Putin urges to replace Wikipedia with Great Russian Encyclopedia

The Russian president considers that it would be better to replace Wikipedia with an electronic version of the Great Russian Encyclopedia to provide people with “reliable information in a good modern form”. The corresponding project worth around $27 million may be launched already next year.

President Vladimir Putin proposed launching a Russian version of Wikipedia, the crowd-sourced online encyclopedia, during the last week's meeting of the Presidential Council on the Russian Language, reports Newsweek. The council, which met at the Kremlin on 5 November, was established in 2014 to “improve state policy in the development, protection and support of the Russian language”. It includes the country's leading philologists, linguists and literature historians, representatives of the teachers' community, directors of literature museums, writers and publishers.

According to Putin, it is better to replace Wikipedia with the new Great Russian Encyclopedia in the electronic form to provide “reliable information in a good modern form”. Russia carries a “tremendous responsibility for the preservation, development and expansion of the Russian language and Russian literature”, said the president.

He also mentioned attempts to artificially suppress the use of the Russian language in some areas of the world. “The war on the Russian language is not being declared only by the inveterate Russophobes, as we are witnessing... but also by active and aggressive nationalists.” Pressure and direct violation of human rights, including the right to a native language, culture and historical memory, stand behind this policy, the president pointed out. At the same time, there is “a real surge in interest” in the Russian language in the countries that revive and increase economic and political cooperation with Russia, stated Putin.

The creation of the 'alternative Russian Wikipedia' has been discussed since 2014, as the Kremlin considers that the original resource “is not capable of providing information about the region and life of the country in a detailed or sufficient way”. The draft law envisaging the development of such a resource in 2020-2022 was announced in September 2019. The government allocated around $27 million for this purpose. The money will be directed to the publishing house that produced the paper version of the Great Russian Encyclopedia. The complete edition of the latter consisting of 36 volumes was released in 2017.

Putin also asked the council to start working on a single corpus of dictionaries, reference books and grammar books defining the norms of the modern literary language when it is used as the state language of the Russian Federation. He claimed that these books should become mandatory for use by all state agencies, including government bodies, schools and mass media.

By Anna Litvina