Research

PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS:

“War of words: the impact of Russian state television on the Russian Internet.” Nationalities papers 43, no. 4 (2015): 533-555. (with Christina Cottiero, Katherine Kucharskia, and Robert W. Orttung)

How effective is Russian state television in framing the conflict in Ukraine that began with the Euromaidan protests and what is its impact on Russian Internet users? We carried out a content analysis of Dmitrii Kiselev’s“News of the Week”show, which allowed us to identify the two key frames he used to explain the conflict–WorldWar II-era fascism and anti-Americanism. Since Kiselev often reduces these frames to buzzwords, we were able to track the impact of these words on Internet users by examining search query histories on Yandex and Google and by developing quantitative data to complement our qualitative analysis. Our findings show that much of what state media produces is not effective, but that the“fascist”and anti-American frames have had lasting impacts on Russian Internet users. We argue that it does not make sense to speak of competition between a“television party”and an“Internet party”in Russia since state television has a strong impact in setting the agenda for the Internet and society as a whole. Ultimately, the relationship between television and the Internet in Russia is a continual loop, with each affecting the other.

“Russia’s Post-Soviet Ideological Terrain: Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan and Debates on Authority, Agency, and Authenticity.” Slavic Review 77, no. 4 (2018): 998-1024. (with Wengle, Susanne and Christy Monet)

Much of the literature on post-Soviet ideology interprets ideology as the content of state-sponsored doctrines or measures it via persistent strands in public opinion. This paper relies on a different notion: we think of societal and state perspectives as engaged with each other in a contentious dialogue that is constitutive of ideology. With this dialogic conception of ideology, this paper provides a map of Russia’s ideological terrain through an analysis of the debates surrounding Andrey Zvyagintsev’s 2014 film Leviathan. We show that the film and the debates it provoked engaged with state-sponsored narratives and highlight three key themes of ideational contestation in contemporary Russian politics: authority, agency, and authenticity. An examination of these ideational battles in which provocative and resonant societal critiques challenge dominant narratives provides an original account of ideology in contemporary Russia. It also speaks to debates on civil society that have increasingly become interested in ideational politics.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

“Russia Today in America: Testing the Mechanisms of Foreign Interference” (with Geneva Cole and Ipek Cinar)

What are the mechanisms through which international actors interfere with domestic politics on social media and what makes them successful? We theorize that successful interference unfolds in two stages. First, the outlet needs to reach the audiences. Second, the outlet needs to gain audience trust. We theorize that audience trust can be built on a smaller set of content that is important to the target audience, which is then used to expose the same audiences to other, biased and less trustworthy material. Using the case of Russia’s state-funded international broadcaster, RT, we test our theory of successful international interference focusing on the topic of police, which we argue contributes to both reach and trust. We provide evidence of the reach of RT using quantitative analysis of an original dataset of YouTube videos published on the channel from 2015-2017. Then we qualitatively analyze the framing of RT videos on police and conduct a survey experiment to understand how the outlet gains trust among viewers.

What is the effect of Personnel Transitional Justice on Crime?” (with Genevieve Bates, Ipek Cinar, Monika Nalepa, and Evgenia Olimpieva)

What is the effect of transitional justice on crime in post-authoritarian states? An implicit assumption in the transitional justice literature is that by dealing with the hu- man rights abuses committed by the previous regime, new democracies can improve the quality of human rights practices in the future. Personnel transitional justice, like most forms of transitional justice, should advance respect for human rights and lower crime levels. This should in particular apply to post-authoritarian purges, which re- move staff of former authoritarian agencies, including agents of repression, from in- stitutions of the state. But what happens when entire organizations of the old regime apparatus are purged? Using novel data on transitional justice, we argue that this par- ticular transitional justice process—what we call a thorough purge—can actually hurt human rights practices in the countries that have implemented it. We suggest that by removing entire networks of former authoritarian state officials from office, thorough purges can help lay foundations for the establishment of clandestine criminal organi- zations, which can, paradoxically, increase crime levels, contrary to the intentions of policymakers in new democracies.