5.0608 Email in Russia and the CIS (1/172)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 19 Jan 1992 18:17:45 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0608. Sunday, 19 Jan 1992.

Date: Tue, 14 Jan 92 09:54 EST
From: "Tom Benson 814-865-4201" <T3B@PSUVM>
Subject: Email in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States

The following report is from CRTNET (CRTNET@PSUVM); it is an account of
a visit to Moscow to consult on development of computer communications
for scholars in the ex-Soviet states. Requests to HUMANIST in early
December 1991 yielded some important leads, which are being pursued
through the networks in continuing discussions. Thanks to HUMANISTs for
your own continuing support of these initiatives.

| |
| January 13, 1992 |
| Number 525 |

Last month I promised to send CRTNET readers a report of my
trip to Moscow. There's a lot to tell, but I'll try to keep
this fairly brief and invite questions and commentary.

This is an account of a trip on December 13-20, 1991, to Moscow, Russia,
at the request of IREX (the International Research and Exchanges Board),
sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation, and through the good offices of
Mike Cole, University of California at San Diego. Mike is an authority
on Soviet psychology, has long been a leading figure in international
discussions of computer use in the (former) Soviet Union, and in fact
wrote a highly interesting account of "Computerization in Soviet
Education" for CRTNET (CRTNET 16 [26 November 1985]).

I traveled with Peter Olenick, a senior networking specialist from
Princeton University. Our assignment was to assess the current state of
computer communications among social scientists and humanists in Moscow,
with special reference to the Soviet Academy of Sciences (which
transformed itself into the Russian Academy of Sciences the week we were
in Moscow). We were also invited to make recommendations about
priorities for future development.

Our host in Moscow was Dr. Alexandra (Sasha) Belyaeva, a senior research
psychologist at the Institute of Psychology and a principal developer of
electronic mail among academicians in Moscow (in addition to a long
running experiment in international e-mail for schoolchildren). We were
accompanied on most of our site visits, as well, by one of Alexandra
Belyaeva's assistants, Dmitry Mozhaev (Jim).

The research institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences operate under
the authority of the ministry of science of the central government, and
comprise by far the largest network of research scientists (outside of
systems of higher education, which is the U.S. model) in the world,
encompassing disciplines in the natural sciences, social sciences, and
humanities. Despite the years of work of Alexandra Belyaeva and others,
general development of computer communications is still in an early
phase, owing to technical, economic, political, and cultural

The current arrangement for the institutes with which Alexandra Belyaeva
is working is that the institute has a microcomputer and a modem;
electronic mail is composed in local mode on the microcomputer, which
then dials RELCOM, a telecommunications agency gradually evolving from a
project based in another institute. The mail is transferred to RELCOM
and any new incoming mail is then sent from RELCOM to the microcomputer;
the connection is then broken. RELCOM periodically dials up a host
computer in Europe and exchanges incoming and outgoing mail with
worldwide networks such as BITNET and the Internet. RELCOM assesses a
user fee for each transmission.

At the Vega Laboratory at the Institute of Psychology, Alexandra
Belyaeva has established a general address -- psy- pub@comlab.msk.su --
to which electronic mail may be sent to anyone in the Institute (the
addressee's name is used on the "Subject:" line of the mail.

Similar projects are underway, through Alexandra Belyaeva's initiatives,
at a number of other institutes. Here is a short list of recently
connected institutes compiled by Alexandra Belyaeva and Dmitry Mozhaev:

Institute : The State Historical Public Library
Address : Moscow, 101000, Starosadsky 9
Phone : +7 (095)-928-4341; +7 (095)-921-1707
Postmaster: Galina Zinina
Email : postmaster@shpl.msk.su
Connected : 09.03.91

Institute : Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology
Address : Moscow, 117334, Leninsky pr, 32 A
Phone : +7 (095)-938-1747
Postmaster: Irina Dakhnovskaya
Email : postmaster@iea.msk.su
Connected : 09.22.91

Institute : Institute of State and Law
Address : Moscow, 121019, Znamenka st. 10
Phone : +7 (095)-219-1229
Postmaster: Marina Karelina
Email : postmaster@isl.msk.su
Connected : 11.19.91

Institute : Intstitute of History, Science and Technology
Address : Moscow, 103012, Starobansky st, 1/5
Phone : +7 (095)-928-1029
Postmaster: Dmitry Bayuk
Email : postmaster@ihst.msk.su
Connected : 12.04.91

Institute : Institute of Latin America
Address : Moscow, 113184, Bolshaya Ordynka st, 21
Phone : +7 (095)-231-1322; +7 (095)-231-5127
Postmaster: Igor Arteminkov
Email : postmaster@ila.msk.su
Connected : 12.12.91

Institute : Institute of Slavic and Balkan studies
Address : Moscow, 117334, Leninsky prospect, 32-A
Phone : +7 (095)-938-1780
Postmaster: Andrej Edemsky
Email : postmaster@isb.msk.su
Connected : (registered, but not installed)

Institute : Institute of Psychology
Address : Moscow, 129366, Yaroslavskaya st, 13
Phone : +7 (095)-283-5140
Postmaster: Roman Tolochkov
Email : psy-pub@comlab.vega.msk.su
Connected : september 1991.

Alexandra Belyaeva has been in contact with 39 Institutes of the former
Soviet Academy of Sciences that operate in human sciences and
humanities--some changes in structure and number of these Institutes may
be expected with the transfer from the Soviet Academy to the Russian
Academy. Also in Vega's "zone of attention" are other institutions not
directly connected with the Academy of Sciences--such as libraries,
archives, research programs of humanities complexes, and new educational
organizations. We visited, for example, with Dean Yassen Zassoursky of
the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University, and plans are
underway to connect the Institute.

The service connections through RELCOM are a tremendous breakthrough, as
more and more institutes get connected and the international
conversation begins. But there are considerable limitations, still.
Using the e-mail-only dialup system now employed, Russian scholars are
denied access to many online services that depend on synchronous,
online, interactive messaging (or can use such services only by a
comparatively cumbersome e-mail equivalent). The requirement of paying
for each message has a potentially discouraging effect on the sort of
exploration that is required to use e-mail for maximum effect. The use
of a single, centralized microcomputer in a large institute as the sole
machine in communication with the outside world takes advantage of the
rapidity of transmission of e-mail but is very different from the
experience of a scholar who has a microcomputer at home and office, both
with direct and instant access to the international networks.

Projects are underway to develop Bitnet-style online communications
using mainframes connected by leased lines. Andrej Mendkovich, of the
Institute of Organic Chemistry, Moscow, is director of SUEARN (the
Soviet Union version of EARN--European Academic Research Network).
SUEARN does have a leased line into EARN, and plans to connect
mainframes at scientific institutes throughout Russia, but problems with
the Russian phone system and limited financial resources, among other
things, have impeded rapid progress. In addition, there seems to be
some tendency within the Soviet academic community to repeat the pattern
familiar in the United States academic community some years ago: the
scientists and engineers who owned the mainframes did not always see the
point of including social scientists and humanists in their plans.

Whatever the limitations of the current situation, the urgencies of
social and political development make computer communication a
potentially important tool for international conversation and
cooperation. A new democracy is struggling to be born and many believe
that Russian intellectuals, freed from the restraints of past times and
in communication with each other and the West, can play an important
role in the process. Under these circumstances, very rapid connection
of institutes, universities, and similar agencies could have significant
benefits for the peaceful evolution of Russian society.

Tom Benson
Penn State