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Olga Vassilieva

December 2000

The Governance of and in the RuNet


Russia has significantly lagged behind the US and Western Europe in the development of the Internet. This situation has been conditioned by economic reasons, previous errors in information technology policy and the lack of such a policy in modern Russia. Currently, only one percent of Russian population has Internet access. It is obvious, that without governmental support access to the Internet will remain small and elitist. Recent attempts of governmental regulations have met active resistance from the Internet community, which, on the one hand, rejects any governmental regulation and, on the other hand, is not able to manage arising conflicts and disputes in this free island.

This paper proposes the possible model of Internet governance in Russia, which has to include elements of both governmental regulation and self-governance of the Russian Internet community. The implementation of the model would encourage Internet development in the country. For this purpose, the current situation in the Russian Internet, including such issues as who populates this virtual world, relationships among different groups of the Russian Internet citizens and the potential for self-governance, will be considered. It would be impossible to propose a model for the Russian Internet without careful analysis of current ad hoc governmental interventions in the Internet, main successes and tensions.


Russia has significantly lagged behind the US and Western Europe in the development of the Internet for a number of reasons: errors in technology development policies, which resulted in an underdeveloped industry for personal computers and telecommunications infrastructure; economic crisis, and low awareness of the population, which define insignificant Internet penetration. However, Russia has significantly lagged in comparison with many Eastern European countries like Hungary or Estonia. This phenomenon has resulted from the lack of overall development policy on information and the Internet particularly.

The regulation of the Internet in Russia developed spontaneously during the 1990s. Except several projects for Internet connectivity for educational organizations supported by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Russian bureaucrats and politicians seemed not to have little knowledge of the Internet at all. Several attempts to induce control over the Internet or public discussions (like, e.g., "Russia and the Internet: Choice for the Future" organized by the State Duma, a Low Chamber of the Russian parliament- Federal'oe Sobranie, in fall 1997) have occasionally interrupted this indifference.

Lack of governmental regulation led to self-organizing in the Internet. Different associations were formed to govern relationships among participants of the RuNet, a part of the Internet content providers, who use Russian language and a part of infrastructure on the territory of Russia. It is obvious, however, that the growing complexity of the Internet world has demanded more complicated forms of governance than the Russian Internet community, which has been separated along different lines, can propose.

The Russian government, in turn, began to value the increasing political, economic and social importance of the Internet. On the eve of the 1999 elections, several regulatory acts were produced to impose governmental control over the RuNet, including domain names administration, registration of online media, taxation and others. Government interventions, contradictory and ill elaborated, have faced significant resistance of the Internet community inside and outside Russia.

Considering the social and economic impacts of the Internet, governmental interventions into the virtual world seems unavoidable. The experience of most countries would support this thesis. The Internet in Russia, in turn, can significantly benefit from the governmental support. Considering the economic situation in Russia, only the government can provide and finance Internet access for most of the population and facilitate e-activities, including online governmental services, e-commerce, e-banking and others. The question is which particular model of the regulation - supportive to Internet development or directly opposite, the Russian government will choose.

It is the answer on this question, which will define future relationships between the government and online community. The overall goal of the Russian Internet community and the government is to find not only the form for co-existence in this intersection of real and electronic worlds but also the form for communications, interactions and mutual benefits. This holistic approach will have one more significant impact: it can decrease a gap of misunderstanding and contradictions, which has historically existed between a state and a society in Russia.

Before considering particular measures that should be done for mutual-beneficial cooperation of the government and the Russian Internet, it would be useful to define who populates this virtual space of the Russian Internet, relationships of RuNet citizens and the RuNet potential for self-governance. It would be impossible to answer the question, how Internet governance should look, without careful investigation of current states policy towards the Internet, main successes and tensions.

The RuNet: People and Infrastructure

The RuNet community is relatively small. Whereas the Internet penetration in Europe, and even neighboring Estonia, exceeds 30 percent, the Russian active audience (i.e., those who spend more than 1 hour per a week in the Internet) is estimated about 1 percent (1.8 million people).[1] The distribution of the Internet use is significantly skewed to community use. This is why, Russian monitoring agencies use sociological survey to measure the Internet audience capacity instead of traditional indicators such as the number of Internet subscribers. Most of the active users (60%) have access to the Internet at work, 22% - at University, 4% - in the Internet cafe, and only, 24% - at home. But even at home, the use of the Internet remains community oriented: 16 percent use the Internet in friends home. [2]

Internet access in Russia is very far from universal and democratic. Age, sex and social groups are represented very unequally. An average user of the RuNet is relatively young (29 years old). People older 60 years do not use the Internet actively, but about 3 percent of survey participants had isolated cases of access to the Internet (in the maximum audience). Most active users of the Internet have University degree (35 percent) or are planning to receive it in the near future (27 percent of users are students). Men dominated both in the active audience (81%) and in the maximum audience (61,5%), according to the survey.[3]

Among positive tendencies in the RuNet is the gradual spread of the Internet outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, "the northern capital," during last years. In 2000, both capitals, where 14 percent of the Russian population lives, were accounted for 26,7 percent of the maximum Internet audience. The rest of European part of Russia (about 50% of the population) contributed 40 percent of the maximum audience, Ural and Western Siberia (about 23% of the population) - 18, and 13 percent of Russian Internet audience live in Eastern Siberia and Far East (about 13 % of the population).[4] In 1998, according to ROCIT survey, a half of Russian Internet users lived in Moscow.[5]

Although the number of Internet users has grown relatively fast during last years, possibilities for the future growth are very limited considering underdeveloped telecommunications infrastructure, the high prices for Internet access with respect to average income and low awareness of population about the Internet. Without installation fees, the prices for Internet access varied from about 0.5 to 1.5 USD per hour depending on region and competition among local ISPs (the prices are significantly higher in regions where only one ISP operates). Meanwhile, an average income in Russia was 2,260 USD in 1998[6] (an average wage is significantly lower). In the USA, where average income exceeds 14 times as much as income in Russia, Internet access costs twice less for an end user. The number of reasons conditions this: tax exemption in the USA (the American ISPs do not pay universal service charges or interstate access charges under the 1996 Telecommunications Act), sufficient supply of advertising, which helps to provide free access, and the governmental support for Internet access at schools. The second reason, which will impede Internet use in Russia, is the high prices for computers and telecommunications equipment. Prices for computers in Russia, for example, consist of from 120 till more than 200 percent of prices in the USA.[7] The high prices have resulted from high custom duties and licensing for telecommunication equipment.

Underdeveloped telecommunications infrastructure also influences the Internet penetration. In 1999, telephone penetration was only average 19 lines per 100 people in comparison with 63 in the USA (cellular phone density was 0.3 per hundred vs. 24 in the USA).[8] Digitalization of local access lines, which is of special importance for the Internet, did not exceed 15 percent (versus 79 percent worldwide).[9] Moreover, the Ministry of Communication and Informatization declared the intention to introduce time-based pricing for local phone since 2001. Considering current, elitist, the Internet use at home, this measure will not influence significantly this part of the Net citizens, but it will create essential barriers for new potential users.

Limited access to the international Internet backbone has restrictive impact on Internet development. Currently, total international bandwidth is about 125.4 Mbps,[10] that is less than for South Africas 150 Mbps,[11] population of which more than 4 times less than Russian population.

Low awareness of population about possibilities connected with the Internet will also impede Internet development: 80 percent of population older 18 years old did not attend and was not planning to attend the Internet, according to the Monitoring Agencys survey.[12] All of the above suggest that it is of high probability, that the RuNet will stay small and elitist in the near future. And only special government policy can promote the development of the Internet in the country.

Self-Regulation in the RuNet

Considering the nature of the Internet, a national government has faced significant problems trying to regulate its citizens, to whom Internet provides opportunities for communications with each other and trade passing by the borders and governments, living in different countries and continents, under different legislation and traditions. Imposing a national legislation into the Internet is simply ineffective in many cases and conflicts. For many Net citizens, the virtual world, by definition, has to be free from terrestrial government. As John Gilmore, an online activist, formulated: The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.[13] However, this electronic world is not conflict free: tensions and disputes arise here like in the real world. This is why self-governance is so important for the Internet.

Developing in the shade of the state, the Russian Internet has created its governance within. Since the beginning of the Russian Internet, December 1993 (the registration of the first domain RU)[14], different societies, associations, online discussions, conferences and single actions movements[15] have been organized to manage arising problems and disputes. One of the first organizations became the Russian Institute for Public Networks founded by the Higher School Committee of Russia and the Kurchatov Institute (specialized in nuclear physics), the Russian Academy of Science, in 1992. Being created with the purpose of support Research & Education organizations in getting access to information resources via public networks,[16] RIPN soon received the right to register IP numbers and administer of "RU" top-level domain from the European RIPE Network Coordination Center (Réseaux IP Européens). In March 1996, the Russian Public Center of the Internet Technologies (ROCIT - Rossijskij Obschestvennuj Tsentr Internet Technologij) was founded with the purpose "to facilitate the Russias inclusion to the Internet. ROCIT became well-known due to its research on tendencies in the Russian Internet as well as its initiative - annual Russian Internet Forums (since 1997). The first competition of online literature Teneta was held in June 1996;[17] since then, various competitions and online conferences became frequent events in the RuNet. In March 1997, the Movement of Periodic Online Media (EZhEsodruzhestvo) began developing around the proposal about mutual citations made by Alexander Malyukov and Leonid Delitsin for online media.[18] EZhE-activities have concentrated on dispute settlement, problems of plagiarism in online and offline editions, as well as discussion-forums among editors of periodic online media. In June 1998, the Moscow Libertarium initiated online discussion concerned the ministerial act About Systems for Ensuring Investigative Activities allowing the FSB uncontrolled electronic mail surveillance; since then, Libertarium has managed various discussions on economics and politics of and around the Internet.[19] In September 1999, the Alliance of Internet Operators (SOI) was founded by leading ISPs for "the coordination of the development of the Russian Internet." A month later, the Open Forum of Internet Service Providers was founded with the same purpose. In November 1999, the Foundation of Development of Internet Culture began the registration of Web sites and online publications to monitor intellectual property rights in the Internet.[20]

From the very beginning, the Russian Internet developed as a part of the global Net (although global often means western for most RuNet citizens). This self-identification can be found in all documents and memoranda of public Internet organizations and associations, which defines a main goal as the promotion of Russias inclusion into the global Internet. Main documents of the Internet organizations all over the world, international practices on Internet activities and current discussions are translated and published in hundreds of the Russian web-sites.

Certainly, the nature of the Internet, which develops beyond the boundaries, implies pro-global orientations vs. national interests of online communities. However, considering, self-isolation of Russia during long period and weak knowledge of other languages, the intensity of pro-global feelings has to be explained by additional factors.

This "global identity, in many respects, resulted from the development of the Internet in Russia on the basis of science and technology research institutes, which by nature of their disciplines have been cosmopolitan. Originally, the networks in Russia embraced mainly technology research institutes. Traditionally, such institutes (as, for example, the Kurchatov Institute or the Space Research Institute) were under less ideological control of the Communist Party than humanitarian institutes of the Academy of Science. Scientific and rational approach rather than ideological dogmas had been fostered at these institutes.[21] Contacts with the Western scholars (personal and, mainly, by publications) had actively developed in many technological fields even during the Cold War. This defined positive attitudes towards the West and the global net afterwards.

Another reason for the global self-attachment has been conditioned by history of Internet development in Russia: many Russian online communities were created due to the Western assistantship programs. Eugene Gornyj begins his brief chronology of the RuNet with the description of the net Glasnost or GlasNet, which connected human rights activists, ecologists and other informal groups activists. GlasNet was initiated and funded by the Association for Progressive Communications (the USA) in January 1990. Since then a number of projects on the Internet connectivity were developed in the framework of various Western initiatives. In 1995, IREX initiated the program "The Widening of the Internet Access, which provides e-mail and the Internet access for schools, libraries and non-for-profit organizations in the former Soviet Union. Only at the first stage of the project (1996-1998) fifty Internet access centers were opened in Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.[22] In 1996, the Open Society Institute (the Soros Foundation) together with the Russian government started 5-year program "The Internet University Centers," which helped to create 33 modern telecommunication centers in Universities of the Russian Federation.

At the same time, the RuNet has remained an essentially national phenomenon - due to language restrictions; the reproduction of Russian political, real world, life in the Internet and the special attitude towards a Word (or publishing media). Certainly, the language has defined the borders of Russian Internet communities. Russian business, political and media elites attracted by the Internet promise have remained non-English (or other) speaking. Moreover, despite their pro-global attitudes, Russian communities seem to be not interested in attracting outsiders to internal discussions. It is of little probability to find a Russian web-resource, which proposes the translation into English beyond a front page. In neighboring Georgia, Estonia, Latvia or Kazakhstan, the situation is opposite: it is easy to find web-sites in local, Russian or English languages. Certainly, these countries try to attract foreign investments, but foreign investments could be useful for Russia too. This situation reflects Russian self-sufficiency and poor language skills rather than economic interests.

Another national phenomenon is an influentially of online published media[23] among Russian online communities. Being a relatively small part of the RuNet in terms of revenues, online media have been the most dynamically developing and influential part of the RuNet. According to the survey of Monitoring.ru in May-June 2000, news is dominated category for 64% of users.[24] And online media is purely nationally oriented: hot topics of the Russian Internet media will be uninterested for the rest of the global net, even though they would be translated into other languages.

The Russian online community (at least, the most active its part - electronic media and organizations managing political campaigns) has reflected contradictions among different political-economic groups existing in terrestrial life. This fact can explain an inability of the RuNet community to self-organizing despite strong stimuli - awkward interventions of the Russian governments in the Internet recently.

Despite personal relations and contacts, Russian Internet associations are divided along different lines. Essential controversies have persisted between Internet Service Providers (ISPs), from one hand, and Internet Content Providers (ICPs), from another hand. ICPs have complained that ISPs constantly try to set rules in the field of the content. [25] For example, RIPN created with help of Relcom, a biggest ISP, is blamed in arbitrary changing rules of domain names registration, with the exception for ICPs "closely connected with RIPN leaders."

However, there is no unity in both camps either. ISPs camp is divided (roughly) on big and small ISPs. Both ISPs associations (the SOI and the OFISP) were founded almost simultaneously in fall 1999 and declared the same goals. The Alliance of Internet Operators (SOI) has united big ISPs like Relcom, Global One, MTU-Inform, Golden Telecom or Citiline. Big ISPs are interested in securing their leading positions with help of the state. Many big ISPs have participated in the Russian Electronic Messaging Association (ADE - Assotsiatsia Documental'oj Electrosvyazi) founded "for the coordination of efforts and interests of all telecommunications participants by the initiative of the Ministry of Communications in August 1994. However, small ISPs and content-providers are not represented in the ADE due to high membership fee (2000 USD annually) and technology focus of the Association. Small ISPs, many of which joint to the Open Forum of Internet Service Providers, support full liberalization of the market. Although the power of SOI and OFISP is comparable in terms of revenues,[26] the SOI is the more effective lobbyist organization due to personal connections in the government and easier way to coordinate actions among the narrow circle of participants. The OFISP, in turn, might unite ISPs and ICPs due to its open membership.

There are more contraventions among Internet Content Providers, than among ISPs. Some of the disputes have resulted from "oligopolistic competition" among political-economic groups in Russia like, for example, the group of Yuri Luzhkov, a Moscow mayor, which included the Media Most holding (now it lost its positions and influence in political life), a number of Moscow banks and businesses, or the group of the former vice-prime-minister, the former minister of privatizations Anatolij Chubajs, which join people from St.Petersburg in Moscow political life (including the second Russias President Vladimir Putin). In June 1999, online magazine "Company" published the article "The Trust RuNet, in which the authors, Dmitrij Buturin and Andrey Soldatov, proposed the explanation how financial groups have created and controlled online media (main Internet Content providers) in the Russian Internet[27]. Special attention was paid to the Foundation of Effective Politics (FEP), which is close to the Petersburg group in the Moscow political life. This formally small group has controlled, financed or influenced a significant number of online media in the Russian Internet. Judging on the negative and boisterous reaction of the Foundation of Effective Politics or related groups in online and offline media, the article managed to half-open the mystery of money supply for many Russian ICPs. The reproduction of the Russian political reality in the Internet has influenced the ability of the RuNet "to be governed within. Self-organizing has often resulted from a common denial of activities of the Russian government rather than finding solutions for existing problems.

Many online editions (ICPs) followed one more important tradition of the Russian kitchens discussions ("tusovka"). This tradition has reflected historical separation between a society and a state in Russia. A society often was apart from decision making in Russia. Being just an observer, it used to discuss and criticize rather than to propose alternatives and solutions. Tusovka implies a lack of responsibility, a very personal character of discussion and often, an inability to make a compromise. And this tradition was reproduced in the Russian Internet.

ICPs associations, being free from fees, are more selective than SOI or ADE, because the membership in ICPs organizations is defined by personal relationships. This is the reason why two Internet Academies were founded simultaneously and with the same purposes.

The Russian Internet community is also divided by the question whether the state should regulate the Internet. Those, who think that the RuNet has to be completely deregulated, are dominated in online community: according to the online survey, conducted by Algo.Ru during three months at the beginning of 2000, the opponents of the governmental regulation consisted of 67 percent versus 33 percent, who is in favor of the state interventions in the Internet. However, this smaller part seems better self-organized. It includes not only associations of ISPs, but also several lawyers associations. Several forums (for example, RussianLaw.ru, RANS.ru, vic.SPB.ru, park.ru and NetLaw.ru) are discussing alternative laws and propose expertise on problems of the Russian legislation on the Internet. This part of the RuNet is apt to make a compromise between ISPs and ICPs to reach the common purpose, namely to develop sustainable self-governance in the Internet and find a balance between self-governance and the governmental regulation.

Current Governmental Regulation

In many respects, the Russian Internet had developed in the shade of the Russian state, without significant its influence and sometimes, even, in counterbalance of it.[28] However, this reflects only a part of relationships between the Internet and the state. It is true that until recently, the Russian government paid no attention to Internet development at the high political (presidential or key-ministerial) level. However, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology, which traditionally have the lowest positions in the silent hierarchy of the Russian government, have actively (considering their budgets) participated in the Internet penetration in Russia, without declaring special governmental policy by the president or prime-ministry.

The lack of the governmental policy and unclear priorities are overall characteristics of the post-Communist Russia. Many industries and sectors have been developed without the clear states priorities. This situation partly resulted from the diffusion of decision-making process in triple-transition country. Another reason is a scarcity of resources. Even though the government settles priorities in financing the programs in particular sectors through the budget, the budget execution looks differently from initial priorities. During a number of years, the Ministry of Defense has been usually financed by about 120 percent in comparison with the budget approved. On the contrary, the Ministry of Education could not receive more than about 50 percent of funding approved initially. Actual financing has defined arbitrariness in program financing.

Despite the lack of resources, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology, as well as other governmental agencies contributes significantly into the development of Internet infrastructure. In 1994, the governmental program "Universities of Russia was modified to include a new priority: the development of communications infrastructure joint Universities networks. To 1996, the RUNNet (the Russian Universities Network) covered 15 regions via ground and satellite communication channels, which resulted in the growth of the number of Internet hosts in Russia up to about 15,000.[29] Another program "Development of the National Computer Net for Science and Education implemented by the Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Education, the Russian Academy of Science and Russian Foundation for Fundamental Research with the participation of the State Committee of Telecommunications (the Ministry since 1999) contributed more significantly to the number of RuNet hosts: their number reached about 130,000.[30] The fibro-optic RBnet (the Russian Backbone Network) was built in the Russian regions by "Rostelecom between 1996-1998. The RBNet has helped to fulfill research on new telecommunications technologies, which was impossible before. The Russian government (via the Ministry of Education and local authorities) paid for providing access to the Internet for 33 University Centers in Russian regions, created in the framework of the Soros Foundations initiative "Internet University Centers."

It is difficult, however, to define all these activities as a result of well-elaborated governmental policy towards Internet development in Russia. Some of them were examples of personal connections: first ISPs were developed from academic networks, and these people kept close connections with the Ministry of Science and Technology. Some of the governmental projects were investments in highly profitable telecommunications sector. Some were dictated by national proud: Russia could not stay away from such a project as Soros Internet University Centers.

Till now, however, the Russian government has not defined its overall strategy towards Internet development. Such a situation, probably, has been unavoidable in Russia involved in the triple transition - to democracy, to market economy and in state-building. However, it has also another explanation than lack of resources or other important priorities. Russian elites cannot define the best model of the Internet regulation, which will allow them to maximize benefits at present and in the future, when they might be outside of the Kremlin. It is extremely difficult to foresee the development of the Internet in Russia, which depends and will depend on economic situation in the country. Uncertainty of political development has complicated the choice of the model: those who are in power today do not want to lose a control after tomorrows elections.[31] Having proposed the direct governmental regulation today, they might risk losing significant benefits in the future. This is why "pro-governmental Internet projects like for example, Strana.Ru information portal,[32] have been developed more successfully than legislation.

The Russian government had stayed away from the Internet for a long time. However, in 1998, two events signalized the shift from governmental indifference. At the request of MSNBC, the president Boris Eltsin answered questions of the Internet community in chat regime on May 12, 1998. Andrey Serbrant, "an oldest Internet citizen in Russia, noted, "The chat had colossal positive impact... Men of Old School, probably, thought that "the above had decided, that the Internet existed, and the Internet became of state importance.[33] At the same time, the ministerial act About Systems for Ensuring Investigative Activity (SORM), which allow police to look through all Internet transactions, was released by the Ministry of Communications and Informatization. Eltsins Internet chat has been forgotten with time, SORM seems to define the following history of relationships between the Internet and the government in Russia.

Attempts to regulate the Internet intensified on the eve of the parliamentary and the presidential elections (1999-2000) and have kept their persistence afterwards. The composition of governmental players changed dramatically: instead the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, key (from point of view of political campaigns) governmental agencies came to main line of relationships between government and the Internet - the Ministry of Communications and Informatization and the Ministry of Mass Media, headed by the vice prime minister on military-industrial complex, Iliya Klebanov. It was these members of the government who participated in the historical meeting of prime-ministry Vladimir Putin with the Internet community on December 29, 1999, a day before Eltsin declared about transferring power to prime-ministry.

Since then, the government has actively attempted to impose control over the Internet. Several draft laws, including the Draft Law About the Internet and the regulation of e-commerce issues, and several ministerial acts aimed at the domain names administration in the RuNet, the taxation of electronic transactions and mass media, the regulation of state security issues (via the Russian variant of "Carnivore, SORM) were issued during 2000. They have provoked strong criticism among the Russian Internet community.

Nobody in the Russian Internet has argued the necessity of the governmental regulation for e-business related activities such as e-commerce, international trade, e-banking or technical standards. These issues have been traditionally regulated by national governments with the participation of the Internet associations. At the same time, particular models can be and are the under attentive consideration.[34] Other governmental initiatives like the SORM, taxation of online media and of electronic transactions, the regulation of harmful content as well as the overall policy towards Internet have provoked criticism inside and outside of the country.

Registration of Domain Names

Since 1992, the Russian Institute for Public Networks (RIPN) has registered and administered "RU" top-level domain according to the decision of the European RIPE Network Coordination Center. And till recently, the Russian government had not paid essential attention that this public organization fulfilled these functions without its permission.

RIPN activities, however, have provoked a lot of criticism from Internet content providers. They have complained that first of all, RIPN often changes rules of the registration and administration, but these changes usually are not spread over ICPs "closely connected with RIPN leaders." Secondly, the registration fees, which RIPN arbitrary charges, are too high.

In turn, Alexej Platonov, a director of RIPN, explains these problems by objective reasons.[35] Till 1997, the registration was free because RIPN received financial support from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology. After ending of the governmental support, RIPN was forced to introduce paid services. According to Platonov, revenues have covered RIPN outlays, and partly, have been invested into telecommunications projects such as the constructions of the RBNet and M9-IX (an IP-traffic exchange center in the Moscow carrier M-9). Certainly, public importance of such projects does not provoke any doubt. However, investments into telecommunications infrastructure are considered as very profitable and attractive. To be accepted by the public, the participation of non-for-profit RIPN needs to be clarified concerning the participatory conditions (e.g., how the profit from the participation in these projects will be distributed in the future).

It was complaints about RIPN activities that resulted in issuing the ministerial act "About the Registration of Domain Names in the Russian Segment of the Internet,[36] as the ministry of communications Leonid Reiman explained to RuNet representatives in the meeting with the prime-ministry Putin in December 1999. The draft has proposed to transfer the registration rights from RIPN to the [state] Registrar of Domain Names (RDI). According to the act, "the coordination of and control over the registration and the use of RU-domain names will be fulfilled by the Ministry of Communication and Informatization.[37] The State Committee on Telecommunications will receive the right to license activities of both Internet Service and Internet Content providers.

Although issuing the draft could be explained by an inability of the RuNet itself to manage disputes (e.g., cyber-squatting) or to control over RIPN, the Internet community evaluated the governmental regulation as a direct threat. Pavel Khramtsov, a journalist of the Internet investment company "Russian Funds, commented the Act: "Everybody lost. Content providers will fall under the control of the Ministry of Mass Media, the service providers will be tougher controlled by the Ministry of Communications and Informatization.[38]

First of all, many Internet content providers have been frightened that the new regulation would suspend the rights of eighteen thousand owners who had already received domain names from RIPN. Secondly, considering a traditional police role of the Russian state, the RuNet community has feared that a new, state, Registrar would be able to deny receiving an address (and thus, access to Internet audience) for "unwanted sites and organizations. Internet Service Providers also have a little happiness thinking about imposing additional licensing. As a whole, the ministerial act was evaluated as an attempt of the government to establish a control (and even - censorship) over the Internet as well as to lay hands on the revenues from registration and administration of domain names.

The protest against the draft encouraged the consolidation of the Internet community. Both ICPs and ISPs began talking about the necessity to combine efforts and "to defend the Internet against the arbitrariness of governmental officials.[39] The threat to lose registration right resulted in the RIPNs announcement to decrease the registration fee. Besides, the RIPN director, Alexej Platonov proposed to the Internet community as a whole to create the Arbitration committee, which will deal with the complaints about domain names using ICANN rules and procedures.[40]

Under the pressure of the RuNet community, president Putin has postponed signing and charged the vice-prime-minister Iliya Klebanov to elaborate a new version of the act after the consultations with the Internet community.

The Internet as Mass Media

The attempt to regulate online activities of Internet Content Providers was firstly designated in the ministerial act "About the Registration of Domain Names. The draft suggested that "a Web-site, the content of which is under the Federal Law "About the Mass Media, has to be registered as mass media by the Ministry of Mass Media.[41]

This proposal provoked so strong negative reaction from Internet content providers that the Ministry of Mass Media refused from an idea to announce its ministerial act About the Registration of Net Mass Media. According to several sources in the Russian Internet, the draft, which also was prepared in December 1999, proposed all Net online media to register in the Ministry of Mass Media.[42] Online mass media, which, by the definition of the Ministry, are those who renew information at least annually (!), embraces almost all sites in the RuNet, including personal web-sites. The registration would result in significant for Net media registration fees. Considering that currently most online media have negative profit and live at the expenses of other activities even in the USA (with essentially bigger online audience), the registration fees imply closing small online editions. The act has not published yet; the Russian government, however, proposed another form of Internet media regulation: via taxation.


In May 11, 2000, the Ministry on Taxation issued the official letter "About Taxation of Organizations Published in the Internet.[43] This letter pointed out that non-registered electronic media have to pay taxes, according to Russian law.[44] The letter proposed electronic media the choice between the payment of taxes to the Ministry on Taxation and the payment of registration fee to the Ministry on Mass-Media.[45] The letter might influence electronic publishing economically: even in the US, where the audience is much bigger than in Russia, most online editions are published at a loss. At the same time, in comparison with the compulsory registration and high fees, it allows small non-for-profit editions to continue their activity in the Internet.

The necessity to impose taxes on the Internet transactions has discussed since 1998. Time to time, the Ministry on Taxation makes propositions to impose taxes. The state has lost a lot of money, as the majority of enterprises that conducted their trade through the Internet have not paid taxes, the Ministry argues. Another argument of the ministry is that the Internet trade is used to channel money to offshore banks abroad.[46]

Arguments of opponents have focused on the US experience, where at the end of 1998, the Congress approved the Internet Tax Freedom Act for three years. One of the main reasons for this decision was a technical problem to collect taxes in the Internet: it is difficult to define geographic placement of an Internet transaction because all participants - a server, a customer or a seller - might stay in different countries and continents, and under different legislations. The Russian case has more argument against imposing taxes: considering a small scale of the Internet transactions in Russia, imposing taxes will demand more money than it will be possible to collect as a result of colossal efforts. Opponents note that taxation can impede not only the development of electronic commerce but also the Internet penetration in Russia, because it will lead to price increase in the industry as a whole.

The Russian government, however, has not undertaken active efforts on imposing taxes. Moreover, Alexander Pochinok, a ministry on taxation at that moment, said that the Internet would be free from taxes until other countries (the US and in Europe) will do impose taxes.[47] It is of high probability that declarations of the minister of taxation were conditioned by the intention of Russian government to join the WTO: the negotiations about this were intensified at the beginning of 2000.[48] And it should be expected that Russia would follow other WTO members in imposing moratorium or Internet taxation.

Privacy and security

The Constitution of the Russian Federation (articles 23-25) and the Federal Law "On Information, Informatization, and the Information Protection have recognized rights on privacy, data protection and secrecy of communications. According to the 1995 Telecommunication Law and the Law on Operational Investigation Activities, surveillance methods of the secret services such as the tapping of telephone conversations, inspection of correspondence and other restrictions of privacy (secrecy of communications), require a warrant. Nevertheless, every election in Russia reveal a lot of materials and tapping of telephone conversations, which, obviously, were made without any warrant. Although it is difficult to blame secret services in producing these documents (journalists have always refused to name their sources and referred to protections of witnesses), many people, however, suspect that governmental security services have involved in such illegal activities, especially considering their methods before perestroika. This is why Anatolij Levenchuk, a moderator of the Moscows Libertarium, wrote, "Although a sanction of court is necessary [to have access to electronic communications], history of Russia has testified to the lack of respect to privacy. To implement the law On Operational Investigation Activities in the Internet, the Ministry of Communications and Informatization drafted the ministerial act About the Systems for Ensuring Investigative Activity (SORM-2[49]) in May 1998. Being implemented, SORM-2 would allow the Federal Security Service (FSB - the former KGB) uncontrolled electronic mail surveillance. According to the draft, Internet Service Providers in Russia would be required to install special equipment, which allow security agencies control in- and outgoing mail. Thus, the FSB would be digitally linked with all ISPs throughout Russia.

This draft has provoked a campaign for its dismissal in electronic and printed media.[50] Opponents believe that first and foremost, the act does not provide a guarantee that the FSB officials obtain a warrant to monitor communications: there are no technical restrictions to prevent this. Thus, FSB would be out of civic control. Secondly, according to the draft, all expenditures for the installation of SORM equipments are supposed to be made by ISPs. It would lead to the price increase for ISPs subscribers, who will pay for the free Internet access and special equipments for FSB, i.e., they will pay for the possibility of the violation of their privacy. Increasing operational cost might have significant impact on small ISPs, which probably, will be forced to retreat from Internet business. Thirdly, this step can prevent many potential users from the Internet considering the experience of many Russians, who grew up in the country with the total state control and knew possible outcome. Thus, having been implemented, the draft will contribute to shrinking the Internet community in Russia. Besides, as a ministerial act, which demands a simplified procedure to be adopted, this draft should not pass the ordinary, "democratic, procedure via legislature and presidential approval.[51] This will prevent any public discussion about the document itself, as well as public control over its implementation.

Protests of Russian Net-citizens against the SORM act have received the support of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILG). In its appeal to the president Boris Eltsin, the ministry of justice Jurij Krashenninkov, and the presidents representative on human rights Oleg Mironov in September 1998, the GILG asked to re-consider the ministerial act, inasmuch it violates such international conventions as the International Pact about Civil and Political Rights (article 17), the European Convention on Human Rights (article 8) and the Declaration of Human Rights signed by Russia.[52]

In turn, the officials of the Ministry of Communications and the FSB have insisted that ISPs cannot see a warrant (which is one of demands of the Internet activists) because any knowledge of ISPs about operational investigation activities against particular persons will violate the Law "On Operational Investigation Activity, article 3 of which considers this information as a top secret. Secondly, information collected via such activities is not enough for any legal prosecution in court, and its using might be argued by lawyers. Alexander Glushenkov, a barrister, notes that according to the Law (article 5), everybody can appeal to a court against such activities and claim for documents collected by FSB such a way. [53] It should mention, however, that in order to appeal to the court, one has to know about such activities, however, to receive this information, she has to work either in FSB or in the court, and this is of a little probability. And finally, according to Sergey Grigorenko, an acting chief of Analytical Department, the Ministry of Communications, the SORM equipments would be installed at the expenses of the government[54]. This statement, however, reflects the new draft on SORM issued under the criticism of the Net community in August, 2000.

The discussion around the SORM has stimulated self-organizing the RuNet. When the SORM regulatory act was issued, there was only one organization in the RuNet: the Association of Electronic Messages (ADE), most of members of which are representatives of governmental agencies and non-Internet companies. This fact explained why ADE has kept silence despite the dissatisfaction of Internet service providers.

The SORM-2 act has stimulated several discussions not only about legal aspects of SORM itself, but also about legal, economic and political impacts of the Internet on society and society on the Internet.[55] As Anatolij Levenchuk, a coordinator of Moscow Libertarium, noted about the SORM site "this public education is necessary not only for the FSB, FAPSI (the Federal Agency of Governmental Communications and Information) and MVD (the Ministry of Interior), but also for mass media, human rights activists and simply citizens... We need to be prepared to our freedom rather than to win the particular document on SORM-2.[56]

As a result of this pressure, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation disaffirmed the ministerial act on SORM-2 on September 25, 2000. The court reminded that the Constitution prohibits surveillance without the sanctions of the court. This claim to the Court was submitted by the St.Petersburg journalist Paul Netupsky.[57]

The Future Governance of the Internet in Russia

In the meeting with leaders of the RuNet in 29th December 1999, on the eve of the President Eltsin resignation, the prime-minister, and tomorrows leading candidate in the presidential elections, Vladimir Putin said: We will not seek for the balance between freedom and regulation, the choice will be in favor of freedom.[58] However, beyond elections campaign declarations, the question of relationships between the Russian Internet community and the Russian government is still open.

The search of the model promises to be difficult. Historically, Russia has had no tradition of the separation of powers. Historically, the Russian society has had no tradition to search for compromise and consent. Despite the formal change of the political regime, the government has still inherited many elements, administrative rules and, it is of special importance, bureaucrats from totalitarian regime. Recent actions of the Russian government have testified to this statement. And this is why, the Internet in Russia, more than in many other countries, is in need of the RuNet self-governed society. In turn, as it was shown above that the society has not changed significantly from the criticizing to the constructive opposition, which not only criticizes but also proposes alternatives and expertise.

A Model for Self-Organization

The Russian Internet community is divided into two camps - those, who suppose that the RuNet should be free from the governmental regulation, and those, who think that the Internet has to be object of real-life laws. Both of them, however, are vitally interested in self-organization and self-governance.

In the Open Letter to the Russian Government, the Moscow club Libertarium proposed the government not to regulate the Internet (with the exception of the law of electronic signature) and rely on the self-governed model of the RuNet.[59] Many Internet Content Providers support this position, suggesting that self-governance is the most appropriate model for the Internet.

Another part of the RuNet community has supposed that real world legislation should be expanded over the RuNet. This acceptance of the governmental regulation is based on two reasons. Firstly, considering how the Internet can potentially influence the development of various industries and a society, it is no doubt that the government will strive to intervene in the Internet. On this reason, it would be more prudent to propose professional expertise than only complains or suggest leaving the Internet a free isle.[60] Secondly, many lawyers suppose that the exclusion of the virtual world (the Internet) from Law creates a dangerous precedent, and the real world legislation should be expanded over the RuNet.[61]

Most layers specialized on the Internet regulation and ISPs belong to this camp. They currently try to influence governmental decisions on the Internet and related issues such as for example, telecommunication regulation, providing expertise, participating in the parliamentary discussions and elaborating alternative regulation drafts. However, this part of the Internet community is even more interested in developing self-governed structures, than Internet-libertarians: because only an organization will be able to make the government to attentively listen to and reckon with the RuNet community. The influence of lobbies might solve particular problems of political and economic interests groups rather than promote the development of the Internet.

History of the Internet might provide some answers how to organize self-governance. Technical coordination among different networks has been traditionally performed by intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations rather than governmental agencies. In the USA, these managing bodies were assigned by the governmental agencies (Network Solutions, Ltd., for example, worked as a sole registrar for domain names) or have emerged by demand of Internet development[62]

Government within includes several organizations, initially founded in the USA. The Internet Society, a non-profit professional society with more than 150 organizational and 6,000 individual members in 100 countries currently, coordinates groups responsible for Internet infrastructure standards, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). The Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers (ICANN) was formed with help of the USA government in 1998 to facilitate solving problems arising around Internet domain names (the registration and administration processes, problems of cyber-squatting, etc.). Although ICANN documents continue to define it as a technical coordination body for the Internet,[63] ICANNs challenges are now more political and economic than technical.[64] ICANN elaborated a procedure for selection of registrars, a uniform dispute resolution policy to help resolve conflicts over domain names and supervise the regulation across the globe.

However, the US model has been explained by special governmental policy towards the Internet. In 1997, Kewin Werbach noted, The government has not, however, defined whether it retains authority over Internet management functions, or whether these responsibilities have been delegated to the private sector. [65] A year later, the US government defined its policy via special regulation promoting Internet development and assisting ICANN. Moreover, at present, as the Economist concluded, Even if ICANN fails, this does not mean that the Internets original decision-making process will lapse. No doubt, as the Internet matures, online communities such as the IETF will become more formalized, like offline communities. [66]

Choosing a particular model for self-governance, the Russian Internet community might adapt, for example, an ICANN model. The Russian ICANN might take responsibilities over management of many issues in the Internet, such as domain names registration and administration, cyber-squatting and others. Expertise and suggestions proposed by this organization would have more significant impact on the governmental attempt to lay the hands on the Internet than current criticism of non-organized users.

The Russian ICANN might resolve a current stalemate on the registration of domain names. Obviously, that the current situation, which provokes many complains, has to be changed. Both options - existing (keeping administrative power by public RIPN, which at the same time, is not responsible to somebody) and proposed (transferring the control to the government) - however, have significant defects. RIPN, which considers the RuNet as its enlightened monarchy, has changed rules, charged arbitrary high prices and, at the same time, cannot resolve arising conflicts (e.g., cyber-squatting). Governmental regulation, in turn, might lead to censorship and restrictions for receiving Internet names by unwanted organizations.

Similar, although at less extent, complains were in the US, when the Network Solutions, Inc. assigned domain names under the contract to the National Science Foundation. ICANN was formed to develop the process, through which private corporations, computer networking firms, and others parties all over the world could be allowed to serve as registrars. By summer 2000, ICANN had approved more than 120 independent registrars, including 54 US based registrars.[67] Implementation of this scheme might mot only resolve existing conflicts between RIPN and users, but also creates several independent registrars in the remote Russian provinces, which, in turn, would accelerate the development of the Internet. The Russian ICANN might use the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy developed by ICANN to resolve disputes around domain names as well as create a National Arbitration Forum to local dispute management.

However, the creation of the Russian ICANN will involve significant difficulties due to already mentioned peculiarities of Russia: RuNet citizens mistrust the government and, at the same time, cannot self-organize. International societies like ICANN might help the Russian community to establish self-governance. It could be helpful for ICANN itself, which has to find a solution how to manage its decisions across the globe.[68] Esther Dyson, a former head of ICANN, describes one of the important problems of the Internet: The challenge for the future is to separate the decentralized American approach from American laws and culture.[69]

In the near future, however, the variant of several Internet associations, which reflect economic and political interests of industries and different groups of real world life (lobby groups), will be more realistic option than the creation of the Russian ICANN. They can contribute to the development of new Internet-governmental relationships provide expertise and control over governmental decisions on the Internet. Of special importance will be abilities of these groups to overcome narrow-group interests and be guided by the interests of Internet development.

Suggestions for Government

Currently, proposals from different lobby groups are concentrated on several issues: e-commerce related activities (which are outside of this consideration), ministerial acts on domain names registration and mass media, as well as the overall governmental policy towards the Internet.[70] In the Concept of Russian Law on the Internet, Michael Yakushev and Boris Krystalnyj, Russian lawyers working for the Global One ISP, suggested several principles that might create a basis for the Internet regulation in Russia.[71] Firstly, the governmental law towards the Internet should be based on the principle that it is relationships among different actors (ISPs, users, organizations, etc.) that have to be regulated rather than the Internet itself. Secondly, it is necessary to recognize and accept that some Internet norms could be implemented by the Internet community itself. Thirdly, the ex-territoriality of the Internet implies primacy of international norms and rules over national regulations.

Most lawyers agree that the RuNet has no need of special Law; the current legislation could be change to take into account Internet issues.[72] Current Russian legislation, which can be implemented to Internet related activities, contains of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Civil Code of the Russian Federation and Federal Laws on Information, including the Law About Information, Informatization and Information Protection, the Law About the Participation in the International Exchange, the Law About Mass Media, the Law About Advertising, the Patent Law and several others. Current regulation, however, was elaborated without the consideration of the Internet at all, and laws can be treated ambiguously.

E-Commerce will demand special regulation to deal with such issues as consumer fraud, privacy, security fraud, security online transactions and others. In this sphere, Russia might use its last movers advantage. The Model Law on Electronic Commerce prepared by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in 1996 can create a basis for the elaboration of national law. Countries in vanguard of Internet development have accumulated significant experience, which might be also used for the Russian regulation in this sphere.

However, the Internet regulation is more than just imposing real world rules into the virtual world or e-commerce regulation. Governmental regulation has to create an environment (including telecommunications sector as a whole, education, development related industries, etc.), which will foster the development of the Internet in the country, and thus, define the place of the country in modern information world.

Current Russian regulation and ad hoc governmental decisions testify to the lack of governmental policy towards the creation of information environment. Although telecommunications sector reform has been under the way,[73] this reform is slow, and is driven by the budget deficit to a greater extent than any other reason. Telecommunications industry has been regulated by the 1995 Telecommunication Law and numerous ministerial acts. Licensing is required for almost all activities related to telecommunications sector, and licensing conditions are frequently changed. High tariffs and duties on import computers and telecommunications equipment have also contributed to the prices for Internet access, which are higher than in developed countries.

The Russian government might play a decisive role in encouraging the Internet in the country. First of all, the Russian government needs to continue Telecommunications Sector Reform towards liberalization, which can help attract private (including foreign) investment into telecommunication infrastructure development. Liberalization of telecommunications sector will promote competition among operators (both public and private), and, as a consequence, decrease prices and tariffs with widening spectrum of services provided. The conference under the auspice of Parliamentary Human Right Foundation (PHRF), proposed fostering competition, open system and interoperability as the best way to enlarge Internet access.[74] Considering the common tendency of the industry towards oligopoly (AOL, for example, has more subscribers than its top ten competitors worldwide added together), the competition in telecommunications sector has to be properly regulated by the government.[75]

The experiences of other countries have showed that the development of e-Government activities (such procurements or governmental services provided electronically) will have overall positive impact on the Internet. E-government will encourage the population and private sector to participate in online activities. At one time (in 1993), the adherence of Clintons administration to the Internet had important demonstration effect on the development of digital communications. For Russia, these governmental activities might have stimulating and demonstrative effect too. Online government activities will demand an appropriate qualification of governmental officers, and thus, will promote the development IT and e-business training, developing relevant curricula for schools, colleges and universities. E-government business will demand appropriate changes in the legislation, and thus, have pushing effect for the elaboration of e-commerce laws and the choice of e-payment system. It will have positive impact on the development of private sector in the country in form of small, micro and medium enterprises. Moreover, online government will help establish public control over the governmental activities, and thus, contribute to democratic development of Russia.

To stimulate Internet usage, the government might subsidize and induce special regulation to help providing Internet access in schools, libraries, and other public service institutions. Currently the government has supported Internet access in education and science through programs University of Russia, Development of the National Computer Net for Science and Education, and others. These programs, however, have to be expended and properly financed if the government is interested (1) in changing current indifference of population to the Internet, when, according to the recent Monitor.ru survey, 80 percent of population older 18 years is not planning to have access to the Internet,[76] and (2) in preparing the future generations to information world.

Multipurpose Community Telecenters (or telecottages like in Estonia) might ensure Internet access in many regions. Historically, MCTs were created to fulfill the demand for [universal] access to telecommunications in the rural areas of the West. But they can be successfully implemented in those countries with limited infrastructures.[77] Estonia, for example, implemented special program to provide Internet access in rural areas, having built about 30 telecottages in 1993-1997. Estonian experience showed that the program demands significant external funding (60-70% of current maintenance and 90% of investments).[78] To attract the private sector to participate in such projects, the government might implement special regulation and tax policies. As the conference under the auspice of Parliamentary Human Right Foundation concluded: Government and industry have a shared responsibility in building the Global Information Infrastructure, and in ensuring as wide an access as possible to its services. [79]


Currently, Russia lacks not only governmental policy towards the Internet but also an organized and responsible Internet community. Considering the potential political and economic impact of the Internet, the indifferent position of the Russian government towards the Internet begins to change. Considering ex-territorial and non-material (the flow of electrons) nature of the Internet, regulation of all issues by any national government is doomed to failure: many problems in the Internet could be managed by the Internet community itself. Considering the traditional inclination of the government in Russia for total domination, the question of a self-organizing Russian Internet community is of special importance. Only this community might offer balance to and corrections for governmental activities in the Internet as well as solving many disputes and problems without significant governmental involvement.

However, to form these civilized relationships, both the government and the Internet community has to change their approach to Internet development in Russia. The Internet community has to elaborate its model for self-governance as well as define the issues, which it will be able to manage itself. The government must elaborate its overall policy towards the Internet and telecommunications sector development, which promotes Internet penetration in the regions, instead of todays ad hoc attempts to fill the empty Treasury. In this scenario, the government will have the opportunity chances to enjoy not only the advantages of the development of information society but also the support of the RuNet community, instead of endless and destructive tensions. And as a result, who knows, maybe, it would be the government, who will initiate the Russian ICANN, despite long-held suspicions between state and society in Russia.



Abbreviations & Explanations

AIO The Alliance of Internet Operators

ADE The Association of Electronic Messages

EZhE The Community of Chief-Editors of Periodic Online Media

FAPSI The Federal Agency of Governmental Communications and Information

FSB The Federal Security Service

GILG The Global Internet Liberty Campaign

IANA The Internet Assigned Numbers Authorities

IAB The Internet Architecture Board

ICANN The Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers

ICP Internet Content Provider

IESG The Internet Engineering Steering Group

IETF The Internet Engineering Task Force

ISOC The Internet Society

ISP Internet Service Provider

MCT Multipurpose Community Telecenter

MVD The Ministry of Interior

OFISP The Open Forum of Internet Service Providers

Rbnet The Russian Backbone Network

RDI Registry of Domain Names

PHRF Parliamentary Human Right Foundation

RIPE Réseaux IP Européens (adminiters and coordinates pan-European IP network)

RIPN The Russian Institute for Public Networks

ROCIT The Russian Public Center of the Internet

Rostelecom A state-owned company, main international telecommunications carrier. Created in 1993

RuNet The Russian InterNET

RUNNet The Russian Universities Network

SOI The Alliance of Internet Operators

SORM Systems for Ensuring Investigative Activity

Svyazinvest Holding Company, which consolidated the governmental stakes in all of the 85 regional telecommunications companies. Created in 1995

UNCITRAL The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

WTO The World Trade Organization

Table 1. Self-Organizing Associations in the RuNet



Date of the Creation


RIPN, the Russian Institute for Public Networks



Independent Registrar of Domain Names. Founded by the Higher School State Committee (the Ministry of Education) and the Ministry of Science;

Closely connected with some ISPs, which were created on the basis of academic networks - Relcom, Demos, and others

ROCIT, the Russian Public Center of the Internet


March 1992

Provides research on the Russian Internet activities, online communities development, online surveys and news on the Internet

Since 1997 organizes Russian Internet Forums for Russian and foreign companies involved into the Internet activities

ADE, The Russian Electronic Messaging Association


August 1994

Created by the initiative of the Ministry of Communications;

Join representatives of governmental agencies, ISPs and telecommunications companies

Implies membership fee (2000 USD annually)

Organizes discussions on main issues related to the development of telecommunications in Russia

EZhE, the Community of Periodic Online Media



A Guild of editors of periodical electronic media

Settle disputes among mass media, especially on issues as violation of copyright

SOI, the Alliance of Internet Providers


September 1999

Alliance of big ISPs, closely connected with RIPN, which, according to some sources, initiated this organization

Implies entrance fee (about 1000 USD)

Purpose is to coordinate the development of the RuNet

OFISP, the Open Forum of Internet Service Providers


October 1999

Currently, small and medium ISPs

Open membership

Purpose is the representation of common interests of the RuNet community

The Russian Academy of the Internet (www.akademia.ru)

November 1999

Overall goal is support of the Internet development in Russia

The Russian Internet Academy (www.internetacademy.ru)

November 1999

Overall goal is support of the Internet development in Russia


Table 2. The Biggest Internet Service Providers in Russia


Bandwidth, Mbps

% of total hosts in the RuNet


Relcom, www.relcom.ru

12 UUNet


Moscow, regions, the CIS

Global One, www.global-one.ru

8 Teleglobe

1- Global One


Moscow, regions, the CIS

Demos www.demos.ru

10 MCI



Sovam Teleport www.sovam.ru

8 Teleglobe



Moscow, regions, the CIS

Radio-MSU www.radio-msu.net

0.128 + 1.408 (satellite) DFN


Moscow, regions, the CIS

Elvis Telecom www.telekom.ru

4 Telia



Novosibirsk- RUNNet

0,384 RUNNet






Moscow, St Petesburg


0.512 Radio MSU



Comstar www.comstar.ru

4 Teleglobe



GlasNet www.glasnet.ru

4 AlterNet



MTU-Inform www.mtu.ru

6 Teleglobe




Sovam Teleport



Peterlink www.peterlink.ru

2 Ebone


St Petesburg

RSSI www.rssi.ru


0.512 NISN (NASA) peering



MSUNet www.msu.ru

1 NorduNet/ Teleglobe (RUNNet)

0,512 MCI


Moscow, regions, the CIS

Ural Relcom www.ur.ru

1.096 Relcom



RUNNet www.runnet.ru

6 Teleglobe; 4 NORDUnet


Moscow, regions

Net RAN/ORC www.orc.ru


0.512 UUNET



SciNNOV/SANDY www.sandy.ru

0.265 Rbnet

0.265 Demos


Nizhnij Novgorod





Nevalink www.nevalink.ru

2 Relcom; 0.512 Metrocom


St Petesburg


16 Teleglobe

12 MCI

2 DTAG peering

2 TeleDenmark peering 2 DDD peering


Moscow, regions, the CIS

Source: Sadovnichij V., Vasenin B., Mokrousov a., Tutubalin A, The Russian Internet: Statistics and Facts. - Moscow: Moscow University, 1999 http://www.msu.ru/russian/book99/RIiFaN-8.html#2

Table 3. Governmental Agencies (Ministries, State Committees) in Charge of the Telecommunications Issues, Including the Internet

Governmental Agency


Main Activities Related to the Internet


Iliya Klebanov, a vice-prime-minister on science and technology development, telecommunications, military-industrial complex

General supervision

The Ministry of Communication and Informatization (before November 1999 - The State Committee for Telecommunications and Informatization


Leonid Reiman, a minister (since August 1999)

Regulation of telecommunications sector

Draft regulation About the Registration of Domain Names in the Russian Segment of the Internet

According to the governmental stature N 265 About the Ministry of Communication and Informatization (March, 2000), it organizes activities on domain names in the Internet.

The Ministry of Mass Media (before July 1999 The State Committee on Published Mass Media and the Federal Service on Television and Radio)

Michael Lesin, a minister (since July 1999)

Draft of the Ministerial Act About the Registration of Net Mass Media

The Ministry on Taxation (before December 1998 - the Russian State Tax Department)


Gennadij Bukaev, a minister since May 2000)

Alexander Pochinok, a minister (1997-98, May 1999- May 2000)

Official Letter (regulation) About Taxation of Organizations Published in the Internet

Attempts to impose taxes on the Internet transactions

The Ministry of Education



Prof. Vladimir Philippov, a minister (since September 1998)

Implements several connectivity projects (e.g., Universities of Russia)

IT educational curricula

Co-founder of RIPN

The Ministry of Science and Technologies

Prof. Alexander Dondukov, a minister (since 2000)

Development of Academic Networks

Research of new telecommunications technologies

Co-founder of RIPN

The Federal Agency of Governmental Communications and Information

Vladimir Matukhin (since May 1999), a head

Licensing crypto-products

The State Communications Inspectorate (Glavgossviaznadzor)

Nikolai Loginov, a head

Inspection of telecommunications equipment

Supervision every-day operations of telecommunications sector

Table 4. Legislation and Draft Ministerial Acts Related to the Current Internet Activities





Draft Law About the State Policy towards the Development of the Internet

Experts of the State Duma Committee on Informatization policy (1995-1999)

May 2000

Guided principles to the development of the Internet in Russia

Main activities to promote Internet penetration

Official Letter About Taxation of Organizations Published in the Internet

The Ministry on Taxation

May 2000

Those mass media that prefers not to register will pay taxes and fee, according to the Law About Mass-Media, the Law About Tax on Profit (1991) and the Law About Tax on Added Value (1991). Registered mass media are the object for tax exemption.

Draft of the Ministerial Act About the Registration of Domain Names in the Russian Segment of the Internet

The Ministry of Communication and Informatization

December 1999

1. Transfer the registration right from public RIPN to the state Registry of Domain Names

2. About the registration net media

Draft of the Ministerial Act About the Registration of Net Mass Media

The Ministry of Mass Media

December 1999

Online media have to register and pay registration fees.

The Ministerial Act About Systems for Ensuring Investigative Activities (SORM)

The Ministry of Communication and Informatization

May 1998,

Allow the Federal Security Service FSB formally by a warrant, but in reality, uncontrolled, electronic mail surveillance, according to the Law on Operational Investigative Activities

The Federal Law About the Participation in International Information Exchange

Approved by State Duma (the parliament)

May 1996

Rules for participation in International information exchange

Communications Law

Approved by State Duma (the parliament)


Established the rights and obligations in possession, use and disposal of means of communications and communications network

[Related to the Internet] Restrictions on communications (tapping of hone conversations, inspection) are only allowed by court sanctions

The Federal Law On Information, Informatization, and the Information Protection

Approved by State Duma (the parliament)

January 1995

[Related to the Internet] Recognized rights on privacy, data protection and secrecy of communication

The Federal Law About Copyright and Related Rights

Approved by State Duma (the parliament)

July 1995

Established rules on copyright issues

The Federal Law On Operational Investigative Activities

Approved by State Duma (the parliament)


Regulates surveillance methods of security services and requires a warrant

The Patent Law

Approved by State Duma (the parliament)

September 1992

Regulation of receiving and maintain patents

The Federal Law About Mass Media

Approved by State Duma (the parliament)

December 1991

Established the rights and obligations, registrations procedures and rules for mass media in Russia


[1] The survey of the Monitoring Agency in June 2000. See, Russia in the Internet. May-June 2000, A Report by the Monitoring Agency - http://www.monitoring.ru/internet/summarizingIII.html

[2] Monitoring.Ru, Ibid.

[3] Monitoring.Ru, Ibid.

[4] Monitoring.Ru, Ibid.

[5] Annual Report Russia in the Internet, - ROCIT, 1998 - http://rocit.ru/inform/page1.htm.

[6] The Progress of Nations, 2000, - UNICEF - http://www.unicef.org/pon00/statistics.htm

[7] My comparative research of prices for Dell notebooks in Russia and the US resulted in the conclusion that the difference in prices between comparable models vary from 500 USD till 4,500 USD (in Russia, the prices are higher).

[8] Maria Breitter, Liberalization and Privatization of Telecommunications in Russia,US&Foreign Commercial Service and US Department of State, 1999 - http://www.bisnis.doc.gov/bisnis/isa/9909tellib.htm

[9] Maria Breitter, Ibid.

[10] Sadovnichij V., Vasenin B., Mokrousov a., Tutubalin A, The Russian Internet: Statistics and Facts. - Moscow: Moscow University, 1999. - http://www/msu.ru/russian/book99/RIiFaN-toc.html.

[11] Mike Jensen, African Internet Status, September 2000 - http://www3.sn.apc.org/africa/afstat.htm

[12] The survey of the Monitoring Agency in June 2000. See, Russia in the Internet. May-June 2000, A Report by the Monitoring Agency - http://www.monitoring.ru/internet/summarizingIII.html

[13] The Consensus Machine, The Economist, 10 June 2000

[14] Volkov, A., Russkikh V., History of Relcom - http://www.relcom.ru/win/Relcom/History/Full/

[15] For example, in December 1997, the committee "The 20th December" organized 3-thousand meeting to protest against time-based telephone tariff in Moscow.

[16] About RIPN - http://www.ripn.net:800/about/en/

[17] Eugene Gornyj, A Chronology of the Russian Internet, 3 October 2000, http://www.russ.ru/netcult/ru_1996.html

[18] Gornyj, http://www.russ.ru/netcult/ru_1997.html

[19] The Web-site Regulation and Economics of SORM, - http://www.libertarium.ru/libertarium/sorm

[20] A New Method to Protect Intellectual Property Rights in the Internet, - Internet.ru, - November 11, 1999.

[21] This, probably, is the explanation why most Russian dissidents had technical and scientific background.

[22] http://old.irex.ru/internet/

[23] Certainly, it is possible to consider almost every web-site as publishing media. But I consider under online media only those who claim themselves as mass media, enjoy significant number of users, and periodically change information.

[24] Other interests of the RuNet audience are allocated as follows: entertainment (59%), communications and chats (47%), information about services and goods (40%) and business (37%). Russia in the Internet. May-June 2000, A Report by the Monitoring Agency - http://www.monitoring.ru/internet/summarizingIII.html

[25] Anton Nosik, The Internet as a Guest of Putin - Vesti.ru - December 29, 1999.

[26] Alexander Milistkij, Ibid.

[27] Access to http://www.ko.ru/document.asp?DocId=520 had worked in October and November 2000. However, checking links in December 16, 2000, I found that this page cannot be displayed any more.

[28] More detailed in Rafal Rohozinski, Mapping Russian Cyberspace. Perspectives on Democracy and the Net. Discussion Papers of United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, DP 115, October 1999, pp. 8-12.

[29] The Russian Internet: Statistics and Facts, Ibid.

[30] The Russian Internet: Statistics and Facts, Ibid.

[31] Although the manipulation of public opinion in modern Russia do not evoke doubts, Russian political elites in power have kept strong commitment to elections as a way to regime change, at least, at this stage.

[32] Strana.Ru was developed by the Fund of Effective Politics (Fond Effectivnoj Politiki - FEP), a formally private organization but closely affiliated to the President Putins Administration. Significant financial resources, which have no clear and tangible explanations, allow the FEP to create the Internet media at the level of the leading Western newspaper and news agencies.

[33] Sergey Sergeev, "Chat for President - Internet, No 8, 1998 - http://inter.net.ru/11/4.html

[34] E-commerce regulation will be mainly, outside of these paper as (1) this type of the Internet activity does not involve significant numbers of RuNet citizens currently; (2) this regulation will be defined by the common policy of the Russian government towards the Internet and telecommunications; (3) the consideration of possible models demands special paper.

[35] Open Letter by A.Platonov, December 29, 1999 - http://www.libertarium.ru/libertarium/15290.

[36] The ministerial act comes into force after signing by the minister (who issued the draft), a vice-prime-minister (in this case, Iliya Klebanov who supervises military-industrial complex) and after publishing into an official newspaper.

[37] Lenta.Ru, December 28, 1999 - http://www.lenta.ru/internet/1999/12/28/domains

[38] "Law Initiatives, January 20, 2000 - Russian Funds - http://i2r.rusfund.ru/rf/docs/editor/dwar3.html

[39] See, e.g., the Open Letter by Alexej Soldatov (the Association of Electronic Messages, SOI) http://www.libertarium.ru/libertarium/s-openletter or Anatolij Levenchuk, Physics, lyrics, and the RuNet Polit.ru 31 December 1999 - http://www.polit.ru/documents/159394.html

[40] Open Letter by Alexej Platonov, March 24, 2000 - http://www.libertarium.ru/libertarium/15290.

[41] Draft Regulation, Lenta.ru -28 December, 1999 - http://lenta.ru/internet/1999/12/28/domains/proect.htm

[42] See, e.g., Ruben Makarov, "Lesin Will Cover the RuNet by Barbed Wire -http://archive.deadline.ru/makar/mak991230.asp or http://www.vic.spb.ru/law/law.htm.

[43] An official letter, or an official explanation of current legislation, begins to act immediately, after being issued.

[44] Particularly, according to the Law About Mass-Media (approved December, 27, 1991), the Law About Tax on Profit (December 27, 1991) and the Law About Tax on Added Value (December 6, 1991), registered mass media are the object for tax exemption.

[45] Elena Kotlyarova, By Hook or By Crook, 12 July, 2000 Russian Funds - http://i2r.rusfund.ru/rf/docs/laws/letter.html

[46] See, e.g., the interview of Alexander Pochinok, a chief executive of the Russian State Tax Department at that moment - Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 6, 1998.

[47] The Net Will be Free from Taxes Internet.Ru April 14, 2000 - http://internet.ru/article/lentanews/2000/04/14/2376.html

[48] Whether will the RuNet be a Tax Free Zone? Internet.Ru January 17, 2000 - http://internet.ru/article/articles/2000/01/17/1323.html.

[49] SORM-1 issued by the Ministry of Communications and Informatization in 1995 has required telephone service providers to install surveillance

[50] See, for example, the special Web-site of Moscow Libertarium (www.libertarium.ru/sorm); the report by Sergey Smirnov, a Russian human rights activist (Human Rights Net) or the international Conference Outlook for Freedom, Budapest, September 1998 (http://www.svoboda.org/programs/SC/1998/SC1013.shtml); etc.

[51] The ministerial act comes into force after signing by the minister (who issued the draft), a vice-prime-minister (in this case, Iliya Klebanov who supervises military-industrial complex) and after publishing into an official newspaper.

[52] "Seventh Continent, the program on the Internet by the Russian Service of Radio Liberty, October 13, 1998 - http://www.svoboda.org/programs/SC/1998/SC1013.shtml

[53] Alexander Glushenkov, "About Legality of SORM,- Libertarium.Ru, July 28, 1998 - http://www.libertarium.ru/libertarium/l_sorm_gl

[54] Alexej Bezrassudnov, "SORM is not so dreadful as it is painted, - Internet,ru, August 24, 2000

[55] See details of the discussion and publications on the topic in the Web-site of Moscow Libertarium. -http://www.libertarium.ru/libertarium/sorm

[56] FSB online, Internet, 1998 - http://inter.net.ru/12/2.html.

[57] The Supreme Court disaffirmed the Illegal Ministerial Act on SORM Polit.Ru September 25, 2000 -http://www.polit.ru/documents/328157.html

[58] Konstantin Rogov, The Special Report about the Meeting of Putin with Net citizens: the Government Thinks about the Net- http://www.polit.ru/documents/158745.html

[59] http://www.libertarium.ru/libertarium/i-openletter.htm (Access, November 2000)

[60] See, for example, Alexej Soldatov, Open Letter to the Internet community 11 January 2000 - http://www.libertarium.ru/libertarium/s-openletter/

[61] See, e.g., articles on the Internet Regulation published by RussianLaw.Net web-site - http://www.russianlaw.net/law/doc/a_list.htm.

[62] Kewin Werbach, Digital tornado: the Internet and Telecommunications Policy FCC, 1997 p.20

[63] About ICANN - http://www.icann.org/general/abouticann.htm

[64] The Consensus Machine, - The Economist Newspaper Limited, June 10, 2000

[65] Kewin Werbach, Ibid.

[66] The Economist Newspaper, Ibid.

[67] The Economist Newspaper, Ibid.

[68] ICANN, time to time, meets problems dealing with geographical interests, as it happened with the registration of EU.COM, which began ahead of ICANN approval. - The Consensus Machine, - Economist Newspaper Limited, June 10, 2000.

[69] Esther Dyson, Release 2.0, New York: Broadway Books, 1997. pp. 104-105

[70] See, for example, Law and the Internet. Comments and Recommendations. - Comments of Russian lawers on Internet regulation - http://www.vic.spb.ru/law/law.htm

[71] Michael Yakushev and Boris Krystalnyj, The Conception of the Russian Legislation in the Internet. A Draft, - http://i2r.refund.ru/scripts/rf/[rnv.tr?docid=477.

[72] See, for example a forum on legal issues in the RussianLaw.Net.

[73] In 1995, Rostelecom, a main international telecommunications carrier became a state-owned company, In 1993, Svyazinvest, a holding company, which consolidated the governmental stakes in all of the 85 regional telecommunications companies was created. In Maria Breitter, Ibid.

[74] Open Internet Policy Principles, PHRF Conference, Brussels, Belgium 23 November 1996, - http://www.soros.org/principles.html

[75] Challenges to the Network: the Internet for the Development, Executive Summary, International Telecommunication Union - October 1999, p.17

[76] Russia in the Internet. May-June 2000, A Report by the Monitoring Agency - http://www.monitoring.ru/internet/summarizingIII.html

[77] Bridging the Digital Divide: Internet Access in Central and Eastern Europe, - Center for Democracy and Technology, March 2000. - www.cdt.org/international/ceeaccess/report.shtml

[78] Telecottages in Estonia, Center for Tele-Information, Technical University of Denmark, November 12, 1998 - http://www.itu.int/ITU-D-UniversalAccess/casesstudies/estonia.htm

[79] Open Internet Policy Principles, PHRF Conference, Brussels, Belgium 23 November 1996, - http://www.soros.org/principles.html

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