#act power thursdays: The Russian internet
The Logo of Roskomnadsor, Russia’s federal supervisory body of media and ICT
This week is connectivity week on my blog. In our networked world brought about by economic globalisation and ICT, power is bound to be hiding in part within linkages – between countries, and between individuals.
Monday kicked off with a quote from Parag Khanna on connectography, Tuesday scrutinised changed notions of space and its usage by individuals looking at patterns of mobility (air travel). And Wednesday introduced the notion of structural power, and how it could portray power in our inter-connected world.
Today, I am taking a look at how states forge and wield power instruments in response to or based on the connectivity of our world. As my current case study is Russia, I will briefly introduce how it constructs and controls a genuinely Russian internet.
Russia sees the internet as a terrain where national sovereignty is
contested, and on which the Russian state does need to give itself possibilities to
Russia has been investing in a generically Russian internet infrastructure (see some fantastic maps by Diploweb on the topic)
putting up data centres, internet cables and satellite relays. It is
also hoping to use this infrastructure to project influence in its
near-abroad. In addition, Russia has developed search engines, as well
as social media and other platforms dominating the Russian web. And
without a doubt, it has conceived doctrine and capabilities to engage in
The question that Russia tries to answer by organising a geographically
contained Russian cyber space is relevant to all of us: How is national
territory, its defense, its political life, its economy, the live of its
citizens transformed, when more and more activities are migrating onto a
global network? What happens to national sovereignty under such
The answer of the Kremlin is clear. Invest in the internet to project power abroad, and use it internally to rally support, as well as to monitor and suppress opposition.