Russian Linux: The Push Continues

We've talked about the concept of national Linux distributions before, and the Russians are a nation that has engaged in previous attempts to standardize on Linux. Recently, Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, made an announcement of a renewed effort towards open source adoption on a massive, despite the previous failures.

Armchair pundits have had to make do with translated versions of the report and of the announcement, but what seems clear is that under the new plan Russian institutions will undergo a transition to open source software between 2011 and 2015. For example, the translated document specifies that in the fourth quarter of 2011, federal institutions will engage in:

Formation of the base package of free software solutions for typical problems of the federal executive bodies with the needs of the federal bodies of executive power in the types of software.

Followed by, in the second quarter of 2012:

Creating and maintaining a single repository of free software used in the federal bodies of executive power.

The whole 25 point plan runs along these lines, and it's detailed and well thought out. In fact, this focused plan of action reveals two truths about the Russian governmental attitude towards open source software:

Firstly, despite failures in the past, the powers in charge are determined to go through with adopting Linux and open source. This shows just how much value they attach to FOSS adoption.

Secondly, the documentation shows that Russian policy makers have learned, the hard way, that an uncoordinated and vague initiative is unlikely to succeed. As I mentioned in my earlier article, any initiative to move over to Linux is typically doomed if it is not part of a coordinated strategy. For example, I would argue that a plan to move all schools over to Open Office as the de facto office suite would have more chance of success than a plan to move one part of the school system entirely over to Linux and open source.

The dissemination of the announcement on the forums has been mixed. The competence of governments to efficiently organize large projects of this nature is a theme that always rears its head in these discussions.

The success of open source software anywhere benefits open source software in general, but some of the commenters suggested that the Russian government might not want to share improvements that they make to source code. I think that this is unlikely because it would be technically difficult to make modifications to the source code without sharing those changes, as anyone who has been involved with the maintenance of backports will attest.

The commentary also reveals a bias on the part of English speaking nations against the trustworthiness of a former cold war foe. These comments themselves fall into two categories, suggesting both that the Russian state may add security back-doors for its own nefarious purposes and that the plan might itself be motivated by a fear that American companies are secretly complicit with US government schemes of the same type.

Certainly, events such as the recent Stuxnet worm saga, that allegedly harmed the Iranian nuclear program, are a point in favor of Linux, and John Le Carrier would be intrigued by the level of imagination on display. However, I suspect that the Russians want to move over to FOSS for the same, slightly mundane, reasons as most of us: reduced costs, freedom from the whims of commercial companies along with greater flexibility and choice of solutions. 


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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Some unscrupulous people are using this email thread to sell...

Chdslv's picture

Some unscrupulous people are using this email thread to sell their goods, so I think all comments and entries must be checked before they appear on line. This kind of openness would hurt Linux Journal.

Maybe some sort of a registered members?

The Americans can go to hell!

Anonymous's picture

The Americans can go to hell! You can shove up OSI and ANSI up your ass too !
We don't want your software and other crap ! Russia is a great nation.

Russians and WWII

Anonymous's picture

Regarding Russians and WWII, here are some stats:

- Germany used ~85% of its military resources fighting Russia.
- Germany lost 75%-90% of its soldiers fighting Russia.
- US Lend Lease consisted of ~5% of Russia's material.

Good work

John Knight's picture

Nice article, well done. :)

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

Russian developers...

Chdslv's picture

Have you guys tried Kolibri? It is done and maintained by former USSR people, and it is sooooo is less than 4MB!

Russian move

extremely_dangerous's picture

The case is not about if microsoft is easy or better, or effective,
the case is about "national security" and jobs.
A nation (russia) adopting open source (linux, BSD...) nationwide, in the first moments would be difficult, as open source does not fullfill all his needs, but as time runs (and the winter is cold....) there will be a lot of people making software for the open source (probably payed by the govern that will not need to pay microsoft licences any more). These developpers will gain experience and eventually will make better software than microsoft, adobe... Russians are very determined in his way to do things. If you count developpers only, with few investment from the govern, you will raise about 200,000 developers in few time, if you count that 1/10 will produce good software, there will be 20,000 working peope.. that is a lot of "thinking heads"...
How long does it takes??? well I bet about 2 to 4 years...

Status of Linux in India

kousik's picture

In India,CDAC-Chennai(Under DIT Govt. of India) customized Debian Squeeze put Indian languages and release as BOSS(Bharat Operating System Solutions).But main problem is to deployment.Everybody compare here with M$.And driver issues also there. Scanners,printers etc are bought from so many vendors that its really impossible to work all to BOSS.Can anybody suggest how to tackle this problem?
And what is the best way to brainwash M$ loved people?


Ritesh Raj Sarraf's picture

You should consider revising your procurement process and only buy stuff that is certified.

brainwash??? I am radical,

extremely_dangerous's picture

I am radical, forget them. It is all about market and users. if you make an research, you will see that in india more than 1 bilion persons... I bet only 5% of them (50 milion) have access to new and expensive technology (3d,notebooks sony, high resolution, high speed internet, movies... and so on) so if you are writing here, you are one of those 5%. Almost everyone in this planet would like to buy a mercecer, bmw.... but only a few would do it. The point is: forget about them (those who can buy expensive computers using windows 7). Focus on the other 95%. if you find a product that will reach 1 in 1000, you will not able to produce it in quantities enough.

If you change your strategy, and show that those that program in Linux (or BSD) will have a job, (by selling software) in India or all over the world, you will than have a consuming pot, and in the 21 century, you do not sell things you sell markets.
For example: if you build a small asterisk PBX and simpler ATAS (analogic telephone adapter) that would cost US$20 each, my country would buy 1 milion a year. there is no reason why a PAP2NT would cost US$200.

Here problem with whole echo

kousik's picture

Here problem with whole echo system... most systems run M$ pirated copies ... and vendors like Dell also sales system pre-installed M$ ... I had talked with Dell before purchasing laptop... they told its impossible to buy without M$ can get any software by max RS 100 (aprox $2.5)...

India lost the game long time

Anonymous's picture

India lost the game long time ago. ur country is full of LUGs which has looosers and gnutards who chat chat ... chat ... chat !

India lost the game long time

Anonymous's picture

India lost the game long time ago. You only have LUGs which are full of loosers !

hello, Again, you are

extremely_dangerous's picture


Again, you are thinking wrong. Those who have money to buy dell, will continue to use windows, forget about them. Here, for each dell sold, there are about 50 others that buys notebooks for US$300 (a dell costs US$1200), there are sony vaio for U$2000 too. Just think about the others 50 who cannot buy dell. Even if those use windows 7 in their notebook, by the time the notebook crashes, virus.... they will have to pay (here about US$50) for reinstall windows, and guess what?? 3 months (max) they have it broke again. I bet that US$50 is a lot of money for a poor person (as here a poor person can buy a notebook paying about U$20/month). When they have payed US$100 (2 times) to run windows, he will come to you to pay $20 to install linux Once and forever. 99% of those persons use a notebook (computer) to see videos in internet, type in messenger, and stay in facebook. For this use, any Linux fits it all. I use archlinux ( and gnome (because it is easy. Kde is good but too advanced).
Again, think in starting curse for program in Linux (gnome,python,gtk) and tell them that you can build small company software that never brokes, using the basics of what a company person needs to run a small business (or use gnucash:

I bet you will have a lot of people interested in learning how to program in Linux, because:
1) it is cheeaper
2) it is easyer
3) there is a market unexplored for that

In the MBA I made in Europe the teacher tells me about the opportunities worldwide, and guess what? He said that best opportunities are in growing countries = BRIC (Brasil, Russsia, India, China). He show us about a case of the man that buils a winding radio for the poor, (Yes, a radio that does not use bateries, solar cells, but winding). You could as who woud by that?? Africa bought abut 30 milion ones...


extremely_dangerous's picture

about drivers.
Writing a device driver in FreBSD or linux is very well documented and something easy to do.
google is your friend (search for FreeBSD kernel modules).. and you will see.
Here, almost all the printers work with FreeBSD and Linux, allmost all the cameras, and scanners too. only those that are "for windows only" have problems.. for those, forget!!!
buy new ones.. besides, printing in paper is expensive and not "green". For each person that needs to put thing in paper, there are 40 that does not want to. Professional equipment must work with apple and apple uses UNIX, that uses CUPS, that uses ppd.
Remember that almost everyone wants to sell things to the 5% top of the social piramid, and forget that there are 95% that have needs too. You must see the society from a higher point of view, not the only one media wants us to see. Media is directed by those who pays (microsoft, intel...), in a country like India, there are far more people (mainly teens) that wants only to have a chance, and that chance is open source software. There are so many, (teens) tha, if you start a "lesson" on python gtk postgres and linux, you will have them "by the dozen"... If you make 5 in every 100, you will have classes all year long.. in some years, you will see them bulding small companies.. Remember Kenedy (John), he said once that USA would go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard, and USA have the most progress in cience and society.

linux contnues

extremely_dangerous's picture

Hello kousik.

I live in Brazil, and here we do not have much problem with jobs. I live (earn money) with FreeBSD. I choose BSD because it is hard. I make good servers and desktops too. My son have a company that have more than 200 employees, and 4000 clients that pays him on a monthy basis. He uses FreeBSD.
I can point you, that to convince people to use open source is easy. Those that have money will not use it because they have money and than can buy microsoft, adobe, .... But for one reach person there are 1000 poor. Those that cannot buy anything else but the old computer they have. This computer will run Linux. They will be fooled by the media telling that studying window will provide him a good job. They will spend their money, and will be just "another brick on the wall". If you show them that they must study Linux, C and Gtk or python, (like my son did 10 years ago...) The society will "buy" them, offering better revenues, than those that knows windows. (darwin's law). The large companies will still be using windows for a while because they have money for that, but little companies that does not have budget for, will hire those people that knows linux. Again, (darwin's law) those companies will be more efficient, and will pay better salaries, and will have more profit.
You must theach the poor not to serch for jobs, you teach them how to produce something that the society needs, and a good thing is software. The boss does not want to know if it is linux, BSD, or windows, he wants the things done at lower price..
I have 35 years of UNIX, and in one year I teach my son how to program in python and gtk and postgres. How much (time and money) a person needs to work with windows??? Using windows the person learns how to push buttons on a screen. If there is not that buttom, than cannot be done. Thanks microsoft, we have now a generation of "non thinkers".
If you produce a bunch of persons that learn "the hard way"... they will have a better value in the society, and will be payed more.

Please reply...

You must know someone

Bubnoff's picture

Having married a person of Russian ( former Soviet country, actually ) descent I can agree. Determined indeed. Determination is almost an understatement.
Nothing can stop a Russian once they've made the commitment ...nothing. Frankly, they're also far more tech-savvy ( better math science skills ) and far, far, far, far less lazy than we are ( as a country anyway ). A certain type of laziness may come in handy for perl programming but ...I digress.

This will be interesting ...

Russian determination & friends

Anonymous's picture

..."A certain type of laziness may come in handy for perl programming but..."

Man, the "laziness" you're talking about has been universally recognized to be the driving power of Progress (if there is such thing). And you're right: we stand in great need of that kinda laziness down here in Russia... The one that causes one to use his brains in order to reduce the usage of one's hands.

Except Afghanistan.. But

Anonymous's picture

Except Afghanistan..

But seriously I do know some good programmers of Russian descent.


Dann's picture

DDOS is not a cyber crime. It is a method of protest using the Internet, and these protests themselves have been used against the government in the West.
Seeing all those corporations protest Wikileaks is a reflection of the sad state they are themselves in. I am disappointed in the overall reaction to Wikileaks, which has done great things for transparency and government here.

Going FOSS seems to be the obvious solution. I'm glad to see Russia go for it, and shocked to see what's holding back so many others.

They did it before...

Captain Reed's picture

I seem to recall the Russians, in their Soviet incarnation, turned the tide in another war, at Stalingrad. It may come to pass that the Russians will demonstrate an equal passion and determination and show the World how to eject Microsoft from *within* the Gates. That's the difference this time. Microsoft has the experience, connections and money to wither any attempt at defection from the inside. Russia's own people will be working against them. A limo with a built-in jacuzzi will buy a lot of influence.

Nice article

Doug.Roberts's picture

Nice article, Michael. But shouldn't you have named it Russian Linux: The Putsch Continues?




llewton's picture

"The commentary also reveals a bias on the part of English speaking nations against the trustworthiness of a former cold war foe."

This is a very good point. I can say that on the part of the Slavic speaking nations... there is a bias against the trustworthiness of western governments, especially those willing to engage in cyber crime, such as the recent DDOS attacks against Wikileaks have demonstrated.

In short, there's a lot of mistrust going round. Free and open source is the best cure for that at least when it comes to software :)

Imho the Russian move could prove to be the turning point in the history of FOSS when it comes to visible mass-adoption.

Moving to Linux

Anonymous's picture

"I would argue that a plan to move all schools over to Open Office as the de facto office suite would have more chance of success than a plan to move one part of the school system entirely over to Linux and open source."

Well, I would argue that you could make first the easy part: i.e. move to Open office, Firefox and other multi-system programs and once you get used to them and most importantly you have your data translated (if necessary) to new formats you make the difficult part i.e you move to Linux. It worked very well for me. Of course big organization are much complex but working along this route would save some effort.

Mistaken Identity

Anonymous's picture

John Le Carrier? Did you mean "John le Carré"? :-)