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How oligarchs and bureaucrats control the Russian internet

0 19 February 2014

Russia’s Internet Initiative Development Fund (FRII in Russian) has created a map that shows which holdings own Russia’s most popular internet resources, and who owns those holdings. It highlights the significant influence the state has obtained, particularly in the digital media sector, and also the powerful positions of a few wealthy individuals. 

The size of the circle around each website corresponds to data from ComScore’s top-100 Runet sites for 2013 Q3, while the colour corresponds to their sector:

Purple: social media/networks

Pink: Multimedia

Green: Digital media

Orange: E-commerce

Red: Information services

The map brings to life the complex web of partnership, ownership and influence behind the internet in Russia (click to enlarge). 



State control over online media


If you pay attention to the green circles, you can see how the state has gained a significant presence in the online media sector. State owned Rossiya Sevodnya and VGTRK have a large online presence, controlling major news agencies RIA and Vesti. 

The media branch of Gazprom (of which the state holds a 50.002% controlling stake) has significant influence via Echo Moskvy, NTV.ru, Dom2.ru and TNT-online.ru, as well as its ownership of Profmedia, which controls 50% of Afisha-Rambler-SUP. Afisha-Rambler runs Lenta.ru, Russia’s most popular news site, as well as Gazeta.ru and Championat.ru, the number one sports site in the country. It also owns Livejournal.com, Russia’s favourite blogging platform. 


Powerful individuals


Along with the state, certain individuals have significant influence over the Russian internet. The Onexim Group, which owns 51% of RBC Media Group, is run by Mikhail Prokhorov, while Viktor Remsha owns 100% of FINAM and Alexander Mamut’s 50% stake in Rambler-Afisha-SUP makes him a major player.

Perhaps the individual with the most influence over the Russian internet is Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s richest man, who controls Mail.ru Group, Russia’s biggest media holding (by total number of monthly users). His New Media Technologies group also owns influential daily Kommersant


Low level of foreign ownership


Another aspect of the Russian internet illustrated by the map is that it is almost exclusively in the hands of Russian individuals and funds. The only exceptions are Mail.ru Group (7.8% is owned by Chinese company Tencent and 29% by South African media holding Naspers), Avito.ru and Ozon.ru. Naspers also holds an 18.6% in Avito, while Swedish co-founders Philipp Engelbert and Jonas Nordlander own 15% each. Ozon’s shareholders include Swiss funds Index Ventures and Alpha Associates, German fund Holtzbrinck and Japan’s Rakuten. 


Few IPOs


The map also shows the small number of Russian internet companies that are stock-market listed, which is connected to the small number of IPOs made by Russian internet companies. 

Only Yandex (71% public) and Mail.ru (45.3% public) are listed. Among investors, 31% of Prokhorov’s Onexim Group is on the open market, while some Gazprom stocks are publicly listed. But that’s all. The rest of the Russian internet is owned by the state, private funds or individuals. 

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