Multidimensional communicative strategies: the case of media celebration of the Russian Victory

Author: Frederic Guerrero-Solé
Citation:  Guerrero-Solé, Frederic (2012). "Multidimensional communicative strategies: the case of media celebration of the Russian Victory" Hipertext.net, 10, http://www.upf.edu/hipertextnet/en/numero-10/estrategias-comunicativas-multidimensionales-caso-conmemoracion-victoria-rusia.html

Guerrero_foto
Abstract: The commemoration of the Victory over Nazi Germany is currently the main national celebration in post-Soviet Russia. This article presents the results of a research on the communicative strategies undertaken by the Russian government and media in preserving the memory of the Victory. Considering the multidimensional nature of media events (Dayan and Katz, 1992), the analysis has taken into the account (1) the television broadcasting of the Victory parade in Moscow's Red Square, (2) the presidential speeches of the Victory between 2000 and 2010, (3) the thematic agenda of television news, (4) the history of program scheduling in the Soviet Central Television and the first Russian channel and, finally, (5), the new networked strategies to spread and preserve the historical heritage of World War II and the Victory over the Nazi regime. The main conclusions of this research are that, during its celebration, the Victory satures the Russian media space, and that the Russian government and media transform and update the celebration in a attempt to avoid oblivion and to preserve a certain version of history.
Keywords: Media event, Russia, Victory, World War II, television, agenda-setting, program scheduling analysis, discourse analysis, Internet, historical memory, hegemony
Table of contents: 

1. Introduction
2. Object of study and methodology
3. The Victory parade
4. The presidential speeches of the Victory
5. The agenda of the news broadcasts
5.1. The emergency of a new media event
6. Television program scheduling
6.1. Results of the analysis of program scheduling
7. Internet as a preservation strategy of the memory of the Victory
8. Conclusions
9. Bibliography

 

1. Introduction

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 left a huge fracture in the Russian society. The political, financial, social and ideological reforms brought uncertainty among the Russian population, as they watched the collapse of the foundations that have sustained Communist power in a very short period of time. The Soviet myths and rituals were banned, and only the Victory over Nazi Germany survived from the three sacred traditions ""of the Revolution and the Civil War, of the Patriotic War and of Labour" (Lane, 1981:36).

In her work on Soviet rituals,  Lane (1981) mentioned the disconnection between the Soviet people and the Communist heroic deeds such as the Russian Revolution and the Civil War, that the leaders of the country were willing to establish as perennial bases and myths of the ideological construction of the state. Mickiewicz (1981) observed the same indifference among Soviet youngsters, also extending it World War II. Kachkaeva (2010)  adds the progressive disappearance of testimonies of war, of the veterans. This concern is shared by the current Russian leaders in regard to the memory of the Victory over Nazi Germany. In this respect, mass media as part of what Gramsci called the hegemonic apparatus (Anderson, 2006; Buci-Glucksmann, 1976; Gruppi, 1972) play a fundamental role in preserving historical memory. The goal of this article is to show how Russian media celebrate the Victory in World War II, and which strategies are employed to fight oblivion of the events of World War II and the Victory and to establish an hegemonic version of the facts that took place in World War II. The analysis of Russian media and of the main celebration in the country has a strong relevance considering the dimensions of Russia, its political, financial and cultural influence on an international level, its history marked throughout the 20th century by one of the biggest adventures undertaken by humanity, and finally, because of its enigmatic duality and the eternal debate about its attachment to Europe or Asia.

 

2. Object of study and methodology

This article presents a multidimensional analysis of the celebraton of the Victory that allows to verify the dimensions of this mega media event, that extends throughout all the Russian media space. The objects of study analyzed are:

1)    The television broadcast of the Victory parade in 2010 in the Frst russian channel;

2)    The presidential speeches of the Victory between 2000 and 2010;

3)    The thematic agenda of the two main federal channels (the First channel and  NTV);

4)    The program scedhuling in the Day of the Victory in the Soviet Central Television and the First channel between 1964 and 2010;

5)    The main projects for preserving the memory of World War II that appeared on Internet in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Victory.

And the methodologies used in each case: 

1)    In the broadcast of the parade, the work by Dayan and Katz (1992) about great media events, and later contributions to the analysis of media events (Chaney, 1993; Cottle, 2006; Couldry, 2003); the analysis of Soviet rituals by Lane (1981);  and, finally, different contributions from cultural anthropology regarding the study of symbols, rituals and great public events (Handelman, 1990; Mosse, 1991; Turner, 1990; van Gennep, 2008).

2)    In the presidential speeches, narrative semiotics (Propp:1998 [1928]); Greimas:1983; Courtés:1996) allowing to analyze the deeper structures of the texts;

3)    In the agenda of news broadcasts, content analysis has been chosen within the tradition of agenda-setting theories (McCombs & Shaw, 1972; McCombs, Shaw, & Weaver, 1997; Wanta & Ghanem, 2007), which relates the issues emphasized by the media to those audiences consider important.

4)    As for the program scheduling on the Day of the Victory, a comparative analysis has been undertaken (Contreras and Palacio, 2001; Gómez-Escalonilla, 2003), both diachronic (the evolution of television program scheduling through time) and synchronic (the comparison of program scheduling in several channels at a very same time).

5)    Finally, in the case of websites devoted to preserving memory, the government strategies have been analyzed regarding the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Victory. 

 

3. The Victory parade

The military parade in Moscow's Red Square is the main festive ceremony to commemorate the Victory over Nazi Germany. From late 1990s it is celebrated every year (in Soviet times, it was celebrated in 1965, 1985 and 1990), and its television broadcast is regarded as the main media event of Post-Soviet Russia.  This celebration stems from the parade that took place 24 June 1945, shortly after the end of World War II. Ever since then, all the parades have followed a structure inspired by the first one. As Hutchings and Rulyova claim regarding 2005 celebration, "the parade itself, the seventh of its kind, was modelled on those of 1945 and subsequent anniversaries" (2009:143).

Since 1965, a year which marked the 20th anniversay of the end of the war, the parade has been broadcasted by the Soviet Central Television and has become, together with the program Minuta molchania (Minute of silence, broadcasted simultaneously on every television and radio station at 6:50pm, Moscow time), the central ceremony of the media celebration of the Victory. The broadcast of the event accords with that of a media event as defined and analyzed by Dayan y Katz (1992). It is an organized, pre-planned and announced event by the Russian mass media and government, and attracts large audiences. According to Levada Center in a study published in 4 May 2011[i], 75% of the Russian citizens surveyed in 2010 had an afirmative answer when asked if they were going to celebrate the Victory. Regarding the television broadcast, it had a share of 50% and an audience of  13.8% in the Pervi kanal, and a 25.2% share and an audience of 7% in the state channel Rossia 1. All in all, a 75.2% share and a 20.8%  of the audience watched the live broadcast.

The parade takes place in the Red Square, an space that represents the Soviet (Handelman, 1990) and Russian centralism. Besides the fact that it takes place on the symbolic center of the country, the utmost attention is also paid to spatial and temporal order, expressed both in the precision with which the parade and each and every of its parts start, and by the movements of the actors and objects participating in it. The new technical abilities of television allow to hyperbolize this order and precision, accentuated in 2010 by the fact that it was the first where all the parades of the country were taking place at the same time.

The parade is divided into five parts: the historical part, the review, the presidential speech, the rendition of the hymn of the Russian Federation, and the military parade itself  (for a thorough description of the five parts, see Guerrero-Sole, 2011a). The main conclusions of the analysis of the parade broadcast in 2010 (that of the 65th anniversary of the Victory) are:

- as a coronation ceremony, it simbolizes historical continuity and represents the transfer of the memory of the Victory among generations;

-it establishes symboic relations between the State, the Church, the Army and the Russian people, and assumes functions of preserving the statu quo;

- it is a combat instrument against forgetting the war and the Victory;

- it builds and preserves heroic myths;

- it is the scene of a progressive replacement of Soviet symbols with Russian democratic ones;

- and regardless, it keeps a formal resemblance to Soviet celebrations;

- so that it is, all things considered, a meeting point between the old and the new, a semitransformative ceremony that is adding more and more elements to bring new generations of Russians closer to the celebration.

Therefore, despite its traditional vocation, the parade works as a strategy of national reconstruction, of reinterpretation of the historical memory of the war and as a link between those who fought in the war and the new generations.

 

4. The presidential speeches of the Victory

The presidential speech of the Victory is the verbal expression of the symbolic meaning of the celebration. From the analysis of the speeches from 2000 to 2010 (read by Putin from 2000 to 2007, and by Medvédev from 2008 to 2010), we are able to extract the following conclusions:

-it relates the past of World War II with the present and the future of Russia, establishing parallelisms between the actors of the past and the present;

- in this respect, it identifies the current enemies of Russia (international terrorists) with Nazi Germany, and threatens to fight them with the same forcefulness;

-it is a tool for the transmission of the values and competences from the soldiers and Soviet citizens to the current Russian citizens;

- it elevates both memory and blood as the main tools of the transfer of competences, and oblivion as the main enemy of the Russian nation;

- it builds, all in all, the identity of the Russian citizen. So that, if Hollander (1972:8) established the characteristics of the ideal Soviet citizen, the Victory speech does the same for the Russian people. The ideal Russian citizen is willing and able to:

     - respect the memory of the war and the Victory,

     - respect and defend the Homeland,

     - being a recipient of the Victory,

     - attain new victories, 

     - and, finally, to transmit the memory of the Victory;

- it builds the interpretative frames of the war and the Victory:

     - it identifies Russia as both a victim and victor of the war,

     - it identifies the Homeland as the cause of the Victory (when it was Socialism in Soviet times),

     - it restricts the heritage of the war to positive facts, 

     - and it interprets the sacrifice of the Soviet people as necessary.

Thus, the presidential speech works as an strategy for constructing the Russian identity around the Victory and defines its interpretative frames.

 

5. The agenda of the news broadcasts

According to Dayan and Katz (1992), television contributes to the process of involvement and oblivion of the media event. Television news are particularly active in this process. The analysis of the thematic agenda in two of Russia's main federal channels (the semipublic Pervi kanal and the private NTV) show the dynamics of both processes. The sample analyzed comprises 1709 news items from Pervi kanal (1TV), and 1075 from NTV, between 19 April and 16 May 2010 (the Victory is commemorated each 9 May). In absolute numbers, Pervi kanal devoted 301 news items (18% of the total) to the Victory in that period of time, whereas NTV devoted 206 news items (19.2% of the total). The evolution dynamics of the news percentage devoted to Victory-related themes is shown in figure 1.

 

Guerrero_Figura1

NTV Percentage

1TV Percentage

Abr>Apr

May>May

 Figure 1. Percentage of news on 1TV and NTV devoted to the Victory between 19 April and 16 May 2010.

 

According to these data, it is possible to draw the following conclusions:

  - there is a continuous increase in the percentage of news items devoted to the Victory as the Day of the Victory gets closer;

  - the news on the Victory saturate news broadcasts on May 9th, so that this celebration becomes the only existent reality;

  - the process of involvement is temporarily extended, whereas oblivion is barely prolonged to one day after the celebration;

  - the processes of involvement and oblivion occur, broadly speaking, in parallel in both channels analyzed, despite their ownership differences, and the fact that 1TV broadcasts the parade and NTV does not.

For an in-depth analysis of the evolution of the subject matters on the Victory, news items were classified into four great subject matters (memory, veterans, parade and day of the Victory), and the interval from April 19th to May 16th was divided into four significant segments:

 

  -S1: from 16 to 30 April;

  -S2: from 1 to 6 May;

  -S3: from 7 to 10 May;

  -S4: from 11 to 16 May.

Tables 1 and 2 show the results of the news analysis from 1TV and NTV.

Cat/Subcat

S1

S2

S3

S4

Total

Memory

Historical Cycle on TV

12

6

3

0

21

Monuments

7

9

3

0

19

Ribbon of Saint George

9

4

1

0

14

Historical reconstruction

4

6

1

1

12

Finding of remains

0

3

2

0

5

Total

32

28

10

1

71

Parade

Rehearsals

14

20

0

0

34

Characteristics

2

0

10

3

15

Arrival of participants

1

2

10

0

13

Total

17

22

20

3

52

Veterans

Housing

14

3

0

0

17

Decorations

8

0

0

0

8

Total

22

3

0

0

25

Day of the Victory

Ceremonies

2

0

10

0

12

International

1

0

8

0

9

Total

3

0

18

0

21

Table 1. News from the categories of memory, parade, veterans and the Day of the Victory on 1TV.

 

Cat/Subcat

30-4

06-5

10-5

16-5

Total

Memory

Historical Cycle on TV

6

6

4

0

16

Exhibitions

5

4

2

1

12

Monuments

4

9

7

0

20

Findings of remains

2

8

1

1

12

Total

17

27

14

2

60

Parade

Rehearsals

4

6

1

0

11

Characteristics

1

0

3

1

5

Totals

5

6

4

1

16

Veterans

Housing

8

3

1

0

12

Homage

4

4

2

0

10

Total

12

7

3

0

22

Day of the Victory

Ceremonies

0

0

9

0

9

International

0

0

6

0

6

Total

0

0

15

0

15

Table 2. News in the categories memory, parade, veterans and Day of the Victory on NTV.

 

Tables 1 an 2 show that the dynamics of construction of the media event on 1TV and NTV differ. While on 1TV the dynamics are S1:Memory/Veterans - S2: Memory/Parade -S3: Parade/Day of the Victory, in the case of NTV they are S1: Memory/Veterans - S2: Memory - S3: Memory/Day to the Victory. Thus, despite that the phases of involvement and oblivion of the media event are in general terms very much alike in both channels, the fact that 1TV broadcasts the main celebration and NTV does not influences how the media event is built.

 

5.1. The emergency of a new media event

The case of the commemoration of the Victory in 2010 offers a distinguishing element in relation to other years. On 9 May 2010 there was an explosion at the mine Raspádskaya, the biggest in Rusia, a fact which allows to observe what are the dynamics of construction of the event when a new event simultaneously emerges.

Channel/Day

7/5

8/5

9/5

10/5

11/5

12/5

13/5

14/5

15/5

16/5

1TV

Victory

28

21

39

10

2

3

0

1

3

1

Mine accident

0

0

3

3

4

1

10

4

3

1

 

NTV

Victory

22

17

23

4

1

1

0

0

4

2

Mine accident

0

0

4

13

8

7

3

4

4

1

Table 3. Number of news items regarding the Victory and the Mine from 7 to 16 May 2010 on 1TV and NTV.

Data on Table 3 show the hegemony of the Victory before the emergency of a media disaster, according to Cottle's (2006) classification. The thematic agenda of news broadcasts during 9 May is practically impervious to the accident, and only after May 10th (already in the oblivion phase of the celebration of the Victory), the accident is given more coverage on news broadcasts agendas. Thus, it is possible to conclude that during the commemorative period, the Victory is the only existing reality; the parade and the Victory are shrouded by an aura that protects them from external reality. Moscow and the Red Square become the geographic centers of the real word, and the parade becomes the central celebration framed in an impregnable time to any other events.

 

6. Television program scheduling

According to Dayan and Katz (1992), television must somewhat compensate for the lack of the presence of the individual in the public event, and programs play a fundamental role inn that compensation: they declare a celebration that trascends the public event and encompass television scheduling in its enterity. In the case of the commemoration of the Day of the Victory, television programs become media events themselves. As Anna Kachkáyeva (2010a) emphasizes "the programs of all channels on 9 May were devoted to ths day". In this respect, the production of programs focused on the Victory is, and has been, one of the main concerns of the Russian Federation government. The great amount of programs and old films of every genre, as well as the new television and cinematographic productions, weave the basic fabric to shape television program scheduling in the Russian channels during the commemoration of the Victory.

The analysis of program scheduling has been divided into three axes:

1)    A diachronic analysis of the programs from the Soviet Central Television and Perkia kanal on 9 May  from 1964 to 2010;

2)    An analysis of the evolution of programs on Pervi kanal from the same period of  analysis of the thematic agenda (from 19 April to 16 May 2010);

3)    And, finally, a synchronic analysis of the programs from 9 May 2010 on the main federal Russian channels: 1TV, NTV and Rossia 1 (state television).

 

6.1. Results of the analysis of program scheduling

Program scheduling from 9 May has substantially changed throughout the period between 1964 and 2010. During the first years, programs were heterogeneous and a variety of genres were broadcast, such as concerts, reports, docummentaries, cinema, concerts, sports events and children's and youngsters programs, not always related to the Victory. Nonetheless, the evolution of television program scheduling has followed these guidelines:

  - the parade of the Victory (broadcast at 10am) has become the central point of the media celebration;

  - the parade (10am) and the Minute of silence (6:50pm) lay the foundations of television program scheduling;

  - an effect of homogenization has occurred and genres of the celebration such as docummentaries, sports events and programs for younger audiences have gradually disappeared;

  - news broadcasts and specially action films are the basic ingredients of program scheduling (figure 2);

  - classic films about World War II are periodically repeated, so that they have become electronic monuments in memory of the war.

 

Evolution of the number of fiction films (1964-2010)

Fiction films

 Guerrero_Figura2

Figure 2 Evolution of scheduling of action films on 9 May on Soviet Central Television and the first Russian channel.

On the other hand, the analysis of program scheduling on 1TV between 19 April and 16 May shows a tendency to program spaces devoted to the Victory following a very similar pattern to that of the thematic agenda (figure 3), even they present a lower density because only the genres and not the contents of the programs have been analyzed.

Programs devoted to the Victory

Number of programs devoted to the Victory

 

Guerrero_Figura3

Figure 3. Evolution of the number of programs devoted to the Victory between 19 April and 16 May 2010, on Pervi kanal.


As it is observed on Figure 3, almost all programs on 9 May are devoted to the Victory. The analysis of the programs on NTV and Rossia 1 from that very same 9 May produces the same results. 

It is then possible to conclude that the strategies of television program scheduling have evolved towards a pattern wherein news and action films about the Victory are the two hegemonic genres of the television celebration. There is a palpable tension on television program scheduling between classic films that already belog to the collective memory of the Russian people, and new action films that intend to preserve the memory of the Victory among younger generations. In our day, war is explained in a different way, and new productions such as Tuman (2008) or Mi iz budushchego (2008) -and both their sequels- are examples of a fight to preserve the legacy of the Victory; in both cases, the protagonists are young people that travel in time to World War II, where they discover the true sacrifice of the Soviet people for the freedom of Europe and the whole world, and the mistake that is not respecting in the present the values that brought them Victory.

 

7. Internet as a preservation strategy of the memory of the Victory

As previously explained, the celebration has a widespread presence on Russian media, especially on television. The preservation of the historical memory has been one of the main functions of television, but in the last years Internet has emerged as an ideal platform to undertake this process of preservation. The year 2010, which marked the 65th anniversary of the Victory, was particularly prolific in developing projects aimed at preserving audiovisual information related to World War II, mostly promoted by the Russian Ministry of Communication and other governmental institutions and focused on disseminating the mega media event of the Victory to the new digital environment. These projects include pictures and documents from the war, as well as recordings of testimonies from veterans. According to the Ministry of Communication of the Russian Federation, the websites devoted to historical memory and preserving cultural heritage from the Victory and its 65th anniversary awakened a lot of interest among the Russian people. The most visited ones were 1941-1945. Khronika Pobedi (http://pobeda-vov.ru) (Figure 4), Podvig naroda v Velikoi Otétxestvennoi voiné 1941-1945 godov (http://podvignaroda.ru/ ) and Pobeda. 1941-1945 (http://victory.rusarchives.ru/). Regarding Khonika Pobedi, a ministerial project, it was seen by 1.5 unique users [ii], and president Medvédev claimed that the portal offered "acces to the true testimonies of history[iii]".

 

In accordance with the Russian government policy and strategies regarding the importance of the first years of life in shaping up a vision of the truth (and, in particular, of the truth of the Victory), as expressed by president Medvédev himself, another of the websites published to mark the 65th anniversary of the Victory was "Potxemú mi prazdnuiem Den Pobedi" [Why do we celebrate the Day of the Victory?], inside the website of the Kremlin. In this section, aimed at Russian children, 7 points explain the reasons to commemorate[iv].

 

 

Guerrero_Figura4_small
Figure 4. Home page of the project 1941-1945. Khronika Pobedi (1941-1945. Chronicle of the Victory)

In the last years, Internet has become the medium to contribute innovation, a renewal sprit and character to the commemoration of the Victory. The efforts by part of the government and the politicized young formations are, therefore, aimed at being widely present in a medium that is difficult to control and which accommodates non-official versions that are denied on traditional media controlled by the Russian authorities (Guerrero-Solé, 2010).

 

8. Conclusions

The passing of time in relation to the events that happened on World War II and the Victory is a threat to the preservation of historical memory and the shaping of national identity and cohesion in Russia. The survival of memory requires new strategies to attract young people to the myth of the Victory, and at the same time preserve most of the ritual and traditional character of the celebration. Despite that formally current parades are very similar to Soviet ones, television deploys all its resources so that the broadcast becomes spectacular. It also emphasizes the renewal elements on the celebration, leaving aside those related to the Soviet phase so that it cannot by blemished by them. The presidential speech is one of those renewal elements, in the sense that it intends to create a link between the past and the future of Russia. Besides the central media event, the Victory saturates television program schedulings and thematic agendas, so that they surround the public celebrations broadcasted. One of the main strategies of television program scheduling is to broadcast new fiction productions that update the discourse on war and which coexist with Soviet classics in a process of gradual replacement. Despite television has been the hegemonic medium of the celebration,  there is every indication that the fight for the preservation of the war heritage and a certain historical memory has moved to the Internet. The Russian authorities have realized this displacement and are devoting increasing efforts to attract young people through this medium and to get them involved in the memory of the Victory. Their Victory.

 

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Guerrero Solé, F (2011a). La celebració mediàtica de la Victòria a la Rússia post-soviètica. Anàlisi transversal dels observables de l'hegemonia en la commemoració televisiva de la Victòria sobre l'Alemanya nazi. Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Departament de Tecnologies de la Informació i les Comunicacions). Retrieved from TDX/TDR database.

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Guerrero-Solé, F. (2010). La Transformació del sistema televisiu a la Rússia postsoviètica: vint anys de lluita per l'hegemonia mediàtica. Comunicació: revista de recerca i d'anàlisi, vol. 27, pp. 43-61.

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Hutchings, S., Rulyova, N. (2009b) "Commemorating the Past/Performing the Present: television coverage of the Second World War victory celebrations and the (de)construction of Russian nationhood", a Beumers, B., Hutchings, S. and Rulyova, N. (eds), The Post-Soviet Russian Media: Conflicting Signals. London: Routledge, pp. 137-55.

Kachkáeva, A. (2010a). Den Pobedi na rossiiskom TV (The day of the Victory in Russian television). Radio Svoboda. http://www.svobodanews.ru/content/article/1663950.html

Kachkáeva, A. (2010b). O teletranslatsii Parada Pobedi (The television broadacast of the Victory parade). Radio Svoboda. http://www.svobodanews.ru/content/article/2037092.html

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[i] Accessible in Russian at http://www.levada.ru/press/2011050402.html

[ii] http://minsvyaz.ru/ru/news/index.php?id_4=41365

[iii] http://minsvyaz.ru/ru/news/index.php?id_4=41331

[iv] http://kids.kremlin.ru/index.php?fw=11&p=5-6-8&v=fi12

 

 

 

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