kremvax

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kremvax /krem-vaks/ /n./ [from the then large number of Usenet VAXen with names of the form foovax] Originally, a fictitious Usenet site at the Kremlin, announced on April 1, 1984 in a posting ostensibly originated there by Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko. The posting was actually forged by Piet Beertema as an April Fool's joke. Other fictitious sites mentioned in the hoax were moskvax and kgbvax. This was probably the funniest of the many April Fool's forgeries perpetrated on Usenet (which has negligible security against them), because the notion that Usenet might ever penetrate the Iron Curtain seemed so totally absurd at the time.

In fact, it was only six years later that the first genuine site in Moscow, demos.su, joined Usenet. Some readers needed convincing that the postings from it weren't just another prank. Vadim Antonov, senior programmer at Demos and the major poster from there up to mid-1991, was quite aware of all this, referred to it frequently in his own postings, and at one point twitted some credulous readers by blandly asserting that he *was* a hoax!

Eventually he even arranged to have the domain's gateway site named kremvax, thus neatly turning fiction into fact and demonstrating that the hackish sense of humor transcends cultural barriers. [Mr. Antonov also contributed the Russian-language material for this lexicon. --ESR]

In an even more ironic historical footnote, kremvax became an electronic center of the anti-communist resistance during the bungled hard-line coup of August 1991. During those three days the Soviet UUCP network centered on kremvax became the only trustworthy news source for many places within the USSR. Though the sysops were concentrating on internal communications, cross-border postings included immediate transliterations of Boris Yeltsin's decrees condemning the coup and eyewitness reports of the demonstrations in Moscow's streets. In those hours, years of speculation that totalitarianism would prove unable to maintain its grip on politically-loaded information in the age of computer networking were proved devastatingly accurate -- and the original kremvax joke became a reality as Yeltsin and the new Russian revolutionaries of `glasnost' and `perestroika' made kremvax one of the timeliest means of their outreach to the West.


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