Friday, August 31, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Russian Media Focus on Religion, Nationality Up Radically since 2000

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 30 – Russian newspapers carried more than 16 times as many articles on religious and nationality issues in 2006 than they did in 1999, according to monitoring conducted by Russia’s Ministry of Regional Development – a rise that is all the more dramatic because the number of news outets may have fallen over that period.
These results were reported by Aleksandr Zhuravskiy, the director of that ministry’s Department of International Relations to a September 2006 conference in Nizhniy Novgorod that was jointly sponsored by the ministry, the Inter-Religious Council of Russia and the Council of Europe.
That speech was published in a low tirage book, “The Government’s Nationality Policy and Government-Religious Relations in the Russian Federation” (in Russian, Moscow: Prospekt, 2006), and an updated version has now been posted online by the Peoples of Russia website (
The basic data set on “The Number of Publications in Federal and Regional Media on Inter-Ethnic and State-Confessional Relations (1996-2006)” are presented below:

Col. I: Interethnic relations, tolerance, ethnopolitical extremism, xenophobia, and nationalism

Col. II: Terrorism

Col. III: Religion, Inter-religious relations, religious extremism

1996 10288 6108 17175
1997 12787 7043 29055
1998 18091 9495 38790
1999 33783 28732 59776
2000 41590 39043 91098
2001 51713 96765 122578
2002 66333 127795 132651
2003 67596 106621 170671
2004 95081 174265 218472
2005 109435 141042 255659
2006 141812 114001 274486
Note: The figures for 2006 are for the first 11.5 monthly only.

There are many intriguing aspects to this data set, but three are especially important. First, this explosion in media coverage almost certainly guarantees that many Russians are paying more attention to these issues than they otherwise would, a fact that should be taken into consideration in analyzing reports about Russian attitudes.
Second, while the number of articles about terrorism has fallen over the last several years, the number about religion and ethnicty has continued to climb: In 2002, there were fewer than 5,000 more articles about religious issues than there were about terrorism, but now there are almost 2.5 times as many.
And third, there has been an explosive growth in the number of articles about various aspects of “the nationality question” over the last four years, with their number more than doubling over a period which saw the number of those on terrorism rise significantly only to fall off to roughly the same number as at the start of that period.

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