East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 1996, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

International Research & Exchanges Board
E-mail and Internet in the NIS and the Baltics

How can I access on-line information in the NIS and the Baltics?
World Wide Web has become the on-line format of choice for network providers in much of the world, including the NIS.  Exploring the Web tends to be relatively easier than tunneling Gopherspace.  WWW supports Cyrillic characters more transparently, and there is a wide range of interesting and amusing information available on NIS Web servers.  However, Gopher remains a valuable resource for those with slower Internet links.

Which service providers are available in the NIS?  Which ones are the best to use?
There are several NIS-wide, fee-for-service computer networks, each of which is part of the global Internet.  Capabilities vary widely, as do costs.  Networks typically charge rubles or other local currencies in dollar-equivalents, with advance payment for services.

Increasingly, universities and other academic institutions in cities--such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kyiv, Kazan, Lviv, Novosibirsk, and the Baltic capitals--have their own network hosts, often with sponsored links to the Internet in the West.  Visting scholars and other noncommercial users can sometimes obtain access to these systems at little or no cost.  If a reliable academic service is unavailable, IREX generally recommends using GlasNet.

1) Relcom/Demos
These two networks were formerly one entity but have remained largely indistinguishable since their split.  Together they comprise the largest and fastest-growing e-mail provider in the NIS, with nodes available in nearly every mid-to-large-size city across Euroasia.  To establish an account on Relcom or Demos, contact the local franchise in a given city.  many of them are listed in Benoit Lips' "Internet Access Providers in Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Former USSR Republics"(http://www.earth.org/~lips/Eastern_Europe.html).

2) GlasNet
GlasNet is a four-year-old network popular among expatriate and NGO communities in Moscow.  GlasNet has several advantages, including relative ease of use, the availability of on-line Internet services (WWW, Gopher, TelNet, WAIS, all in both plain-text terminal and graphical Windows interfaces), as well as international and domestic faxing.

GlasNet's principal drawback for those residing away from its host computers in Moscow is the difficulty and expense of logging on to the network over long-distance phone lines or intermediate "x.25" carriers.  On the other hand, the availability of such intermediary carriers means that GlasNet or Sovam Teleport (see below) are very convenient services for those who travel frequently to other cities, since these carriers provide access to a single account from different locales around the NIS.

GlasNet-Ukraine ("GLUK")
GlasNet-Ukraine was founded three years ago with a mission to serve noncommercial communities in Ukraine.  It provides on-line Internet services at prices comparable to GlasNet-Moscow, though connecting to the host from certain locales in Kyiv can be somewhat difficult, especially during the day.  GLUK is planning to establish a second, and presumably more accessible, node in central Kyiv.

3) Sovam Teleport
A Russian-British-American joint venture, Sovam offers a user-friendly on-line system that, like GlasNet, provides access to full Internet services such as Gopher, WWW, and TelNet.  Users find it quite reliable and easily accessible from most major cities in the NIS, but Sovam charges a premium for this consistency and availability.

4) SprintNet
SprintNet is a joint venture between US Sprint and several NIS communications authorities to provide various telecommunications services (including e-mail) in Eurasia.  Sprint Net can serve as a useful intermediary for those who need to log into commercial U.S. e-mail services (like Compuserve) while overseas, but this costs about 55 cents a minute.

Several universities and institutes of the Academy of Sciences have developed their own network host systems, often with sponsored international links.  sometimes they support dialup access, though this is often quite limited by a ubiquitous shortage of phone lines and an occasional shortage of interest in serving off-site users.  In other cases, accounts may be accessible only from terminals on university premises or leased lines.

Is it possible to send Cyrillic e-mail?
Within the NIS, networks employ both Latin and Cyrillic user interfaces, and Cyrillic e-mail may be sent without difficulty.  The real challenge comes in sending Cyrillic text beyond the NIS via the Internet, since many host computers worldwide only accept Latin characters, but there are several ways around this problem.

First, it is possible to transliterate messages into Latin characters from the start.  Second, there are various publicly available pairs of programs that transliterate automatically.   On the U.S. end the writer would run a program to transform Cyrillic text into transliterated Latin text, send the resultant latin text, and then the recipient could either read the transliteration as is or run the partner program in reverse to transform the text back into Cyrillic.  Third, there is a standard pair of encoding programs called uuencode/uudecode (available as free software or "shareware") which can be used to transform a document written in Cyrillic--or any file--into gibberish text, which is nonetheless suitable for transmission over the Internet.

Where can I get more detailed information?
For those headed to or interested in Eurasia, two WWW stops are highly recommended:

Excerpt of FAQ: Frequently Asked Question: E-mail and Internet in the NIS and Balitics reprinted with permission.  Copyright 1995, International Research & Exchanges Board.

Editor's Note: For the full text, contact IREX, 1616 H St. NW, Washington, DC 20006; tel: 202-628-8188; fax: 202-628-8189; e-mail: irex@info.irex.org; IREX/Moscow, tel: 290-5878; e-mail: fick@glas.apc.org. English text: $3; Russian text: $6.  A hypertext version is available at http://www.irex.org/FAQ.html.

International Research & Exchanges Board, "E-mail and Internet in the NIS and the Baltics," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 4 (Spring 1996), 8-9.

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© 1996 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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