Soviets Backed Open Source Software in the '80s?
By El Snatcher
We found this article floating around the net (USENET, mailing
lists, etc.) It is most likely a completely fake news story,
but what if it isn't? At least it's entertaining...
We can't find it on the Reuters site anywhere, but sometimes
things are hard to find there... What do you
Tuesday December 15 1:49 AM ET
Open Source Software: Echoes from the Cold War
ST PETERSBURG Dec 15 (Reuters) - Following the public release of
the latest batch of Soviet documents in November this year, Alexei
Chelenko, curator of the Soviet Archives at Moscow University,
discovered a paper trail which shows that the KGB, the now defunct
Soviet secret police, made anonymous donations to Free Software
Foundation sponsored Open Source Software development projects.
Open Source is a scheme in which computer software development is
carried out by thousands of volunteers on the Internet. Its
products are freely available and include operating systems, Web
servers, and scripting languages. Organizations such as the Free
Software Foundation accept donations from third parties for the
purpose of developing Open Source software.
The documents allegedly show that during the 1980s various Open
Source projects, including some developed by the Free Software
Foundation, unknowingly received money from the Soviet government
totaling more than $175,000.
"It really boggles the mind," Chelenko said, "why the Soviet
government would be involved in such a scheme."
Ivan Prymakov of the Moscow University Department of Computer
Science is not surprised.
"It was in all likelihood a desperate attempt by the Soviet
Government to hinder the booming US computer industry of the
'80s," he said.
Prymakov speculates that by donating to US-based Open Source
projects, the Soviet government may have been trying to hinder
the American economy.
"By helping to develop inexpensive alternatives to commercial
software, the KGB may have hoped to drive US software corporations
out of business, derail the whole US computer industry, and thus
destabalize the US economy," said Pyrmakov.
Sergei Kochkov, an Open Source developer and a post graduate
student in Prymakov's department, worries that this revelation
could hinder the adoption by private business of Open Source
Software such as Linux.
Linux, an Open Source computer operating system, includes many
utilities which may have been developed with Soviet financial
assistance. Kochkov fears that the Open Source movement may have
been an unsuspecting pawn in Cold War politics.
"The Cold War is over, and this incident should be regarded as an
unimportant footnote in history," Kochkov said.
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