Online Communication with the Ex-USSR

Article excerpt

Until the mid-'80s the Soviet Union basically appeared as a closed society to Western observers. Communication by letter took weeks, fax and telex connections were rare and computer links were limited to a few scientific institutes. With the demise of the old USSR, unnoticed by most scientists in East and West, electronic webs were spun between the Soviet Union and the "electronic community" in the industrialized countries. These contacts have become all-important lifelines for communication during the present period of instability for the new republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltics.

Here is an update of the currently available services, most of which are limited to providing electronic mail services or access to public data nets, though some provide other host services such as databases or teleconferencing[1]. Almost all the initiatives are commercial. This means that in communications with the ex-USSR the Western partners should remember that usually the ex-USSR partner is connected via a commercial carrier and has to pay for the volume of sent and received messages either in hard currency or at exorbitant high (ruble) prices. This is true, too, for fax messages. At the beginning of 1992 the cost of a one-minute fax to the U.S. was 108 rubles, approximately 25% of an average monthly salary.

INSTITUTE OF AUTOMATED

SYSTEMS (IAS)

The first contacts between the USSR and the West were set up through the Institute of Automated Systems (IAS), known under the Russian acronym VNIIPAS. The institute was supervised by the USSR State Committee on Computers and Informatics and the USSR Academy of Sciences; it is now privatized. It provides telecommunication services, turnkey projects, hardware and software production and network designs. The institute manages the National Centre for Automated Data Exchange (NCADE), which runs IASNET, the first, and still the major, public packet switching network in the former USSR.

Presently this net is connected internationally (DNIC 2502) via X.75 lines with the Austrian Radaus and the Finnish Datapak systems, and via X.25 lines with Kuba and TRT in the U.S. The main IASNET node is in Moscow, and sub-nodes exist in Kiev and St. Petersburg. Some 50 leased line (X.25) connections exist to more than 70 organizations all over the former Soviet Union and to several research centers in or near Moscow.

IAS arranged the export of Soviet online databases, e.g., ECOTASS to FIZ Technik and Pergamon; TASS English Language News Service to Profile and NEXIS; SOVMED Books and Articles to DIMDI; and the INFOLINK Soviet Press Digest to NEXIS. Furthermore, through IASNET connections Soviet information specialists used to access the major Western database hosts like STN, Data-Star, NEXIS, DIALOG, DIMDI, and Telesystemes QUESTEL.

All major ex-USSR database hosts in Moscow can be reached through IAS:

* ICSTI (International Center for

Scientific Information) - ten databases

on science and technology * VINITI (All-Union Institute for

Scientific and Technical Information)

- 54 databases on science and

technology * VNTICentre (All-Union Center for

Scientific and Technical Information) - four

databases on science and

technology, including reports,

dissertations and software * GBL (Lenin Library) - five databases,

culturally oriented * INION (Institute for Information on

Social Sciences) - 14 databases on

sociology, history and the humanities * GPNTB (State Public Library for

Science and Technology) - eight

databases on books, serials, software,

grey literature * POISK (Patents Institute VNIIPI) - six

databases on patents and

inventions in science and technology * JV DIALOG (Joint Venture DIALOG)

- four full-text databases on politics

and economics

E-MAIL VIA IAS

IAS operates a simple English-language mailbox, used by more than 500 users worldwide for direct (and thus very reliable) information exchange. …