Since the success of Information and Empire: Mechanisms of Communication in Russia 1600-1850 edited by Simon Franklin and Katherine Bowers, and our growing number of titles that focus on Russia-related topics, we have become interested in the growing use of OPB’s titles and Open Access resources more generally in Russia. Here’s what we found.
When it comes to internet usage, Russia keeps itself to itself. This is partly enforced by state censorship, the Russian government increasingly exploiting the Internet’s surveillance potential. New legislation in 2016, one of the so-called ‘Yarovaya Laws’, decreed internet providers must now record the content of users’ online communications, alongside the customary date, time and duration. These Data Retention Laws mean Western websites like LinkedIn are blocked – supposedly to protect the data of Russian citizens, but more likely to sweep it under the Kremlin’s thumb. Russian society is also fairly isolated from the West, due to the legacy of barriers both linguistic and ideological, and this is reflected in the popular rejection of Facebook in favour of a Russian equivalent. This Cyrillic doppelganger is called ‘VKontakte’ and is easily the most popular website in the country. So popular in fact, that one anthropologist described it as the only internet resource used by the ‘silent majority’ of Russians, with purely local friendship groups making it feel ‘as if the internet did not extend more than 40km in any direction’.