- by Ajay Goyal Founder & Publisher
The Russia Journal, 1.0 started as a print newspaper in 1998 soon after the sovereign default and economic meltdown.
The history of this newspaper goes back to 1988. I first came to Russia in 1988 as a 23 year old paying for a two week return ticket from my one year of work both as a TV anchor and also as an engineer at an Indian export company. I was curious to travel to Moscow and see what “perestroika” and “glasnost” were doing to the largest country in the world. A few months later, I resigned from my well paying job and the glamour of national TV, and agreed to work without pay for a share of a new startup in Soviet Union. I returned to Moscow in January of 1989 and started building a business in the unknown vastness of a collapsing Soviet Union that was at once hungry for every foreign product and at the same time unable to pay for it. I created a computer and electronics business which took off to spectacular success within months because I would let my buyers pay for the imports in aluminium, steel or diamonds. One after another I created several ventures, including a first in software development, and soon I had mastered the art of doing business with Russians because I could find creative and innovative solutions to most intractable problems – such as a hyper inflation, or a lack of hard currency to pay for imports.
But there was another side to my journey in Russia. I was deeply antithetical to the communist dictatorship that had sucked out all personal freedoms. In 1991, I put my life and success on the line and stood arm in arm in human chains with strangers in front of tanks to defend the Russian White House and hope of democracy from the threat of dictatorship of the coup junta. Even though I was a foreigner, I was from then on treated as one of their own, in the new Russia. I had no issue with ideals of socialism, only with the imposters who had taken away all liberty in the name of an ideal.
The reasons I launched The Russia Journal in 1998 were two fold. First, I wanted to tell the world of the end stages of the grand larceny underway in Russia. Seven years of robber capitalism had destroyed the fabric and social safety net and ruined millions of lives. It had been far worse than the last decades of communist rule in its destructive impact on Russians. A new darkness had descended on Russia that was far worse than the dying days of communist dictatorship that I had so fiercely opposed from the depth of my soul and stood up against during the 1991 events. I wanted to tell the true story of what pain and misery had been brought upon Russians lives by imported, exploitative, robber capitalism.
Second, the sovereign debt default of 1998 meant Russia had a clean slate to start from. There was a chance to build a new country with a middle class, with social safety net, that would not discard its old people as a used commodity and that would offer freedoms for personal, material, spiritual and cultural growth and pursuits. I wanted to tell the world of the real opportunities and the real people of Russia. Within a year of its launch, The Russia Journal was the most widely read and trusted English language source from Russia. Unlike other publications, it was free of foreign or domestic big-business, oligarchic or political interests.
True to mission, my editorial team searched for and published stories that introduced the new entrepreneurs of Russia to the world. I opened the columns of my newspaper to a number of Russian columnists and journalists who had true insights into the country with often diametrically opposite political and ideological positions to each other. I permitted even those who were opposed to my own view, the freedom to write without censorship in my own newspaper.
At the time, Russia was also in the midst of an internal war and several conflicts were breaking out inside and near its borders. It was a truly challenging time and my newspaper stood every test of honest reporting and free expression. By 2006, internal dynamics in Russia had changed. My dot-ru ventures — several websites for classifieds, real estate, employment, listings, and dating were commercially far more successful than the newspaper. Moreover, some columnists and investigative reports of the paper had become thorns in the side of some powerful individuals. Russian state wanted to dominate the media itself. There was no patience for a news media no one could control.
I felt I had completed my mission in telling the story of the Russian people, their newly burgeoning middle class and the Russian entrepreneurs to the world. The last print edition was published in 2006. Since then I have often traveled to Russia and the enormity of change is just impossible to ignore. Just as in the 1990s, there is an enormous gap in knowledge of facts of life in Russia and perception of Russia. Several friends and readers of The Russia Journal have asked me over the years that I create a new platform on which Russians and expatriates living in Russia may share their experiences and snippets of their life, as it is.
So here it is. The Russia Journal 2.0 as a social community and blogging platform of first hand experiences of Russia, to talk of life, finance, economy, culture and technology and above all, my own favourite theme: startups from the heart of Russia. The mission as before is to create a dialog, a community, for nurturing friendships, partnerships, respect, empathy and exchange of ideas among peoples of the world for the sake of peace and prosperity.