Evening Internet was a project of Anton Nossik (1966-2017), Russia's first blogger and a "founding father of the Internet." It was the first-ever online column dedicated to daily happenings on the fledgling Russian-language Web. As Nossik explained in a 1998 interview, the name "Evening Internet" was a reference to Evening Moscow, one of Russia's longest-running news dailies. Initially, the publication was intended for the person who "works all day, hustling, stressing out, toiling for the good of his homeland," then "comes home, kicks off his shoes," and navigates to Evening Internet, where he can find out everything that happened online in his absence. Of course, as any internet user knows all too well, online news sites are never more tempting than during the first hours of the workday — a fact Nossik claimed usage statistics for his site confirmed. Evening Internet epitomized the clubby atmosphere of early RuNet culture: in response to a question about sourcing, Nossik confesses that his "reporters" are mostly "friends" who drop him a line whenever anything of note happens. After shutting down Evening Internet in 1999, Nossik went on to found several prominent online news portals, including Vesti.ru, Lenta.ru, Gazeta.ru, and NEWSru.com.
Olia Lialina, "My Boyfriend Came Back from the War"
In 1995, pioneering Web artist Olia Lialina created her first major work, the seminal browser-based hypertext story "My Boyfriend Came Back from the War." Users were meant to click through a series of nested frames containing words, still images, and the occasional grainy .gif. In a 2014 interview with the creative industry journal Look At Me, Lialina explicitly likened this work to film (a "netfilm," as she would also call it), describing the mid-1990s as a time when "some people felt like absolutely everything would be possible in a matter of weeks, while others felt like the very sky was about to disappear."
The "Kogot' [Claw]" kompromat pages
The first time an Internet-like structure was deployed for political ends in Russia was during the August 1991 putsch (see GKChP press conference). When the putschists shut down all other means of communication (including television, radio, and the press), journalists turned to the purely e-mail-based network called RELCOM, launched just a year earlier, to spread help spread news of the putsch worldwide. By the late 1990s, the technologies and media practices available for political intrigue had grown significantly more sophisticated. According to media theorist Ivan Zassoursky, "the Net proved to be a useful weapon for political consultants waging their information wars; information could be published on it anonymously and then cited as a source." (Media and Power in Post-Soviet Russia: 169) The feedback loop between "legitimate" print outlets and sketchy web "sources" is best exemplified by the "Kogot'" page series, a sample of which is screenshotted here. The name "Kogot'," meaning "claw" or "talon," testified to the page's mission of "tearing the veil of secrets and lies" separating the dealings of the "Russian elite" from the people's scrutiny. In perhaps the first known instance of doxxing, the original Kogot' page (which existed for just one day in November 1998) featured personal contact information and communications transcripts/ recordings for members of the "Russian elite." The site's initial offerings included sensitive information on the former head of the State Property Committee Alfred Kokh and former Chief Proescutor Yury Skuratov, and, most famously, a transcript of a conversation between oligarch Boris Berezovsky (1946-2013) and the daughter of then-President Boris Yeltsin, Tatyana Dyachenko. This early kompromat spawned numerous imitators, including subsequent versions of Kogot' itself. Today, the original Kogot' pages are all defunct, but traces can be found on web archives. More importantly, the mission of Kogot' lives on in successor projects like "kompromat library" kompromat.ru, which touts itself as "your one-stop dirty laundry shop."
The first Russian-language post on LiveJournal, 30 November 1999
Before Vkontakte — the Russian equivalent to Facebook — there was LiveJournal. Brainchild of American programmer Brad Fitzpatrick, the platform launched in April 1999 as a means of keeping Brad's high school friends apprised of his activities. Soon, ZheZhe (Zhivoi Zhurnal, Russian for "Live Journal") — or, as it is affectionately known, "Zhezhechka" — became a major gathering place for the post-Soviet intelligentsia, a forum for serious political discussion, and the first important Russian social network. For most of the first decade of Internet literature (seteratura), it was also the most fertile ground for new voices, from Linor Goralik to Sergei Lebedev to Vera Polozkova. This first post, however, reveals little about ZhZh's exciting future: it says merely "What, you can even post in Russian? Amaaaaaaze"