Thursday, September 6, 2018

Moscow Media Treat Russian Far East as Russia’s Enemies Do – ‘an Exotic Frontier’ Rather than a Full-Fledged Part of the Country, Vasiliyev Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, September 5 – Next week, the Valdai Discussion Club will take up the issue of the Russian Far East in advance of the Eastern Economic Forum at which the club’s report will be presented. Unfortunately, Yury Vasilyev says, that report like the Moscow media in general reflects a fundamental problem in Moscow’s understanding of the region.

            Instead of treating the Russian Far East as an integral part of the Russian Federation, the Vzglyad commentator says, the report and the Moscow media treat that land as something separate and apart, “an internal frontier” whose problems can be solved only by Moscow and whose features are invariably “exotic” (

            Remarkably and troublingly, Vasiliyev continues, “such a conception practically coincides with how the Far East is viewed from abroad” by those who wish Russia well and those who don’t. And unless the Moscow media changes its approach, there are going to be more problems ahead.

            “The Far East,” he says, “hardly can become a full-fledged part of Russia which will then turn to our partners in the East until in  the consciousness of the Russian media consumer his conception of this region as ‘an internal frontier’ is overcome” and replaced by a more adequate understanding that includes the Far East in Russia as “our common home.”

            “The most effective and least expensive path” in that direction, the Moscow writer says, “is the inclusion of the real problems of the Far East and Siberia both in the federal and in the regional media” where all too often they are treated as marginal and far away – and in any case as fundamentally different from those elsewhere in Russia.

             Russians should be encouraged to think of the Far East in much the same way they think about other regions of the country, as distinctive in some ways but fundamentally part of a common whole. At present, that is not the case, Vasiliiyev says.  Instead, paternalism and exoticism rule.

            “A thoroughgoing de-exoticization of the Far Eastern theme in the consciousness of Russians doesn’t threat the unique view of the Far East for the average consumer of the Russian media, the commentator says. “It simply adds to this a sense of a common home necessary for the successful carrying out of a shift of Russia not only to Asia but to its very own East.”

            Put in simplest terms, Vasilyev says, “the main common task of Russian media at all levels in the Far Eastern ‘theater’ should be to begin ‘to convert Kolyma into Kostroma’ … first at the level of consciousness and then at the level of the collective unconscious of those who live beyond the borders of our ‘internal frontier.’”

            “Vladivostok is ours. And that’s it,” he concludes, unwittingly using the same terms Moscow now applied to its annexation of Crimea.

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