FREEnet/UNICOR. The experience of cooperation.

A.S.Mendkovich N.D.
Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences
Ministry for Science and Technology Policy

The history of Russian academic and research networking is not very long. It started in October 1991 by the expansion of the European Academic and Research Network (EARN) to the former USSR. Approximately at the same time the first Russian academic IP network, FREEnet (Research, Education and Engineering Network), was established. This short history is the history of person- -to-person and institution-to-institution cooperation at the same degree as it is the history of the network infrastucture development.

The scope of the cooperation is rather wide and one may find its examples both at technical level as well as at the level of the national and international coordination and funding.


At technical level the background of the cooperation is provided by connectivity and multi-protocol environment. FREEnet's technical policy is rather to open borders than to create them. FREEnet is doing its best to support any kind of traffic the academic users need. (E.g., two of its international lines carry multi-protocol traffic, and dedicated server provides a gateway for the cooperating networks using various protocols.) There are good reasons for that, because, for example, there are rather numerous research community using NJE service. 13 EARN/BITNET nodes are located at leading reseach and educational institutions and their number continues to grow. By the same reason FREEnet supports also UUCP entries for those users who are not able to install TCP/IP connections.

At the same time, the main-stream development of the FREEnet is the creation of regional TCP/IP networks. Regional IP networks operate in Moscow, Baku, Chelyabinsk, Chernogolovka, Kaliningrad, Novgorod, Mytischi, Perm, Penza, Voronezh, Yaroslavl. According to FREEnet's Charter, these networks have full scope to their activity. The role of the FREEnet NCC is restricted mainly by the coordination and technical help. Therefore, it is regional networks cooperation what FREEnet is based on.

The total number of reserch and educational organizations using FREEnet service is more than 250.

FREEnet is interconnected with leading Russian networks (Relcom, Glasnet and IASnet) and in the nearest future the Moscow optic fiber backbone will interconnect it with RSSI and MSU networks. International lines to USA and to Europe provides FREEnet connectivity to global Internet.


FREEnet itself is a technical organization, not a legal person. Therefore, in national and international cooperation it is represented by its executive body, Universities's Network Corporation (UNICOR).

UNICOR Corporation was established by State Committee on Higher Education in 1992. UNICOR is nonprofit association of higher educational and research institutions, similar to EDUCOM consortium in the USA.

It focuses on:

At present UNICOR has more than 100 members.

Having both research institutions and universities as its members, UNICOR plays remarkable role in the cooperation of Russian Academy of Sciences and State Committee on Higher Education in the area of networking. UNICOR coordinates the projects developing by its members in frameworks of the grants provided by Russian Foundation for Fundamental Researches.

UNICOR is responsible for one of the most ambitious project dedicated to the development of the "National System of Academic Databases". The project involved more than 40 universities and the budget of its first stage (October-November 1994) is over 1,5 millions of dollars.

At the international level UNICOR cooperates with academic and research national network organizations in Azerbaijan, Austria, Belorus, Denmark, Georgia, Netherlands, Poland et al. as well as with international network associations. In particular, UNICOR represents Russia in CEENet, EARN/RARE and UNICOM. UNICOR cooperates also with international organizations and foundations supporting academic and research networking in Russia (ISF, IREX, UNESCO/CEPES). In particular, FREEnet/UNICOR is involved in the large scale pilot project of Yaroslavl metropolitan backbone sponsored by ISF.

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