The Soviet Union web domain was never deactivated

The Soviet Union web domain was never deactivated

The last days of the Soviet Union were a long parenthesis that from 1988 to 1991 broke up a political and cultural entity that many, even among its opponents, thought would survive at least until the 21st century. In those three years that changed history, there was also room for a telematic bizarre that is now almost forgotten: the creation, on September 19, 1990, of a Soviet Union web domain just over a year from what would have been its final dissolution. A slice of Cold War cyberspace that has survived to the present day that hides more than one surprise - starting from its very existence.

The Iskra-1030, one of the last Soviet computers: it went on sale in 1989.

The one of the USSR is not in fact the only web domain created for a country that later disappeared (the same happened in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic), but retains the primacy when it comes to longevity. While in the other countries beyond the Curtain the deactivation took place shortly after the reunifications and disintegrations in which they were involved, in post-Soviet Russia an opposition led by the Moscow government itself was soon created, which wanted to keep the last entity that could still bear the name of the Soviet Union.

With the birth of the .ru national domain in 1994, the now thirty-year coexistence with the .su one began, the latter by its very nature disconnected from any currently existing country. Also thanks to the fact that both domains are not managed directly by the Russian government but by a non-profit company closely linked to the Kremlin, the RIPN (Russian Institute for Public Networks), it becomes obvious how over time the web domain of the deceased The Soviet Union has lent itself very well to illegal activities of various kinds such as attacks on banks, government sites and other institutions. In addition to being used by the Russian interlocutors of the Northern League during the negotiations, still under investigation, which should have brought 65 million dollars from the sale of diesel into the party's pockets.

Next to purely criminal uses, the gray area occupied in cyberspace is ideal for hosting far-right sites such as The Daily Stormer, together with Stormfront, one of the reference points for American neo-Nazis. A connivance on the part of the Russian government that appears anything but disinterested, after the founder of Stormer himself, Andrew Anglin, had indicated the Russian and Chinese internet companies as the only ones "capable of supporting your freedom of speech when the Western media they say you shouldn't have it ".

In the Soviet internet domain there is also space for sites close to Putin and there is no shortage of local administrations, blogs and information sites: a less extreme side that over the years has prevented the deactivation of the entire domain, leading RIPN itself to argue that eliminating it would be like "making .com or .org domains disappear overnight".

Russia moves military vehicles to Ukraine Sergei Malgavko \ TASS via Getty Images The latest communications from RIPN regarding the health of the .su domain (on which, curiously, the organization's website is hosted) dates back to 2013, when the then director Sergei Ovcharenko he had admitted "security problems" on which they would work shortly, stressing however that criminal activities formed only a small part of the Soviet cyberspace, otherwise populated by perfectly legal portals.

It was not possible to obtain further statements related to developments in recent years, probably due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. A further incentive for silence comes from the scandal, which emerged in 2019, which involved, among others, the former Deputy Minister of Communications Alexey Soldatov and which provided for the sale of various branches of the RIPN (including those that manage web domains) to a company in the Republic Czech.

Putin administration itself, intervened in the matter to prevent the .su domain from ending up in foreign hands, to stop the sale of what remains a key element in the Russian business landscape. A reconfirmation of the strategic importance of something apparently of little importance, also by virtue of the so-called “sovereign law of the RuNet”. Entered into force in November 2019, the legislation guarantees the functioning of the Russian internet network in the event that the nation is disconnected from the Worldwide Web. what Ukraine is undergoing these days), but which many experts believe could allow the authorities to disconnect the Russian internet from the global one in the event of internal crises, effectively preventing the circulation of narratives unwelcome to the government . Something that would become much more complex when the Russian internet was no longer run by a company employed by the Kremlin.

Born at the suggestion of a 19-year-old Finnish student, Petri Ojala, the domain The web of the Soviet Union evolved over the next thirty years, becoming a fundamental piece of what is the Russian telematic strategy in the 21st century, resistant to any attempt to close it and an ideal place for criminal activities as much as for cooking blogs. One of the most precious legacies of a Cold War that perhaps never ended.

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