Russians Look Abroad For Political News

In the Russian newspaper Moskovskii Komsomolets, Mikhail Rostovsky and Mikhail Zubov argue that Russians must now turn to foreign media to learn about politics in their own country:

Russian society learns about important political developments from foreign experts and foreign media outlets, these days. Consider the news that Medvedev and Putin will decide what to do about presidency in 2012 among themselves instead of letting the people make the decision. Who do we owe this knowledge to? Correct. To American political scientist Nikolai Zlobin. Who did ex-President Mikhail Gorbachev choose to inform that this was not how presidents were supposed to behave? He told it to BBC. Finally, who was Yurgens talking to when he made his startling discovery? He was talking to Reuters.

They are talking about Igor Yurgens, an advisor to Russian President Medvedev who, it seems, is not afraid to tell it like it is to the foreign media. He recently compared Putin to the tottering Brezhnev, and here’s what he told Newsweek last February when he was blaming the government for the economic crisis and the need for democratic reforms:

Freedom of speech is vital. It’s one of the reforms Russia needs most. Then the old institutions of power should be broken. Now is the time to develop real democracy. If the crisis grows tougher, the reputation of United Russia [the ruling party] will suffer gravely. At the moment we do not have any real political competition, and few dare to struggle against the ruling United Russia party. The government needs to strengthen democratic institutions now—it’s a matter of the basic principles of survival. Just as the state created its “vertical of power” by fiat, it now needs to dismantle reform by fiat—for the sake of rescuing itself.

I’d be interested to see if there is any data to back up the assertion that Russians prefer foreign news outlets for their political news. Our exploratory studies of the Russian blogosphere show that Russian Web native sources like gazeta.ru are popular with politically oriented bloggers, but foreign news outlets like BBC also do quite well. Even US supported Radio Free Europe does relatively well, especially with more opposition minded bloggers and when compared to Radio Sawa, Al Hurra and other misadventures in the Middle East. And apparently Medvedev is even looking to bloggers for ideas these days.

H/T: Johnson’s Russia List

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