Debates on Russian language policy in the internet age have typically focused either on the formal degradation of language by a variety of internal and external forces of corruption or on the functional democratization of speech afforded by the internet’s decentralized and relatively uncensored mode of operation. Yet more recent trends complicate this dichotomy and reflect official efforts to use language and the internet as tools for ‘soft power’ – educational and cultural means of promoting Russian national interests both at home and abroad. In ‘Virtual Rusophonia” I examine two specific manifestations of this effort – the ‘Russian World Foundation’ (Fond ‘Russkii Mir’) and the ‘.rf’ Cyrillic internet domain project. While both represent a state-sponsored attempt to use language and new technology as tools for creating new spaces of ‘Russianness’, they present quite different, if not mutually exclusive visions, each fraught with tensions between the de-centred nature of web-based communication and the top-down, paternalistic penchants of the Putin-era political elite.

Language of contribution: English

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