Russia Is Now An Internet Society

One of the most common arguments made to explain why Russians don’t finally overthrow the evil Putin in a bloody bunt is that they are brainwashed by the regime’s TV propaganda stations.

This isn’t actually very accurate at all. Russian TV isn’t any more propagandistic than in the West, and on some issues, less so; but that is for another time.

The more relevant issue that is presupposes that there few Russians have means of accessing the “free information on the Internet, which even Western propagandists acknowledge is not controlled in Russia. But today this is no longer actual, as revealed by this history of polls on Internet penetration from FOM.

As you can see, Internet penetration in Russia as of Spring 2012 went over the 50% mark. Those people can read all the Navalny, Snob and Echo of Moscow they want to.

Of those 51%, a much larger proportion access the Internet daily as opposed to the several years ago.

Internet penetration is at basically developed country levels of 70% in Moscow and St.-Petersburg, and in Med-like 50%’s in other urban areas.

The most “connected” regions lead only by 2-3 years.

Finally, a graph of Russia Internet penetration compared to developed countries (Germany, the US, Italy, Greece); BRIC’s; and Ukraine. A few interesting observations can be made:

(1) Internet penetration in Russia increased at very rapid rates throughout the 2000’s.

(2) They have now almost caught up with those of Greece and Portugal, and lag Italy by just 2-3 years. The US and Germany however both reached Russia’s current Internet penetration rates a decade earlier.

(3) Ukraine has the same Internet penetration rate in 2011, at 31%, as did Russia’s rural areas in the same type period – or Russia as a whole in 2009.

(4) Not related to Russia as such, but pertaining to one of the themes over at AKarlin, China is head and shoulders above India.


  1. Dear Anatoly,

    Another fascinating post. One of the great differences between the USSR and today’s Russia is in the level of personal electronic communication. As I remember it outside Moscow in Soviet times only a small minority of households owned personal landline telephones (the only sort that existed). Today the great majority of people are connected through mobile phones and as your post shows internet penetration is rising rapidly and is now approaching and will soon achieve western levels. This is as dramatic a revolution as any other.

    As for Russians’ voting habits, you know my views. I continuously resent the way some people insinuate that Russians are apathetic sheep who don’t know what’s good for them. That is not a democratic attitude but its opposite.

  2. Hi Anatoly.

    To you as Sinotriumphalist, I think the following paper will be interesting – (it’s PDF)

    I find some similarities between China & Russia regarding the influence of internet on the processes of Westernization on one hand and growing nationalism on another.

    It seems that the natural historic processes through which Russia goes are independent from the fact that more people have access to internet.

    I find it interesting, however, that lately there are many voices supporting greater censorship of Internet. I really hope that Russia won’t implement Great Firewall of her own.

    • Didn’t Evgeny Morozov write an entire thesis on this basically called “the net delusion”?

      I don’t see how Russia will implement a Great Firewall. Despite the new blacklist, controls are still less stringent than in Australia for instance. And I don’t see anything wrong in blocking stuff like child porn anyway. though the one vs. “drug propaganda” is way overboard / hypocritical.

      PS. I even suspect the rhetoric about the GFC is overstated. I tested it via proxy and the only sites that were banned were the likes of Google and Facebook (for mercantile, not political reasons I suspect). Even the Falun Gong sites were accessible which I totally didn’t expect.