Recent Developments in the Post-Soviet Media Landscape: Ukraine, Belarus and Russia 23 June 2010, RAI, University of Oxford, UK
Stephen Hutchings (University of Manchester, UK) A new model for understanding official media discourse of the post-Soviet period: postmodern propaganda or inverted stiob? It is a now a truism to talk of Russia as a semi-authoritarian state which, whilst having adopted the superficial forms of a modern democracy, has centralised power, imposed constraints on freedom of expression, and used the mass media of communication it controls as a tool of propaganda to promote its government’s agenda, and to browbeat and ridicule its opponents. It is equally clear that, with the withering of communist ideology, the exposure of its society to global flows of information and to the technological revolution, and the adoption of a market model for its economy, it is not appropriate to describe Russia as having reverted to a form of totalitarian rule. It becomes necessary, therefore, to ask whether it remains appropriate to characterise the official discourse of the new Russian state as ‘propaganda’ in the traditional sense. To do so is to assume the continuation of a transitive model of power relations in which propaganda messages are transmitted to a passive public by a ruling elite retaining a sufficient aura of authority to be confident that its view prevails. Nor, however, would it seem correct to apply to Russia a Gramscian ‘hegemonic’ model according to which power is exerted by a ruling class through its dominance of definitions of broad societal ‘consensus’ and ‘common sense’; with civil society at such a low ebb in Russia, such notions have little value. This presentation makes a provisional effort to propose in outline form a new model for understanding official media discourse of the (post)-Putin era. It attempts to take into account the role of the ‘participatory audience’ typical of new forms of mass mediation, the absence of a guiding ideology and a cohort of committed propagandists, the commercial environment in which the Russian state media operate, the intrusion of self-reflection into certain forms of official cultural output, and the impact of the global communications industry. Rather than situating these phenomena in a western post-modern framework, however, it posits a model adapted from the late Soviet notion of stiob defined by Yurchak as ‘a peculiar form of irony ... requir[ing] such a degree of overidentification with the object at which [it] was directed that it was impossible to tell whether it was a form of sincere support, subtle ridicule, or a peculiar mixture’. Examining examples as diverse as the infamous bare-chested Putin photos, the youth group Nashi, government-sponsored You-Tube clips, certain Channel 1 television films, and the Victory Day parades, the paper identifies an inverted form of stiob which, rather than target official culture, operates from its very heart. This, in turn, reflects the peculiar disposition of power relations within contemporary Russian culture and the unresolved status of its dialogic interactions with a mythologised ‚West’ which continues to serve as it constituent Other.
Dzmitry Karenka (co-editor for 'Novaja Europa' - http://n-europe.eu) Political Communication Online: (the case of) Local Election in Belarus The paper analyses the usage of the new digital media within the context of political campaigning in Belarus (the case of the latest local election campaign in April, 2009). In particular, the focus is on the ways
Recent Developments in the Post-Soviet Media Landscape: Ukraine, Belarus and Russia 23 June 2010, RAI, University of Oxford, UK
in which some of the most active candidates used various communication platforms (blogs, social networks, etc) in order to access the wider public and/or to inform their target audience. The 'messages' as articulated by the some of the candidates are also worthy of analysis. These function as symptoms of a quasi-political process in Belarus. It is equally important to understand the role of the (online) public in the this communication process given the highly interactive nature of the new media. Considering the complexity of the situation, the main argument of the paper is that online media become a new and important tool of communication between the political activists and the public, sometimes counterbalancing each other, radically challenging the traditional mode of communication. However, a number of critical reservations might be raised with regard to the efficiency or even the status of online political communication in the Belarusian context. Firstly, the number of people following political developments online in Belarus is contested, particularly in cases of local elections. Secondly, it is debatable to what extent the political communication of this kind takes into account the properties of the 'medium' (its interactivity, its focus on entertainment and its emphasis on pleasure). Thirdly, given the overall control of authorities have over the procedural issues in the electoral process in Belarus, it remains unclear what the political campaigning as the 'self-promotion' of particular candidates adds to, or significantly challenges, in the current configuration of power relations in the country. It is concluded that 'online media' are an important tool for political communication (providing a platform for discussion and criticism) advancing the stance of independent or non-governmental candidates. At the same time, the impact of online media on the actual political process remains unclear.
Ostap Kryvdyk (NaUMKA alumnus, freelance journalist, Ukraine) Media in Ukraine: the fine line between political PR and entertainment? To start with, I will outline the peculiarity of the pluralism of traditional media in Ukraine, which was made possible due to the involvement of different political interests and the needs of their owners. The news broadcasts are a crude promotion of political and business interests of the TV owners (and those who pay for news), where journalists seem to be only the "transmitters" of the agenda of the owners. The ownership structure of traditional media is non-transparent (being all offshore-owned), which makes it difficult to trace the links to the roots of ‘black PR’, implicit political publicity or the preoccupation with ‘infotainment” (e.g. an earthquake announcement in TSN news of 1+1 TV, March 4, 2010). Next, I will comment on the Russian language’s domination of the Ukrainian media, e.g. many top positions are occupied by citizens of Russia (Iliya Kanavin, the journalist of Russian ORT TV channel has the position of chief of the news of "Inter TV", and top political TV talk-shows are moderated by Sergey Kisyeliov and Savik Shuster, expatriates from Russia). Top FM stations and newspapers are the property of Moscow-based companies and glossy magazines are also re-published in Moscow. However, I would argue, there's a significant difference between the Russian and the Ukrainian media. Firstly, the complete monopoly in Russian media cannot be compared with the plural ownership of Ukrainian media, as well as the pluralism of Ukrainian political life. Secondly, I will show that it is possible to use the media to protect the rights of citizens with regards to certain social cases. Thirdly, despite a certain limitation on Internet coverage (i.e. mostly in big cities where the well-off can afford it) the new media’s potential is growing (for instance, Ukrainska Pravda publications influences politics; blogs are used as an alternative news source). As long as traditional media remains a political instrument and an entertainment business, I claim, the development of new media in Ukraine and its role in providing space for public debate and control should be accounted for.
Recent Developments in the Post-Soviet Media Landscape: Ukraine, Belarus and Russia 23 June 2010, RAI, University of Oxford, UK
Yuri Misnikov (PhD Researcher, Institute of Communication Studies, Centre for Digital Citizenship (CdC), University of Leeds, UK) Politicisation of the new digital media in a post-Soviet context: A case of political discussion online in Belarus The assessment of the traditional print and broadcast media is a well-established exercise in media and political science studies. It routinely aims at determining, for example, whether or not media outlets are free from government control/censorship in news production and dissemination, whether journalists are free to pursue investigative reporting, whether citizens have free access to a variety of independent media products, or whether, as a result, ordinary members of the public can freely form their personal opinions based on the publicly available information, and whether or not such information is objective. It is commonplace to judge democratic achievements and political freedoms on the basis of media performance and to reiterate, in this connection, a fundamental lack of media freedoms in the post-Soviet transition as a major bottleneck for successful democratisation. While it all remains true in the Internet age, a rapid proliferation of a new and largely free digital media – such as Web-based discussion forums or blogs producing unprecedented amounts of uncensored user-generated content – and its subsequent politicisation creates a stark contrast with the state-controlled conventional media. Inevitable questions arise about the impact of these new media practices on political preferences and opinion formation outside the officially sanctioned media boundaries through such new mediatic activities as storytelling, news dissemination, commentary, deliberation. Yet, it is not clear how exactly these new forms of mediated political participation are organized and functioning; what is their scope and scale; who participates and deliberates; what are the motivation factors; and how publicly effective are these new alternative forms of politicisation from below in a democratically immature society? Drawing on an empirical evidence disclosing political discussions on the Belarusian Internet, this presentation attempts to shed some light to these questions, with the help of the Habermasian discourse ethics and communicative action theories.
Natalia Rulyova (University of Birmingham, UK) Paradoxes of Glasnost in Medvedev’s Russia: Clashes between the Mass Media and New Media The paper will present a comparative analysis of the most discussed themes in Russian-language blogs and leading news stories in the Russian mass media presented daily over the period of a month. The paper has three objectives. It aims to find out (1) if there is some overlap between mass media stories and popular blogging themes; (2) how and in what context bloggers discuss popular mass media stories and whether they tend to present an oppositional reading of the news story, to clarify the dominant interpretation of the mass media message, or to confuse it; (3) what sort of stories become the subject for discussion in both the mass media and new media and why; (4) why some mass media news stories and blogging stories do not travel; what prevents them from crossing boundaries. The paper will draw on the Gramscian hegemonic and the Bakhtinian interpretation of discourse; it will show the independence and interdependence of discourses some of which may clarify and others might mystify the intended message.
Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (University of Edinburgh, UK) Чьи это частушки? The language of Russian political satire on and off the web The paper discusses patterns of political satire production within the dominant and the counterdiscourses in the Russian contemporary electronic media. As a case study, it looks into two satirical
cartoon shows, the online Rulitiki and the TV Mul’tlichnosti, both dealing with satirical depiction of the two Russian leaders, Vladimir Putin and Dmitrii Medvedev. In the last decade, the ‘fourth estate’ tradition of political satire carried on in the television and radio shows by Viktor Shenderovich was marginalised out of the mainstream media and, with the closure of the radio show Plavlennyi syrok, virtually extinguished. Its successor, the cartoon series Rulitiki created by the writer and journalist Oleg Kozyrev has been shown since 2008 on the internet, the zone less susceptible to state control. At the same time, Mul’tlichnosti presents the state of satirical produced within the dominant discourse. The paper analyses the linguistic tools of satire in the cartoons’ dialogues and contextualises those within the general trends of Russian the post-Soviet discursive development. The paper proposes that whereas the satire of the 1990s was based mainly on the deconstruction of dominant meanings, and semantic shifts allowing the production of the alternative discourse, the new online satire is more blurred and contradictory. In Rulitiki, the main tool is linguistic imperfection achieved by the use of the infantilised language distorted at both the orphoepic and the spelling levels, which altogether resembles the playful code of the padonki language. This leads paradoxically to both deconstruction and domestication of the dominant discourse, which makes the production of the alternative meanings and the distinction between the satirical ‘us’ and the satirised rather problematic. The adequacy of language to describe political reality is altogether questioned. The quasi-satire in Mut’ltlichnosti tends to colonise many tools of the counter-discourse, such as language of the margins (e.g. the padonkian, the invectives) and well as the generic form of the chastushki, a trademark of Shenderovich’s programmes. These elements absorbed, the cartoon characters of the two leaders turn out to be the satirical ‘us’ rather than the satirised ‘them’, producing the inversion of the oppositional satire.
Almira Ousmanova (European Humanities University, Vilnius) Visual Politics’ in contemporary Belarus: visual image as a tool for political struggle and ideological domination The advent of the electronic era along with the ‘democratization’ of visual media lead to the radical redefinition of the image as an instrument of political life in contemporary society. Telecommunication technologies and computer networks have drastically changed the modes and forms of surveillance and control over the citizens and fostered considerably the process of blurring of the boundaries between the private and the public. No political campaign is thinkable today without recourse to the ‘power of images’. It is television that created the whole generation of the political leaders, so called ‘telepresidents’, whose ‘charisma’ is in the first place a product of the mass-media and whose authority is being almost entirely defined by the control over the means of communication. Finally, it is through visual media that the history itself is being created, interpreted, archived and rendered intelligible nowadays. That is to say, that visual has become a site of power and reconfiguration of the social relations; and the domain of representation is the site of struggle for domination, from both sides – of the ruling regime and its opponents. The newly emerged media technologies in some countries have been effectively employed in the pursuit of democratization of the society and the more efficient functioning of public sphere, while in others, on the contrary, the same means and instruments have being used with no less effect to support and promote authoritarian political systems. Such is the case of Belarus which, on the one hand, is advanced enough as to be open to all technological innovations and can be approached as a society (of spectacle) similarly to many other developed countries, where political field has been long subjugated to the logic of mediatization, but on the other, current Belarusian political regime (ruled by Alexander Lukashenko) remains strikingly intolerant to the political heterodoxy and continues to put very strict limitations on all forms of open manifestation of oppositional political views. Meanwhile, both the repression of the “malcontents’ by the regime as well as the imitation of democratic procedures at the level of formal regulation of social and political sphere (producing an effect of ‘ersatz’-democracy) heavily rely upon the
use of new technologies of communication and the manipulation by visual images. Lukashenko’s regime in this sense can be considered as ‘obscene’ (according to Jean Baudrillard’s definition of an ‘obscene’ as the regime of ultimate transparency, visibility and exposure), for not only the representations of the ‘nations’ leader or various political events seem to be abundant and ubiquitous, but also because the fragile boundaries between public and private are being constantly abused and trespassed in both verbal and visual registers. Thus, in the paper I am going to analyze the ‘regimes of visibility’ of power in the contemporary Belarusian media, focusing more specifically on the representations of political opponents on Belarusian TV and the use of visual images as the tools of political propagation for the regime as well as the ‘discrediting evidence’ against it of opponents (up to the point when it becomes pornographic). In addition, I am going to discuss the alternative representations, which are being created and employed by Lukashenko’s opponents, as a form of guerilla warfare which takes place in the space of visual representations.
Justin Sparks (Oxford alumnus, UK) Dictatorship.com: Does the virtual world of new media supplant or support civil society and democratic reform? This paper examines how the media and civil society in China, that in many respects shares a common heritage with the Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union, continues to be successfully controlled by the state despite the massive increase in both sectors over the last two decades. It also aims to show how the growth of the internet, strongly encouraged by western governments as an agent of democratic reform, has been transformed into a vital instrument of state control, allowing the successful monitoring of both the internet as well as print media content, that would otherwise be unmanageable. It will also look for commonalities in the legal regulation of civil society, and show how the once intrusive surveillance of citizens has been replaced by the silent surrender of private information by netizens, allowing government ministries to collate personal data without fear of a popular backlash. Alexander Verkhovsky (Director of the Information and Analytical Center “SOVA”, Russia) Media freedom in Russia and the anti-extremism legislation Russia’s recent anti-extremism legislation is just one of the tools used to limit the freedom of expression, but its role has been increasing. Anti-extremism legislation contains an inclusive description of potential 'abuses of freedom of speech', which may be understood as political - such as anti-governmental appeals, ethno-religious and other types of intolerance. This description is translated in a series of broadly formulated prohibitions, which in principle may only be applied selectively. This, in turn, has been used by authorities at all levels to intimidate the media and individual citizens. The paper presents a review of established patterns of exerting pressure on formally registered media, including the main triggers of such pressure, its forms and outcomes. Commonly targeted types of freedom of speech include criticism of the law enforcement agencies and regional governments, coverage of radical opposition, debates on ethnoreligious topics, and images of swastika. Persecution of media outlets for quoting their interviewees' opinions constitutes a particular problem. In Russia, because of severe restrictions exerted on media, an ever-increasing portion of public debates has shifted to the Web. The anti-extremism legislation has little effect on the Internet. In particular, it is difficult to apply the important legal test of whether or not a posting on the web constitutes a public statement. The fact that the law is poorly designed leads to even greater arbitrariness in its enforcement (e.g. the persecution of formally registered online media for comments left on their websites by the readers). The repressive potential of anti-extremism legislation is not (yet?) used to its full extent. Media outlets have won several court cases. However, in general we observe an increasing pressure on freedom of expression with the ‘help’ of the anti-extremism legislation.
After Nikolai Gorshkov obtained a degree in History from Moscow University, he conducted his post graduate research at The Institute of USA and Canada Studies, The USSR Academy of Sciences (19781981). For the next 10 years he worked as a Broadcaster with Radio Moscow English language services. He covered all Soviet-US and Soviet-UK summits, interviewed Margaret Thatcher, Denis Healey, Graham Greene, John Le Carre, Robert Maxwell, among many other newsmakers. He interpreted for Presidents Reagan, Bush senior, and Clinton, and for PM Thatcher during Soviet TV live coverage of her meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1986 he co-produced with BBC Radio One the first ever live radio discussion between Soviet and British youths on "drugs, sex and rock-n-roll". Nikolai freelanced for BBC Radio Four Eurofile, reporting on the momentous changes the USSR was going through; he co-produced with a Belgian TV production company a travelogue on the Nord Express train service from Moscow to Paris and accompanied the Dalai Lama on his first pilgrimages to Buryatia and Kalmykia in 1991. From 1993 till 2001 he acted as a senior producer/desk editor with the BBC Russian Service. Nikolai managed coverage of the wars in Yugoslavia and Chechnya, Russian, UK and US elections, the resignation of President Yeltsin. In 2001-2003 he worked as BBC News Moscow correspondent (he covered the Moscow hostage siege, Russia's stance on Iraqi WMD, the Khodorkovsky affair). From 2004 till 2008 Nikolai was Head of the Moscow office of BBC Monitoring (covering the Beslan school siege and Russian parliamentary and presidential elections). From 2008 Nikolai has been a Regional Manager for Russia, Europe and Latin America; he manages monitoring teams in Caversham, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and the Balkans.
Stephen Hutchings is Professor of Russian Studies, Director of Research and Deputy Head of School at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, University of Manchester. His research specialism is in Russian Cultural and Media Studies and he has published 4 monographs and 5 edited volumes, along with numerous journal articles, in that field. He has secured 4 large AHRC grants and is just completing work on one of them (a 3-year grant project looking at European Television Representations of Islam as Security Threat in Russia, France and the UK) before commencing work on a new one treating Russian television coverage of interethnic cohesion issues. He recently hosted an international conference on Representing Islam: Comparative Perspectives at Manchester. Previously he held professorships at the University of Surrey, and the University of Rochester, New York. He is President of the British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies, an AHRC panel member, a former RAE subpanellist, and editorial board member of 4 international journals.
Dzmitry Karenka is a lecturer at The European Humanities University, Vilnius, Lithuania at Media & Communications programme and a co-editor for a Belarusian online magazine 'Novaja Europa' (www.neurope.eu) which covers issues related to Belarus-EU relations, international, social and political affairs in Belarus. Dzmitry is a member of the international Laboratory of Critical Urbanism, based at EHU (www.criticialurbanism.wordpress.com), which currently carries out work on the research project â€œBelarus and Ukraine in the Spatial Dimension of Globalization: State, Capital, Territoriality (2008-2010). As a civic activist, Dzmitry participates in the electoral campaigns in Belarus (election observation & information campaigning) and was involved in the work of various informal initiatives. His academic interests include theory of new media, visual culture analysis, political communication and urban studies.
Ostap Kryvdyk holds a MA degree in Comparative Political Science from Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Ukraine. He had been working for the leading TV channels of Ukraine (Inter, 1+1, 5 TV), and is now a member of the Board of The Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union. During the Ukrainian Orange Revolution (2004) he acted as a chief of the creative department of the Youth Movement PORA. He is currently working as a political consultant and essayist for the most popular Ukrainian political web-site Ukrainska Pravda (http://pravda.com.ua).
Galina Miazhevich is the Gorbachev Media Research Fellow at Christ Church, Oxford, and an associate of the Rothermere American Institute. She has got PhD in Development Studies in 2006. Her interest in emergent forms of post-communist identity is positioned at the junction of social psychology, development, gender and media studies. Galina previously worked as a Research Associate on the project 'Television Representation of Islam as a Security Threat in European media' funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and led by Prof. Stephen Hutchings at the University of Manchester, UK. The project focused on the analysis of three countries – Britain, France and Russia— which share similarities in their postcolonial relations with Islamic states, resident Muslim populations, and concern with the 'war on terror'. Galina’s current research examines the relationship between grassroots xenophobia and state media in the Belarusian nation-building project.
Yuri Misnikov is a PhD researcher with the Institute of Communications Studies of the University of Leeds (UK) studying Russian deliberative discourses online to problematize post-communist transition as part of a broader interest in communication-based political efficacy and participatory democracy. Prior to joining the Institute in 2007 he was a staff member of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) holding since 1993 a range of increasingly responsible managerial and professional positions with UNDP offices in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Slovakia. As e-Governance Regional Policy Advisor for Central Eastern Europe and the CIS with the UNDP Regional Centre in Bratislava, Slovakia he was responsible for providing policy advice on the use of digital Information and Communication Technologies for public administration reform and democratic governance in over 20 countries. Yuri formulated and managed regional projects resulted in the establishment of the e-Governance Academy in Estonia and the operationalization of (a) eSEE Agenda (Electronic South East Europe Initiative) in the Western Balkans and (b) environmental digital network CARNet in Central Asia. He is a member of: Centre for Digital Citizenship (CdC) of the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds, UK; University of Leeds, UK; Supervisory Board of the e-Governance Academy, Tallinn, Estonia; e-Governance Working Group of the Ukrainian Government and the Renaissances Foundation, Kiev Ukraine. Yuri has his degree in Human Geographer from the Belarusian State University and in Demographics from the Moscow State University.
Almira Ousmanova is professor at the Department of Media and director of MA program in Cultural Studies at the European Humanities University (Lithuania). She has got PhD in Social Philosophy in 1993. In 2002-2004 she was a Fellow at KWI (Essen), working in the research project directed by Luisa Passerini ‘Europe: Emotions, Identity and Politics’. From 2003 till 2006 she was a director of the HESP ReSET projects ‘Rethinking Visual and Cultural Studies’ and from 2007 till 2009-of the HESP Challenge Seminar ‘Visual Studies of Immedia: Exploring the post-modern immediacy of mass media (co-directed with Andrei Gornykh). Her research focuses on Visual Studies, Gender Theory and semiotics. Her main publications include Umberto Eco: paradoxes of interpretation (2000); Gender Histories from Eastern Europe (co-edited with Elena Gapova and Andrea Peto; 2002); Bi-Textuality and Cinema (ed., 2003); Gender and Trangression in Visual Arts (ed., 2007), Visual (as) Violence (ed., 2007), Belarusian Format:
Invisible Reality (ed., 2009). Her current book project is entitled Representation and History: the cinematic images of the Soviet.
Dr Natalia Rulyova is a Lecturer in Russian at CREES, the University of Birmingham. She joined CREES in July 2006, having previously worked as Lecturer in Russian and Research Associate on the project Post-Soviet Television Culture led by Prof. Stephen Hutchings at the University of Surrey. Her current research focuses on contemporary Russian mass media and new media. She co-authored Television and Culture in Putinâ€™s Russia: Remote Control (2009). With B. Beumers and S. Hutchings, she co-edited Globalisation, Freedom and the Media after Communism (2009) and The Post-Soviet Russian Media: Conflicting Signals (2009).
Lara Ryazanova-Clarke is a Senior Lecturer and Head of Russian in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh. She received her PhD from Strathclyde University and since 1992 she has been teaching Russian language, culture and literature at the University of Edinburgh. She has numerous publications in the field of post-Soviet social and cultural changes as manifested in the Russian language and discourse. Since 2000, Lara Ryazanova-Clarke has been a Fellow of The Institute of Linguists. She is Convener of The Research Centre for the Study of Russian in Context (RiC). Areas of research interest: Russian Language studies, especially the interface between language and social and cultural issues; discourse and critical discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, cognitive approach to Russian.
Alexander Verkhovsky graduated from Moscow Oil and Gas Institute with degree in applied mathematics in 1984. In 1989 he became editor-in-chief of samizdat independent newspaper Panorama in Moscow. In 1991-2002 he was a vice-president of Panorama Information and Research Center. Since 2002 Alexander is a director of SOVA Center for Information and Analysis. Verkhovskyâ€™s main area of research has been political extremism, nationalism and xenophobia in contemporary Russia and also religion and politics in contemporary Russia. He is an author or co-author of a number of books on these issues (and also on religion and politics in contemporary Russia), and many articles. SOVA Center conducts monitoring on ultra-nationalist activities, hate crime, hate speech, public actions and legal regulations and legal measures against them, misuse of anti-extremism legislation and also on various issues related to religion in contemporary Russian society (see http://sova-center.ru/).
Abstracts and bios of presenters