From "compatriots" to "aliens": The Changing Coverage of Migration on Russian Television

Vera Tolz, Sue Ann Harding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


This article analyzes an anti-immigration campaign evident in 2012 and 2013 on the two main Russian state-aligned television channels, Channel 1 and Rossiia. This campaign marked a significant departure from the earlier coverage of migration-related issues by these broadcasters and, surprisingly, contradicted the federal government's position on migration and on "the national question", which was authorised by Vladimir Putin during his presidential election campaign. Most significantly, in contrast to earlier approaches to covering migration, during the campaign, Islam was identified in news reports as the main marker of the migrant identity and a threat to Russian and European cultures and societies. The article explores what facilitated this shift in reporting and what this campaign tells us about the relationship between the Kremlin, state-aligned broadcasters and the public, as well as about the fluctuations in the official narratives of Russian nationhood, during Putin's third presidential term. The article argues that several factors converged to trigger this campaign, including the radicalisation of a tendency to unite Russian society around the government through the dissemination of frightening images of external and internal "enemies"; the authorities' greater attentiveness to public concerns; and the perceived need to mainstream and co-opt Russian ethnonationalism. We further demonstrate that the anti-immigration campaign was part and parcel of the construction of a new ideologically charged narrative about Russia as Europe's last bastion of traditional, conservative values. The article concludes that public intellectuals and television personalities, rather than the Kremlin, were the main agents in the construction of this narrative. It, therefore, appears that, in the first eighteen months of Putin's third presidency, contrary to what one would expect, a greater responsibility than before for the ideological directions of the regime was ceded to prominent media figures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-477
Number of pages26
JournalRussian Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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