Monthly Archives: April 2017

Seminar “Media, Capital, and Culture: Institutional Spaces in Between”, May 19th, Helsinki

Media, Capital, and Culture: Institutional Spaces in Between

May 19th 2017, 10:15-17:30
@University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute, 2nd floor (Unioninkatu 33)

Please pre-register by Monday, May 15th at

This workshop calls attention to the cultural and economic policies which condition and govern, directly and indirectly, individual and collective entrepreneurship and freedom of expression. Focusing on the Russian-language culture and media, the workshop analyses the interaction between institutionalized networks and how they impact freedom of expression in the neoliberal economic context. The workshop aims to explore how creative professionals working in media and cultural institutions negotiate political agency, cultural diversity and social critique in the age of digitalization, transnational mobility and global consumption. Russian-language culture and media offer a productive framework for exploring questions of official and unofficial discourses, hybrid identities, transgressive border-crossings, convergent intellectual and communication technologies. Nowadays, these complex questions need to be reconsidered in terms of Russia’s role in cultural globalization. The workshop brings together scholars of Russian culture, theoreticians of media and cultural and media practitioners.

The seminar is jointly organized by the Culture Cluster of the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Russian Studies ‘Choices of Russian Modernization’, Russian MediaLab research project, and the Leeds Russian Centre (Russia[n] in the Global context).

Image: courtesy of Sergey Elkin, Moscow-based visual artist



10:15-10:30 Opening words: Sanna Turoma (University of Helsinki, Finland) and Vlad Strukov (University of Leeds, UK)

10:30-11:45 Panel I: Hybridization of Culture, Media and Politics

Saara Ratilainen (University of Helsinki): Collaborative Media and Cultural Practices in Russian Cities Vlad Strukov: Gamification of Russian Politics: Where Media and Culture Converge
Discussant: Ilya Kalinin (Saint Petersburg State University, NZ Debates on Politics and Culture, Russia)

11:45-13:00 Break

13:00-14:30 Panel II:
Re-considering the Impact of Legislative, Technological and Educational Developments

Mariëlle Wijermars (University of Helsinki): The Russian Internet ‘Blacklist’ Law – Five Years on: The Curtailment of Freedom of Speech Online

Vera Zvereva (University of Jyväskylä, Finland): Targeting Youth: New Media State Propaganda and Popular Culture

Susan Ikonen (University of Helsinki): Popular History Books and Russian Book Market Discussant: Olga Shevchenko (Williams College, USA)

14:30-15:30 Panel III Pioneering Media and Cultural Practices: Meduza and the Success of Russian Media Abroad Ivan Kolpakov (Editor-in-Chief of Meduza, Riga, Latvia) in conversation with Vlad Strukov

15:30-16:00 Coffee

16:00-17:30 Panel IV: New Emerging Spaces for Media, Arts and the Market (Roundtable discussion)

Moderator: Sanna Turoma
Participants: Andrey Bogush (Artist), Liisa Roberts (Artist), Ilya Kalinin, Ivan Kolpakov, Vlad Strukov

Interview with Galina Miazhevich

by Roosa Rytkönen

Galina Miazhevich is a Lecturer in Media and Communication in the University of Leicester, UK. She was a visiting fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute in March–April 2017.

Could you tell a bit about your work relating to Russia and media?

I’ve been working on post-Soviet media for a number of years and have done two post-docs on the matter: one on the representations of Islam as a security threat in the Russian, British and French contexts at the University of Manchester and another independent project as a Gorbachev Media Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. The latter project focused on the issues of censorship and press freedom in the post-Soviet space. We organized a series of Gorbachev Press Freedom lectures, with several prominent media personalities and practitioners as invited speakers, including the director general of the BBC. It was an interesting time to discuss these topics also in the UK, due to the debates on how media regulation should proceed in the country.

My research approach is qualitative as I’m coming from the field of media and cultural studies. I study indirect indicators of media management and freedom of speech, looking at what can and cannot be expressed in the official and unofficial media. This includes not only texts but also visual images, as when I explored political satire memes in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. It’s important to understand the meanings generated at the grassroots level. For example, when reading online forums right after major events, the wealth of information one can get there is remarkable. For a number of years, I’ve been studying the Eurovision Song Contest, and discussions around it are not only about the music, but about the relationship between the East and the West, homosexuality, antisemitism, camp culture…

How do you see the state of freedom of speech in Russia currently?

It’s a very difficult question and becomes more sensitive with every new election cycle. One can see the tightening of regulations, as in the case of the internet recently. These changes need to be placed in the context of wider processes. A number of years ago someone said that the Russian media follows the Belorussian path. Belarus is known for quite stringent controls and it seems that Russia is following this model.

At the same time, there is another kind of development, as one can see in the diversification of the products offered to the public. You can see a variety of voices and different programmes being aired…it seems that there is a creation of a more diverse and less clear-cut scene, where there is a wide choice for the public. However, the choice is more related to entertainment. They are trying to go for this hybrid type of management, with entertainment and consumption, and less straightforward expression of ideologies or something directly related to politics.

At the same time, it seems that even TV series try to promote some messages or core values. There are many very well-made TV dramas that go back to different periods of the Soviet times, not maybe exactly romanticizing the era (even though they are semi-nostalgic), but utilizing it to create some kind of common space that the audiences can identify themselves with. There are also all these TV presenters from the Soviet era, which creates a kind of feeling of stability and continuity.

Talk show Projectorparishilton is an interesting example. The show was halted for five years and only recently re-vived. The hosts discuss, in a satirical way, topical news, which is not necessarily an easy issue for the establishment. The question is why this programme re-emerged right now? When you talk about Russian media you can’t just talk about strict regulation and ‘contained’ voices, but you need to look at dynamics and nuances, and place them in the wider context to understand why these programmes or trends are appearing. As some scholars argue, even in a very tightly controlled media environment there might be different voices (at times, accidentally) coming through. And then the question is, ‘why is that?’ Whether it was accidental, whether it is a sign of genuine disagreement or maybe it was done on purpose to demonstrate diversity or act as a safety valve. The situation with Russian media is not clear-cut and is therefore interesting for a media scholar. For example, internet management is much more complex and poses challenges, but at the same time provides a rich field for analysis and identifying trends.

Do you have any predictions concerning the future of media freedom and freedom of speech in Russia?

It’s very difficult to predict the future. Some of the trends we observe right now, such as diversification and hybridization, will persist. However, it’s difficult to say what the developments will be like concerning the attitudes to journalists, their ‘intimidation’ and corresponding self-censorship. It’s going to be interesting to compare the management of journalist practice within the country and abroad: I’ve also been studying Russia Today, which is a ‘product’ for the external audiences and has a different idea of the journalist practice. Another idea that comes to my mind is that because Russia is such a huge state with different regions, there might be some developments concerning the regional media. Some of these, including TV broadcasting and radio, aren’t so strictly regulated and they have the ability to produce good quality content. Whether the establishment will tolerate this is interesting because some of the regional media are more popular than the mainstream ones. So one can see these different levels of management concerning production for external, national and regional audiences.





Upcoming presentations by Mariëlle Wijermars

Mariëlle Wijermars, post-doctoral researcher in the Russian MediaLab project, will be presenting the following papers at two upcoming conferences:

‘Website Blocking as a Means of Silencing Non-Systemic Opposition: The Russian Internet ‘Blacklist Law’ – Five Years On’
Workshop ‘Telecommunication Politics in Authoritarian Contexts’, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, 9-10 May 2017

‘New Media and the Expression of Alternative Views on the Past in Russia: The Russian Revolution as a Social Media Feed’
Workshop ‘Trauma Studies in the Digital Age’, University of Amsterdam, 10-12 May 2017