How Not to Network a Nation. The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet

(Ben Green) #1

130 Chapter 4

growing group of young institute researchers even imagined a humorous
autonomous country of their own, “Cybertonia,” a virtual country. The
researchers, whose average age was roughly twenty-five, first christened
this “fairytale [skazochnaya] land” during a New Year’s Eve party in 1960.
The joke snowballed. The fairytale land offered scientific seminars, lectures,
films, and auctions mainly in the capital Kiev and an evening ball in the
Ukrainian nationalist border city of L’vov, spinning off more and more
activities (artwork, ballads, a short film, passports, currency), press releases,
seminars, holiday and after-hour gatherings, community functions, and
more parties.^40 The researchers at the Institute of Cybernetics were still sev-
eral years away from occupying the Institute’s future campus, which even-
tually included more than a dozen buildings along Glushkov Prospect in
southwest Kiev (figure 4.7). From 1962 to 1970, the institute occupied a
building at 4 Lysogorskaya Street several kilometers north, at an intersec-
tion with Nauka (Science) Street, an area famous for being featured in the
science fiction of the Strugatskii brothers, who worked in the Institute of
Physics a few blocks away^41 (figure 4.8).
In its informal practices, the Cybertonia society abounded in pranks,
puns, and puzzling wit, recreating a country in the image of the autono-
mous Soviet automata. The collective issued fake stamped passports and

Figure 4.7
Sketch of the Institute of Cybernetics campus, Prospect Academic Glushkov, 40,
Kiev, 1970.

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