So what did we learn? Firstly, Russia is a country of contrasts. It has a rich cultural past, a digital present (today Moscow is the 6th most digital city in the world) and an ambitious future to raise its digital economy to 25% of GDP by 2025. Indeed the Kremlin sees technology as a modern solution to its declining ratings, especially among younger demographics. Russia also wants to restore its status and influence on the global stage: it craves prestige. Its brands are starting to reach outside Russia and go global, from Sberbank and Kaspersky Labs to media sensation Masha and the Bear.
Just how far will the Kremlin go to keep tight sovereign control? As we saw in China before, it is possible to substitute most global internet services – from payment services to social networks – with homegrown systems. But will closing off its technology slow down its innovation?