I am excited and honored to start the new year with this introduction of a new project, RuNet Echo, which was launched by Global Voices at the end of 2009. For me, it all started with this exciting post and grew into a rewarding experience of studying and analyzing one of the most complex and often misinterpreted online communities in the world.
When we created this project, we took an ambitious and difficult role of examining and analyzing Russian Internet (also called RuNet).
The project is long overdue. The Russian Internet community exploded in the past few years and has become a platform where millions of people discuss current issues in Russian politics, economic and social life. Russians are the most active users of social networks in the world, according to some measures. There are more than 45 million people in the country with Internet access (a third of the whole population) and around 4 million blogs. There are also 42 million registered users of the most popular Russian social network, Vkontakte.ru.
Those numbers are constantly increasing, making RuNet one of the fastest growing Internet communities in the world.
Blogs seem to be the most popular online communication platform in Russia. A mix of a conventional online diary and complex social networks with friends, readers and different communities, blogs quickly became an interactive form of media where a regular citizens can talk to politicians (including the president of Russia himself), famous actors, prominent journalists, and controversial historians, as well as an array of online communities.
Being largely uncensored and ever-present, blogs in Russia, like in many countries of the world, have begun to compete with the heavily regulated mainstream media. There are some examples of RuNet serving as a platform for breaking news, and beating the conventional forms of media in immediacy and accuracy (a tragic night club fire, for example). Blogs and social networks quickly have grown into a sphere where Russians enjoy the most freedom and get the most information.
Our goal is to draw a large, comprehensive and live map of RuNet for global audiences. We will regularly monitor the most interesting developments in the Russian blogosphere, online media and social networking sites to create a comprehensive and constantly updated source on RuNet. Drawing upon our experience and understanding of Russian society, we hope to provide our readers with exclusive content and analysis of the most important events on RuNet. We plan to interview the most prominent Russian bloggers, along with less-known but nonetheless interesting people who actively contribute to the development of RuNet. The same goes for issues related to RuNet in general. We will certainly pay attention to topics everyone is taking about but we will also cover marginal subjects on the Russian Internet to present the full spectrum of Russian online communities for global audiences.
We are currently working on creating a list of resources on RuNet that will include notable academic works, books and online publications on the topic. Our own rating of the most popular Russian blog posts is also on the way.
Our stories are also translated into Russian by Lingua translators and posted on a Global Voices in Russian. We will soon produce RuNet Echo page on LiveJournal.com (the most popular blogging platform in Russia) and make our posts more readily available to Russian bloggers. We're also sharing them on our Twitter feed. We hope that the wide availability of RuNet Echo stories in different languages and on different platforms will create a productive discussion allowing us to improve our work.
I am honored to work with a wonderful and professional team of editors. They have an enormous experience in reporting, research and analysis and they serve as a great assurance that the project will become a valuable tool in understanding Russian online communities.
Veronica Khokhlova is a GVO regional editor for Central and Eastern Europe. She is doing a tremendous job covering Russia and former Soviet republics and we are lucky to have her in our team of editors.
Alexey Sidorenko worked at the Carnegie Center in Moscow for several years. He is writing his PhD dissertation for Moscow State University and getting a separate Master's Degree at the Warsaw University in Poland.
Gregory Asmolov worked for several prestigious newspapers in Moscow such as “Kommersant” and “Novaya Gazeta.” He has also taught courses on new media and public diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the Open University of Israel.
RuNet Echo is designed as an interactive project. Our team is open to suggestions from our readers. Please feel free to let us know what stories and topics would you like to see on our pages and tell us how we can make our project better.