Russia in media and popular discourse: the impact on Russian migrants living in Scotland

McKenna, Ruth (2018) Russia in media and popular discourse: the impact on Russian migrants living in Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Russian people living in Scotland – and the UK more broadly – are exposed to a political climate where Russian domestic and foreign policy is the subject of intense media scrutiny and, often, criticism. This thesis explores the intersection between UK and Scottish media discourse on Russia and Russian people, Scottish public attitudes towards Russia and Russian people, and the everyday lives of Russian migrants living in Scotland. The thesis is based upon data gathered from a critical discourse analysis of 1200 Scottish and UK newspaper articles, two surveys carried out with approximately 400 Scottish and 100 Russian respondents, and interviews conducted with 24 Scottish and 21 Russian participants.
The thesis argues that Russia is ‘othered’ in UK and Scottish media discourse, frequently associated with negative characteristics such as aggression and dishonesty. Through such discursive strategies, Russia is portrayed as fundamentally different from the UK, Europe and the West. While identifying some positive media engagement with Russian culture and travel, I highlight the way in which such coverage often relies upon exoticised and orientalised tropes. My findings show that there is limited press engagement with Russian people, other than President Vladimir Putin. I demonstrate that Putin has become intrinsic to contemporary imaginings of Russia, often represented as ‘Russia personified’. Ultimately, I suggest that the way in which Russian and Russian people are represented in media discourse reflects contemporary and historical power dynamics between the UK and Russia.
The thesis explores how these findings intersect with Scottish participants’ attitudes towards Russia and Russian people, analysing the way in which interviewees articulated and differentiated Russian, Scottish or British, and Western identities. Throughout my discussion of both popular and media perspectives, I stress the ongoing significance of the Soviet legacy upon perceptions of contemporary Russia. I suggest that there is a complex relationship between media discourse on Russia and popular attitudes towards the country, arguing that, while Scottish participants often challenged the ideas about Russia put forward in the press, they nevertheless reproduced dominant discourses. The thesis explores this process of challenging, but nonetheless internalising, dominant media narratives.
Finally, I examine how media and popular representations of Russia affect the lived experiences of Russian migrants in Scotland. I suggest that representations of Russia can have a stigmatising effect, creating ontological and social insecurities for Russian people. I suggest that such vulnerabilities often result from day-to-day encounters in seemingly banal settings, such as on public transport or in the pub. However, I emphasise the complexity of the way in which Russian participants responded to public attitudes, exploring times when they felt stereotyped, cases when interviewees were misrecognised as Polish migrants and, finally, drawing attention to positive experiences. Finally, I stress the ways in which close and trusting relationships, as well as managing media consumption, can play a key role in coping with and mitigating everyday experiences of vulnerability.
The thesis makes several original contributions to knowledge. I build upon a small, but growing, body of work on the representation of Russia in contemporary media discourse. My focus on the UK and Scottish media environment, as well as the use of critical discourse analysis to critique media sources, differentiates the thesis from existing work within the field. Further, I add a contemporary perspective to existing literature on British representations of Russia, most of which has focused on receptiveness to Russian culture, particularly during the Tsarist and early Soviet periods. My use of empirical – rather than archival or secondary – data further distinguishes the thesis, with this research offering the first detailed and critical account of British popular perceptions of Russia. More broadly, I offer a bottom-up perspective into the ways in which Western (and Eastern) identities are represented and utilised on an everyday basis. The emphasis upon the stigmatising effect of media and popular attitudes towards Russia upon Russian migrants living in Scotland is also distinctive, as well as my exploration of the social and ontological vulnerabilities such stigmatising experiences can create.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Russia, Scotland, Russian migration, stigma, insecurity, audience reception, Cold War.
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Funder's Name: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Supervisor's Name: Kay, Professor Rebecca
Date of Award: 2018
Embargo Date: 30 October 2020
Depositing User: Ms Ruth McKenna
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30984
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2018 16:03
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2019 14:53

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