How Not to Network a Nation

The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet

312 pages

English language

Published Dec. 30, 2016 by MIT Press.

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4 stars (3 reviews)

How, despite thirty years of effort, Soviet attempts to build a national computer network were undone by socialists who seemed to behave like capitalists.

Between 1959 and 1989, Soviet scientists and officials made numerous attempts to network their nation—to construct a nationwide computer network. None of these attempts succeeded, and the enterprise had been abandoned by the time the Soviet Union fell apart. Meanwhile, ARPANET, the American precursor to the Internet, went online in 1969. Why did the Soviet network, with top-level scientists and patriotic incentives, fail while the American network succeeded? In How Not to Network a Nation, Benjamin Peters reverses the usual cold war dualities and argues that the American ARPANET took shape thanks to well-managed state subsidies and collaborative research environments and the Soviet network projects stumbled because of unregulated competition among self-interested institutions, bureaucrats, and others. The capitalists behaved like socialists while the socialists behaved like …

2 editions

That was unexpected

4 stars

In "How not to network a nation" Benjamin Peters covers all of the attempts to network the USSR spanning a period of over 30 years, of which project OGAS lasted the longest. In the early 50s inspired by the American SAGE computer system and the Norbert Wiener s Cybernetics the Madness began.

First in the early 50s, cybernetics had to be rehabilitated from their capitalist tendencies (whatever that was supposed to mean) after Stalin s death. Next their approach to the idea of networks was quite different:

To oversimplify, Baran foresaw a national state network simulating a brain without a body, while Glushkov (and Beer) anticipated a network nation simulating a body with a brain—a government in touch with its people.

Also because of this difference the project became much larger than anything the Americans had planned. Americans way of thinking was to just connect their military and scientific computers …


  • Computer networks
  • Technological innovations, soviet union
  • Telecommunication