How War in Ukraine Roiled Russia’s ‘Coolest Company’ –

Its success as a search engine and service provider was founded, as is Google’s and that of other social media giants, on public trust. Before the war, around 50 million Russians visited its home page every day, where a list of the five top headlines was a main source of information for many.

Executives at Yandex, and its users, had come to accept the Kremlin’s curation of news sources, but considered it a limited slice of a sprawling, groundbreaking tech empire. With the invasion and the Kremlin’s crackdown on any public discussion of the war, however, Yandex quickly became the butt of jokes.

Online, some users mocked its longstanding slogan of “Yandex. You can find everything,” as “Yandex. You can find everything but the truth,” or “Yandex. You can find everything but a conscience.”

“Yandex was like an island of freedom in Russia, and I don’t know how it can continue,” said Elena Bunina, a math professor whose five-year tenure as Yandex’s chief executive ended in April, when she emigrated to Israel.

Interviews with 10 former and current employees of Yandex reveal a portrait of a company stuck between two irreconcilable imperatives. On one side, it needs to satisfy the demands of a Kremlin determined to asphyxiate any opposition to what it veils as its “special military operation” in Ukraine. On the other are Western governments, investors and partners horrified by Russia’s war, as well as the more worldly segments of its own Russian audience.

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