It seems that Russia’s recent Internet repression knows no bounds – at least that’s the conclusion of a new trendy treatise, The Red Web, written by veteran Kremlin watchers Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. In it they portray Russia as a paranoid, authoritarian regime of decades past, and bemoan the depths to which web freedom has fallen despite vigorous, if futile, opposition.
Rarely a month goes by without reading something digitally dark about Russia and, if you’ve been reading our posts, you’re pretty much up to date. But the latest tome dramatically and in detail examines the Kremlin’s increasingly draconian and myopic view of the Internet, while revealing the lengths Putin has gone to in cementing control over an entire society. In doing so, as the book highlights, he is merely continuing a long tradition of repression, spanning the Russian Revolution to the present day, heightened in the post-WWII era.
One such example of the beginnings of repression comically chronicles the development of the photocopying machine in the early 1950’s by Vladimir Fridkin, only to see its demise by 1957 because it was seen too radical and dangerous. After all, secrets may be duplicated and dispersed! So the first machine was completely destroyed and its parts dispersed in a dump. But, in a bow to the accouterments-poor Soviet Union, the glass from the copier was hung in the women’s washroom.
The book also delves into the delicate situation of the US’s most famous whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, and the shadowy means by which he became ensconced in Russia after getting “stuck” in a Moscow airport. Neither Snowden nor his Russian hosts have adequately explained the circumstances surrounding his asylum, but the book suggests, much to the delight of the anti-Snowden crowd, that there are some collusion and cooperation going on between him and the Russian spy apparatus.
The authors spend much time lamenting Snowden’s silence regarding the digital surveillance by the Russian government, at the expense of the surveillance policies in the West – most notably of the US government and the NSA.