Media and technology in CEE

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  • (unfinished) 1837 fantasy novel Year 4338, by the 19-century Russian philosopher Vladimir Odoevsky, contains predictions such as "friends' houses are connected by means of magnetic telegraphs that allow people who live far from each other to talk to each other" and "household journals" "having replaced regular correspondence" with "information about the hosts’ good or bad health, family news, various thoughts and comments, small inventions, as well as invitations" [1]
  • 1934 October, First TV sets were produced, with screen 3x9 cm, with mechanical rasterization in 30 lines, 12.5 frame/s.
  • 1934 November 15, first TV broadcast with sound in Moscow, concert
  • 1935 October 15, First sounded TV film
  • 1938 March 9, first trial studio TV broadcast in Moscow from Shabolovka. March 25, first full TV movie, The Great Citizen (Великий гражданин). June 7, first trial TV broadcast in Leningrad
  • Between 1941 and Dec 1945 all television broadcasts in the nation were interrupted because of the fascist invasion of the Soviet Union. During this initial years, most of the television programs were about life in the Soviet Union, cultural activities and sports.
  • 1940s. amateur radio users all over USSR were conducting "P2P" connections with their comrades worldwide using data codes.
  • Eastern Bloc radio and television organizations were state-owned, while print media was usually owned by political organizations, mostly by the local communist party.
  • Like all other forms of public media in the Soviet Union, Soviet TV was remarkable for having high levels of self-censorship. In addition to obvious state-mandated restrictions such as prohibition of any form of criticism of Soviet government, the list of taboo topics included all aspects of sex, public nudity, graphic portrayal of violence, and coarse language. (Unlike on many Western TV channels, where these topics are usually regulated during daytime, in Soviet Union they were completely banned regardless of time of the day or target audience.) The subject of drug abuse was generally avoided. Religion was either portrayed critically or avoided.
  • Strict censorship was at times circumvented by those engaging in samizdat. Censorship institutions in the Bloc were organized differently. For example, censorship in Poland was clearly identified with it was loosely structured, but no less efficient, in Hungary. Strict censorship was introduced in Albania and Yugoslavia as early as 1944, though it was somewhat relaxed in Yugoslavia after the Tito-Stalin split of 1948. Unlike the rest of the Eastern Bloc, relative freedom existed for three years in Czechoslovakia until Soviet-style censorship was fully applied in 1948, along with the coup d'état of 1948. During the Stalinist period, even the weather forecasts were changed if they would have otherwise suggested that the sun might not shine on May Day. Under Nicolae Ceauşescu in Romania, weather reports were doctored so that the temperatures were not seen to rise above or fall below the levels which dictated that work must stop. Each Communist Party maintained a department of its Central Committee apparatus to supervise media. Party bureaucrats held all leading editorial positions. [2]
  • In the Soviet Union, in accordance with the official ideology and politics of the Communist Party, Goskomizdat censored all printed matter, Goskino supervised all cinema, Gosteleradio controlled radio and television broadcasting and the First Department in many agencies and institutions, such as the State Statistical Committee (Goskomstat), was responsible for assuring that state secrets and other sensitive information only reached authorized hands. The Soviets destroyed pre-revolutionary and foreign material from libraries, leaving only "special collections" (spetskhran), accessible by special permit from the KGB. The Soviet Union also censored images, included removing repressed persons from texts, posters, paintings and photographs.
  • The government, until 1988, routinely jammed radio broadcasts by American-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and Deutsche Welle, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) Ministry of the Interior broadcast. An estimated 2 to 3 million citizens regularly listened to these foreign broadcasts when the authorities were not jamming them.
  • In 1960 a second national television channel is established. This initial expansion of activity encompassed mostly the city of Moscow, but to a lesser extent also Leningrad, the Urals, Siberia and the Ukrainian SSR. Each republic, area or region had its own television station.
  • The first Soviet communication satellite, called Molniya, was launched in 1965. By November, 1967 the national system of satellite television, called Orbita was deployed. The system consisted of 3 highly elliptical Molniya satellites, Moscow-based ground uplink facilities and about 20 downlink stations, located in cities and towns of remote regions of Siberia and Far East. Each station had a 12-meter receiving parabolic antenna and transmitters for re-broadcasting TV signal to local householders.
  • 1972. a massive automated data network called "Express" was launched to serve needs of Russian Railways.
  • Gábor Body produces his first video in 1976. Infermental, Body's annually edited international video series was widely hailed as "the art magazine" of the eighties. Art video production started in the early eighties in the BBS Studio in Budapest. [3]
  • Video art is entirely incompatible with the utilitarian character of that institution (television), it is the artistic movement, which through its independence, denounces the mechanism of the manipulation of other people. Robakowski, 1976 [4]
  • By 1976 Soviet engineers developed a relatively simple and inexpensive system of satellite television (especially for Central and Northern Siberia). It included geostationary satellites called Ekran equipped with powerful 300 W UHF transponders, a broadcasting uplink station and various simple receiving stations located in various towns and villages of Siberian region. The typical receiving station, also called Ekran, represented itself as a home-use analog satellite receiver equipped with simple Yagi-Uda antenna. Later, Ekran satellites were replaced by more advanced Ekran-M series satellites.
  • In 1979 Soviet engineers developed Moskva (or Moscow) system of broadcasting and delivering of TV signal via satellites. New type of geostationary communication satellites, called Gorizont, were launched. They were equipped by powerful onboard transponders, so the size of receiving parabolic antennas of downlink stations was reduced to 4 and 2.5 meters (in comparison of early 12- meter dishes of standard orbital downlink stations).
  • From early 1980s the All Union Scientific Research Institute for Applied Computerized Systems (VNIIPAS) was working to implement data connections over the X.25 telephone protocol.
    • A test Soviet connection to Austria in 1982 existed
    • in 1982 and 1983 there were series of "world computer conferences" at VNIIPAS initiated by the U. N. where USSR was represented by a team of scientists from many Soviet Republics headed by biochemist Anatoly Klyosov; the other participating countries were UK, USA, Canada, Sweden, FRG, GDR, Italy, Finland, Philippines, Guatemala, Japan, Thailand, Luxembourg, Denmark, Brazil and New Zealand.
    • in 1983 the San Francisco Moscow Teleport (SFMT) project was started by VNIIPAS and an American team which included George Soros. It resulted in the creation in the latter 90s of the data transfer operator SovAm (Soviet-American) Teleport.
  • Petr Skala, video artist. In late 1982 began to work systematically with the video technology, which he had not previously regarded as an artistic medium, but only as a tool for preserving his abstract moving images [5]
  • 1980s video artists in Poland: Izabella Gustowska, Zbigniew Libera, Jerzy Truszkowski, Yach-Film group [6]
  • on April 1, 1984 a Fool's Day hoax about "Kremlin computer" Kremvax was made in English-speaking Usenet.
  • Original Video Journal, the dissident video magazine started in 1986 with Vaclav and Olga Havel's initiative, was being edited and copied secretly on school equipment. [7]
  • Radek Pilař, bought video camera and VCR in 1983, then first video experiments. Since 1988 organised exhibitions of video art. Later he gathered a number of artists to form a video group. This "Video Salon" made their first exhibition in the summer of 1989 with numerous screenings and four video installations. The members had access to information on video installation because one of the members, Dr. Vancat, was then working for the National Art Archive where there were photos of works by Paik and Bill Viola. They were planning their second exhibition later that year as the revolution broke. [8]
  • The "great common primordial soup of the sixties", as Viola calls the febrile activity of the first artists and curators who worked with the new medium of video in the US, took place about twenty-five years later in Russia. In this country, the very first experiments with video 8 cameras and rudimental editing equipment date back no later than the very end of the eighties, whereas first exhibitions showing video works took place about five years later. Historically, the birth of Video Art coincides with the final years of Gorbachev's perestroika. By the end of the eighties shops started selling video cameras, although their prices were too high to facilitate a rapid and widespread diffusion of these cameras among the art community. [9]
  • 1988. There are reports of spontaneous Internet (UUCP and telnet) connections "from home" through X.25 in the USSR
  • In 1988 approximately 75 million households owned television sets, and an estimated 93 percent of the population watched television
  • The face of Soviet TV began to change rapidly in the late 1980s. Soap operas -- Slave Isaura (Brazil) and later The Rich Also Cry (Mexico) -- were purchased in the West and became immensely popular among Soviet citizens. Talk shows and game shows were introduced, often copied from their western counterparts (for example, one of the earliest Soviet game shows, The field of miracles, was copied from American Wheel of Fortune). Free speech regulations were gradually eased
  • Until the late 1980s, Soviet TV programming did not include commercials of any kind. The first Western commercial was aired for the first time in May 1988; it was a Pepsi commercial featuring Michael Jackson.
  • By 1989 an improved version of Moskva system of satellite television has been called Moskva Global'naya (or Moscow Global). The system included a few geostationary Gorizont and Express type of communication satellites. TV signal from Moscow Global’s satellites could be received in any country of planet except Canada and North-West of the USA.
  • During the collapse of the Soviet Union, on 2 November 1989, the first Russian commercial television, "2×2", was born.
  • 1990. GlasNet non-profit initiative by the US-based Association for Progressive Communications sponsored Internet usage in several educational projects in the USSR (through Sovam). [10]
  • The first one to connect UNIX email hosts country-wide (including Soviet Republics) was the Relcom organization which formed on August 1st, 1990 at the Kurchatov nuclear physics institute in Moscow. They were functioning together with partner programming cooperative Demos, named after the Soviet-made DEMOS Unix-like operating system. In August 1990 they established regular email routing with an Internet node in Helsinki University over a paid voice line. By the end of the year connected network of about 30 organizations, among which - the Russian science centers in Serpukhov, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Dubna. The network was based exclusively on the technology of e-mail UUCP. [11]
    • In 1990-91 Relcom's network was rapidly expanding; in July 1992 it joined EUnet [12] and was used to spread news about the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 worldwide while coupers through KGB were trying to suppress mass media activity on the subject. [13] [14]
  • Soviet .su domain was registered on September 19, 1990 [15]
  • the first Russian FidoNet node reportedly started in October 1990 in Novosibirsk (by Eugene Chupriyanov and Vladimir Lebedev), and the USSR was included in FidoNet's Region 50. Russian FidoNet activity did contribute to development of Runet, as mass-networking over BBSes was for a time more popular than over the Internet in the early 90s. [16]
  • Until the end of 1991 (the end of the USSR), the sole fixed line telephone operator in the country was the Ministry of Communications of the USSR. The state possessed all telecommunications structure and access networks.
  • Feb 1994. A website Department of Mathematics, Russian Academy of Sciences - one of the first Russian sites [17]
  • registration of the .ru domain on April 7, 1994 [18]
  • By the mid 1990s, computer networks (where TCP/IP was replacing UUCP) appeared in many branches of regular life and commerce in Post-Soviet states.
  • Since 1997, the Russian Internet Forum (RIF) annual conference is held which goal is to discuss the development of the Runet. It is attended by members of the telecom and software industries, web content makers, representatives of state institutions.
  • Since year 2002 the Electronic Russia long-term national programme has been being implemented with a goal to provide inner governing bodies with variety of electronic services (most of state institutions have by now built their websites, following Government decree issued in February 2003). It is criticized though as some of the funds assigned are suspected to be stolen or improperly invested by corrupt officials.
  • Runet's largest online community is made up of the Russian-speaking users of the USA-based blogging platform LiveJournal, widely known as 'ЖЖ' ('ZheZhe', short for Zhivoy Zhurnal (живой журнал), Russian for "live journal"). In fall 2006 the Moscow-based firm SUP Fabrik joined forces with LiveJournal to supply users who write in Cyrillic symbols with Russian-oriented extra services and the next year bought the whole project out from previous owner SixApart. [19]
  • Many of people in Russia still use dial-up, and connection prices in regions are considered expensive by many; remnant Soviet-era wires, when used, provide poor connection quality. Home computers and Internet are more popular in the North-Western part of the country and in several Siberian regions, where many scientific institutions and naukograds are located.
  • Plenty of local commercial ISPs function in large cities, but most of the existing country-wide cable lines are held by small number of large operators such as former "monopolist", the state-controlled Rostelecom and the railways-affiliated Transtelecom, which operates country biggest DWDM fiber backbone.
  • In year 2007 the Golden Telecom company constructed massive Wi-Fi network in Moscow for commercial use which was recognized the largest urban wireless network in the world. [20]