Sunday, February 11, 2018

Three New and Unexpected Internet Challenges to the Kremlin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 11 – Discussions about the impact of the Internet on Russia usually focus on it as a source of new ideas that the government may find objectionable but nonetheless hard to control or on the use of social networks to link like-minded people together and allow them to organize protests and demonstrations.

            But three new developments suggest that the Internet may pose other challenges as well, challenges that the Russian authorities may find at least as hard or even harder to cope with and that deserve to be mentioned whenever the Internet’s role in Russia is discussed. They are respectively:

·         First, Russians are now buying so many goods and services online from abroad, typically from China, that their purchases of Russian products has been reduced and thus Russian businesses and the government through the loss of tax revenue has suffered (

·         Second, a young Russian singer, Irina, Smelova, who uses the pseudonym “Tatarka” or “the Tatar girl,” had a viral hit with a song in Tatar on the Internet. On one platform alone, her clip attracted almost 31 million viewers, highlighting the ability to reach a huge audience many times larger than the number of the speakers of that language and popularizing it as a result (

·         And third, for the first time ever, it appears that more Russians watched the Olympics via the Internet rather than on television, reducing still further the impact of the state’s control over television content when it comes to things people in the Russian Federation care about. The internet, not the refrigerator, is the winner (

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