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This paper considers the role of Russian print media and government in forming and publicizing nationalist sentiment through a content analysis of newspaper coverage of ethnic conflict in Stavropol in 2007. It shows that though the government officially pursues an inclusive multicultural approach (which I call associative nationalism), newspapers owned by Kremlin-loyal business holdings printed quite nationalist and sensationalist versions of the events in question. I argue that this is a passive promotion of a dissociative type of nationalism on the part of the Kremlin, which works against its stated purposes of bringing together all those in the Russian territory into a united national identity.

This paper considers the role of Russian print media and government in forming and publicizing nationalist sentiment through a content analysis of newspaper coverage of ethnic conflict in Stavropol in 2007. It shows that though the government officially pursues an inclusive multicultural approach (which I call associative nationalism), newspapers owned by Kremlin-loyal business holdings printed quite nationalist and sensationalist versions of the events in question. I argue that this is a passive promotion of a dissociative type of nationalism on the part of the Kremlin, which works against its stated purposes of bringing together all those in the Russian territory into a united national identity.

At the core of much of the media fever over Pussy Riot lies a fundamental misunderstanding of what these Russian dissidents are about. Some outlets have portrayed the case as a quest for freedom of expression and other ground rules of liberal democracy. Yet the very phrase “freedom of expression,” with its connotations of genteel protest as a civic way to blow off some steam while life goes on, is alien to Russian radical thought. The members of Pussy Riot are not liberals looking for self-expression. They are self-confessed descendants of the surrealists and the Russian futurists, determined to radically, even violently, change society.

Anyone who has bothered to see them beyond their relevance as anti-Kremlin proxies will know that these young people are as contemptuous of capitalism as they are of Putinism. They are targeting not just Russian authoritarianism, but, in Tolokonnikova’s words, the entire “corporate state system.” And that applies to the West as much as to Russia itself. It includes many of the fawning foreign media conglomerates covering the trial, like Murdoch’s News Corp., and even such darlings of the anti-Putin “liberal opposition” establishment as the businessman and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny.

NYT op-ed from Russian journalist Vadim Nikitin, who asks: “Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, are dissident intellectuals once again in danger of becoming pawns in the West’s anti-Russian narrative?”

At the core of much of the media fever over Pussy Riot lies a fundamental misunderstanding of what these Russian dissidents are about. Some outlets have portrayed the case as a quest for freedom of expression and other ground rules of liberal democracy. Yet the very phrase “freedom of expression,” with its connotations of genteel protest as a civic way to blow off some steam while life goes on, is alien to Russian radical thought. The members of Pussy Riot are not liberals looking for self-expression. They are self-confessed descendants of the surrealists and the Russian futurists, determined to radically, even violently, change society.

Anyone who has bothered to see them beyond their relevance as anti-Kremlin proxies will know that these young people are as contemptuous of capitalism as they are of Putinism. They are targeting not just Russian authoritarianism, but, in Tolokonnikova’s words, the entire “corporate state system.” And that applies to the West as much as to Russia itself. It includes many of the fawning foreign media conglomerates covering the trial, like Murdoch’s News Corp., and even such darlings of the anti-Putin “liberal opposition” establishment as the businessman and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny.

NYT op-ed from Russian journalist Vadim Nikitin, who asks: “Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, are dissident intellectuals once again in danger of becoming pawns in the West’s anti-Russian narrative?”

Unsurprsingly, the high incidence of violence against journalists, including murders that frequently go unsolved, has not only created an atmosphere of official impunity but led to self-censorship by journalists. Russia is near the top of the list of risky countries in the Annual ‘Impunity Index’ of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), taking 9th place behind Iraq, Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Afghanistan, Nepal and Mexico. In nine out of ten cases
those responsible were not brought to justice, which makes killing a journalist a cheap, easy and practically risk-free method of silencing someone. In the last ten years our country has been unable to carry out effective investigations to bring to justice the perpetrators of more than 150 murders of journalists and other media workers. This demonstrates the failure of the system at every level: politics, law enforcement and the judiciary.

Media freedom in the Russian regions? You must be joking… – Part of Russia At The Crossroads, a week-long special on openDemocracy, guest-curated by Human Rights Watch.