April 2012

As a recent group of articles in the Guardian indicate, the Kremlin is now toying with the idea of controlling the Internet. However, the authorities are caught in a bind: on the one hand there is a desire to control everything and introduce Chinese-style censorship; on the other hand, all the leading bureaucrats have been extolling the freedom of the Internet space and plans to engineer a future based  on new technologies, with Skolkovo intended to showcase such an approach. All these efforts, however, will amount to nothing, if there is a visible regressive onslaught on on-line media.

Furthermore, this is one area where the majority of Russians appreciate the freedom that they have to access differing political and economic views, as well as the various social networking networks, both international and Russian. Any crackdown on the Internet (or to be more precise, a serious crackdown, compared to the target closures of various smaller sites) would undoubtedly be counter-productive and transform the growing disillusion with the never-ending rule of Vladimir Putin into real action.

So, as in other areas, Putin’s hands are tied: if he tries to clamp down, he will only damage his prospects in power. If he follows through and cracks down on corruption, he will be creating enemies among the security services and various oligarchs benefiting from the current state of affairs and will be turfed out.

One of the articles is available in both Russian and English