Staunton, May 11 – In the latest Moscow action that may be a case of being “more Orthodox than the patriarch,” the Russian communications minister says that all requirements on Russian officials to use Western alphabets for Internet documents must be lifted and that only Cyrillic and domestic software should be employed.
“Over the last decade,” Nikolay Nikiforov told a meeting of the United Russia Duma fraction yesterday, “an enormous number of documents in which the use of this or that foreign product is directly or indirectly required have been adopted. All of this must be cleansed” from the Russian (interfax.ru/business/507584).
According to the Interfax news agency, Nikiforov was particular concern that officials are required by law to make use of Western standards for URL extensions like “.doc” as well as Western, that is, non-Cyrillic, scripts and types of files that have been defined by Western companies and governments.
These requirements make it difficult, he said, to engage in “import substitution” in software and thus represent “a short-sighted policy” that among other things means that Moscow has been spending 20 billion rubles (300 million US dollars) annually on Western software and not on equally effective programs produced in Russia (lenta.ru/news/2016/05/10/russian_times/).
As other Russian news outlets have reported, since January 1, Russian government agencies are required to purchase software only from a special list of domestic products and to buy materials from foreign manufacturers only if there is no Russian analogue (lenta.ru/news/2015/11/17/soft/).
Nikiforov’s latest proposal may find support among Russian politicians who want to save money in hard budgetary times and who also want to display their patriotism, but it almost certainly will backfire against Moscow, reducing the ability of the Russian authorities to share information even when that is in their interest.
Early attempts to shift at least the extensions of URLs to Cyrillic have proven to be clumsy and many of those institutions which have done so have now gone back to the Latin script lest the Cyrillic keep them from being fully integrated into the world wide web.