A number of former Wikipedia editors have launched an equivalent of the website in Russia called Runiversialis (or “Runi”), State Duma deputy Anton Gorelkin announced on his Telegram channel. A few hours afterwards, the service went offline.
“The encyclopaedia is hosted on Russian servers and declares respect for the requirements of Russian legislation and our traditional values. This means that any attempts to give the articles a left-liberal and Western-centric bias will be suppressed,” Gorelkin said of the principles of Russia’s “new” Wikipedia.
The deputy explained that Runiversalis is currently transferring the content of Russian-language Wikipedia to themselves, clearing it of "propaganda and malicious content".
The website is currently unavailable, so it is not possible to assess the quality of the information presented. Nevertheless, Meduza reports that Runiversalis has no article on the war in Ukraine, while the phrase “war in Ukraine” does not appear in any of the encyclopaedia’s articles. The website has an article titled “Russia's Special Military Operation in Ukraine,” which does not mention the position of Ukrainian authorities.
RuUniversalis was announced on 18 August, with the authors publishing a manifesto on the encyclopaedia's Telegram channel.
“RuUniversalis was founded by Wikipedia’s former contributors in Russia, and Runi continues to rely on [Wikipedia’s] groundwork and articles, as the creators of Runiversalis consider Russian Wikipedia’s content to be the property of the whole Runet, and not the sole domain of the private American [Wikimedia] foundation. The pages of the Runiversalis encyclopaedia, whose servers are located in Russia, are edited in accordance with the requirements of Russian legislation. The content and structure of the articles that touch upon the untraditional, novel and marginal currents in human society are formulated with respect to traditional values,” — the statement reads.
Russian media outlet TJournal quoted Wikimedia representatives as saying that the project was not discussed within the community. TJournal’s source suggested that if any of former Wikipedia editors are involved in Universalis, it is likely “someone who has been blocked indefinitely.”
In July, Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor announced the introduction of “coercive measures” against the Wikimedia Foundation — the NGO that owns Wikipedia. According to the agency’s demand, search engines will be required to notify users that Wikipedia violates Russian law.
“A number of banned articles continue to remain on Wikipedia, including false reports about the course of the special military operation in Ukraine," the agency’s statement reads.