Russia Table of Contents
By various measures, Russia's telecommunications infrastructure is inferior to that of most developed industrialized countries. In 1991 only 33 percent of Russian households had telephones, compared with 94 percent in the United States. In 1995 Russia had seventeen telephone lines per 100 inhabitants, compared with thirty-six in Spain, forty-four in Belgium, and sixty-nine in Switzerland.
During the Soviet period, the state controlled all means of communications and used them primarily to convey decisions and to facilitate the execution of government directives affecting the economy, national security, and administrative governmental functions. The Ministry of Communications had responsibility for most nonmilitary communications, and the Ministry of Defense controlled military communications. Other ministries, including the Ministry of Culture, controlled specialized elements of the communications infrastructure.
Moscow maintained control over communications, and regional and local jurisdictions enjoyed little autonomy. This centralization forced the Soviet Union to acquire the means to deliver signals over a vast area and provided the impetus for the development of satellite communications, which began with the launching of the Molniya satellite communications system in 1965. Despite the success of the satellite system, Soviet technology was unable to meet the rapidly growing informational demands of the 1980s. In that period, the Soviet government began to import digital switching equipment from the West in an effort to modernize the national telephone system. The priority given to military and government applications skewed the distribution of new equipment, and officials dedicated relatively few telephone lines and communications facilities to commercial and residential use. In addition, most communications facilities remained concentrated in a few urban areas at the expense of smaller cities and rural regions.
Data as of July 1996