Staunton, November 16 – Moscow’s effort to strip Tatarstan of the office of president has received more attention, but the Russian government has made a concession which in today’s world may prove more important: it is now registering a special Internet domain for those who want to use it, .Tatar.
The RU-Center which arranges such things announced earlier this month that it would begin taking requests for this domain extension (nic.ru), and the All-Tatar Social Center (VTOTs) is now celebrating this as a breakthrough for the people of that Middle Volga nation and republic (tatar-centr.blogspot.com/2014/11/tatar.html).
The mission of this domain name, VTOTs declares, involves promoting both the global and the local development of the Internet, “raising the quality of its use, developing the identity of the Tatar community in the world, forming a single information space in the Republic of Tatarstan, and attracting additional audiences to sites” promoting Tatar values and traditions.
Whether it can achieve all those things by itself, of course, very much remains to be seen, but the role and impact of the Internet and social media on the nations within the borders of the Russian Federation already has been enormous, especially at a time when Moscow is imposing ever-tighter controls on the conventional media.
And increasingly this impact is becoming the focus of academic research, especially by members of the nations most directly affected. A good example of this is provided this week by Viktor Baldrozhiyev, a Buryat, in his study on the impact of Internet access on social and political trends in that region (asiarussia.ru/blogs/4916/).
He examined patterns of Internet use in Chita, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude and concluded that the amount of Internet use and the ease and speed of access directly reflect the attitudes of the leaders. Where these are relatively tolerant and progressive as in Chita and Ulan-Ude, residents are turning to the Internet, but where they are not as in Irkutsk, people don’t.
This reflects the fact that openness and civic activity are welcomed in the former and not in the latter, something that makes Internet statistics, and especially their changes over time, among the most useful measures of the mentality of those in power. And he concludes sadly that over the last two years, those measures have been declining in Russia as a whole.