How the IT business was built in Russia in the 90s


The 90s in Russia is a great time of changes, global reforms and other stories that resulted in rampant crime and a drop in the standard of living of the population. For the first time, society faced such phenomena as default, financial pyramid, voucher privatization, price liberalization and sorcerers on TV. The wars that broke out in the CIS countries also did not contribute to improving the situation. But in addition to the bad, there was also something good, something that causes waves of nostalgia for those who saw it and experienced it – Dendy, Sega, game magazines, the Internet based on coupons, piracy (both game, video and music), Tamagotchi, Tetris , subcultures, D-AMPS… Hundreds of examples.

It was at this time (1989-1990) that market processes were born – glasnost and democratization, cooperatives and the first personal computers appeared. But this material, despite such a nostalgic introduction, will be a bit about something else – we will briefly consider how the same IT developed in this turbulent time for Russia, thanks to which we have the usual comfort, mobility and convenience today.

But to begin with, as usual, a little history.


Computers of Soviet scientists

MESM is one of the first computers in the USSR and continental Europe

In the USSR, at first everything was quite progressive with IT. The movement of this progress was helped by various bright heads and all kinds of circles of young technicians (radio engineering, robotics, computer engineering, aircraft and ship modeling, rocket modeling, etc.). There was a base in general. Therefore, there were enough specialists in the technical field. But when the USSR followed the crooked path of copying Western computers, trying to standardize the zoo of its equipment, its software architecture and make a technical leap, there was a lag both in capacities and in technical development.

By copying American computer equipment, we also copied its “sores”, which led to even greater problems of compatibility between old and new models of Soviet computers. Trying to keep up with the rest of the capitalist world, we were losing individuality – there was no room for intellectual creativity. When standardizing, you can make, at most, a small modernization of what is there. And nothing more – there is no tangible progress. Army orders saved us from such a disaster.

EU EOM is a Soviet series of computers

EU EOM is a Soviet series of computers

But everything comes to an end sooner or later. In the 1990s, the collapse of the USSR occurred: now any competition with the West could no longer be stuttered. Along with the collapse of the industry, technical specialists left the country, moving to Europe or the USA, and many promising projects were either not fully implemented or remained only on paper. Thus, the history of IT simultaneously ended (for the USSR) and began again (for Russia).

The community is now in Telegram

Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest IT news

Sign up

The birth of IT in Russia


1C logo

But not everyone ran away, shining heels. The union fell apart, the “iron curtain” fell, the borders opened. Ex-employees of all kinds of design bureaus began to look for opportunities in this new world, earnings and application of their skills. In addition, there are still many students and just enthusiasts, full of determination, ideas and ambitions. All these people later combined into teams, opening the first IT companies in the country. Someone “burned out”, and someone eventually became the leader of the domestic IT market, living and healthy to this day. On the wave of openness, large Western companies – Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Sun – began to be attracted to the new Russia.

If we talk about some examples, then “1C” immediately comes to mind. The history of this company began in 1988. It was created taking into account the Research Institute of the State Committee of Statistics – the institute was engaged in a project in the field of databases. The founder and general director of the company is Boris Nuraliyev. In 1992, having demonstrated their product “1C: Accounting”, the guys managed to interest the tax service, and since then they have been cooperating closely. Such interaction helped to timely make the necessary updates to the program, taking into account changes in the legislation, and then it changed especially often. According to Boris Nuraliyev’s interview, due to this feature at the time, developers had to make several versions of the program, and sometimes even put a “switch” between them.

Boris Nuraliyev

Boris Nuraliyev

Over time, “1C: Accounting” became one of the most popular accounting automation solutions in Russia and the CIS.

In addition to the program itself, which became in demand, the company began to deal with dealer distribution of its product – this business was called “1C: Franchising”. The sale was made through the company’s partners, which were small IT companies (10-20 people). For distribution, dealers received half of the cost. Franchise business for that time was amazing – of course, with an adjustment for the country. In the process, Western experience was adopted, Russian ingenuity was connected somewhere, and competitors were spied on somewhere. As a result, by 1996 the company had about 590 franchisees.

At the moment, the number of solutions implemented under the name “1C: Accounting” of various versions is about half a million enterprises. The numbers are significant.

But “1C: Accounting” is not the only company. She was also involved in the development, publication and support of computer games under the brands “SoftClab” and “Buka”, the studios of which she owns.

The founder of 1C with the company's products

“Antikill … that is, antiviruses”

This direction also developed in the 90s. Already at the end of the 80s, the first, albeit primitive, viruses that spread mainly through diskettes began to appear, and therefore some kind of countermeasure was needed.

In 1990, the first Internet server and Internet browser appeared in the United States, which changed the world. The idea belonged to Tim Berners-Lee. Working in the eighties at the European Center for Nuclear Research, he invented and implemented a method that became the basis of the principles of information transmission over a computer network. Viruses got a new opportunity to spread, it became even easier for them to live.

Sir Timothy John Bearners-Lee

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee

Such giants as Dr.Web or Kaspersky Anti-Virus are real dinosaurs of domestic development, which arose in this troubled time thanks to ambitious young people.

A little trailer is needed here. Enterprises in the nascent domestic IT market had enough antivirus protection in the 1990s, and for a while the monopoly was the Dialog-Nauka company, which was managed by Dmytro Lozinsky, who promoted Aidstest. But later someone left, someone changed the field of activity, we will not analyze all of them, we will dwell only on parts. It was not so easy to resist. After all, in order to survive, it was necessary to offer innovations, to open up new possibilities of fighting viruses, which were literally an avalanche. Technological superiority is the only possibility to remain above the market.



The creator of Dr.Web was Ihor Danilov, who worked at the “Leninets” TsNVO, where he dealt with signal processing in the fighter guidance system. There, he was unexpectedly puzzled by the issues of protection against viruses. There was already some experience of combating malicious activities (on the basis of other existing systems), and therefore Igor creates Tadpole – his first antivirus.

This technology was used in the native research institute to protect the computers there. Tornado antivirus scanner was also developed at this time. As a result, these two programs merged into one – Spider’s Web, with which the developer took part in a competition for software products for Eastern European countries and won a grant. In addition, Danilov shined at the CeBIT’93 exhibition in Germany, with which came popularity. So it became clear in which direction to go, and in 1993 Dr.Web, familiar to every sysadmin (there were not so many of them then), was born, and already in 1994 the first commercial version was created, which was at its peak its popularity before the appearance of Kaspersky Anti-Virus.

Igor Danilov

Igor Danilov

Kaspersky antivirus was created by Yevhen Kaspersky. It was so fate that he studied at the academy of cryptography: military bias, uniform, epaulettes, formation and regime – everything as it should be. However, the cryptographer did not turn out as a result, and, according to the developer, only a bad programmer turned out.

Eugene Kaspersky

Eugene Kaspersky

Having managed to work at the Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR as a cryptographer, in 1991 Kaspersky left the institute and set out on a freelance career, where he developed the first versions of the antivirus program, which, however, did not yet bear the same name. At that time, according to Yevhen, he even managed to work for a competitor, whose name he does not remember. For a long time, Kaspersky worked in the anti-virus division of the scientific and technical center “Kami”, which provides various IT services.

Later, Evgeny leaves KAMI and, having united with his friends, creates his own company. It is normal for those years. According to this principle, for example, the company “Yandex” emerged, which left the distribution company CompTek (Comptek). There were no problems with copyrights for developments within these or other organizations – it was the 90s: relations and contracts, as a rule, were drawn up orally, with a handshake or somewhere in a bathhouse. Only in 1996, developers began to register intellectual property.


But don’t think that all doors were open to the new team of developers – no one was waiting for them with the box in stores. If Dr.Web was helped by grants and participation in contests, then “Kaspersky Laboratory” followed the path of agreements. So, in 1996-1997, the guys agreed with the Finnish company F-Secure and the German G-Data. It turned out that they did not need their own developments – it was much more convenient to take a ready-made engine and integrate it into their projects. The main income came from such contracts. Not everything and not always went smoothly – they were deceived and robbed.

Now Kaspersky Lab is Russia’s main antivirus giant and part-time government consultant on cyber security. At one time, there were various conspiracy fables, they say that the guys deal not only with antivirus, but also with viruses in order to create protection for them and promote their creation more successfully, but these are nothing more than beautiful fairy tales. The creators themselves just physically did not have time to do it, given how difficult sales were at first.

Internet in Russia

The .RU domain was registered on April 7, 1994, at the same time the first site of the Russian domain zone was launched. He did not present anything in particular – just a catalog of links to resources related to the Russian Federation. But it was the first small step towards progress. On September 26, 1996, the first Russian search engine Rambler appeared (to be more precise, its domain was registered, and it became freely available on October 8), which became a very strong player on the domestic IT market, competing with Yandex for almost ten years.

The first site in the zone.

The first site in the zone.

The creators of Rambler were not at all outstanding IT specialists from some technical or military closed Soviet research institute. The story is as follows: in 1991, the Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms of the Russian Academy of Sciences, located in the city of Pushchino, Moscow region, needed a system for data exchange between employees within the organization and superiors in Moscow. It so happened that after the collapse of the USSR, there was chaos in the field of scientific communications, and access to foreign scientific journals was lost. It was necessary to do something urgently.

This is how the “Stack” telecommunications company appeared, where the development of the necessary project institute was carried out under the sensitive leadership of Serhiy Lysakov and four of his friends. In the end, they managed to connect the network with Moscow and lay an IP channel from the city of Pushchino to the computer network of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy. The children started their servers – ftp, mail, www. An electronic database with tens of thousands of documents was created. Moreover, it was absolutely free for scientists, on bare enthusiasm. Then the developers decided that they should create their own domestic search engine.

Screenshot of

Rambler screenshot for March 27, 1997

The core of the new search engine was written by Dmytro Kryukov, it took several months. He also became the author of the name and logo of the search engine. At the time of Rambler’s release, the system indexed about 100,000 documents, and this is quite a significant indicator, because the number of web resources in Runet then amounted to slightly more than 50 sites. Within a year, the system became the leader among domestic search engines, overtaking Aport in February 1996 and AltaVista in December 1995. But soon Yandex will enter the market.

Yandex search engine in 1997

Yandex search engine in 1997

Yandex, as mentioned above, was initially a small division of CompTek International and began its journey on September 23, 1997, announcing its own search engine.

Its creator was Arkady Yuriyovych Volozh, a native of Kazakhstan who graduated from the Institute of Oil and Gas named after Gubkin. The stories show that he was involved in the processing of large data sets, and after the onset of the 90s, he traded in some cooperative, until he met the American Robert Stubblebine, with whom he created the CompTek company. Next came the creation of his company, which became part of CompTek, and an acquaintance with Arkady Borkovsky, an expert in computer linguistics. Borkovsky, investing his experience, helped create the search engine Yandex, which adapted to the morphology of the Russian language. Then, however, Borkovsky left the country, going to America. He was replaced by Ilya Segalovich, who developed the algorithms that became the basis of the search engine.

Ilya Segalovich and Arkady Volozh

Ilya Segalovich and Arkady Volozh

In 1997, a full-fledged announcement of took place in Moscow at the Softool exhibition. It is noteworthy that in 1998 introduced a contextual banner-block that changed depending on the requests of Internet users. A little later, already in the 2000s, it will become the basis of Yandex’s business.


There were many other companies involved not only in anti-virus, accounting and search engines, but, for example, programs in the field of document recognition and input, linguistics and translation. There were also organizations engaged in the development of a supercomputer or equipping various companies, computer centers, banks and institutes with the same computers (one can say, on a turnkey basis).

The main problem of the domestic IT business was that, for the most part, these guys were the first generation of Russian IT companies. They had no mentors, everything was mastered by trial and error. That’s how they won – overcoming difficult times for the industry with hard work.

A computer in the 90s

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2022 - Theme by WPEnjoy · Powered by WordPress