Within the nearly two decades that Vladimir Putin has been in power, Russian lawmakers and authorities have turned the country’s media into a highly efficient tool of regime legitimation – very successfully so, as Putin’s popularity ratings show. The Kremlin has been particularly innovative in using a wide range of programmes for propaganda purposes, among them not only news, but also talks shows and light entertainment formats. Media outlets that tried to provide alternative views to those of the Kremlin have been shut down, forced into exile or operate under severely restricted conditions.
Despite a global fascination with Putin’s success in media manipulation and propaganda, we know rather little about what exactly is going on in Russian media, how journalists handle the ever-changing policies the government implements and how they affect their everyday practices in the newsroom and beyond. Instead of reducing Russian journalists to ‘soldiers of the Kremlin’, we want to understand the complexities of journalistic agency as well as the factors that affect news making: political pressure, market and self-censorship.
Russian journalism does not exist in isolation from the world. This is why we bring scholars and media practitioners from different countries to the United Kingdom to add a wider perspective on the logics of newsmaking in Russia. Interesting here is to what extent Russian journalism – whether deplorably or not – is leading the way in how journalism is done in the late 2010s. For the time being, we thought about gathering journalists who are familiar with Russian media, among them Ukrainian and Hungarian experts as well as expats from the former Eastern blog who are currently working or conducting research in Britain.
Ilya Yablokov (University of Leeds) received his MA in Nationalism Studies with Distinction from Central European University (Budapest) and PhD in Russian Studies from the University of Manchester (UK). Ilya currently teaches Russian history, politics and culture at the University of Leeds (UK). His research interests include conspiracy theories, nation-building and politics in post-Soviet Russia, history of post-Soviet journalism and international broadcasting. He is a principal investigator of the British Academy funded project ‘Self-Censorship in post-Socialist states’ (with Elisabeth Schimpfossl of Aston University).
In 2015 he received the prize of the British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies for the best peer-reviewed article. He is now working on two book projects: the first project is about conspiracy theories in the broadcasts of the Russian international TV channel Russia Today (RT). The second project is the study of the history of media management in post-Soviet Russia. The book is concerned with the biographies of Russia’s main media managers, such as Konstantin Ernst, Derk Sauer and Aram Gabrelyanov.
Julia Smirnova, journalist, former Moscow correspondent for Die Welt.
Victor Vakhshtayn, Dean of Social Sciences, The Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences.
Andrei Goryanov, Head of Moscow bureau of the BBC World Service.
Elisabeth Schimpfossl is currently a Lecturer in Sociology and Policy at Aston University, Birmingham. Prior to that, she taught at a number of other universities in the UK (University College London, Liverpool University, Brunel University, University of Westminster), primarily in the field of Russian and Soviet politics and history. Her research focuses on elites, philanthropy and social inequality as well as questions around post-Socialist media and self-censorship. She is the author of Rich Russians: From Oligarchs to Bourgeoisie. The lives of wealthy people have long held an allure to many, but the lives of wealthy Russians pose a particular fascination which the book grapples with. Having achieved their riches over the course of a single generation, the top 0.1 percent of Russian society have become known for ostentatious lifestyles and tastes. A book on the media elite in Russia, co-authored with Ilya Yablokov, is in the pipeline.