Russia threatened to ban Wikipedia earlier this month, so Russians are now downloading Wikipedia. Wikipedia has over 1.8 million articles in Russian. Russians downloading Wikipedia could seriously make Kremlin’s ban look stupid.
Now downloading 1.8 million articles is no joke. Kiwix, a free and open-source offline reader, is helping Russians download Wikipedia. According to a report by Slate, Kiwix has compiled all the Russian language entries into a massive 29 GB torrent. Once you download the torrent, you can read all the entries offline.
What’s better is that this is perfectly legal. Wikipedia’s policy allows users this, which means Kremlin can’t stop Wikipedia even if it bans it. This is because Russians have already downloaded 1,05,889 Wikipedia in the first weeks of March. It makes up for a 4,000 percent increase in the number of downloads in the country.
Russians download Wikipedia
Offline reading has been around for a long time, but it was never this serious. However, when Russians sensed the government might ban Wikipedia, they downloaded the entire encyclopedia. Russia’s beef with Wikipedia started over an entry titled “Russian invasion of Ukraine (2022).”
The entry is obviously not in line with Kremlin’s propaganda, so Roskomnadzor, Russia’s mass communication censor, asked the platform to remove it. Wikipedia rejected the demand, after which the Russian government is threatening to ban it.
However, as it appears, Russians have gotten used to the government banning platforms now. After Russia banned Instagram, many influencers and celebrities were taken aback. Both Instagram and Russia took the damage because of the ban. However, with their lifestyle disrupted overnight, Russian users took most of the damage.
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So now they took matters into their own hands and downloaded all the information they could. Even if Russia bans Wikipedia, many Russians will have copies of the knowledge that their government is trying to block.
In essence, this is also one of the first times Russians will be finding a way around their government’s narrative. As long as free and open information sources are available to the people, they could still oppose Putin’s invasion of Ukraine from within Russia.
A local alternative
While Russians may not have been ready to lose Instagram, Wikipedia was long overdue. The idea of a Russian Wikipedia alternative was first heard in 2014. Then the country invested $31 million to make it happen in 2019. Then the same year, Tass reported that Russia’s Wikipedia alternative would be ready by 2022.
But the Kremlin’s plans to replace Wikipedia have been going on for a long time. If Russia bans the platform now, we could see a Russian version replacing the free encyclopedia in the country.