Journal of Intercultural Communication, Issue 21, October, 2009

Howard Davis & Anna Sosnovskaya

Representations of otherness in Russian newspapers: the theme of migration as a counterpoint to Russian national identity

Abstract

This article examines the coverage of migration topics in a selection of Russian newspapers with nationwide circulations in the first six months of 2005 and tries to answer to the question: how does the Russian national press represent people and features which are significantly different from so-called Russian character and national identity?

The analysis is based on three main themes: immigration, the national project, and Russians abroad. The coverage of immigration addresses issue of Russian and Russian-speaking minorities in the former Soviet republics; immigrants, refugees and displaced persons on territories of Russia; and labour force decline and ‘brain drain’ from the Russian Federation. The discourse on migration is conducted within the framework of the developing national project on construction of a new identity for Russia and Russians. The national project is expressed in terms of the consolidation of Russian society and creation of unified values.

The conclusion is that representatives of ‘others’ who differ from Russians significantly in terms of language and culture or who are territorial outsiders are represented in the press in three main ways. Firstly, there is a benevolent attitude expressed in terms of traditional ties to sisters and brothers from the fifteen Soviet republics. Secondly, there is a predominantly aggressive stance towards those who are seen as not wanting to assimilate or not wanting to engage with Russia and regard it as the older brother. Representations of the Chinese and the Baltic states fit this category. Finally, there is an ambivalent response, mainly in relation to stories of Russians abroad in Europe or North America, toward the interactions between Russian and non-Russian attitudes, values, etc. When the question of Russian national identity surfaces, there is a consistent message but it is differently articulated according to the diversity of the Russian press.

Key words: Baltics, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, intercultural communication, English, Russian, lingua franca


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