From Russia with #LOVE: The Russian Digital landscape

By Iulia Arsenii

The aim of this article is to give a general description of what the Russian Digital Media is and how it has evolved.I will NOT deep dive into too many details related to historical factors that influenced the appearance of personal computers, Russian-language internet, social media channels etc., as this would mean writing an entire book. I will focus mainly on the most important aspects that make the Russian Digital Media so unique.

Part I – A basic introduction to Russian Internet Culture

russiaA little bit of history …

Back in the early ‘90s, the USSR was at the end of its road. Mikhail Gorbachev pulled the trigger and a new era for the Eastern Europe countries began. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War made technology exchange and Internet penetration possible. Somehow, internet can be considered a child of the Cold War when communication was perceived as a collective necessity; the same goes for Runet, the Russian part of the internet, which emerged as the result of the political break-down of the USSR. Throughout history, Runet has been used as an important communication and manipulation channel related to the moments of political crisis such as: the attempted coup of 1991, the financial crisis in 1998, the war between Georgia & Russia in 2008, etc.

At the same time, the official attitude of the Russian government towards internet growth has varied over time . It’s interesting to notice the enthusiasm of Dmitry Medvedev, a technophile who has invested money in the development of a prestigious and competitive IT industry. He was the first Russian president who used a video blog to communicate with the population all over the country. In contrast, Vladimir Putin was not so enthusiastic about the internet  considering it as being almost exclusively used to promote pornography-, and even less enthusiastic about social media as it created an entire movement against him and his “regime”.

One memorable example is when a Russian blogger created the hashtag #thankstoputinforthat (#spasiboputinuzaeto) in order to celebrate Putin’s 59th anniversary; he encouraged people to publish their own tweets using the hashtag. Russians responded playfully by creating ironic messages with rhymes like this one: “No money and no flat #thankstoputinforthat”. With over 10,000 tweets in a day, #thankstoputinforthat became the most popular hashtag of that day on the global level and the first Cyrillic hashtag that ever achieved this kind of results.

 A little bit of statistics:

We can speak about a dramatic increase in the number of internet-users in Russia only after the turn of the millennium. If in 2003, only 9% of population were using internet on a monthly basis,  in 2013, 57% of the Russian population were accessing internet on a daily basis (source: Redaktsiia FOM 2013) which means more than 66.5 million per day – the highest number of internet users in any European country. Mention should e made  that two-thirds of internet-users  come from large Russian cities (e.g.. Moscow and St. Petersburg). An increase in  internet usage in  the small cities and towns is expected, since the mobile phones with internet connections have become so popular among the general population.

Most Russians don’t really want or like to speak English, or any other languages. According to Yandex reports, Russian is the primary language for 91% of Russian websites and in many cases, it can be considered as one of the keys to success in Russian digital environment.

To my mind, this has also something to do with Russians’love for and pride in  their country, culture & language. From a linguistic point of view, permeability is low, as they prefer either to adapt the English words in order to have an equivalent in Russian, or to translate them in the best possible way. Therefore, Runet remains a rapidly-growing and dynamic part of the global Internet, highly connected to linguistic, cultural and politic developments in Russia.


Stay tuned for Part II: RUNET – There is a Russian version for EVERYTHING

Guest blogger Iulia Arsenii

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Hello, dear friend! I’m Iulia. Fasten your seatbelt and feel inspired, ’cause we’ll talk about social media! #myfav #socialmedia #catlover My big passions are social media, books, cats …and statistics! For the blog, I couldn’t combine all of them in one place, but social media and statistics are really working great together as the figures can give the most accurate perspective on what social media is and can be in the future.