Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an electronic version of the 'Great Russian Encyclopedia' to list verifiable facts and data. Putin also said that Wikipedia was "unreliable" and expressed the need to "replace" it.
According to a government resolution, the move will reportedly ensure that people find "reliable information that is constantly updated on the basis of scientifically verified sources of knowledge".
The Russian President had proposed the idea of replacing Wikipedia, the crowd-sourced online encyclopedia, with an electronic version for Russia which is also an extension of the Soviet Union's main encyclopedia. However, a communications coordinator for Wikimedia, John Lubbock reportedly said that it was unclear how Putin planned to improve Wikipedia.
Russian Wikipedia is the 7th biggest language version of the site, with over 1.5 million articles created by 2.6 million users, all published on Open Licenses. There's no indication given, apart from spending $31m on it, how Putin plans to improve on this. https://t.co/tQfDuifV3f— John Lubbock (@jwsal) December 2, 2019
Russia briefly blocked the Russian-language version of Wikipedia in 2015 for an article which contained information on cannabis under legislation banning sites with drug-related material. In addition to that, Moscow has also introduced tougher online controls over the Russian segment of the internet in order to keep it going even if it is cut off from the infrastructure of other countries. The Great Russian Encyclopaedia is already available in basic electronic format. Reportedly, the new portal will cost nearly two billion roubles.
The Russian government is planning to set up a national research and education centre for its country-specific encyclopedia and the resolution was signed by Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev. Since Putin does not trust Wikipedia, the online plan will enable users to access information in a modern format. The Russian government has placed multiple curbs on the internet as well as the press and media organisations. The country was also on the list of countries under surveillance by Reporters Without Borders between 2010 and 2013. In 2014, Russia was also put on the internet enemies list. As per 2019, Russia ranks 149th among the 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index.