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Russian Media in the Age of Putin

Vladimir Putin (Image via Pixabay)
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Media in Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s media crackdown has those outside the nation worried about its effect on Russians everywhere. With such heavy control over the media in Russia, the spread of misinformation and propaganda poses an international threat.

Putin has made several claims that anything suggesting Russia’s responsibility for the attacks against Ukraine are false. State-controlled media even uses language to draw connections to the conflict with Nazi Germany, rarely using the word “war” at all.

The invasion — ordered by Putin — began on Feb. 24, 2022, with several thousand civilian deaths and millions of Ukrainian refugees flocking to neighboring countries, according to the Council of Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker

Despite this, “the offensive is described as a demilitarization operation targeting military infrastructure or a ‘special [military] operation to defend the people’s republics,'” wrote Simona Kravola and Sandro Vetsko for BBC News.

The significance of Putin

Putin’s crackdown of the media comes at a time where social media act as a critical vehicle for information dissemination. Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd, two independent press outlets in Russia, both shut down since the invasion began. 

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin is followed by a camera man in 2016. (Photo credit: svklimkin via Morguefile.com.)

“Those were seen as the remaining bastions of free speech in the country and they were quickly blocked and quickly destroyed soon after the invasion first started,” said Scott Bean.

Bean is an Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK) born in the United States who lived, worked and studied in Russia before moving back to the U.S.

Living in the state of Colorado, Bean’s family has relatives back in Russia. He worries about the impact this will have on younger generations like his children.

The impact

Irina Korolenko has also noticed aggression towards Russians. Korolenko is an ATCK born in Ukraine to half-Russian and half-Ukrainian parents, moving between the two countries before settling in Ukraine while her parents returned to Russia. Roughly 12 years ago, she moved to the United States and is now teaching math at the Colorado Russian Center of Arts and Humanities. 

Korolenko sees Putin’s propaganda particularly targeting older generations with familiar USSR rhetoric. Because they did not live during the time of the USSR, it appears younger generations aren’t as easily swayed. 

This propaganda is powerful but it works only until you go out to see it with your own eyes.

Irina Korolenko

Reports in Russia differ greatly with reports from the West. Communities at home and abroad find little consensus with Russian media’s heavy reliance on the “Us-Versus-Them” mentality against Ukraine and the West. Where some actively agree with Putin’s rhetoric, others staunchly disapprove. 

The conflict is between two ways of life, not just two nations. Korolenko is well aware of this when she sees both sides through family in Russia and friends in Ukraine. 

“It will be hard for Russians because right now they will see that the whole world is starting to hate them,” she said. “And unfortunately, that’s starting to happen to Russians that live here.” 

There is a difference between Russia and Putin’s Russia. Bean described Putin’s Russia as a “personality cult” lacking ideology. Though the conflict stems from Putin’s decision to invade, all Russians are bearing the heat for his choices. For the nation to heal or regain a semblance of free speech, it can’t do so alone.

Putin (Photo by Valery Tenevoy on Unsplash)
Photo by Valery Tenevoy on Unsplash
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