How has Russia been studied by political scientists, economists, and scholars in cognate fields who publish in specialized area-specific journals studied Russia? To systematically analyze the approaches employed in Russian studies over the last decade, I collected all publications (1,097 articles) on the country from the top five area studies journals covering the territories of the former USSR, the top 10 journals in political science, and the top five journals in economics from January 2010 to January 2022 and classified them based on the methods they utilized, empirical focus, and sub-fields within method. In this article, I discuss the results of this classification and the pitfalls associated with over-reliance on some methods over others, notably those that include self-reported data, in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the increasingly repressive domestic environment under Putin’s autocracy. I also propose some ways of addressing the new realities of diminished access to data and fieldwork.
Post-conflict states increasingly hold domestic war crimes trials. But do they prosecute perpetrators fairly? Applying statistical modeling and quantitative text analysis to two original datasets based on 555 decisions delivered to Serb and non-Serb defendants in Serbia’s war crimes trials (1999–2019), we do not find evidence of ethnic bias but demonstrate conflict actor bias. Paramilitaries received harsher sentences than state agents of violence, such as army members, from the same ethnic group for the same offenses. Additionally, we show that bias manifests in the verdicts’ textual content. Paramilitary violence is depicted more extensively and with greater detail than crimes committed by state actors. We demonstrate how deniability of accountability, which incentivizes government collusion with paramilitaries during conflict, operates after conflict. A state cannot completely avoid criminal responsibility given the global norm of accountability. Nonetheless, it can use domestic prosecutions to minimize state wrongdoing by associating egregious violence with paramilitaries.
Do autocracies employ state-controlled media in an attempt to prime domestic audiences for external wars of aggression? This article is the first study to expose large-scale evidence of attempts by Russian state-controlled domestic television to amplify for its audience the importance of the Ukrainian agenda in the years prior to the full-scale war. Using 2.4 million transcripts of news stories transmitted in Russia between 2009 and 2019, I offer evidence of mass-media agenda-setting and distraction. First, applying the differences-in-differences technique, I show that state-enforced change in news management induced the previously independent network RBC to increase its reporting about Ukraine. Second, I demonstrate that on nine national media outlets, less reporting about domestic events was associated with transmitting more news reports about Ukraine rather than in other countries. The data set used in this article covers most of the popular domestic television news flows during the period.
Grandstanding Instead of Deliberative Policy-making: Parliamentary Questions, Publicness, and Transitional Justice in the Croatian Parliament
Drawing on transcripts from television network Channel One, a popular news source in Russia, this article addresses the question: How was Vladimir Putin covered by state-controlled media while the regime was getting increasingly centralized? The literature on the subject is scarce and inconclusive. Dictators create different images of themselves, and the portrayals of present-day spin dictators, those who primarily rely on the power of propaganda to persuade rather than dominate, are understudied. While some analysts point to Putin’s omnipresence in mass media, others uncover the lack of media personalization and relatively neutral coverage. Drawing on 398,456 news transcripts from 1998–2022 and relying on techniques from computational linguistics and natural language processing, I examine how a present-day autocrat attempts to find a balance between the intensity of propaganda and its credibility. I uncover three main tendencies. First, during all the years in power, the ruler has been more frequently referred to by positive stories. Second, the relative references to Putin on Channel One have not been significantly increasing over time. Third, during all the years in power, Putin has been more frequently mentioned in domestic news rather than in stories about foreign affairs. However, I also demonstrate that the share of news about foreign affairs and events abroad that mentions the ruler has been increasing every year since 2013. By focusing on the supply side of propaganda, this article contributes to the literature on autocratic resilience and spin dictators.