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War of words: the impact of Russian state television on the Russian Internet


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How effective is Russian state television in framing the conflict in Ukraine that began with the Euromaidan protests and what is its impact on Russian Internet users? We carried out a content analysis of Dmitrii Kiselev's “News of the Week” show, which allowed us to identify the two key frames he used to explain the conflict - World War II-era fascism and anti-Americanism. Since Kiselev often reduces these frames to buzzwords, we were able to track the impact of these words on Internet users by examining search query histories on Yandex and Google and by developing quantitative data to complement our qualitative analysis. Our findings show that much of what state media produces is not effective, but that the “fascist” and anti-American frames have had lasting impacts on Russian Internet users. We argue that it does not make sense to speak of competition between a “television party” and an “Internet party” in Russia since state television has a strong impact in setting the agenda for the Internet and society as a whole. Ultimately, the relationship between television and the Internet in Russia is a continual loop, with each affecting the other.
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Nationalities Papers
The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity
ISSN: 0090-5992 (Print) 1465-3923 (Online) Journal homepage:
War of words: the impact of Russian state
television on the Russian Internet
Christina Cottiero, Katherine Kucharski, Evgenia Olimpieva & Robert W.
To cite this article: Christina Cottiero, Katherine Kucharski, Evgenia Olimpieva & Robert W.
Orttung (2015) War of words: the impact of Russian state television on the Russian Internet,
Nationalities Papers, 43:4, 533-555, DOI: 10.1080/00905992.2015.1013527
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War of words: the impact of Russian state television on the Russian
Christina Cottiero
, Katherine Kucharski
, Evgenia Olimpieva
and Robert W. Orttung
Elliott School of International Affairs, Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies,
The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA;
Division of the Social Sciences,
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
(Received 7 November 2014; accepted 27 January 2015)
How effective is Russian state television in framing the conict in Ukraine that began
with the Euromaidan protests and what is its impact on Russian Internet users? We
carried out a content analysis of Dmitrii KiselevsNews of the Weekshow, which
allowed us to identify the two key frames he used to explain the conict World
War II-era fascism and anti-Americanism. Since Kiselev often reduces these frames
to buzzwords, we were able to track the impact of these words on Internet users by
examining search query histories on Yandex and Google and by developing
quantitative data to complement our qualitative analysis. Our ndings show that
much of what state media produces is not effective, but that the fascistand anti-
American frames have had lasting impacts on Russian Internet users. We argue that it
does not make sense to speak of competition between a television partyand an
Internet partyin Russia since state television has a strong impact in setting the
agenda for the Internet and society as a whole. Ultimately, the relationship between
television and the Internet in Russia is a continual loop, with each affecting the other.
Keywords: state media; the Internet; frames; Russia; Ukraine
To encourage popular support for Russias annexation of Crimea and its backing of separa-
tists in eastern Ukraine, Russian state television portrayed the post-Viktor Yanukovych
government in Kyiv as a fascist juntaworking in the interests of the USA while praising
President Vladimir Putins resort to military force to defend Russian interests. As a result of
this effort, Putins popularity rating rose above 85%
and the Russian population seemed to
accept the Kremlins framing of events in Ukraine following the Euromaidan protests and
departure of Yanukovych in February 2014. On the surface, the Kremlins efforts appear to
have been highly successful in shaping domestic opinion as Russias invasion of Ukraine
encouraged a rally around the ageffect (Baum and Groeling 2010), boosting Putins
legitimacy as Russias leader, and creating the mindset that the country was under seige.
But, how effective has Kremlin messaging been in affecting the increasingly important
Internet audience inside Russia? Does it make sense to speak of a television partyand
an Internet partyas separate and competing entities in Russia? What ultimately is the
impact of Russian state television on the Russian Internet?
© 2015 Association for the Study of Nationalities
*Corresponding author. Email:
Nationalities Papers, 2015
Vol. 43, No. 4, 533555,
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Logically, the direction of inuence can go from the Internet to television, as well as
from television to the Internet. A third possibility is that the Internet and television inuence
each other in a continuous loop. Several studies of Russias media have demonstrated the
impact of the Internet on television. For example, topics that go viral on the Internet force
the authorities to respond to ensure that the online discussions do not ultimately turn into
street protests against the leadership (Petrov, Lipman, and Hale 2014). The 20112012 pro-
tests were a good example of how the Internet, which helped organize the protests, was
responsible for forcing state television to report on the popular discontent (Oates 2013).
Such Internet inuence on television is apparent in other countries as well, including in
the USA (Davis 2009). In contrast to these studies, our analysis examines the inuence
of television on the Internet and ultimately concludes that there is a continuous loop in
which each inuences the other.
This nding allows us to address the debate over whether there are separate Internet and
television parties in Russia. Before the annexation of Crimea, analysts, such as Novaia
gazeta editor Dmitri Muratov, building on the broader work of Castells (2000), had
often divided Russian society into the television party, which supported the Kremlin, and
the Internet party, which supported the opposition (The Liberal Mission Foundation and
the Moscow Ofce of the Kennan Institute 2014). Internet users are generally younger,
richer, better educated, more urban, and more active than those who watch television in
Russia (Volkov and Goncharov 2014). Even as the authorities control most of the tra-
ditional media, the Internet provides a platform for the opposition beyond ofcial control
(Gorham 2014).
However, with the apparent success of Kremlin propaganda, prominent Russian news-
papers, like Vedomosti, began publishing the results of studies that showed that the internet
party no longer exists.According to such works, The internet today is a mirror of Russian
society, and like all of our society, it is under the strong and organized inuence of state
propaganda(Krasheninnikov 2014). Similarly, Levada Center public opinion polling
research demonstrates that the level of support for the authorities among Internet users is
not signicantly different from the level of support among other members of Russian
society (Volkov and Goncharov 2014). Even before the Ukraine crisis, prominent scholars,
such as Emil Pain, had questioned whether the party of the Internet actually existed.
Until recently, the expert community of political scientists cherished a bright image of the
party of the internetand counted on it as a source of salvation. And what did we discover?
That the physiognomy of the being that stares out at us from the internet is just as grubby as that
of the party of television.(The Liberal Mission Foundation and the Moscow Ofce of the
Kennan Institute 2014,9697)
Our analysis leads us to conclude that it does not make sense to distinguish between sep-
arate Internet and television parties in Russia.
This article examines and evaluates some of the key mechanisms and consequences of
the Kremlins framing of the Ukraine conict. The data it employs are both qualitative and
quantitative and come from a variety of sources. First, as a proxy for the overall Kremlin
framing effort, we performed a content analysis of Dmitrii Kiselevs weekly news
roundup Vesti nedeli (News of the Week) spanning the course of the ve months following
Yanukovychs departure from Kyiv. Specically, we viewed the 18 episodes broadcast
between 23 February 2014 and 13 July 2014. We chose to analyze Kiselev in detail
because of his appointment as the Kremlins chief opinion maker, as the general director
of the Rossiia Segodnia news agency. Kiselev also attracted our attention due the
extreme and radical character of his shows. We chose Kiselev as a sort of magnifying
glass, the extreme case that we will use to clarify the general message disseminated on
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Russian television. Moreover, evidence from the Pussy Riot case suggests that Vesti nedeli
can have a powerful impact on the way that other Russian media outlets cover important
stories (Yablokov 2014, 630), so we have reason to believe that what Kiselev said
shaped the way that many other Russian journalists covered the events in Ukraine.
Therefore, rather than searching for propaganda on Vesti nedeli, our goal was to detect
and analyze the major frames used by Kiselev and to nd framing devices: emotionally
charged words and catch phrases that are representative of each frame employed. Therefore,
in the qualitative part of the paper, we layout and analyze the two major frames
implemented on Vesti nedeli to portray the events in Ukraine: World War II/fascism and
anti-Americanism. Kiselevs style of news-making is conducive to frame-analysis via
words as framing devices, for wordplay is a central feature of Kiselevs show. Kiselev is
notorious for his word choice, and during the show, he often makes up new phrases or high-
lights specic buzzwords on a large screen visible behind him.
Next, in the quantitative section of our article, we present data on the reaction of the
Russian Internet audience to the words (frames) that Kiselev uses. These data are drawn
from search patterns in Google and Yandex, Russias most popular search engine. With
the help of these data, we attempt to answer the question: Have Russians adopted the rheto-
ric propagated on Russian media as exemplied by Kiselev to understand the conict in
Ukraine? Do they use the World War II and anti-American frames to understand what
goes on in neighboring Ukraine?
The conclusion lays out our ndings and argument for rejecting the notion that there are
separate Internet and television parties in Russia. Our research demonstrates that when it
comes to the conict in Ukraine, the Kremlin framing of the issue was indeed effective
and inuenced Russias Internet audience. However, our work also shows that the state
media framings impact is not as impressive when compared to the past Internet success
of opposition leader Alexey Navalny who became famous by exposing instances of cor-
ruption in Russia.
Why Dmitrii Kiselev?
Dmitrii Kiselev is the man at the helm of Russias state-owned media. As the general director
of the Rossiia Segodnia
news agency and host of the infotainmentnews show Vesti nedeli
(News of the Week), broadcast in prime time on Sunday evening on Russias second most
important television network, he is in a prominent position to set the tone for Russiasinfor-
mational warfare. Kiselev is as powerful as he is notorious. In a March 2014 poll conducted
by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), Kiselev was named the second most respected
and authoritativejournalist in Russia.
His Vesti nedeli is the second most popular
Sunday news program, following the Vremia broadcast on First Channel, according to the
TNS ratings.
The show ranked seven in the top 100 broadcasts on average during February
to July 2014, ranging from three to 14. The broadcast achieved an average rating of 5.7% and
average audience share of 17.2%. Kiselevs prominent role in backing Russian aggression in
Ukraine, however, earned him enough infamy in the West to be the only journalist sanctioned
by the European Union following Russias annexation of Crimea.
Power and fame such as Kiselevs are not earned without the proper connections. His
close relationship with President Vladimir Putin is no secret. When Putin awarded Kiselev
the Order of Service to the Fatherlandin February 2014, he commented that state propa-
ganda should only be dealt with by patriotically inclined people.
In June 2014, Kiselev
was appointed to an advisory position on the newly formed Presidential Council on Russian
Advisors on the Council are tasked with dening and supporting the
Nationalities Papers 535
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development of the Russian language in the Russian Federation and abroad an assignment
appropriate for someone with Kiselevs inventive verbal skills.
Kiselev assumed the leadership of Rossiia Segodnia thanks to a presidential decree
signed on 9 December 2013 that liquidated the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency
and radio station Voice of Russia (Golos Rossii).
Under previous editor Svetlana Miro-
niuk, RIA Novosti had earned a reputation for providing objective information. The two
former media hubs were fused to create the present-day Rossiia Segodnia.
In addition to his control of Rossiia Segodnia, Kiselev serves as the deputy general
director of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK),
Russias largest media corporation. While Rossiia Segodnia is independent of VGTRK,
Vesti nedeli airs on the Rossiia 1 national television network owned by VGTRK, which
claims to be present in all nichesof Russian television today. Approximately 70% of
respondents named a VGTRK-operated channel as their primary source of Russian news
from 2011 to 2013, according to a study conducted by the Levada Center, an independent
public opinion research organization (Levada Analytical Center 2013, 135). TNS data for
the week 713 July 2014 show that Rossiia 1 was the second most popular network in
Russia, following First Channel.
Because Kiselevs control over state-owned media extends vertically and horizontally,
Vesti nedeli was an ideal target for analysis thanks to the connections surrounding its char-
ismatic host. However, the shows content is where its true powers lie. Even within Russia,
Vesti nedeli has attracted attention because Kiselev is a masterly, and unapologetic, pur-
veyor of the Kremlin lineand thanks to the relentlessly theatrical way in which he delivers
his analysis (Remnick 2014).
Kiselev has promoted conservative values since his version of Vesti nedeli went on the
air in 2012, often framing segments of his show around such conservative themes as homo-
phobia, the Russian Orthodox Church, and chauvinistic gender roles. Kiselev himself
describes his show as an onstage performance and self-promotion,
though he rejects criti-
cism that it promotes homophobic or state propagandist goals.
However, he remains
dogged by a televised debate in which he argued that the hearts of gay people who die
in automobile accidents should be incinerated rather than used for organ donations.
an Izvestiia interview, Kiselev explained that those comments were a deliberate provoca-
tionto ignite a polemicalprogram where conicting opinions were intentionally laid
out as part of the show(Kashevarova 2014).
A showmans techniques
The key problem for state television is to present the states message in a way that attracts
viewer attention. With a clear understanding that tone and sentiment affect the way audi-
ences understand content (Westen 2007), Kiselev captures and holds the audiences atten-
tion by developing the emotion generated from the events at the center of his analysis. For
example, the host frequently ridicules American gures, usually President Barack Obama
or State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki, with personal commentary and sneering
descriptions of their actions. Conversely, he attempts to elicit more respectful emotions
from the audience to support Putin when contrasting him against Western politicians or
during segments that paint Russians as the victims of Western aggression.
Part of Kiselevs success in imparting his message is the teacher-like role he assumes as
he introduces news segments. He casts himself as an authoritative gure who lays out the
truth for his audience. The screen behind Kiselev in each episode works as a teachers
blackboard. As he strolls back and forth through the studio, words are frequently projected
536 C. Cottiero et al.
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on the screen behind him during his narration. The word or phrase shown at a given moment
is commonly a direct repetition of what Kiselev is saying, mimicking a tactic used in teach-
ing new vocabulary to students by rst speaking the word or phrase aloud, and then writing
it on the board for students to visualize. Other times, the words projected on the screen are
never repeated verbatim by Kiselev, but constitute a short phrase that serves as a title or
label for the segment presently being covered. For example, a picture of snipers in Slo-
vyansk projected on the screen in back was overlaid with the word blokada, or siege.
Kiselev himself never says the word blokada in his narration but this word, which is so
emotionally reminiscent of the World War II siege of Leningrad, is left hovering on the
screen as he details the ghting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists
in Donbas. This type of sensory manipulation disseminates Kiselevs intended message by
doing much of the work for him. The audience comes to associate a given word or phrase
with a context in which it was previously unused through visual manipulation.
As a complement to his lecturing techniques, Kiselevs manner of conduct completes
his role as a teacher on Vesti nedeli. Kiselev afrms his authority through his condent
posture, habit of strolling across the room, and gesticulations which have earned
renown in their own right. In a meeting with The New Yorker editor David Remnick,
Kiselev responded to a question about these hand tricks by noting that gestures go right
to the subconscious without any resistance(Remnick 2014).
Importing foreign methods
Russias state media borrows heavily from a variety of foreign examples. It is playing a role
similar to what the media did in the former Yugoslavia, where they helped in perpetrating
lies about genocidal threats, awakening forgotten fears and hatreds, and preparing once
peaceful neighbors to suspect, hate, confront, and nally, kill each other in the last
decade of the twentieth century(Kurspahic 2003, xii).
Kiselevs techniques on Vesti nedeli shares similar characteristics with the content on
Fox News, the American television network that evolved from being a conservative-
leaning outlet to a media platform that now has a symbiotic relationship with the Republi-
can Party (Brock and Rabin-Havt 2012). Both Vesti nedeli and programs on Fox News are
known for promoting viewpoints more radical than those of their audiences. Both outlets
frequently take an obscure person or event ignored by other media and blow it up into a
sensational story for their benet. The most prominent example of this on Vesti nedeli is
undoubtedly the incessant mockery of State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki. On
Fox News, one example of such sensationalization is the War on Christmascoverage,
where the network nds examples of Christmas imagery being removed from the public
square prior to the holiday season and frames the stories as religious attacks (Brock and
Rabin-Havt 2012). Similarly, former Fox News anchor Glenn Beck used his chalkboard
as the primary medium for mapping out his arguments, while the screen behind Dmitrii
Kiselev serves as a complement to his upfront lecturing. This brief analysis of Kiselevs
delivery methods lays the foundation for a more in-depth study of his shows contents
that make up the next section.
Frames in KiselevsVesti nedeli
Understanding frames
KiselevsVesti nedeli, as a representative of Russian news in general, is a great case study of
agenda-setting theory, the central idea of which is that the more frequently and prominently a
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certain issue is covered in the news, the more important it appears to the audience as a result
(McCombs and Shaw 1972; Iyengar and Kinder 1988). Agenda-setting theory has as one of
its theoretical premises the concept of accessibility, which implies that the audiences judg-
ments are directly inuenced by the information that is most easily retrievable from memory
(Scheufele 2000). Memory, in turn, is inuenced by the frequency of the encounter with
information. Whether information appears truthful or not, its frequent repitition ensures
that it is rememberd and, as a result, employed in the process of opinion formation.
Watching Vesti nedeli makes it clear what sort of newsKiselev wants to be most
memorable to his audience. For the months following the Euromaidan, the vast majority
of material on Vesti nedeli was devoted to the events in Ukraine, whether directly or
implicitly. The episode of the show that came out ve days after a Moscow Metro accident
killed 24 people in summer 2014, the deadliest incident in the history of the system, failed
to feature a single report on the tragedy.
The intentions of the Russian media, as rep-
resented by the Kiselevs show, were thus clear: to make the war in Ukraine the central
agenda of news and the issue of primary importance to Russians and thus to divert their
attention from negative domestic issues. As can be seen in a June 2014 Levada Center
the media had succeeded in that, since the top six most memorable events[empha-
sis added] for Russians were connected to the crisis in Ukraine.
While the application of agenda-setting theory yields valuable results in the case of the
Russian media, in our research we were mostly interested in the way Russian television
employs various frames to represent the Ukrainian crisis. While we believe that the
frames used by Kiselev aid in increasing the salience of the war in Ukraine, we understand
framing as separate from agenda setting. Unlike some researchers who see framing as
second-level agenda setting (McCombs, Shaw, and Weaver 1997)that is, as concerned
with the salience of the aspects of the issue rather than the issue itself we distinguish
the two as concerned with essentially two different questions. Rather than being interested
in what the authorities want Russians to think about this we have answered above with the
help of agenda-setting theory we want to see how they are encouraged to perceive certain
issues, and in particular the war in neighboring Ukraine.
Unlike agenda-setting theory, which is based on the assumption of attitude accessibil-
ity and, in particular, a memory-based model of information processing,framing theory is
based on the concept of prospect theory; that is, on the assumption that subtle changes in
the wording of the description of a situation might affect how audience members interpret
this situation(Scheufele 2000, 309). This understanding of frames ts the denition by
Entman, according to whom framing entails selecting and highlighting some facets of
events or issues, and making connections among them so as to promote a particular
interpretation, evaluation, and/or solution(2003, 417). [Original emphasis] Keeping in
mind this denition of framing, while analyzing KiselevsVesti nedeli, we looked for
the particular ways that the frames employed on the show encouraged the audience to inter-
pret the conict in Ukraine.
When journalists create a story, they need to employ a frame which is meaningful to at
least some of their audience. In order to do so, news texts consist of organized symbolic
devices that will interact with individual agentsmemory for meaning construction(Pan
and Kosicki 1993, 58). Since the meaning construction of an individual relies upon indi-
vidual-specic components as well as a shared component in a population(Pan and
Kosicki 1993), in order to be meaningful to a greater number of people, the frame needs
to be rooted in the kinds of meaning-structures common to the majority of people. The
resource for such structures is culture. Culture is the stock of commonly invoked
frames; in fact, culture might be dened as an empirically demonstrable set of common
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frames exhibited in the discourse and thinking of most people in a social grouping
(Entman 1993, 53). According to Gamson and Modigliani, [Cultural] resonances increase
the appeal of a package; they make it appear natural and familiar(1989, 5). Therefore, in
our analysis of the frames employed on KiselevsVesti nedeli, similar to Reese (2010), we
will use a qualitative approach to framing, looking for their cultural rooting.
As we will show in greater detail below, our analysis of Kiselevs shows detected two
major frames implemented to represent the ongoing crisis in Ukraine: World War II and
anti-American frames. Both are deeply rooted in Russian and Soviet history and culture
and hence are very powerful in terms of their inuence upon the contemporary Russian audi-
ence. The strength of the frames is manifested by the fact that state television, and, by exten-
sion, the regime behind it are not discredited by the hundreds of outright lies presented on the
news every day. According to Schatz, When the information being presented is implausible,
it discredits itself and perhaps the regime with it(2009, 207). The fact that television still
remains the most trusted source of information in Russia (Volkov and Goncharov 2014)
and that Putin has never been more popular suggest that the lies disseminated there are not
perceived by Russians as such. We believe that the major explanation for that is the way
the false facts are presented on television, in other words, the way they are framed.
The goal of our qualitative analysis was to understand the overall narrative of the frames,
as well as to derive specic structural elements used in the construction of these frames. While
watching and analyzing Vesti nedeli, we looked for distinctive buzz wordsrepresentative of
each frame employed. We understand such buzz words as framing devices: speciclinguis-
tic structures such as metaphors, visual icons and catchphrases that communicate frames
(Reese 2010, 19). We chose the words that were highly salient in the culture, which is to
say noticeable,understandable,memorable,andemotionally charged(Entman 2003,417).
The purpose of using such buzz words in media is for them to be remembered and
adopted by the general public as the tools to describe the reality around them. Thus, together
with such words, a particular frame is adopted by the audience as well. Framing is not a
concept that is solely conned to media. It is a much wider concept that originates in the
basic mechanisms of the cognitive function of the human mind. Since the human mind
is capable of comprehending only a limited amount of information, it requires frames to
help locate, perceive, identify and label a seemingly innite number of concrete occur-
rences(Goffman 1975, 21). Thus frames can function as both the central organizing
idea(Gamson and Modigliani 1989, 3) and as individual schemata of interpretation
(Goffman 1975, 21). Or, as Kinder and Sanders put it, as internal structures of the
mindand devices embedded in political discourse(Kinder and Sanders 1990, 74).
In the quantitative section of our paper, we will take the words detected with the help of
the qualitative analysis of the following section and test their popularity on the Yandex and
Google search engines. Thus, we take the audience frame as a variable dependent on the
media frames, (Scheufele 1999) and ask the following question: Have the frames
implemented by Kiselev to present the Ukrainian crisis been generally adopted by Internet
users? The answer to this question, in turn, gives us insight into whether and how Russian
state-controlled television inuences the Russian Internet sphere and whether the Internet
partyand the television partyare as distinct as they were thought to be during Russias
20112012 upheaval.
The World War II frame
What we refer to in this article as the World War II frame is an interpretive schema rooted in
one of the main Russian national historical symbols The Great Patriotic War. Having
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conducted a qualitative analysis of Kiselevs shows, we have derived a set of words that in
our opinion function as framing devices, that is, which serve to present the information
about the crisis in Ukraine with reference to and in the context of the Great Patriotic
War. The specic words representative of the World War II frame that we consider in
this article are fashisty (fascists), natsisty (Nazis), banderovtsy (Bandera followers),
voennie prestupniki (war criminals), and blokada (siege).We particularly explicate the
term fashisty since it is the key term constituting the World War II frame as well as the
major reason for its effectiveness.
For Russians, and for a lot of Ukrainians too, the word fascist is associated with all the
horrors of World War II, or rather, even worse, with those responsible for inicting them.
For Russians, fascism has become the symbol of pure evil. It stands for an inhuman force
that believes in its own superiority, desires world domination, and has neither mercy nor
pity. In Vesti nedeli, Kiselev created an associative link between the terms fascists or,
less often, Nazis, and the Kyiv government and everyone who supports it, like the Ukrai-
nian army and even the West. The reincarnation of fascism in the West is a frequent theme
on Vesti nedeli. At the same time, Russia is presented as a historically anti-fascist force, as a
defender of the world against the fascist evil. The annexation of Crimea is presented in this
light as well: the promoted storyline suggests that Russia has saved the Crimean territory
from the fascist invaders from the West.
During the span of the 18 episodes that we analyzed, broadcast between 23 February
2014 and 13 July 2014, the fascist-related terms were invoked by Kiselev 61 times.
Among them, 36 were used directly to describe the events in Ukraine. For example:
“…Poroshenko promises to shoot hundreds of enemies for each killed soldier of his
army as did the maddened fascist punishers during the Great Patriotic War.
added]. The rest, while not directly related to the crisis in Ukraine, are nonetheless
implicitly connected to it. A good example from the same episode is a report under the
headline Lessons of the Holocaust: In Sevastopol, rabbis honored the memory of the
victims of fascism.
The report quotes various Jewish leaders and survivors of the Holo-
caust who note that, unlike in Europe, in Russia nationalism is dying out and that they are
impressed with the words and actions of Putin concerning this issue. If Russia did not stop
fascism then, I would not have been standing here. We all need to say thank youto Russia.
And today, I am positive, Russia will not allow fascism to develop,
said one of the inter-
viewed. In the context of the fascist punishersin Kyiv mentioned in the same episode
several minutes earlier, this report, though not having a direct connection to the civil war
in Ukraine, gives a very denite perspective upon Russias present actions in the area
that is, as the defenders of the population against fascism and creates a historical conti-
nuity with World War II.
The anti-American frame
While being very emotionally powerful, the World War II frame has an important short-
coming: it does not provide many tools for demonizing the USA. Meanwhile, anti-
American sentiment is strong in Russian culture and is a great resource for national
consolidation and a potential trigger for strong sentiments among Russians. Anti-American
feelings having been growing since the end of the Soviet Union (though in a nonlinear
manner) beginning among the elites, who then pass such attitudes to the masses
(Zimmerman et al. 2013).
The anti-American frame is an interpretive schema rooted in Soviet nostalgia and in the
ideas characteristic of the era of confrontation between East and West (Mendelson and
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Gerber 2008). The central idea of the frame is the bipolarity of the world, with Russia repre-
sentative of one pole and the USA of the other. The two poles are perceived as confronta-
tional, and this confrontation is more than a geopolitical struggle, it is the struggle of
civilizations of East and West; it is a rivalry of cultural and moral values of good
and evil. The Cold War/anti-American frame presents the crisis in Ukraine, and particularly
the annexation of Crimea from this perspective of the rivalry of the two civilizations the
Russian Eurasian civilizationversus the Atlantic civilization led by the USA(Darc-
zewska 2014, 7). The Cold War frame is used to present the conict in Ukraine as
having a wider geopolitical connotation than merely an inner political struggle within the
neighboring country. KiselevsVesti nedeli presents the war in Ukraine as externally
evoked by the West,and in particular, by the USA, and thus portrays it as an act of
aggression directed against Russia.
While a number of cases from Kiselevs show that we explore below are not directly
related to the conict in Ukraine, they are still important examples of how the show
attempts to inuence the audience to acquire a Cold War perspective and to generally
adopt anti-American sentiments. And since at this point the war in Ukraine is the central
piece of news occupying peoples minds, and also since the associative link is created
between the conict and the USA, there is little doubt that Russian media succeeded in
inuencing the audience to perceive the events in Ukraine using the anti-American framing.
To analyze the anti-American frame, we will look at the three of its components that
appear most frequently on the show: the arms race, the mockery of Americans, and criti-
cisms of US foreign policy. The words that are exemplary of the three aspects of the
Cold War frame are: Psaki, Donald Cook,radioaktivnyi pepel (radioactive dust), and
Systema Perimetr (Dead Hand).
The theme of the arms race appears in the episode from 27 April with Donald Cook vs.
Bastion,where Kiselev talks about the American ship Donald Cook and claims that its
presence near Russian shores in the Black Sea at that time is pointless due to the
Russian coastal defense system Bastion. Bastion will tear into pieces any oating
metal,says Kiselev. The most glaring example of the theme of nuclear confrontation
appears with Kiselevs infamous statement that Russia is the only country in the world
capable of turning the U.S. into radioactive dust.
In the same episode he mentions an
article in Rossiiskaia gazeta about the Russian system of Guaranteed [nuclear]
retaliation”–Systema Perimetr, known in the USA as the Dead Hand, which ensures a reta-
liatory nuclear strike against the USA under any conditions (Valagin 2014). Kiselev not
only directly suggests reading the article, but also summarized and graphically illustrated
how Perimetr functions.
Another layer to the Cold War frame, involving the mockery of Americans, feeds off the
common cultural ideas and prejudices about the USA, as well as the base sentiments of mis-
ogyny and racism. This layer includes jokes about American leaders and American political
culture. Among the central targets of Kiselevs mocking is Jennifer Psaki the spokesper-
son for the U.S. Department of State. In the episode from 1 June, Kiselev accuses Psaki of
psaking,which according to him, is a term developed by Internet users which means
making bold statements while confusing the facts and not apologizing afterwards.
Psaking,says he, is the generalization that dened the quality of the entire American
diplomacy, and ever more so, the quality of the global politics of the U.S.
Apart from Psaki, another object of Kiselevs mockery is the president of the USA
himself. The major goal is to present Barack Obama as inferior to Russias president Vla-
dimir Putin. On top of showing that Obama is weak and afraid and is less of a man than
Putin, it seems to be the goal of Kiselev to show him as an incarnation of the evil
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Western mentality, obsessed with the idea of democracy, and incapable of understanding
Russian values. Behind all the petty remarks in the direction of Psaki and Obama, as
well as the praises towards Putin stands an attempt by Kiselev to propagate a particular
idea of the struggle of geopolitical worldviews between Russia and the USA, which can
only be best described in Kiselevs own words:
Russia and the U.S. entered the third millennium having a different understanding of what a
just world order is. And each took their start, wishing to offer to humanity their political
designs. The USA, after the act of terror of September 11, became assured that it is the
center of the world, and that the rest of the countries ought to be transformed. Obama in this
sense is a political twin of Bush. No difference at all. Meanwhile, Russia has a different
kind of leader. [ ] Vladimir Putin has been consistently adhering to the concept of a multi-
polar and a polycentric world. In such a construction, China remains Chinas, Armenia Arme-
nias, Iran Irans and so forth We stand for the multiformity and national singularity and
for relationships between states on the basis of international law.
Data analysis of Internet searches
The previous section laid out the primary framesthat the Kremlin promotes through state-
owned television programs. We now supplement this qualitative analysis with descriptive
data to evaluate the Kremlins success in framing the tone and content of public discussion.
This section answers the following question: Is the Kremlins message getting through?
The methodology that we chose to answer this question was to examine what kind of
information Russians are searching for when they go online. Granka (2009) asserts that
such search query data directly reect issue salience because search engine users do not
censure their search queries, while they might feel constrained in what they post on
social sites or what they state publicly. Searches are truly uncensored thoughts. Thus,
search query data complement the opinion survey data collected by public opinion pollsters
like the Levada Center (the most independent and reliable pollster in Russia) and Gallup,
whose respondents may feel as though they have an incentive to misrepresent their own
opinions, particularly in more repressive environments. Further, while Levada and
Gallup conduct their surveys periodically and charge researchers large fees, Russian Inter-
net search data can be collected continuously and analyzed in weekly increments at no cost.
We chose to analyze data from Yandex, the most popular search engine in Russia, and
Google, the second-choice Internet search engine for Russians. Yandex controls approxi-
mately 60% of the search engine market share in Russia, and Google controls 25% of
market share (NASDAQ). We recognize that the Internet is used more widely by young,
wealthy, urban, and educated groups within Russia, which prevents us from drawing strong
conclusions about the domestic population as a whole. However, because of their dominant
market shares, we determined that Google and Yandex would likely yield the most represen-
tative picture of Russian search interest among Internet users. Scholars have found convergent
validity between Yandex and Google Trends in Russian search query data (Zheluk, Gillespie,
and Quinn 2012). Accordingly, we feel condent that search query data from Yandex Word-
stat and Google Trends reect current trends in Internet usersinterests.
While web surfers see Google and Yandex as search engines that help them nd what
they are looking for, the two companies that developed these tools make different kinds of
data available to researchers. For each buzzword that we chose to track, we rst used
Yandex Wordstat to collect data on the absolute number of searches for each term, recorded
in weekly increments. We then collected Google Trends data on the relative popularity of a
query in searches over time. Relative query popularity, recorded as an index value between
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zero and 100 by Google, measures the volume of searches for a term in a specied region
relative to the total number of queries in that region from the time period under consideration
(Choi and Varian 2012). Absolute search numbers allow for ready comparisons across terms,
but unfortunately Google does not make absolute numbers data public. We conducted all
searches in Russian using Cyrillic characters, but all words summarized are presented
below in English translations and with the original Cyrillic search terms in parentheses.
Previous studies have produced the general consensus that additional media coverage
shapes public perception of issue importance. Using vector autoregressive models, Ripber-
ger (2011) found a signicant correlation between spikes in media coverage of terms and
spikes in their popularity on Google, conrming the convergence of media coverage and
Google search trends. Ripbergersnding raises our condence in the validity of determin-
ing public focus through Internet search query data.
Mellon (2014) cautions that the practical advantages of search query data over tra-
ditional opinion surveys have led some researchers to draw strong conclusions about
public opinion that may not stand up to statistical validity tests. The data we gathered
enable us to analyze the rst-levelsalience of the various state-media-promoted topics.
There is a theoretical distinction between rst-levelsalience and subsequentcon-
clusions about public behavioral responses. Behavioral responses tangible expressions
of opinion are often observed through voting outcomes (Scharkow and Vogelgesang
2011). As numerous researchers have concluded (Rössler and Schenk 2000), the media
are more effective in determining what topics the public choose to discuss than to persuade
their audience to alter old opinions. We cannot conclude whether increased interest is posi-
tive or negative, or whether the audience will change their behavioral responses, by study-
ing trends in query data. We instead seek to draw conclusions about whether the Kremlin
has successfully changed the topic of online conversation and spread its messages widely.
This is an analysis of rst-levelsalience.
The terms
The terms that we chose to track in Yandex Wordstat and Google Trends derive from the
agenda-setting frames we identied on Vesti nedeli during the development of the Ukraine
crisis: World War II and Anti-Americanism. Table 1 provides basic descriptive statistics
about all of the words we present from each frame. All weekly minimum, weekly
maximum, and mean values in Table 1 are derived from Yandex data.
Figure 1 aggregates the weekly Yandex search volumes for all World War II terms and
for all anti-Americanism terms in order to compare the overall trends in popularity among
these two frames. The data show that the audience initially associated the Ukraine events
with the World War II frame, but then the anti-American framing became more dominant.
In order to measure the impact of Kiselev on the Internet, our initial strategy was to
examine words that he had invented or plucked from obscurity so that we could trace
them back directly to the show. However, most of the words that he invented did not gen-
erate signicant numbers of searches for us to analyze (a nding that we discuss below).
Therefore, some of the words and phrases we can trace directly to Kiselev, such as
Dead Handor radioactive dust.Others words, such as fascistsand Psaki,were
used frequently by Kiselev, but were also part of the general environment, so it is harder
to link these words specically to Kiselev as opposed to other Russian journalists.
However, given that the Russian media is coordinated (probably self-coordinated), other
journalists learn from Kiselevs leadership in the conservative Russian media, as we
discuss above in our content analysis. He helped set the agenda focused heavily on
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Ukraine, and the content of Vesti nedeli has been representative of the Kremlins stance.
Accordingly, it seems highly likely that the vast majority of the spikes in searches we
tracked were in the context of people thinking about the ongoing conict in Ukraine,
rather than external, unrelated references to World War II and anti-Americanism.
World War II
Figure 2 shows that the absolute number of searches for fascistshas been increasing
overall since the beginning of 2014. There were three peaks, in the beginning of February,
in March, and in the middle of May. These spikes track closely with episodes in which
Table 1. Yandex search query data.
World War II Anti-Americanism
Fascists (фашисты) Psaki (Псаки)
Weekly max.: 62,447 Weekly max.: 245,760
Weekly min.: 11,049 Weekly min.: 18
Mean: 23,174 Mean: 21,688
Bandera supporters (бандеровцы) Donald Cook (Дональд Кук)
Weekly max.: 134,135 Weekly max.: 59,147
Weekly min.: 1261 Weekly min.: 0
Mean: 21,333 Mean: 5188
Russophobia (русофобия) Dead hand (Система Периметр)
Weekly max.: 17,508 Weekly max.: 106,730
Weekly min.: 406 Weekly min.: 263
Mean: 1553 Mean: 3907
Note: All mean values given in Table 1 are rounded to the nearest whole number.
Figure 1. Comparing World War II and anti-American Frames on Vesti nedeli.
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Kiselev utilized fascistsheavily to describe the Ukrainian government and its suppor-
The frame dened by this phrasing seemed to be gaining greater inuence in each
successive instance when fascistsis reintroduced and repeated. This increased popularity
online, in turn, prompts Kiselev to respond to the fascistsidea on his show, perpetuating a
cycle of inuence between television and the Internet. Some of the increased interest in the
word fascistsmight not be fully captured by absolute search volume, perhaps because this
concept is already well known to Russians. However, the trend line is clear. The Google
results shown in Figure 3 do not provide absolute numbers, but augment condence in
the Yandex ndings because, as expected, the peaks are similar, with stronger peaks in
March and May and an overall upward trajectory. (The drop off at the far right of the
Google trend line in Figure 3 reects a lack of data for the week rather than necessarily
a decline in searches.)
Anti-Americanism is a cornerstone in the Putin governments media strategy, as Russian
policies are often dened directly in opposition to American foreign policy. We tracked
Psaki(Псаки) and Donald Cook(Дональд Кук), names which are associated with
anti-American headlines and that are specic to the time period under consideration.
During the week of 16 June 2014 to 22 June 2014, Yandex reported 245,760 searches
for Psakiin Russia. The rise in Russian searches for Psaki was meteoric; in her lowest
week of popularity of the last twelve months from 30 December 2014 to 5 January
2014, Yandex users searched for Psakia mere 18 times (Figure 4; for the Google
gures, see Figure 5). The increase from 18 to 245,760 searches per week is an increase
of approximately 13,652%.
USS Donald Cook is the American warship that was stationed in the Black Sea, where
its crew conducted simulations with the Romanian Navy and the USS Taylor frigate in mid-
April. In the wake of aggressive posturing from the Russian military, the U.S. Navy
announced that the USS Donald Cook would retreat from the region on 24 April 2014.
The withdrawal of the USS Donald Cook was promoted as a symbol of Russian dominance
in Crimea by the Russian media; Kiselev went so far as to suggest that the ships retreat was
prompted by Obamas personal fear of Putin.
More broadly, the USS Donald Cooks
departure symbolized the Russian challenge to American and NATO naval interests. Our
Figure 2. Searches for Fascistson Yandex.
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Figure 4. Searches for Psakion Yandex.
Figure 3. Searches for Fascistson Google Trends.
Figure 5. Searches for Psakion Google Trends.
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data indicate that popularity for Donald Cookamong Yandex users peaked in the weeks
of 1420 April and 2127 April respectively at 57,375 and 59,147 searches per week.
For these anti-American terms, which were primarily used by the Russian state televi-
sion channels, interest spikes in Google mirrored those of Yandex. Whereas neither Psaki
nor Donald Cookenjoyed attention in the past, both spiked in the short term after their
television promotions, and maintained a higher baseline search interest after their peak
interest periods ended. Donald Cookproved to be the less popular of the two terms,
with a 5188 mean weekly search number compared to the 21,688 mean weekly search
number corresponding to Psaki(Figures 6 and 7).
We found that the Russian medias efforts to revive the specter of Russo-American
nuclear warfare also generated signicant results online. Dead hand,the term that
refers to Russias second-strike nuclear capabilities against the USA, was utilized by
Kiselev in his program on 16 March 2014. In the week of 1723 March, searches for
Dead handreached 106,730 (Figures 8 and 9). This marked a 457% rise over the previous
week, and a 15,390% rise over the same week in February. Dead handdid not exhibit
Figure 6. Searches for Donald Cookon Yandex.
Figure 7. Searches for Donald Cookon Google.
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online staying power at its peak numbers; however, its baseline popularity remained
approximately ve times higher in July 2014 than it was in July 2013.
Additionally, we detected a general increase in the number of searches for nuclear
weapons. This additional nding substantiates our method, because it shows that by study-
ing Kiselev we can detect general trends on Russian TV and that the searches can give us
the understanding of the general mindset of Internet users.
Ineffective terms
Not all of the terms promoted by Kiselev gained signicant popularity online. Some of the
positively oriented words that both Kiselev and Putin used frequently in the spring of 2014
on television, such as Russian character,did not reach the threshold of 10,000 searches
per week at any point from the summer of 2013 to the summer of 2014 even as they
achieved small peaks. Failed buzzwords also include national traitors,”“liberal ultras,
artful directors of terrorism,and political earthquake.
Our ndings suggest that one trend among several of the words that did not go viral is
that they were not as radical or explicitly negative in tone as the successful words. This need
Figure 8. Searches for Dead handon Yandex.
Figure 9. Searches for Dead handon Google.
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to go to the extreme could have implications for the future of the Kremlins media strategy;
if negative and radical terms generate greater interest, we might expect the Kremlin to con-
tinue to gravitate toward aggressive, dramatic terms in order to wage Russias information
battle. Figures 10 and 11 illustrate the lack of strong peaks in searches for Russian character.
Concluding remarks on data
The scales of the vertical axes in our Yandex search query graphs vary depending on the
popularity of the depicted words. While the vertical axis for our least popular term,
Russian character,extends from 0 to 9000 searches per week, the vertical axis of our
most popular term, Psaki,extends from 0 to 300,000 searches per week. To understand
these numbers, it is helpful to establish a baseline for the number of search queries per week
among relevant, widely popular gures and concepts in Russia. For instance, from July
2013 to July 2014, weekly search volume for Obama(Обама) never dipped below
13,352 searches per week and never exceeded 285,922 searches per week. This comparison
Figure 10. Searches for Russian characteron Yandex.
Figure 11. Searches for Russian Characteron Google.
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throws the sheer magnitude of popularity for agenda-setting terms such as Psakidepicted
above into stark relief: the peak search volume of Psaki trailed that of Obama by only about
40,000 searches per week.
To extend our inferences about Kiselevs impact online, we also tracked the popularity
of the search term Kiselev.We found that between July 2013 and July 2014, searches for
Kiselevhave steadily increased in both Google and Yandex, but with spikes in December
2013 and March 2014. The March 2014 spike in Kiselevs popularity, in which Kiselev
generated 153,549 hits per week, is particularly noteworthy in our analysis, as it spanned
1723 March. This was the same week in which Kiselevs focus shifted to nuclear
warfare with the USA, and in which he touted RussiasDead handcapability.
In order to put Kiselev in context we compared him to the famed opposition blogger
Alexei Navalny (Навальный). Navalny is the most effective of Russias Internet personal-
ities, who rarely appears on Russian television or is mentioned there. Although his popu-
larity has been declining in the face of Kremlin-driven court cases against him, search
queries reached 505,394 per week in 1521 July 2013 much higher than we observed
for any of the Kremlins agenda-setting terms, or indeed for Kiselev himself. At the
lowest point in the 12 months between July 2013 and July 2014, however, search
queries per week for Navalny had fallen to 22,195 for 915 June 2014. This result is an
interesting complement to our ndings for several reasons. For one, we note that the
initial high popularity of Navalny online is predictable, as Navalny appeals to
the younger, more educated group that is primarily active online. Interestingly, due to
the rapid drops in search queries for Navalny, we might conclude that the Kremlin censor-
ship has been successful in diverting attention from Navalnys oppositional messages, even
among the group that is predisposed to Navalnys opinion.
Television and Internet in Russia
The data and analysis presented here help us address the questions that we raised at the
beginning of the article: Did the Russian Internet audience accept the state television
framing to understand the Ukrainian conict? Does it make sense to speak of separate Inter-
net and television parties?
Did the Russian Internet audience accept the state television framing to understand
the Ukrainian conict?
Our overall conclusion is that the Russian Internet audience did accept the two frames pro-
pounded by Kiselevs show and Russian state television generally. As the quantitative
Internet search query data indicated, Russian Internet users did search more often for
terms associated with World War II and anti-American frames, such as fascists,
Psaki,and nuclear weapons during the period of time when these frames were propagated
on Russian television.
There are several reasons why this framing was important. First, the frames were cul-
turally resonant with common ways of thinking for Russians and t well with their existing
conceptions of how the world works. The frame t particularly well with the type of Soviet
nostalgia that Putin promotes.
Second, the frames addressed a foreign policy issue where Russian television viewers
have less alternative information to contextualize what they were seeing on television.
While playing an essential role of meaning construction, frames, naturally, entail a bias
since they encourage a particular perspective upon the set of facts. The way to resolve
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this bias is usually to have alternative frames and alternative sources of information. When
it comes to foreign policy issues, it is harder for Russians to nd the alternative frames
within the country. Around the world, not just in Russia, the media often presents
foreign policy news in conformity with the governments line. However, in Russia the situ-
ation is aggravated due to the extensive ofcial suppression of alternative media. Also, the
Russian media not only gives a certain perspective on a set of facts, but also by emphasizing
and selectively presenting information, they simply lie. Examples of lies are plenty and can
be found on websites like
Finally, the Russian media has framed the Western media as telling lies, engaging in an
information war, and providing frames that are false. In essence, Russian media has made it
even more difcult for the Russian audience to accept alternative points of view. In his
show, for example, Kiselev makes the argument that in the area of freedom of speech,
Russia and the West have changed places, with Russia now being the main defender of indi-
vidualsability to speak out.
Through its combination of sincere support for this concept
and satire of it (Dunn and Bobick 2014), Russia is effectively undermining the Western
conceptions of civil and political liberties.
Inuence of state television on the Internet
Our ndings show that the Internet and television inuence each other in a continuous loop
and help dene a mechanism for explaining how the inuence works. The Google and
Yandex searches for the key terms of Kremlin framing show that mention of these terms
in the state media did have an impact on the searches of the Russian Internet users. The
appearance of a concept in the traditional media typically caused a large spike in interest
in that term as a quick glance at the gures presented above show. However, the
Kremlin propagandists who control state television are not always effective in dening
words and concepts that shape public opinion. As our data show, many of the words that
Kiselev used did not go viral. These failures suggest that the Kremlin propagandists try a
variety of ideas, and while some are effective, many do not resonate with society and are
The ow is not consistently from television to the Internet. The Internet provides a
much larger petri dish for developing new terms and concepts than what the Kremlin
spin doctors can develop on their own. In this sense, the Kremlin media czars take advan-
tage of crowdsourcing, scouring the Internet for good ideas which they can adopt. In some
cases, we found evidence of this process at work. Some of the most successful terms, like
Psaki, seemed to start on the Internet, but then received a major boost from being mentioned
on state television. In this sense, the Internet can serve to incubate new ideas, which are then
amplied through the state media, and broadcast back to the Internet in a spiraling loop.
Are there separate Internet and television parties in Russia?
Our data suggest that the picture is more complicated than presented by observers who claim
that there are separate Internet and television parties in Russia. We argue that it does not make
sense to divide the Russian population neatly into these two groups. Our nding shows that
the Internet audience did generally accept the two frames propounded by Russian state tele-
vision, implying that at least when it comes to the issue of Ukraine, the Internet and the tele-
vision partiesare not as distinct as was previously believed by some.
However, a different, more optimistic picture arises once we compare the way in which
linguistic entrepreneurs like Kiselev and Navalny affect the masses of the Internet. The
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phrases propounded by Kiselev and state television had nowhere near the resonance with
the public that Navalny did as recently as the summer of 2013, when he was running for
mayor of Moscow. Then there were nearly 500,000 searches for Navalny,while the
best of Kiselevs phrases drew no more than 250,000.
These ndings indicate that Russias state propaganda has not had as deep an impact on
the part of the Russian population that uses the Internet as it seems. (Of course, our data do
not tell us anything about the part of the population that watches TV but does not use the
Internet.) While the onslaught of propaganda has boosted Putins ratings and silenced
critics, it does not seem to have sunk into the thinking of large numbers of Internet users
deeply enough to get them to search for the terms the Kremlin wants them to use
beyond the few that are culturally resonant.
Given Navalnys greater success earlier with far fewer resources than the Kremlin has,
the Kremlin will have to maintain a similar or growing level of effort to maintain its dom-
inance in Russias information space. Additionally, the state has an extensive arsenal of
tools that it is increasingly using to limit the inuence of alternative information on the
Internet, ranging from blocking access to sites, intimidating users ofine so that they
censor themselves, employing an army of trolls to deect discussion, and many others.
Any relaxation could provide an opening for a new opposition campaign that could success-
fully promote alternative leaders to Russias current rulers even if the movement supporting
them does not have signicant resources. Such a scenario is the Kremlins worst nightmare
and one that does not go away even at the height of its apparent success (Snegovaya 2014).
In other words, to maintain its position and to keep its opponents at bay, the Kremlin
will have to resort to increasingly hysterical media coverage. That is not a sustainable
1. For the Levada Center data since 1999, see, accessed 26 January
2. Rossiia Segodnia translates to Russia Todaybut should not be confused with the English-
language news network RT, formerly known as Russia Today. Though the two outlets claim
mutual independence, both share Putin sympathizer Margarita Simonyan as their creative
3. In the poll, 8% of respondents named Kiselev, second only to Vladimir Solovyov with 13%. See
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available at:, accessed 26 January 2015.
4. All data on ratings are from the TNS site, available at:, accessed 25
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5. A list of entities and individuals under sanction is available at:
countrysanct.shtml, accessed 26 January 2015.
6. Dmitriia Kiseleva nagradili ordenom Za zaslugi pered Otechestvom’” [Dmitrii Kiselev Was
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Kiselev and Oleg Dobrodeiev Became Advisers to Putin in the Field of Russian Language], Mos-
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8. The texts of the decrees are available at: and
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accessed 26 January 2015.
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accessed 26 January 2015.
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... A few recent studies (e.g. Cottiero, Kucharski, Olimpieva, & Orttung, 2015;Hutchings & Tolz, 2015) investigated the role of state-aligned television in that process as well as the differences and similarities in framing between state-aligned television and the Internet sphere. Cottiero et al.'s (2015) study showed that the Kremlin's framing of the conflict with Ukraine had been really effective and had influenced Russia's Internet audience, and that the Internet space did not really provide an alternative portrayal of the conflict. ...
... A few studies (e.g. Cottiero, Kucharski, Olimpieva, & Orttung, 2015;Hutchings & Rulyova, 2009;Hutchings & Tolz, 2015) that investigated the role of Russian "state-aligned" TV in that process as well as the differences and similarities in framing between state-aligned TV and the Internet sphere are also reviewed. ...
... Moreover, the Russian channel "relied heavily on Second World War symbolism", including words such as "fascists" and "extremists" to describe the Ukrainian volunteer battalions (Roman, Wanta, & Buniak, 2017, p. 17). Similarly, another study analysing the Vesti Nedeli/Вести Недели (News of the Week) show on Russian state TV found that two key frames were used to explain the conflict -World War II-era fascism and anti-Americanism (Cottiero et al., 2015). Moreover, the authors' subsequent analysis of search query histories on Yandex and Google showed that these two frames "have had lasting impacts on Russian Internet users" (Cottiero et al., 2015, p. 533). ...
... In line with Oate's (2016) argument, Olimpieva et al. (2015) stress that one cannot see the state-controlled TV and the Russian internet as separate spheres in opposition to each other. On the contrary, Olimpieva et al. (2015) empirically argue that Russian state-controlled television strategically shaped the agenda in the Russian-speaking online sphere through pro-Kremlin framing of the conflict in Ukraine. ...
... In line with Oate's (2016) argument, Olimpieva et al. (2015) stress that one cannot see the state-controlled TV and the Russian internet as separate spheres in opposition to each other. On the contrary, Olimpieva et al. (2015) empirically argue that Russian state-controlled television strategically shaped the agenda in the Russian-speaking online sphere through pro-Kremlin framing of the conflict in Ukraine. Both Olimpieva et al. (2015) and Gaufmann (2015) argue convincingly that the Russian government relied heavily on collective memories of World War 2 to frame either the Maidan movement or the post-Maidan Ukraine as fascists. ...
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This article examines the scope of pro-Kremlin disinformation about Crimea. I deploy content analysis and a social network approach to analyze tweets related to the region. I find that pro-Kremlin disinformation partially penetrated the Twitter debates about Crimea. However, these disinformation narratives are accompanied by a much larger wave of information that disagrees with the disinformation and are less prevalent in relative terms. The impact of Russian state-controlled news outlets—which are frequent sources of pro-Kremlin disinformation—is concentrated in one, highly popular news outlet, RT. The few, popular Russian news media have to compete with many popular Western media outlets. As a result, the combined impact of Russian state-controlled outlets is relatively low when comparing to its Western alternatives.
... After watching all stories about these three events on Channel 1 prime time news in November-December 2013, May 2014 and June 2014, I selected three news broadcasts representative of the Kremlin's framing of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In general, Russia's state-controlled media framed the protests as provoked and orchestrated by the West and described the conflict as a war between a 'fascist threat' spreading in Ukraine, led by the Ukrainian government, and underdog rebels (Cottiero et al. 2015;Nygren et al. 2018). All news reports were accessed via the Channel 1 website (see Table 1). ...
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Scholars report contradictory findings regarding whether citizens trust media in autocracies. Relying on focus group methodology, this study uses Russian television viewers’ reception of the Russia–Ukraine conflict to investigate media perception in an autocracy. It argues that citizens in non-democracies lack the opportunities, motivation and tools to substantively process news. When perceiving news, they express both critical and supportive reactions towards the regime without integrating them into coherent views and thus support authoritarian equilibrium by being unable to articulate consistent opinions. This argument helps to explain the paradoxes of media (dis)trust and clarifies the process of media perception in authoritarian political systems.
... Such findings are arguably to be expected in an authoritarian environment, where opposition voices are often muted in the first place or reflect "insystem," co-opted opposition that is small in numbers and not very critical. In this light, the otherwise puzzling finding on the Internet's role makes sense when one considers research showing that the Internet in Russia is not so independent as one might think, and that staterun television news strongly influences what people look for (and therefore find) on the Internet (Cottiero et al. 2015). ...
When international conflict causes an authoritarian leader’s popularity to soar, extant theories lead us to treat such “rallying” as sincere preference change, the product of surging patriotism or cowed media. This study advances a theory of less-than-fully sincere rallying more appropriate for nondemocratic settings, characterizing it as at least partly reflecting cascading dissembling driven by social desirability concerns. The identification strategy combines a rare nationally representative rally-spanning panel survey with a list experiment and econometric analysis. This establishes that three quarters of those who rallied to Putin after Russia annexed Crimea were engaging in at least some form of dissembling and that this rallying developed as a rapid cascade, with social media joining television in fueling perceptions this was socially desirable.
... 66 This TV discourse is actively replicated on official and para-official Internet news sites and social media. 67 Finland's Russian speakers are involved with the Russian-language Internet (RuNet) in many forms: Russian TV is watched through Internet sites, news outlets are followed online, and people connect with their friends and relatives through social media. This impacts the "social curation" of media consumption and involvement with the media in general: media use becomes even more guided by the links and recommendations of a particular user's mediatized social networks. ...
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This article discusses public and mediatized memory politics concerning Word War II in Finland, particularly its transnational dimensions brought about by post-Soviet immigration from the former Soviet Union. Despite the ongoing multiculturalization of Finnish society, where Russian speakers have become the largest immigrant group, Finnish national identity is still constructed around the idea of national independence and its heroic defence. Finnish collective and public memory with its monuments and celebrations concentrates on the sacrifice the nation made for Finnish independence in the wars against the Soviet Union during 1939–1944. In turn, these (re)produce performative membership in the Finnish nation. Likewise, recent Russian memory politics that celebrate Russia’s “great victory” in World War II have become visible in the Finnish public and media space owing to the Immortal Regiment marches held in Helsinki since 2017. This event is embedded within a series of complex connections between Russian speakers, Russian mediascapes, and pro-Russian activists in Finland, and represents an instance of the mediatization of transnational memory politics.
... A few recent studies (e.g. Cottiero, Kucharski, Olimpieva, & Orttung, 2015;Hutchings & Tolz, 2015) investigated the role of state-aligned television in that process as well as the differences and similarities in framing between state-aligned television and the Internet sphere. Cottiero et al.'s (2015) study showed that the Kremlin's framing of the conflict with Ukraine had been really effective and had influenced Russia's Internet audience, and that the Internet space did not really provide an alternative portrayal of the conflict. ...
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This article explores the suitability and likely efficacy of various potential US policies to combat Russian disinformation in Ukraine. It finds that indigenous, internet-based citizen journalism represents the most effective countermeasure to Russia's industrial-scale distortion campaign. A strategy designed to promote and professionalize citizen journalism is superior along multiple dimensions to other considered alternatives, including a strategic communications counter-offensive, the substantial re-funding of Cold War-era broadcast services, or reform of Ukraine’s mainstream news media. This said, access to objective, fact-based internet news still promises only limited results in dispelling the dissonance affecting the information environment in Ukraine. A combination of countervailing factors will inevitably constrain the near-term success of this, or any, American or Allied response to the Russian propaganda problem.
As conspiracy theories have become a popular form of political discourse worldwide, states have promoted conspiratorial ideas to advance their foreign policy goals. Yet, despite recent attention to the spread of propaganda abroad, scholars have not addressed whether and how conspiracy theories spread across borders. This study assesses this question in the post-Soviet region, by examining the relationship between exposure to Russian state propaganda and belief in conspiracy theories in two countries that border the Russian Federation. Analyzing data from an original survey of Georgia and Kazakhstan indicates that exposure to Russian propaganda through television, social media, or websites has minimal effects on respondents’ endorsement of conspiracy theories. Respondents in Kazakhstan, and especially ethnic Russians, are likely to endorse pro-Russian conspiracy claims that are frequently propagated, owing to preexisting affinities. Yet the most consistent predictor of conspiracy beliefs is alienation from the political system, which occurs independent of foreign media consumption. The findings cast doubt on the ability of states to shape the attitudes of citizens abroad through the media and shine light on the domestic political factors underlying belief in conspiracy theories.
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Across Eastern Europe how the past is remembered has become a crucial factor for understanding present-day political developments within and between states. In this introduction, we first present the articles that form part of this special section through a discussion of the various methods used by the authors to demonstrate the potential ways into studying collective memory. We then define the regional characteristics of eastern europe's mnemonic politics and the reasons for their oftentimes conflictual character. Thereafter we consider three thematic arenas that situate the individual contributions to this special section within the wider scholarly debate. First, we examine the institutional and structural conditions that shape the circulation of memory and lead to conflictive constellations of remembering; second, we discuss how different regime types and cultural rules influence the framing of historical episodes, paying attention to supranational integration and the role of technological change; third, we consider the different types of actors that shape the present recall of the past, including political elites, social movements, and society at large. We conclude by identifying several promising avenues for further research.
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This article examines questions of censorship, self-censorship and conformism on Russia's federal television networks during Putin's third presidential term. It challenges the idea that the political views and images broadcast by federal television are imposed coercively upon reporters, presenters and anchors. Based on an analysis of interviews with famous media personalities as well as rank-and-file reporters, this article argues that media governance in contemporary Russia does not need to resort to coercive methods, or the exertion of self-censorship among its staff, to support government views. Quite the contrary: reporters enjoy relatively large leeway to develop their creativity, which is crucial for state-aligned television networks to keep audience ratings up. Those pundits, anchors and reporters who are involved in the direct promotion of Kremlin positions usually have consciously and deliberately chosen to do so. The more famous they are, the more they partake in the production of political discourses.
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Russia's recent actions in Ukraine constitute a new form of warfare distinctly suited for a 21st-century battlefield. Through a comparative analysis of the political technologies it has deployed there and in two other conflict zones, Georgia and Moldova, we maintain that Russia is implementing a new political strategy that utilizes fear and intimidation to thwart a further eastward expansion of the European Union and NATO. By masking Russian “occupation without occupation” as humanitarian and as fulfilling a “responsibility to protect,” Vladimir Putin satirizes the moral and legal arguments used by Western states to justify their own international intervention. Ultimately, we argue that the pervasive fear created by Eurasia's frozen conflicts constitutes a new form of post-Soviet liminality that challenges the norms of the international system.
This article investigates how hybrid regimes supply governance by examining a series of dilemmas (involving elections, the mass media, and state institutions) that their rulers face. The authors demonstrate how regime responses to these dilemmas – typically efforts to maintain control while avoiding outright repression and societal backlash – have negative outcomes, including a weakening of formal institutions, proliferation of “substitutions” (e.g., substitutes for institutions), and increasing centralization and personalization of control. Efforts by Russian leaders to disengage society from the sphere of decision-making entail a significant risk of systemic breakdown in unexpected ways. More specifically, given significantly weakened institutions for interest representation and negotiated compromise, policy-making in the Russian system often amounts to the leadership's best guess (ad hoc manual policy adjustments) as to precisely what society will accept and what it will not, with a significant possibility of miscalculation. Three case studies of the policy-making process are presented: the 2005 cash-for-benefits reform, plans for the development of the Khimki Forest, and changes leading up to and following major public protests in 2011–2012.
This article examines the conditions required for using Internet search data as measures of aggregate issue salience. Internet data have clear advantages over survey data in terms of cost, availability and frequency. These advantages have led the media and some researchers to use Internet search data as proxies for public opinion. However, these analyses do not present systematic evidence that search data tell us about the general public's views rather than those of an unrepresentative subset. This article outlines a general method for assessing the validity of search data against existing measures, including content validity and criterion validity. To this end, weekly Google search data are tested against Gallup's “most important problem” question. The article finds the salience of four issues, fuel prices, the economy, immigration and terrorism, can be measured in the United States using search data. Weekly measures of issue salience are generated for these issues, from 2004 to 2010, for empirical analysis. The search indices performed less well outside of these domains.
This article studies the impact of conspiracy theories on post-Soviet Russian nation-building through the analysis of how the Pussy Riot trial was constructed by the Russian media. Conspiracy theory as a phenomenon is defined as a populist tool for relocation of power among different political actors, which creates identities and boosts social cohesion. This interpretation of conspiracy theories helps investigate how the media constructed the image of Pussy Riot and their supporters as a conspiring subversive minority, which threatened the Russian nation. The ability of conspiracy theory for swift social mobilization helped the authorities to strengthen the public support of its policies and model the Russian nation as ethnically and religiously homogeneous.