RMS: back in USSR?October 28, 2007 11:09 pm General
There is information floating around that RMS is going to visit Russia in February or March 2008. The invitation is organized under patronage of well-known Russian politician Colonel Viktor Alksnis. Since my blog is aggregated on highly visible planet.gnome.org and planet.freedesktop.org I feel obliged to express my concerns about that coming event.
Before making any commitments, RMS should have checked the people who he deals with. Viktor Alksnis (nicknamed as “Black Colonel”) is a politician who became famous back in late 80s for his fight (including military methods) against the independence of the Baltic countries. Since that time he constantly and invariably represented so called “patriotic” (effectively meaning “imperial”) parties and forces in Russian politics. In his own words, his way of thinking was always imperial, and he always regrets about the empire he lost (USSR). Of course, most of the information about that person is in Russian, but still he is reasonably well described in Wikipedia.
These days, Col. Alksnis founded a movement for the creation of “National OS”. This is entirely within his patriotic political line. Once he discovered that GNU/Linux is free and available to anyone for modification and improvements (BTW initially Linux was not the only candidate), he evidently decided it would be a good idea to become a political leader and political face of Free Software in Russia. This is despite the fact there are companies and people in Russia who are involved into OSS for years and made huge contributions by code and real working projects.
The ideas of “National OS” are about patriotism, economical value and economical independence or Russia, rather than about freedom of software. The freedom is just a property of the software. That property provides “National OS” with the qualities it needs. That is where my main concern lies – Col Alksnis does not really share the ideas of FSF, he obuses them to implement his political agenda.
I am absolutely confident that a visit of RMS into Russia would be a great event, very useful for FOSS movement in our country, attracting a lot of attention and helping our communities. But I have serious doubts the company of Viktor Alksnis would be beneficial for the public view of such visit, RMS and FSF in general. There are many people (especially liberally-oriented intellectuals) who already have their brows highly raised while talking about that strange “friendship”. If RMS is really interested in getting into our big country, I’d strongly recommend him to deal only with the people who’ve already proved their commitment to the ideas of FOSS. For example, the companies which promote Linux for years (and which recently formed the Linux alliance). There are also universities which could organize invitations, there are computer-related media companies. I could help getting contacts, names etc (for the record, I am not affiliated with any of these companies:) That would be the proper company for RMS in Moscow, St.Petersburg and other parts of Russia. But please beware of Russian internal politics and politicians…
I hope that somehow the information I provided here would reach the eyes/ears of RMS and FSF – and they would think about it all.