The Wikimedia Commons celebrating the addition of its one-millionth file was not the only significant accomplishment among Wikimedia projects last week. Wikipedia also achieved some recognition in Russia with a national prize for internet content.
Meanwhile, Iran has joined the list of countries that have apparently blocked Wikipedia at some point, a group that also includes Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Pakistan. The situation in mainland China is the best-known instance and has generally had the greatest long-term impact. Like most of the others, the Iranian block appears to have been a more temporary disruption, as a later report indicated that it had been lifted.
The Russian Wikipedia received a national award last week from the Russian Federation for internet sites in the category "science and education". The award, known as the Runet Prize, was presented in a Moscow ceremony on 29 November. A group of Wikipedia editors attended to receive the prize on behalf of the site.
In recognition of this achievement, the Russian Wikipedia currently sports a modified Wikipedia logo that includes a drawing of the Runet trophy. A banner was also posted about the news on its Main Page. Contributor Alexander Sigachov said he hoped the publicity would attract new participants to the project.
The Runet Prize is an award that has been given out since 2004 with the support of UNESCO. The name of the award is a reference to the .ru domain for Russia, so the Russian internet collectively is often called Runet. A monetary prize is sometimes included, but not in this instance; Sigachov indicated that they were not sure what they would have done with it anyway. A local chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation has not yet been organized in Russia.
The Guardian reported on 4 December that Iran blocked access to a number of popular websites, Wikipedia among them. The action was reportedly part of a stepped-up government campaign against foreign media deemed corrupt or immoral. Also listed as blocked were such sites as the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), Amazon.com, YouTube, and the New York Times website.
By the time the story was published, it seems that the block may already have been lifted, according to a report from Roozbeh Pournader, a Wikipedia editor based in Tehran. He indicated that access was cut off on 1 December and restored on 3 December. As with the blocks in China, no official explanation has been provided. Pournader notes that the Kurdish Wikipedia is still blocked in Iran, but this has been the case for a long time.
Next to the People's Republic of China, Iran is regularly mentioned as one of the countries that most actively filters the internet to prevent its citizens from accessing particular sites. This seems to be the first report of Wikipedia being blocked there, and previous indications would suggest that the project enjoys some popularity there. The official language of Iran, Persian, has an active Wikipedia with over 16,000 articles, comparable in size to Greek.
In fact, Alexa indicates that Wikipedia is more popular in Iran, where it was blocked, than in Russia, where it just won an award. (On the other hand, the Russian Wikipedia, which is approaching 120,000 articles, is significantly larger than the Persian Wikipedia.) Alexa ranks Wikipedia #16 among websites with the most traffic from users in Iran, while it ranks #27 in traffic from Russian users. While the usefulness of Alexa data has been questioned because of its methodology, publicly available information focused on these specific countries is scarce as compared to Western Europe and the US, so Alexa seems the best way to compare.
Of the sites The Guardian said were being blocked, Wikipedia is the most popular in Iran according to Alexa. IMDb is eleven spots behind Wikipedia at #27, followed by Amazon.com at #33 and YouTube at #39. The New York Times does not appear in the top 100. It is not clear whether any of these sites are still blocked, or if access to them was restored along with Wikipedia.
In recounting attempts to deal with the situation, Pournader focused on contacts with ISPs and personal connections, some of whom felt the block was some type of mistake. He discouraged protests and other public gatherings designed to put pressure on the government. Similarly, Andrew Lih was recently critical of the "moral righteousness" from some external critics, arguing that establishing the mutual benefits of openness would be more productive.