Russian Province: ICT and Culture in Smolensk Region
The Head of Information Department
Smolensk State Museum-preserve
Adress: 11, B. Sovetskaya str., 214000, Smolensk, Russia
Fax: (08122) 2-73-46
At present less than half of all cultural organizations have an email address. Many do not understand the uses of the Internet nor what the e-culture is.
But the situation is changing rapidly. Technologies are being developed, communication facilities are being improved, attitudes at official level are also changing and that is reflected in the money available for informatization. The activities of the digital heritage professional community have a big influence on the introduction of IT to the whole cultural sector. The most influential events for this community are the by annual EVA and ADIT conferences.
What is really going on now in Russia in the sphere of ICT and culture? What information projects and programs are happening in the provinces? We offer you a snapshot of the situation in the Smolensk region.
Some facts about the region
The Smolensk region’s basic and principal characteristic is its frontier position – the western border of Russia, the very close mixture of western and Russian culture, and a transit on the main highway Europe – Moscow. The region borders with the Moscow region in the east and with Byelorussia in the west.
The Smolensk region is a part of the Central federal district. It occupies the area 49786 sq. km (0,29% of all Russia territory). In July 2002 the population of the region was been 1.9 million people, of which more than 30% (350000) live in Smolensk. The monthly average wages of the working population have increased by 38% during the last year to $105 US. The average income for a person in the region is $82 US.
Smolensk, the regional center, is one of the most ancient Russian towns. It was probably founded in 863 when it was firstly mentioned in the annals. Smolensk is noted for its historical and cultural heritage. From this point of view only Novgorod, Pskov and Vladimir come close.
Officially the region has 3963 historic and cultural monuments of which 222 have the status “of federal value”. Among the most famous monuments are the Gnezdovo barrows and monuments of pre-Mongolian period architecture – the XII century churches - Michael Archangel’s, Peter and Paul’s, Ioann Bogoslov’s. Smolensk also has a unique architectural monument and one of the biggest fortresses in the world in the Smolensk fortress (1596-1602) and an art symbol of the town - the Uspensky Cathedral (17-18th century). Among the famous sons of Smolensk are Michael Glinka, Sergey Konenkov, Izek Azimov, Jury Gagarin, Nicolai Przheval'sky, Alexander Tvardovsky, Jury Nikulin etc.
The region has an advanced museum network which includes one of the largest museum associations of Russia - Smolensk State Museum-Reserve, 2 other regional museums and 24 municipal museums.
The library network totals over 600 libraries, with book stocks of about 8,7 million books. The main library is the Smolensk Regional Universal Library which actively uses new methods and is among the most advanced in Russia. The Smolensk Universal Library set up the first library legal center in Russia and has a German-French reading room and a Multimedia Center.
More than 30 state archival establishments comprise the archival system of the region. They have about two million storage units of documents on the history of Smolensk province from the 18th century to the present. The main archives are the State Archive of Smolensk region, the Center of the Documentation of the Newest history of the Smolensk region and the State Archive of Staff Documents.
Monopoly is the essential problem of the regional telecommunications market. Today in Smolensk only one organization, the “Smolensksvjazinform” company, provides services of local and long-distance connections. This situation is not competitive. As a result, service costs for consumers are high. By some estimates the share of the monopolist company in the regional market of telecommunication services is between 60 and 94.3 %.
Local telephone connections
14 operators provide these services, one of them, the “Smolensksvjazinform” company, is traditional, the others are new. In the market of local telecommunication services the share of the new entrants is insignificant - about 4 %. Annually the number of telephones increases by 15-20 thousand. Today there are 68.67 phones per 100 families in the Smolensk region, in Smolensk – 71.16 phones, in the countryside – 27.51.
The number of mobile telephone users exceeds 60 thousand, about 5.5 % of the population. This figure is higher than the Russian average. In 2000-2001 the number of subscribers more than doubled.
In the mobile market 5 operators are active and provide services to the following standards -GSM 900/1800, NMT-450 and AMPS. The leading companies are the Smolensk branch of MTS ("Mobile Telesystems") and the “Beeline-GSM Smolensk".
The Internet is one of most rapidly developing services of telecommunication market in the region. Annually the number of Internet users increases several times over and had reached 7000 by March 2002). There are two ISPs: “Smolensksvjazinform” and "Smolensk Teleport" .
There are two Internet-cafés in Smolensk. Public Internet access centers have been created in libraries, high schools, colleges and universities. Since the first quarter of 2002 Internet access points in the regional and municipal post offices have started to be created.
2000 2005 2010 2015
Number of phones, thousand / density, % 220/20 300/27 430/39 600/54
Number of mobiles, thousand / density, % 12/1 30/3 100/9 300/33
Number of Internet users, thousand / density, % 2/0,2 22/2 88/8 220/20
Table. Telecommunications development in the Smolensk region till 2015.
The regional authorities’ policy supports informatization development. There is a special Committee on information resources and telecommunications of the Smolensk region that works in this area. The basic programs regulating activity in this sphere are "The Program of the Smolensk region informatization till 2005" and "The Legal informatization of the Smolensk region till 2005". The scope of the programs in the region is wide, involving libraries, museums, and local governmental and educational institutions in the process of uniform information space creation.
A good example of what the program has achieved is the integrated regional system based on Internet/Intranet-technologies that supplies information to and allows interaction between the government, municipal authorities, enterprises and organizations. Centers for on-line access to the regional Intranet-network have been created in libraries, schools and colleges (915 centers connected to date). Also legal information centers have been established in rural libraries and work has begun on the electronic union catalogue of Smolensk libraries.
Within the framework of the programs the Committee on information resources and telecommunications organizes and supports numerous annual actions to promote ICT in various fields of regional activity including:
A specialized exhibition-seminar on computer and telecommunication technologies
WEB-design competition among young people from educational institutions
The scientific and practical conference "Creation of uniform information space of the Smolensk region"
The regional competition "Library is the legal information center"
The international scientific and practical conference “Society informatization and the problem of education”.
ICT in culture
ICT issues in culture and informational cultural centers are two of the priority areas of "The Program for the development of culture in the Smolensk region for 2001-2005".
Key events connected with IT and promoting the creation of e-cultural resources are reflected in the following section.
Resource Center “Culture” Program
The Smolensk Museum-Reserve is the largest regional cultural establishment that has a significant technical base, staff experienced in IT and good connections with culture organizations in the Smolensk region and throughout Russia. Since May 2001 the Museum-Reserve has been implementing the Corporate Resource Center "Culture" Program which supports culture organizations and aims to establish a uniform informational and cultural space in the region on the basis of the application of ICT.
The center concentrates on the active use of IT. Its primary goals are to develop corporate informational resources - corporate in sense of creation and use, promote information exchange between culture organizations both at the regional and national levels and contribute to interaction between them.
There are two departments in the Resource Center structure, the Information Service and the Web-studio. The Information Service promotes Smolensk cultural heritage through provision of content, archiving Internet-resources and publication and distribution of the weekly e-newsletter. The Web-studio works on cultural internet-projects and makes CD-Roms and web pages.
Besides the Resources Center "Culture" Program, the Smolensk Museum-Reserve is, for example, a participant in the Russian national node of the Cultivate Network. It also provided the regional centre for organising "Automation of museums and information technologies" (ADIT). In 2001 the Smolensk region took third place in Russia in an intermuseum information exchange (the server "Museums of Russia" www.museum.ru) due to the high quality of ICT services of the museum.
Computerization of libraries and legal centers
On 9 June 1998 the first public center for legal information in Russia was opened in Smolensk by the Regional Universal Library. So far, during the first 4 years of the Program "Legal informatization of the Smolensk region till 2005", an Intranet-network of 136 centers of legal information has been created, including 22 centers in libraries. Creation of such centers not only allowed the widening of the spectrum of services offered by libraries, but also became the basic source of computer equipment maintenance for libraries. The legal centers in libraries have free access to the Internet with regulated volume of the traffic through the Internet-server of the regional administration. Thus libraries also gain the opportunity for external information exchange in the Internet-network and the internal regional Intranet-network.
Financial support for setting up legal information centers in libraries comes from two sources, the regional budget and non-budget sources. Budgetary funds are distributed by means of the annual regional competition "Library is the Center for legal information" organized by regional authorities. Annually three libraries receive computer equipment as a result of the competition.
The second life of library audio funds
On 6 April 2001 the first multimedia center in Russia was opened in the Smolensk Regional Universal Library, in the art literature department. Staff of the center digitise audio archives and so preserve them and provide access to archival materials.
Until recently access to the rich audio stock of the library (more than 14000 gramophone records) was restricted. The record archive was formed in the mid-1960s and has been in active use ever since. However a gramophone record tends to wear out if it is played more than fifty times. Now the problem of access to the audio stock has been solved. 4000 soundtracks of Russian and foreign classics have been digitized so far.
The program for digitizing the music, photo and video stocks funds was provided by the company "Amkor-Electronix" (Smolensk). The system developed by the company allows publication through the Internet can easily be adapted for commercial use. In the near future the library plans to make available the electronic audio catalogue and a bibliographic database on the Intranet-network of regional administration.
The “Smolensk libraries” project
The internet-site "Smolensk Libraries On-Line" (http://library.smolensk-online.ru) was created within the framework of the educational and informational center "Smolensk libraries". This project is the responsibility of the Smolensk Humanitarian University together with the Committee on information resources and telecommunications of the Smolensk region with financial support from the "Project Harmony Inc." organization. The main objectives of the project ares to create an information portal for Smolensk libraries, give them an access to the wide-area internet network, link their electronic resources and catalogues and create a basis for creating of methodical seminars and courses on the Internet use in library work. Currently the project internet-site enables users to search the catalogue for books in the library of the Smolensk Humanitarian University.
Through the project, librarians of high schools and university libraries are trained to create library web-sites, library databases and in web-design.
“Smolensk in the memory of centuries” it is the theme of the annual regional web-design competition. Its objective is to raise young people’s awareness of the history and culture of Russia and of Smolensk in particular. Also it introduces information technologies and Internet using into the sphere of education. The competition is organized by the Committee on information resources and telecommunications of the Smolensk region together with the Committee on youth and the Committee on education.
The competition subject varies each year, but is always connected to regional culture and history. For example in 2002 it was devoted to the 200-anniversary of the birth of the outstanding Russian admiral P.Nahimov and to the 400-anniversary of the Smolensk fortress.
Regional high schools, colleges, organizations, universities and individual students are eligible to participate. The level of projects and professionalism of participants increases all the time. Some web sites created within the competition framework were even included in the basic regional internet-portals and expanded the representation of Smolensk culture for the internet-audience.
A brief review of Smolensk culture Internet-resources
NB:All listed internet-resources are in Russian.
The review does not include the sites devoted to individual creativity.
Name of the Internet-resource Address
Catalogue of the Smolensk region Internet-resources http://www.smolensk.ru/kat.shtml
"Smolensk On-Line" catalogue http://www.smolensk-online.ru
Smolensk in network / culture and art http://www.infosmolensk.ru/gorod/rubriks/smol_resurs2.htm
Basic news portal of the Smolensk region. Culture news is kept by the Smolensk museum. http://news.smolensk.ru
Culture news in "Smolensk vestnik" http://vestnik.smolensk-online.ru/cgi-bin/index.cgi?folder=3
Smolensk exhibitions http://admin.smolensk.ru/~muz_zap/vist/kultur.htm
Leisure in Smolensk http://dosug.smolensk.ru/
Musical Smolensk http://www.music.infosmolensk.ru/
Smolensk Regional Universal Library http://www.smolensk.ru/user/lib/
Smolensk Humanitarian University library http://library.shu.ru/
Smolensk State Museum-Reserve (an old version, the site is under reconstruction) http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/muzey/Title.htm
Museum-Reserve "Khmelita" http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/hmelitaa.html
Isakovskiy's Memorial Museum http://www.sci.smolensk.ru/isakov/index.html
State Memorial Complex “Katyn” http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/katyn/index.html
Brief guidance on Smolensk museums http://dosug.smolensk.ru/show.shtml
Projects and programs
"Smolensk through centuries". The project of Smolensk Museum-Reserve http://www.smz.smolensk.ru/
The opening of the Smolensk Regional Corporate Resources Center "Culture" http://admin.smolensk.ru/~muz_zap/krc/
Smolensk Libraries On-Line http://library.smolensk-online.ru
Cultural tourism http://admin.smolensk.ru/~muz_zap/turizm/
Public-scientific readings devoted to Jury Gagarin http://www.sci.smolensk.ru/users/gread/
Smolensk union of artists http://smolensk-art.keytown.com/
Smolensk Russian national orchestra of V.P.Dubrovskiy http://dubrovsky.keytown.com/
Chamber chorus "Smolensk" http://www.smolensk.ru/user/chorus/rus/index.htm
Michael Vandyshev's photostudio http://www.sci.smolensk.ru/users/mv/
Children's choreographic ensemble "The Sun" http://www.admin.smolensk.ru/kultura/SUNNY/index.html
Calendar of Smolensk memorial dates http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/kalendar/date.htm
Cultural values of the Smolensk region – Talashkino http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/web-cn.htm
The historical annals http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/kep/Smolensk/history/index.html
The stone annals of Smolensk http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/C/ind-c.htm
Outstanding natives http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/B1/index.html
Merkury of Smolensk http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/mercury/index.htm
Virtual excursion on Smolensk http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/kep/Smolensk/monuments/index.htm
“Star road”. The site is devoted to the first cosmonaut Jury .Gagarin. http://admin.smolensk.ru/history/gagarin/gagarin.htm
Key regional problems in the e-culture area
Low state financing for computerization and digitizing dramatically affects the availability of computer equipment in cultural organizations and causes lack of IT expertise to be a problem for staff. For the moment, the only solution is to attract additional non-budget sources to support special programs and projects.
Quantity and quality of culture internet-resources is an issue. There are not many relevant web sites, and only few of them are professionally made. For financial reasons, culture organizations prefer to avoid professional designers and usually turn to individual students or educational institutions instead.
The lack of both state and regional programs of funds for digitizing is an issue and as a result there is a lack both of stable funding and coordination. In most cases "memory organizations" use their own software for digitizing which can cause many problems, such as compatibility of the data, description standards etc. Nonteheless there are effective, but expensive digitizing systems on the Russian software market (for example, the museum program "CAMIS 2000", developed by the “Alt-Soft” company).
No Internet-access to "memory organizations" databases is another issue. Basically access is provided through a local server or the internal Intranet-network of the region.
"Language" of Internet-resources is another issue. It is difficult to find resources about culture of the Russian regions in English or any other foreign language. The Karelia region is a happy exception to this rule.
Unsatisfactory quality of communication services provided by regional companies at very high cost is a problem mentioned earlier. Monopoly in the regional market is the main cause.
Absence of a complex Internet-portal on regional culture is an issue. As a result cultural resources are very fragmented and it is difficult to form an overview of what is happening in the region and to find specific information.
Difficult web addressing system. Most sites are on Internet-portals of the regional administration or an internet-provider and have a third or fourth level address.
1. Internet-portal of the Smolensk regional administration http://admin.smolensk.ru/
2. "The Program for culture development of the Smolensk region for 2001-2005". Committee on culture of the Smolensk region. 2001.
3. Mnev V.I. “The experience of the legal informatization in the Smolensk region”.
4. Internet-portal "Virtual Smolensk" http://www.infosmolensk.ru/
5. "The World of connection. Connect". Russian magazine. ¹ 3 (72). 2002.
6. "Rabochiy put". Smolensk regional newspaper. 22.08.2002.
7. Materials of the IV annual scientific and practical conference "Creation of uniform information space of the Smolensk region" (25 April 2002).
8. Web-site "Smolensk libraries" (http://library.smolensk-online.ru).