Russian President Vladimir Putin previously suggested that the Eastern Europe country develop its own Wikipedia as an alternative to the popular online encyclopedia. Now, Great Russian Encyclopedia executive editor Sergei Kravets claims that such a project is in the works, Newsweek reports.
“As for Wikipedia … it’s better to replace it with the new Big Russian Encyclopaedia in electronic form,” Putin said in a Kremlin meeting earlier this month, adding that it will provide “reliable information” in a “modern” form.
Although the Russian Wikipedia began in 2001 and is reportedly the most-visited form of the index after the English version, the country appears to be making a move for its own independent option. In September, it was announced that the alternative had $26.7 million budgeted for its creation.
According to Kravets, the new website began development in July and will take approximately 33 months, finishing by spring or summer of 2022.
Although the project has yet to receive a name, Kravets did reveal that he wants a name reflective of the prestige of the Great Russian Encyclopedia.
“As many as 35 percent of students are aware of its existence, they consider it to be reliable but a bit outdated. As for professors, nearly 100 percent are acquainted with the encyclopedia and believe it to be fundamental and reliable. If we create something new, we need to maintain continuity, credibility, depth and reliability, but at the same time, we should eliminate its antiquatedness and reach out to new areas.”
Before Putin’s call for a Wikipedia alternative, Newsweek reported that the development of such a Russian database was first proposed by lawmaker Yelena Yampolskaya back in 2016. She suggested that such a database is necessary to give Russians resources other than Wikipedia.
Forbes suggests that Russia’s decision to create its own free online encyclopedia alternative reflects its troubled history with the United States. In the past, Moscow editors reportedly altered the West’s dictionary definitions for words like “capitalism” or “socialism” to provide alternative meanings for such sensitive words.
We shouldn't rely on Wikipedia for historical accuracy.Check out wife no 4! Look familiar?Yeah she was a Bond Girl! pic.twitter.com/QSKCYg7kxY— Gavin O'Connor (@gavinoconnor) September 24, 2013
Another Forbes report from 2015 reveals that data on Wikipedia’s accuracy is mixed. Shane Greenstein of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, and Feng Zhu, an assistant professor in the Technology and Operations Management unit at Harvard Business School, previously examined approximately 4,000 articles in Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica. According to their research, the former is more biased and almost always more left-leaning.
Despite reported accuracy issues, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov suggested that Putin meant no disrespect with his original comment on the Russian Wikipedia alternative’s reliability, calling Wikipedia a “popular and respected self-updated resource.”
The news of Russia’s Wikipedia alternative comes on the heels of Putin revealing that the country is testing an “unparalleled” weapon that he claims will play a role in maintaining peace in the world.