This article argues that today in Central and Eastern Europe self-censorship, journalistic freedom and autonomy are just as severely affected by economic constraints, oligarchic influences and new authoritarianism as they are by their Communist pasts.
Co-author: Ilya Yabolkov, European Journal of Communication 35(1) 29–45
Published 10 February 2020
Cultural Politics, Volume 15, Issue 1, 105-120.© 2019 Duke University Press
This article investigates philanthropic practices among Russia’s hyper-rich. It ponders whether and to what extent philanthrocapitalist concepts are compatible with traditional Russian approaches to elite philanthropy, which have been shaped and controlled by the country’s domineering state. Some of the multimillionaires and billionaires interviewed for this research have married philanthrocapitalist ideas with beliefs molded by their Soviet past and their self-perception as belonging to the intelligentsia. Such distinct and seemingly morally superior identities, together with active engagement in philanthropy, act as a lever with which to foster trust in the new social hierarchies and legitimize them across generations.
Russia’s rich have the luxury of being able to choose between almost limitless options, especially in terms of lifestyles. Unless they are on the sanctions list, they can live anywhere they desire. They can send their children, almost regardless of ability, to virtually any school around the globe if they pay enough for admission or for tailored exam preparationTheir choices relating to consumption are nearly infinite. In sum, the issues people of less privileged classes face on a daily basis could not be more remote; they suffer neither the breadwinner crisis which has affected millions of men as a result of the chaotic 1990s, nor the problems women face because of a neglected social infrastructure.
Chapter in Gender and Choice after Socialism. Edited by Lynne Attwood, Elisabeth Schimpfossl and Marina Yusupova. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
With Lynne Attwood and Marina Yusupova in Gender and Choice after Socialism. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the former socialist countries experienced various degrees of liberalisation and privatisation. This was accompanied by a new ideology that included the notion that the end of socialism would usher in a new era of choice.Indeed, the elimination of restrictions and the expansion of options did mean increased personal and political freedom. On the most basic level, free market reforms allowed more imports from the West, resulting in the range of available consumer products increasing beyond measure. For those who had felt trapped within the confines of the eastern bloc, a more significant change was that borders were opened, providing the chance – and the choice – to travel the world. Many life-constraining legislations were revoked, such as the ban on homosexuality, making it easier for people to make choices about their sexual lives. Changes in housing distribution, and the relaxation of official attitudes towards what constituted a ‘normal’ family, enabled people to choose how they wanted to live, and with whom.
At first glance, all of these developments look unambiguously positive. The concept of choice is generally bound up with the concept of individual rights, and, as such, is seen as a positive aspect of an open and democratic society. Indisputably, individual rights increased in the post-Soviet countries. However, in no society is choice ever entirely free; nor is it always in people’s own interests.
Federal television is a crucial element of the political system in Putin’s Russia. 88% of the Russian population use television news as their prime source of information, 65% regard the news reporting as objective and 51% trust television as an information source. Television is, therefore, the primary and most effective tool employed by the political regime to influence its people. Since the onset of the Ukraine conflict and more hostile relations between Russia and the West, Russia’s main television channels have confounded the world with their ability to convince viewers of stories which are diametrically opposed to those shown in the West. What the Russian viewers see on state-aligned television is strongly shaped by the Kremlin. Particularly during Putin’s third presidential term, news reporting has become more propagandistic.
Co-author: Ilya Yablokov (University of Leeds)
This is an updated version of an article published in Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, 22/2, 2014, 295-311. It is republished in a special issue edited by Marlene Laruelle and Peter Rollberg on ‘Media in Eurasia’ in Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society.
This article seeks a nuanced understanding of the troubled state that Russian journalism finds itself in today. As much as the Kremlin may be blamed as the source of these woes, it cannot be responsible for low ethical standards and lack of solidarity among journalists. This article explores what has hindered the journalistic community from developing stronger ethical standards over the past twenty-five years. Three significant events in the first post-Soviet decade serve as case studies: first, an early ethical code of conduct, the Moscow Charter of Journalists, produced in 1994; second, the 1996 presidential election campaign, which led to president Yeltsin’s victory over the Communist Gennadii Zuiganov; and third, the so called “information wars” between oligarchs, culminating in the 2001 demise of the television channel NTV. In unique interviews, conducted by the authors, thirty-five Russian elite journalists and media managers assessed the role they played in major political events and how these events impacted the freedom of media in Russia today.
Co-author: Ilya Yablokov (University of Leeds). The Russian Review 76/2, 2017, 526–41
This collection of articles deals with the history and the current state of Russia’s media elite. It defines three groups of media elites; owners of media outlets, media managers and prominent journalists. All those groups are under pressure of being agreeable to the Kremlin and pleasing their audiences with their products and output. The Kremlin’s tightened control over the media forced some media professionals out, losing their jobs or emigrating. The majority, however, have kept their positions. They are reasonably well networked and integrated into the political system and successfully employ strategies partly inherited from Soviet times. The collection of articles provides insights into the inner working of Russian media, delivering a nuanced understanding of media control, censorship and self-censorship.
Co-editor: Ilya Yablokov. Russian Politics 2/1, 2017, 1-5
Media managers are key in the relations between, on the one side the authorities, to whom they enjoy privileged access, and, on the other side the newsroom, the functioning of which they define. Contrary to the popular view, held both in Russia and abroad, that the Kremlin controls the majority of the country’s media, we argue that media managers have a fair bit of agency and are players in their own rights, able to shape their audiences’ attitudes and modify individual as well as collective behavior. To be able to exert this power they must, however, tread a very fine line: they have to demonstrate adekvatnost’ (literally adequacy, but better translated as appropriateness, or ‘the right feel for the game’) and demand adekvatnost’ from their journalists and editors. Focusing on two dimensions – elite theory and the concept of adekvatnost’ – this article analyses the data gleaned from interviews with a range of media managers.
Co-author: Ilya Yablokov. Russian Politics 2/1, 2017, 32-54
Smashing initial hopes for more radical and speedier changes in Russia, elements of the Soviet system of managerial and ideological control proved to be obstinately persistent. Certain practices reminiscent of the informal functioning of the Soviet nomenklatura continue unabated primarily in politics, but also in Russian media. This article argues that nomenklatura practices are still a fixed part in organization management in Russian media today, securing the loyalty of journalists and controlling the output of the news media. The analysis of 30 semi-structured interviews and three case studies, scrutinizing media managers’ professional biographies, directs to a non-intuitive development; namely, that it is not necessarily those who have experienced the Soviet nomenklatura closely and in person who were most active in applying and perpetuating nomenklatura practices, but also those who were either remote from these power structures or too young.
Co-authors: Vasily Gatov and Ilya Yablokov. Russian Politics 2/1, 2017, 7-31
This article discusses examples of strategies employed by representatives of Russia’s new social upper class to acquire social distinction. By the late 2000s many of the upper-class Russians included in this study distanced themselves from the conspicuous ostentation ascribed to the brutish 1990s. Instead, they strove to gain legitimacy for their social position by no longer aggressively displaying their wealth, but instead elaborating more refined and individualized tastes and manners and reviving a more cultured image and self-image. These changes found their expression in various modes of social distinction ranging from external signs, such as fashion and cars, to ostentation vicariously exercised through the people these upper-class Russians surrounded themselves with.
British Journal of Sociology 65/1, 2014, 63-81
This article explores the dynamics at play when conducting research on the contemporary upper class in Russia. It examines the effect of economic and social status divide between researcher and subjects on how to gain access to interviewees and how to handle the interview situation. Culturally specific expressions of power in social interaction are sought, their characteristics identified and their raison d’être explored. Furthermore, gender related issues encountered throughout the research are discussed; which commenced at the outset when applying to the ethics board and was evident at the end when presenting the data analysis.
This article has been republished by SAGE in their series Benchmarks in Social Research Methods: Barry Smart, Kay Peggs, and Joseph Burridge (eds): Critical Social Research Ethics, 4 Volumes.
Original published in Sociological Research Online 19 (4).