Author Archives: Marielle Wijermars

Russian Media Lab at ICA conference

Russian Media Lab researcher Marielle Wijermars will be presenting her research on news aggregators and the perception of algorithms in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine at the International Communication Association conference in Washington (24-28 May).

‘News recommendation and source diversity on Russian news aggregators: Google News as the better alternative?’ M. Wijermars, C. Puschmann & J. Zeng

‘Can echo chambers protect information freedom? Algorithmic news recommenders and the public sphere in Eastern Europe’ M. Makhortykh & M. Wijermars

HSS awards grant for ‘Sustainable Journalism for the Algorithmic Future’

Helsingin Sanomat Foundation has awarded a €130,000 grant to Russian Media Lab researcher Mariëlle Wijermars for the project ‘Sustainable Journalism for the Algorithmic Future’ (2020-2022).

The project, that in addition to Mariëlle involves RML researcher Olga Dovbysh, will be launched next January and run for three years (short summary below). If you are interested in getting involved or would like to know more, get in touch!

‘Sustainable Journalism for the Algorithmic Future’ (2020-2022)

The project investigates how data-driven media practices and the increased influence of IT industries on media business affect journalism and its role in the public sphere. Integrating new evidence from a hybrid media system (Russia) into a comparative study, it helps understand the context-specificity of this impact and will formulate a vision on making journalism societally, economically and ethically sustainable for the algorithmic future.

CfP – ‘Media Control as a Source of Political Power in Central and Eastern Europe’


Workshop at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki organized by the Russian Media Lab in collaboration with the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen

Helsinki, 02 – 03 September 2019

We invite proposals for papers to be discussed at an intensive two-day workshop on “Media control as source of political power in Central and Eastern Europe” at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki on 02 – 03 September 2019. The workshop will involve around 15 scholars, and early-career researchers are especially encouraged to apply. Travel expenses and accommodation costs of invited participants will be covered by the organisers.

The workshop aims to bring together approaches from political science, media studies and other relevant academic disciplines to get a more comprehensive picture of the role of media control in consolidating and expanding political power in authoritarian regimes and in “backsliding” democracies. The focus of the workshop will equally be on the interplay of media and political actors and on the effect of this relationship on regime dynamics.

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Russian Media Lab at #AoIR2018 conference

This week, Russian Media Lab will take part in the annual of conference of the Association of Internet Researchers in Montreal. RML is organising a panel on ‘Politics, Activism and Trolling on the Russian internet’, with papers by Galina Miazhevich (University of Cardiff), Mariëlle Wijermars (University of Helsinki) and Elena Gapova (Western Michigan University). In addition, RML researcher Mariëlle will present a separate paper on mass media and the legitimation of internet control in Russia.

Panel-02: Politics, Activism and Trolling on the Russian internet

‘Is a woman’s place in the kitchen? Internet memes and Ksenia Sobchak’s presidential campaign’ Galina Miazhevich

YouTube and political activism in Russia                                                                                                  Mariëlle Wijermars

What Nations Do on the Internet: The Case of Two Belarusian Wikipedia Pages                        Elena Gapova

PaperSession-12: Infrastructures: Theory and Comparative Historical Materialities

Mass Media and the Legitimation of Internet Control in Russia: the Case of Telegram             Mariëlle Wijermars

Latest publications

Russian Media Lab proudly announces the publication this week of two articles by its researchers. Interested? Follow the links to read the publications in open access!

Mariëlle Wijermars’ article “Project ‘1917 –Free History’: Reliving the Russian Revolution in the Digital Age“, published in Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media, examines Project ‘1917 – Free History,’ an innovative and ambitious online initiative that enables its followers to relive the Russian Revolution in real time. Presenting archival materials in the format of a Facebook feed, the project allows one to experience what “really” happened. Whereas in the state-controlled mass media discourse, the representation of the revolutionary year and the lessons it harbours for today’s Russia tend towards unambiguity, emphasising the destructive nature of radical political change, Project 1917 presents a wide array of voices without imposing a single interpretation. The article analyses how the project mediates the public remembrance of the Revolution, and what role the social media feed format and the interactivity it promotes can play in societal processes of coming to terms with the revolution’s traumatic legacy. It demonstrates how, over the course of one year, Project 1917 became increasingly entangled in current political debates as 2017 turned out to be a year of mass protests.

Wijermars, Mariëlle. 2018. Project ‘1917 – Free History’: Reliving the Russian Revolution in the Digital Age. Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media No. 18: 45-65.

Saara Ratilainen’s article ‘Digital media and cultural institutions in Russia: online magazines as aggregates of cultural services‘ article, published in Cultural Studies, sheds light on Russian cultural institutions from the perspective of digital media, focusing on online magazines. The analysis concentrates on urban lifestyle magazines, a sub-category of consumer magazines and a media genre, which emerged in Russia in the glossy magazine format and is now experiencing a powerful ‘second rising’ on the internet. The article asks how the adaptation to the digital communication environment by lifestyle publications re-defines the very concept of a magazine and reorganizes the institutional ties between media and cultural industries. This focus enables me to analyse lifestyle magazines as a dynamic field of interaction in which cultural meanings are produced and negotiated. Based on new media studies, the article sees the cultural transcoding (Manovich 2002) of the networked and automatized information transmission into the magazines’ content as being a significant factor in the development of contemporary culture and media. Ultimately, the article introduces an attempt to analyse new media titles combining qualitative media analysis with the developing theory of ‘algorithmic culture’ (Striphas 2015). The argumentation is based on two case publications: Afisha, established in 1999 as a weekly glossy magazine introducing all cultural events in Moscow, and Inde, a digital-born regional lifestyle magazine focusing on urban culture in the Republic of Tatarstan. Urban lifestyle magazines are important for the institutional organization of Russian culture, as they direct their readers’ attention to a broad selection of arts, products and events; strengthen the link between consumers and cultural entrepreneurs and build on a long tradition of print journalism, thereby transmitting the values of reading and literacy to a popular public. Moreover, the analysis shows that, through their multi-platform publication strategy, online magazines (re)organize as aggregates of digital resources helping to manage cultural decision-making in a consumerist setting.

Ratilainen, Saara 2018. Digital media and cultural institutions in Russia: online magazines as aggregates of cultural services. Cultural Studies 32:5, 800-824, DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2018.1429003.

Public lecture Hanna Stähle: ‘Mediated Orthodoxy’

Mediated Orthodoxy: The Russian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Kirill Facing Criticism in Digital Media

Public lecture by Russian MediaLab visiting researcher Hanna Stähle (University of Passau)

When: Monday 18 June, 14:15 – 15:45

Where: Aleksanteri Institute, 2nd floor meeting room

There is an increasing discrepancy between the image of the Russian Orthodox Church in state-controlled broadcast media, on the one hand, and in non-mainstream online media, on the other. The idealized, nation-centered, and triumphalist image of the Church in traditional Russian media is contrasted with an outlandish, ridiculous, and grotesque image of Russian Orthodoxy in digitally mediated settings. Following the notorious Pussy Riot punk prayer service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012, as well as a number of media scandals involving Orthodox hierarchs and personally Patriarch Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church found itself at conflict with parts of Russian society.

Digital media provide evidence of rising disdain and contempt toward Orthodox authorities and the institutional Church. These phenomena are often related to anticlericalism, atheism, or anti-Church ressentiments. This talk complicates this perception and demonstrates that Church criticism is voiced not only by “militant atheists” and “aggressive secularists” but also by practicing Orthodox believers and clergy. It demonstrates how media, both mainstream and alternative ones, significantly shape and influence contemporary Russian Orthodoxy and the way it is imagined and perceived in public. Alongside political, traditional, and vernacular Orthodoxy, there emerges yet another distinct form of Orthodox religion: mediated Orthodoxy that cannot be reduced to the official Orthodox Church or to popular religious observance and deserves a serious level of understanding.

Hanna Stähle is a PhD Candidate in Slavic Cultural Studies at the University of Passau, who has recently submitted her dissertation, and former Research Fellow at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow. Her research examines the digitally mediated image of the Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet Russia from the perspective of Church critics, and has been published in Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media and by the Carnegie Moscow Center. She previously worked at the Robert Bosch Stiftung. She obtained her Master’s degree in Russian and East Central European Studies from the University of Passau in 2011. In 2008, she graduated from Minsk State Linguistic University with a degree in German language and literature. Her Ph.D. thesis, which she recently submitted, examines digitally mediated discourse dynamics and user interactions related to religious issues in post-Soviet Russia.

We are hiring! Vacancy for postdoctoral researcher

Russian Media Lab is hiring! Deadline for applications: 18.06.2018

The Aleksanteri Institute invites applications for an enthusiastic and creative

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER (click here to apply)

for a fixed term from 3rd of September 2018 to 30th of June 2019, to work within the project Russia MediaLab: Freedom of speech and critical journalism in Russia. The employment contract will include a trial period of six months.

If measured according to conventional parameters, freedom of speech and expression in Russia has deteriorated. However, such development is not uncontested and without contradictions. Instead, actions and measures taken can prove inefficient or have unintended outcomes, which can be either negative or positive in terms of freedom of speech. Likewise, freedom of speech can also unintentionally shrink due to reasons such as the strained economic situation or increasing commercialization. To formulate a fuller picture of freedom of speech in Russia today, it is therefore not enough to study measures of control and questions of implementation, but also to adopt the opposite perspective – that is, to study freedom of speech and expression from the perspective of the areas of relative freedom. See:

Potential candidates can approach the subject matter from several different perspectives:

– Media regulation and self-regulation
– Legislation and media
– Media culture and -politics
– Russia’s political culture and media
– Media economy
– Cultural institutions

The subject matter can be approached from the angle of different humanities or social scientific disciplines. A strive for multidisciplinarity and willingness to partake in interdisciplinary discussions are appreciated.

According to the Regulations of the University of Helsinki, the appointee to the position of postdoctoral researcher must hold a doctoral degree in a relevant field, have the ability to conduct independent scientific research and possess the teaching skills required for the position. The candidate should have a proven capability to publish in scientific journals, have excellent analytical and methodological skills, and be able to work both independently and as a part of a multidisciplinary scientific community. The successful candidate is expected to have excellent skills in written and oral English, as well as have a good command of Russian.

The salary for the position will be based on level 5 of the demands level chart for teaching and research personnel in the salary system of Finnish universities. In addition, a salary component based on personal performance will be paid. The starting gross salary of a post-doctoral researcher is around 3180 € per month, depending on the qualifications and experience of the applicant.

Applications must be accompanied by the following English-language documents submitted as a single pdf file:

– CV (max. 3 pages)
– list of publications (max. 3 pages)
– 1–2 page summary of the applicant’s motivation to join the Russia MediaLab -project and the scientific community of the Aleksanteri Institute
– innovative research plan concerning freedom of speech and expression in Russia (max. 5 pages)
– sample of academic writing (max. 10 000 words)
– contact information of 2– 3 referees

Please submit your application through the University of Helsinki Recruitment System via the link Apply for job (here). Applicants who are employees of the University of Helsinki are requested to submit their application via the SAP HR portal. The deadline for applications is June 18th 2018.

Applications will be evaluated by a preparatory commission, consisting of representatives of different disciplines. The applicants will be informed about the choices by e-mail within two months from the application deadline.

Further information about the position may be obtained from Director of the Project, Professor Markku Kangaspuro, tel. +358 50 5223393,

Apply at latest 18.06.2018

Public event: ‘Re-mediating Russia’. Think Corner, 7 June 2018

Afternoon event at the “Fönster” Think Corner, University of Helsinki

7 June 2018, 3-6PM

Organised by the Russian MediaLab: Freedom of Speech and Critical Journalism in Russia research project

Re-mediating Russia: Art, Journalism, and Digital Communication

How are public discourses developing at times of international political conflict? How do the media and the arts define their role in a semi-authoritarian context? How can we trust the media when tools for manipulating information are become ever more advanced?

This event brings together specialists in Russian arts and media to discuss questions of media freedom, critical journalism and socially engaging curatorial practices in contemporary Russia. Artists, journalists, curators and researchers participate in steering public discourse, which has become an increasingly difficult task at times of media polarisation. The speakers will illuminate recent developments in Russian television, journalism, art and online connectivity, discussing their topics in a wider international context.

The programme consists of a talk by curators Anna Bitkina and Maria Veits from St. Petersburg and a roundtable discussion with journalist Arja Paananen from Ilta-Sanomat and researchers Saara Ratilainen, Mariëlle Wijermars and Dmitry Yagodin, who specialise in Russian media.

The event aims to stimulate discussion on media freedom, critical thinking and journalism from different professional viewpoints.

Please register by Monday, 5 June:



Session I

3:00-4:00 Presentation by Anna Bitkina and Maria Veits, Co-founders of TOK (The Creative Association of Curators)

Media in the Time of Political Change: Reflection on Power Games in Art


Session II

4:15-5:15 Roundtable discussion with researchers and journalists

Making and evaluating news about Russia

Participants: Arja Paananen (Ilta-Sanomat), Mariëlle Wijermars (UH), Dmitry Yagodin (UTA), Moderator Saara Ratilainen (UH).

5:15-6:00 Closing discussion

About the participants:

Anna Bitkina & Maria Veits, TOK (The Creative Association of Curators)

TOK was founded in 2010 as a platform for conducting interdisciplinary projects in the fields of contemporary art and social sciences. TOK’s research-based art and educational projects have a strong social component and deal with current issues that are widely discussed both in Russia and internationally, such as public space and citizens, the development of education, the deprivation of social resources, collective memory, the growing role of the media in global society, the changing political climate, migration policy and many others. Through their curatorial practice, they also contribute to the scholarship on the analysis of the socio-political processes that happened in Russia and the post-Soviet territories after the collapse of the Soviet Union. One of TOK’s current interests is the reaction of the media to global socio-political processes.

For a few years now, the TOK curators have been engaged in critical reflection upon the post-Cold war and current media discourse on the global political scene. Having started in 2016, this research-based project aims at constructing a continuous dialogue between artists and the public of different ages and generations in order to stimulate critical thinking around the topics of information manipulation, the history of propaganda, post-truth and constructing news during times of aggressive political battles, fights for natural resources and control over information. In their presentation, the TOK curators will focus on examples of artistic practices that deal with different methods of historical analysis, journalistic investigation and the creation of alternative information channels. They will also speak about the exhibition ‘States of Control’ they curated in Helsinki last year with the participation of Finnish, Russian and other artists from different countries who presented their views on past and current media affairs.

Arja Paananen graduated with a Master of Arts degree from the University of Jyväskylä where she studied Russian language, Political Science and Journalism. She followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in Moscow as correspondent for the Keskisuomalainen and Iltalehti newspapers in 1990-93. She was awarded Bonnier’s Journalism Prize in 2007 and 2011. She has worked for Ilta-Sanomat since 1994. Currently she covers news from Russia. She has spent more than 10 years working and studying in Russia.

Saara Ratilainen (PhD), is a researcher in Russian media and culture at the University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute. She graduated with her PhD from the University of Tampere, School of Language, Literature and Translation Studies. Her research focuses on Russian-language media and culture. Her current research projects are examining Russian-language online journals, grass-roots online communities and feminism in digital media. She is a researcher on the Russian MediaLab: Freedom of Speech and Critical Journalism in Russia project.


Mariëlle Wijermars (PhD), is a researcher in Russian politics, political communication and mass and online media at the University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute. Her current research is focusing on media and Internet governance in Russia, online freedom of speech and digital activism. She has also conducted research on memory politics and the mass media in Russia (TV and film), online cultural memory, and cultural policy. She is a researcher and project coordinator for the Russian Media Lab: Freedom of Speech and Critical Journalism in Russia project. Before coming to Helsinki, Mariëlle lectured in East European Studies at the University of Amsterdam.

Dmitry Yagodin (PhD), is a researcher in Russian digital media and journalism at the University of Tampere, Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Communication. His research interests cover strategic communication and soft power in Russian-language social media, alternative media practices and network analysis. His current research is focusing on environmental and climate change communication. Dmitry has also studied media systems in the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and worked as a journalist in St. Petersburg.

Reminder: Deadline approaching for Russian Media Lab conference

Some three weeks remain to submit your paper and panel proposals for the concluding conference of the Russian Media Lab project, organised as a thematic track within the 18th Annual Aleksanteri Conference. We look forward to welcoming you in Helsinki this fall!

Media Innovation, Horizontal Networks and Digital Entrepreneurship in Russia and Beyond: Avenues for Strengthening Freedom of Speech and Journalistic Practices?

24-26 October 2018, University of Helsinki

Deadline: 14 May 2018

The Russian Media Lab is organising its concluding conference within the framework of this year’s Aleksanteri Conference. For this thematic stream, entitled “Media Innovation, Horizontal Networks and Digital Entrepreneurship in Russia and Beyond: Avenues for Strengthening Freedom of Speech and Journalistic Practices?”, we invite submissions of panels, roundtables and individual papers that explore emerging (digital) media practices in relation to the question of freedom of expression and independent journalism. In addition to studies of Russia, we look forward to receiving proposals examining Central and Eastern Europe, as well as comparative studies.

Digital services are one of the most flourishing areas of Russia’s media economy, creating opportunities for new entrepreneurial and creative networks to emerge. As seen from the viewpoint of the latest media developments, many Russian regions are invigorated in the communication sphere through innovative online publishing, and hyper- and trans-local new media practices of social engagement and urban culture. At the same time, the Russian government continues to tighten its grip on online communications, as well as on the traditional media sphere.

With these processes in mind, we invite proposals that examine to what extent novel digital practices enable new areas for freedom of expression and independent journalism to emerge? To what extent is Russia (dis)similar to other countries, including many Western democracies, currently experiencing shifts in the organization of their media landscapes, where creative initiatives and critical thinking find new forms of expression through multifaceted networks of grass-roots activism and creativity combined with collaborative media and small scale entrepreneurship? How can these emerging practices be safeguarded from the tightening grip of the state’s regulation of the online sphere?

To submit a proposal, please use the general Aleksanteri Conference submission form and indicate you would like to be considered for inclusion in the Russian Media Lab thematic stream. Expressing your interest to be included in the stream will not affect the chances of your paper or panel proposal being accepted for the Aleksanteri Conference.

The best contributions will be invited to submit revised versions of their paper for publication as part of a special issue.

Mariëlle Wijermars to give a talk on Russian news aggregators at University of Bremen

On 17 April Russian Media Lab researcher Mariëlle Wijermars will give a talk at the University of Bremen, Forschungsstelle Osteuropa (FSO). The talk, entitled ‘Control the News Feed, Control the News? The Impact of Russia’s News Aggregator Regulation on the Online News Landscape’, is part of the lecture series ‘Kolloquium zur Ost(mittel)europäischen Geschichte’.

For more information, see the FSO website.