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In 1991, a group of senior Soviet officials attempted to oust President Gorbachev from power.
They were unsuccessful in part because an unofficial computer network named Relcom/Demos helped maintain the flow of information required to mobilize against them.
This not only restricts ease of access to the Net but also affects the quality of on-line connections.
Therefore, unlike their colleagues in the West, the majority of Russian users experience the Net only through off-line e-mail and Usenet groups.
This experience, which exposed the latent power of a small but growing civil society, encouraged many analysts to speak confidently of the democratising potential of the Internet in Russia. But he suggests that in Russia, as in any other part of the world, it is necessary to adopt a socially and historically specific approach to cyberspace.
The first, Relcom/Demos, which appeared during the late 1980s, was based in the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Rohozinski begins by explaining the technological characteristics of the Russian Net, which is the 23rd largest in the world and is currently growing more modestly than the global average.
Its scope has been limited by an underdeveloped telecommunications sector, fragmented among a number of competing and, in some cases, mutually exclusive systems.
The second segment of the Russian Net consists of a variety of non-profit academic and research efforts, led by the Russian Academy of Sciences and a number of universities and research institutes.
It is a technological system that exists within widely varying economic contexts, structures of power and organizational settings.
And the role it can play in the construction of democracy depends very much upon the way these factors shape the specific nature of cyberspace in each concrete case.