In two important books, Runet (the Russian internet) is the central character, an essential component of the politics of commerce, economic policy, and strategic thinking. The first, written by an American specialist on information policy and the interaction between society and technology, looks back to the Soviet era, at the prescience and then failure of top Soviet scientists to introduce the networked society ahead of their American counterparts. The second is a collaborative work of Russian social scientists with an extensive agenda to identify, using discourse analysis, the principal political groups posting in “communities” of the like-minded in “VKontakte,” a large heterogeneous social media site combining personal interactions and extensive blogs within self-organized “communities.” The second half of this book differs substantially: Lev Gudkov, senior analyst at the Levada Center in Moscow, looks at the country as a whole through a different lens—a large number of national surveys gathered over the course of the Center’s activity. The first book chronicles the ambitious proposal by leading scientists to network the whole country in the service of the Soviet Union’s ideologically-based command economy. The second reveals a country riven by multiple, mutually incompatible ideologies espousing “anti” or negative platforms with little ideological heft until Vladimir Putin’s campaign to arouse a nationalist or, as the book puts it, an “imperialist syndrome” with the “return” of Crimea.
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