Contextualizing sovereignty: A critical review of competing explanations of the Internet governance in the (so-called) Russian case
In reference to Russia, the concept of “Internet sovereignty” is commonly used to evoke the state’s efforts to tighten its control over the Internet in order to consolidate a non-democratic political regime. Many scholars have discussed Russia’s “sovereign Internet law,” adopted in 2019, yet the precise meaning of both “sovereign” and “Internet” in this context has largely been overlooked. In this article, we attempt to problematize the use of both concepts by drawing on the history of the Internet in Russia to accentuate the structural asymmetries of power in “global” Internet governance. We argue that Russia’s Internet sovereignty claims, grasped in the context of these asymmetries, can be seen as an expression of counter-hegemonic tendencies. Moreover, a historical account of the Internet’s transformation in Russia problematizes a conception of “Internet sovereignty” as unitary and unchanging.