Internet freedom in Russia is under assault like never before, but RuNet users are showing a growing capacity for circumventing the government's efforts to monitor and control their activity. Since mid-August 2013, the average daily number of Russian users of the Tor anonymity network, a free software for enabling online anonymity and resisting censorship, has multiplied fourfold. There are two major spikes in Russians’ Tor-use: the first occurred in late August 2013, and the most recent shift is an ongoing surge than began earlier this month.
The two sharp spikes indicated in Tor's statistics suggest that Russian Internet users are responding to major censorship events, though it's not immediately clear what caused the August 2013 increase. (The major political event at the time was an election cycle that saw blogger-politician Alexey Navalny challenge Sergey Sobyanin for the Moscow mayor's seat.) The surge today would seem to be Internet users’ response to a series of “anti-terrorist” laws set to take effect on August 1, 2014, which will saddle bloggers and websites with a host of new restrictions and regulations.
While the growth of Tor's popularity in Russia is impressive, it is still the case that Russians make up less than 6 percent of the network's user base. (The United States, where Tor attracts the most users in any one country, hosts twice as many users.) So far in June 2014, an average of 134 thousand Russians connects to the Tor network every day. There are roughly 65 million Internet users in Russia, however, meaning that the country's Tor-user population represents less than 1 percent of all Russians with access to the Web.