Illustration shows ChatGPT logo


  • Sberbank's GigaChat will roll out initially to a small group of testers
  • The AI chatbot reportedly boasts excellent Russian-language comprehension and the ability to generate images
  • Tech experts have called for a six-month pause on the development of advanced AI systems

Russia is entering the artificial intelligence (AI) race after Sberbank announced Monday that it created its own alternative to ChatGPT, the AI chatbot Microsoft-backed OpenAI created and released last year.

GigaChat, the Russian majority state-owned banking and financial services company's AI chatbot, is reportedly more advanced than its peers, such as ChatGPT, when it comes to the ability to communicate intelligently in Russian and to generate images, The Moscow Times reported.

Herman Gref, the CEO of Sberbank, called GigaChat "a breakthrough for the larger universe of Russian technology."

"It's important to note that GigaChat can be used not only by those who love to experiment with new technologies, but also by students, and even researchers for serious scientific work," he said in a press release.

Sberbank has invested heavily in technology over the years in an effort to reduce the country's reliance on imports.

Gref, who was a former minister of Economic Development during Russian President Vladimir Putin's first two terms, was among those slapped with sanctions by several Western governments after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Western sanctions have limited Sberbank's technological ambitions as Russia's largest lender announced last month an 80% drop in net profits in 2022. This was after the bank was excluded from the S.W.I.F.T. (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) system, which powers most international money and security transfers, as well as withdrew from the European market following the invasion.

The launch of GigaChat is seen as the latest effort by Russia in its technological competition with the United States.

The chatbot will roll out initially to a small group of testers, who will be able to sign up to participate in the testing process via a closed Telegram channel.

Meanwhile, tech experts recently urged caution in the development of advanced AI systems, warning that it could open a Pandora's box.

In March, the non-profit Future of Life Institute published an open letter with more than 1,100 signatories from across the technology sector and academic community, calling for a six-month pause on the development of advanced AI technologies. It warned that even those who created the technologies are having difficulty keeping them in check.

It also expressed concern about advanced AI's possible risks to society and individuals in terms of safety, privacy and data protection, decision-making and human rights.

"AI research and development should be refocused on making today's powerful, state-of-the-art systems more accurate, safe, interpretable, transparent, robust, aligned, trustworthy and loyal," the letter read.

The group called for the development and implementation of shared safety protocols for advanced AI that would be "rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts."

Illustration shows ChatGPT logo