The official launch of Ruwiki, Russia’s own online encyclopedia and alternative to Wikipedia, is set to take place today.
According to Kommersant, a Russian news outlet, Ruwiki is managed by a Russian legal entity with undisclosed investors, and all its data are stored on servers located inside Russia.
The state-approved alternative, headed by former Wikimedia Russia director Vladimir Medeyko, branched off from the Russian version of Wikipedia in the summer of 2023.
On Ruwiki’s entry about Ukraine, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was described as a “special military operation” and the 2014 Euromaidan a “coup d'état,” aligning that of the Kremlin’s narratives used to justify its invasion of Ukraine.
Some are concerned the introduction of Ruwiki would pave the way for Russia’s eventual ban of Wikipedia, one of the few open surviving independent sources of information in the Russian language, which would further restrict access to free information inside the country.
The Russian government has fined Wikipedia multiple times in the past for content that does not align with its narrative on its war in Ukraine.
The head of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Alexander Khinshtein, previously said that it is possible to block Wikipedia only if a domestic alternative exists.
Medeyko said in an article in May 2023 that Ruwiki “is a fork of Wikipedia” and is based on the existing 1.9 million Russian articles on the online encyclopedia, but that it would “develop differently.”
According to the group, the project would also develop functions that differ from Wikipedia.
“Ruwiki will present technological updates throughout the year, including content personalization, thematic collections, audio retelling of the full and short versions of the article, an updated user account, videos and podcasts,” the company said in an interview.
Medeyko cited “the issue of credibility,” the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and Wikipedia’s “controversial reputation in Russia” among the reasons behind the creation of Ruwiki.
Since August 2023, registered users have been able to edit the articles, but updates, as well as new content, are subjected to reviews by selected groups.
“[...] anyone can become the author of [Ruwiki], but only professionals act as guarantors of verification of materials,” read Ruwiki’s August press release.
However, this is not Russia’s first attempt to create an alternative to Wikipedia as demonstrated by the creation of Runiversialis, another online encyclopedia of similar nature, but Ruwiki appears to be the largest to date as it’s endorsed by the former director of Wikipedia in Russia.
It is expected to come out of beta testing that’s limited to a selected group of audiences and become fully operational later this year.
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