Russia has launched its own version of Wikipedia that is markedly more friendly towards President Vladimir Putin and his government. The site, Ruwiki, is helmed by Wikipedia’s former top Russian-language editor Vladimir Medeyko, The Telegraph reported.
Medeyko, who had worked with Wikipedia for 20 years, quit it to found the Kremlin-compliant rival in June, according to Bloomberg.
Medeyko told the outlet that the site will remain neutral and commit to high-quality sourcing, while also complying with Russia’s laws, which are notoriously draconian in the realms of media and freedom of speech.
Medeyko claims he is working independently of the Russian government, per Bloomberg. Ruwiki’s launch in July follows a long-running standoff between the open-sourced encyclopedia and the Russian state.
In June last year, Wikipedia refused a Russian court’s demands to remove articles about the invasion of Ukraine, and it has been fined by the Russian state several times since. Ruwiki’s content is copied wholesale from Russian Wikipedia’s 1.9 million articles — but with some notable changes.
Insider compared Ruwiki with Russian Wikipedia using Google Translate as of July 13 to get a sense of their key differences.
The “criticism” section of Ruwiki’s page on Putin — one that runs roughly 2,500 words on Russian Wikipedia — has been truncated to a few paragraphs, while retaining some sympathetic comments from a US academic.
And while there is no page on Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, there is one using the Kremlin-approved term “special military operation.” Ruwiki’s page on Ukraine makes no mention of the war.
Similarly, on Ruwiki all mention of the Wagner Group’s rebellion last month appears to be excised. Russian Wikipedia has a dedicated article on the episode, during which Wagner forces marched on Moscow and came within 125 miles of the Russian capital before turning back.
A nascent section on Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s disagreements with Russia’s Ministry of Defense is marked as yet to be written. Ruwiki is currently in beta version so outsiders can’t yet edit the site.
The launch of Ruwiki is viewed as a potential precursor to a Russian ban on Wikipedia, which is one of the country’s most popular websites, according to Bloomberg. Russia has also been developing a raft of laws and technologies that could enable increasing isolation of its internet from the wider web, as Wired reported.
It comes amid a long-term crackdown on free speech and independent media in Russia, where criticism of its military has been effectively outlawed, dissidents’ sentences extended, and independent outlets forced to refer to themselves as “foreign agents.”