NashStore: Russia’s alternative to the Google Play store

Google Play is restricted in Russia as part of Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. A domestic alternative is set to launch soon after a testing phase.

Smartphone user in RussiaIt’s unclear yet whether NashStore will be widely used by Russians

A Russian alternative to the Google Play store is undergoing first tests. It’ll allow users to continue to download Android smartphone apps that have been limited over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The official birth of the new app, NashStore, was orginally planned to coincide with Russia’s Victory Day, a national holiday marked every year to celebrate the Soviet Union’s defeat of the Nazis in World War II.

What is NashStore?

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NashStore, which means “Our Store,” is an app that will work with Android smartphones and other devices. It allows users in Russia — and in some other former Soviet states — to download, install and update apps and pay for subscriptions in a similar way to the Google Play store.

The developer has hailed the app as Western “sanctions-resistant.”

NashStore is compatible with Russian bank cards under the Mir payment system, which was created to circumvent earlier international sanctions on Moscow and cut the country’s reliance on US payment platforms like Visa and Mastercard.

However, the app store won’t have anywhere near the same number of apps as the Google Play store, although over 500 developers have so far joined the NashStore community, according to The Register website.

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Why has it been created?

In March, crippling Western sanctions imposed on Moscow in the wake of the Ukraine invasion began to pose banking challenges in Russia.

That prompted Alphabet Inc, which owns Google Play and Youtube, to suspend all payment-based services for its platforms in Russia.

That meant that Russian users could no longer extend subscriptions for newspapers, magazines, books, video and audio content delivered to their Android devices via the Google Play store.

YouTube, meanwhile stopped creators in Russia from monetizing their video clips, which has boosted support for a local equivalent, RuTube.

In retaliation, the Kremlin restricted access to Western social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in Russia, accusing them of helping the West to spread disinformation about the Ukraine invasion, which Moscow calls a “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor.

Who is behind NashStore?

The new app has been developed by ANO Digital Platforms.

Announcing the project in late March, Vladimir Zykov, director of projects at Digital Platforms said last month: “Unfortunately, Russians can no longer normally use Google Play to buy apps and developers have lost their source of income.”

“This is why we have created a Russian app shop, NashStore.”

A write-up on the NashStore website defended the app’s creation, saying that due to the “severe pressure from Western companies” on Russia, “the task of public organizations and associations is to do everything so that Russian business and citizens have domestic alternatives.”

The firm behind the app also serves as a tech industry association and IT consulting firm and holds a database that connects software developers with business clients.

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Why was the launch planned on Russia’s Victory Day?

May 9 is hugely symbolic for Russians. The country traditionally holds a patriotic display of raw military power, with a huge parade passing through Moscow’s Red Square.

The parade, which marks the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, has grown in prominence during President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

This year, amid the conflict in Ukraine, the day holds extra significance and the launch of the app is clearly a show of defiance against Western sanctions that have crippled the Russian economy.

Edited by: Hardy Graupner