The Mass Media and Russia’s “Sphere of Interests”: Mechanisms of Regional Hegemony in Belarus and Ukraine

Joanna Szostek

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As conduits for ideas, values and geographical knowledge, the mass media contribute to the construction of regional order. Moscow-based media organisations with audiences in post-Soviet republics have been described as ‘soft power tools’ or ‘information weapons’ which aid the Russian state in its pursuit of regional dominance. However, a heavy focus on the agency of the Russian state obscures the important role that local actors and their motives often play in delivering Russian media content to large audiences in neighbouring countries. This article examines several major news providers which export content from Russia to Belarus and Ukraine, reaching large audiences thanks to partnerships that serve particular local interests and accommodate some local sensitivities. These news providers resemble mechanisms of neo-Gramscian regional hegemony, where actors in the ‘periphery’ are involved in perpetuating norms from the ‘centre’. The article argues that Russia’s political leadership, despite promoting consensual hegemony as its preferred regional order, has in fact undermined the type of media mechanisms that might have helped to sustain such an order. As the Russian state has projected narratives without regard for negative local reactions, it has made itself more reliant on coercive means to secure its declared ‘sphere of interests’ across formerly Soviet territory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-329
Number of pages23
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jan 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jan 2018

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