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

(Ben Green) #1

Staging the OGAS, 1962 to 1969 131

marriage certificates to the mostly male research staff and female adminis-
trative staff, authorized by the “Robot Council of Cybertonia.”^42 (figures 4.9
and 4.10). Each passport packed mathematical equations into the blanks for
personal identification, accompanied by a national constitution and a map
of the future capital of “Cyber City” (Kybergrad). The workplace culture
at this prominent research institute embraced the joke as an ambiguous
means for letting a little steam off after work and, in their more ambitious
flights of imagination, envisioning a nation that was independent from the
Soviet Union. The blurring of reality and virtuality, work and play, science
and art was the point of “Cybertonia,” a name that lives on in the title of
an academic journal recently begun by Glushkov’s youngest daughter, Vera
Viktorevna Glushkova.^43 The Cybertonia constitution guaranteed the rights
to frivolity and humor complete with the faux-newspeak warning: “anyone
who disobeys the Robot will be stripped of their rights and cast out of the
country for 24 seconds” ( figure 4.11). The map featured landmarks such as
“a Main Post Office and the Feedback Division (or Returned Communica-
tion),” or Glavpochtamt y otdel obratnyi svazi, a possible reference to Cyber-
tonia as a self-contained system apart from the Soviet regime, as well as the
“Temple of the 12 Abends” (abnormal program ends, or software termina-
tions), or Khram 12 avostov, a near Russian homophone with “the Temple
of the Twelve Apostles.” Currency was issued on the punch cards that were
used in analog computer memory storage.
Perhaps most boldly, the Cybertonia society hosted a saxophone-playing
robot mascot as a unveiled reference to jazz, an export of American global

Figure 4.8
Sketch of the Institute of Cybernetics building, Lysogarskaya 4, Kiev, 1966.

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