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Kremvax was a fictious Usenet site supposedly hosted at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia during the Cold War. It achieved worldwide recognition in 1991 when it became the main gateway name for Moscow’s only Usenet site, kremvax.demo.su.
On April 1st, 1984, a user calling himself K. Chernenko, referencing Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko, joined Usenet’s net.general, eunet.general, net.politics and eunet.politics groups, posting a peaceful message claiming that Russia (known as the USSR at the time) would be joining the Usenet network in order to have a platform of discussion with Americans and Europeans.
The article claimed to come directly from the government of the Soviet Union, then referred to as The Kremlin. It was also signed with several different VAX domain names, including moskvax, mcvax, kremvax and kgbvax.
While a majority of people assumed the post was a hoax due to it being made on April Fools’ Day, many users were quick to fear a real threat coming from the Soviet Union. Replies were later compiled on sites such as Paul V’s homepage and 2meta.com, several threads are still archived on Google Groups.
Is this for real? Honest-to-god Russia? Gee. I never thought that I’d
see it. Does this imply that Unix is behind the Iron curtain?
- Is this for real? Can we have confirmation from someone who is
recognized as being in a position to know?
- get out of our network!!!
The prank post stayed active for two weeks before Piet Beertema, a Dutch internet pioneer who founded the first country code domain .nl, came out as the actual author on April 15th, 1984. He posted several reactions to the Usenet, stating that the replies he got “made worth while the forging [he] had to do to hide the real origin.” Several months later, a “reliable source” told Beertema that the hoax had reached the American government’s Department of Defense and the Pentagon had a discussion on “how to deal with it.”
In 1991, 7 years after the prank, Vadim Antonov added Russia to Usenet using domain name demos.su. Following skeptical reviews as if it was another prank or not, the administrators renamed it to kremvax.demos.su as a tribute. The domain is now defunct.
News Media Coverage
Decades after the Usenet message, Kremvax continues to be mentioned as one of the best online hoaxes of all time on sites including Giganews, Wired Magazine, Museum of Hoaxes, and eWeek. Kremvax also has an entry in the Jargon File.
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