bad at all, and Europe and the United States is a homeland of homosexuality, corruption, and pathology.
(E) education or depravity?
For several years now, citizens have been “educated” by the local competitor of Wikipedia. On August 30, 2016, the authorities issued a decree according to which the Great Russian Encyclopedia (GRE) and it isn’t really a secret that GRE is here to stifle Wikipedia. Thousands of researchers and editors have been employed by the editorial board for the pro-government alternatives. Today, students from Russian schools can only use information from the official GRE Kremlin encyclopedia.
Not just politics … Business is business
Control over the Internet, whether over your own or within the global network universe, is not just political. The selection of electronic knowledge, supported by patriotic or even nationalistic education, is intended here to help to rebuild and sustain the electoral preferences of the nation. Finally, after pacifying the traditional media, they have to deal with these new ones. The economic aspect, or the interests of the oligarchs, is also important.
Russia, gaining control over Internet-based communications services outside the country and the information (which flows from there), can be financially rewarding. Russian own and controlled internet means thousands of new software, systems, applications and tools. On the occasion of the announcement of the creation of the Russian web empire, suddenly we could see a huge number of oligarchs appear and sniffing near governmental officials. In the end, the IT industry is profitable. In addition, next to the brand new software there will be obviously a new place for the hardware.
The digital revolution can benefit both the authorities and their business allies. You just have to deal with the average Ivanov. It is not so easy, but Rome wasn’t built in a day! And this is a well-known truth not only to Minecraft fans.