Andis Kudors: Washington Notes No.3. The State of Russia as the Media Corporation


Frequent speeches of experts and politicians where they share their findings and experience, is a value added provided by Kennan Institute (Washington, US). Presentation of the Woodrow Wilson Center guest researcher Maxim Trudolyubov, held this January, was one of such undertakings. Trudolyubov reminded once more, what had happened with Russian politics, and what was the role of the leading media in it. Russian expert indicates that the coverage of the major state-controlled television channels, which reaches a nearly fantastic level of 98% of Russia’s population, gives the Kremlin a possibility to divert people’s attention from the real social and economic problems. The Kremlin has turned Russian citizens’ from policy co-partners into the media audience.

Trudolyubov notes that the Russian leadership members are not worried about elections anymore. They seek not only ways for influencing the political processes, but they wish to fully administer them. We can only agree with Trudolyubov, for the specific character of Russia secures a minimal difference between the media agenda setting and the political agenda setting. The scenes, created by television in the minds of spectators, turn into reality: those who express alternative opinion, are traitors, conspirators who have sold themselves to the West, and they wake up every morning having a single intention – to lacerate Russia, the last bastion of spirituality. The fact that a neighbour who had drunk illegal alcohol too much, has stabbed his girl friend with a kitchen knife on the previous day, is disregarded, for whom should I rather believe – the protector of traditional values Putin, or my own sinful eyes?!

Maxim Trudolyubov explains that the activities of the media are not a kind of entrepreneurship in Russia anymore, but it is the agenda setting tool. And administrating the state has turned into administrating the large media company where people are not citizens, but they are exclusively the media audience. In reality the major television channels are owned by the Kremlin host whose relationship with the media is the relationship between the owner and editors. Each editor has been given his task: RTR has to tell correct stories about politics; First Channel – the same plus entertainment by showing Valeria and Kobzon; TVc has to tell stories about the particular genes of Russian nation and the Western conspiracy, and REN TV – all the conspiracies together, including  masons, Thatcher – Reagan and UFO. The REN TV star Igor Prokopenko is shameless enough to make a note after a regular broadcasting on conspiracy: “I’m not a supporter of conspiracy theory at all”. That is a genuine theatre of absurd seeming unreal in the 21st century, but nevertheless happening in the direct neighbourhood, and it has entered also Latvia through the TV screens. Putin fixes the style of behaviour, initially saying that the “green humans” are not Russian soldiers, and later on admitting that they are. Several years ago Putin stated that the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact had to be condemned, but recently he announced that it had not been too bad … If Putin may do that, Prokopenko also may do that.

The instruments which have been useful for reaching the domestic policy objectives, are used intensively by the Kremlin also in foreign policy. The budget of Russia Today TV has been considerably increased in 2015. The journalists who had participated in the media campaign against Ukraine, have been awarded, but it is by no means the end, everything is going on … If Russia spots any weakness of the West, it takes advantage of that as long as possible. At the seminar, Trudolyubov mentioned that the present policy of Russia is however the policy of a weak actor. Russia dislikes the fact that it is not regarded as a significant player in international politics, therefore it takes revenge by the means of aggression. In this case, the media is one of the instruments of the aggression. Content of the speech of the Kennan Institute guest researcher reminded about the anecdote about a bear, a wolf and a rabbit. The rabbit says: “Have a look at my new bicycle!” The wolf says: “I have a new scooter!” The bear was thoughtful for a moment, and then he rumbled: “But I have …, but I …, but I’ll hit you in the head, and then you’ll see …”