Putin orders to replace Wikipedia and rewrite Russian dictionary

Russian President Vladimir Putin convened a session of the Russian Language Council in the Kremlin on Tuesday, during which he ordered the preparation of a “corpus of dictionaries and grammars” that will enshrine the linguistic norms that are mandatory for state organs and the media. He also approved a bill to establish a replacement for Wikipedia that is meant to provide Russians with “more reliable” information.

War has been declared against the Russian language by “cave-dwelling Russophobes”, the marginalized and aggressive nationalists – they are trying to “artificially, crudely, sometimes unceremoniously reduce the space of the Russian language in the world, driving it to the periphery,” claimed the Russian president.

According to Putin, there is a need to set out unified standards for the modern Russian language.

“I ask you to start preparing a unified corpus of dictionaries, guidebooks and grammars, which contain the standards of the modern literary language for its use as the state language of the Russian Federation. Use of them must be mandatory for all state structures, whether organs of government, executive, judicial and legislative, as well as schools and the mass media,” the Kremlin’s website cites the president as saying.

Putin also emphasized the need to replace Wikipedia, from which school children “frequently draw unreliable information”.

“As for Wikipedia… it would be better to replace it with a new Great Russian Encyclopedia in digital form. In any case, it will be reliable information in a good and modern form,” Putin said.

Development of the National Interactive Encyclopedia Portal (OIEP) will begin in 2020 and will be financed by the federal treasury.

In the draft budget for 2020-22, the equivalent of roughly $26.7 million has already been allocated to this purpose in the form of a subsidy to the publisher of the Great Russian Encyclopedia, which will create content under the supervision of the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media.

In July, the ministry drafted a bill to regulate the future “Rukipedia”. At the time, deputy head of the department Alexey Volin remarked that articles on the traditional Wikipedia are often unreliable, and advised against using the free encyclopedia.

Stanislav Kozlovsky, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation (which governs Wikipedia), told Gazeta.Ru that Putin’s proposal to replace Wikipedia is alarming.

“It’s not very clear what it means to ‘replace’ Wikipedia. To block it? This nuance has not been clarified. In principle, we are only in favor of there being more sources. But whether this means destroying all the rest is not very clear. Putin probably didn’t mean the latter. I hope,” Kozlovsky remarked.

He also drew attention to the fact that Wikipedia is several times larger than the Great Russian Encyclopedia. “The GRE, which was written from 1996 and concluded in 2017, contains 80,000 articles. On Wikipedia approximately 1.6 million articles have been written in the Russian language. In other words, roughly 20 times more. And the size of the articles must also be taken into account.

The majority of articles in the GRE contain one or two paragraphs. Each year, a greater number of texts is added to the Russian-language section of Wikipedia than were written for the GRE in 21 years,” Kozlovsky explained.

  Putin, Wikipedia, Russia