Thursday, February 13, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Non-Russian Press in North Caucasus in Deep Trouble

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 13 – A combination of factors, some common to print media everywhere, some reflecting Russian realities, and others that are specific to individual republics, is leading to the contraction or even the extinction of newspapers both in Russian and the non-Russian languages in the North Caucasus.

            According to one measure, reports, the situation today does not look that much worse than at the end of Soviet times.  In 1990, newspapers in the Russian Federation published 1665 copies per 1,000 people while those in the subjects now in the North Caucasus Federal District published only 336 (

            That ratio, one in which residents of the county get on average five times as many papers as do those in the North Caucasus, has continued, the article reports, although both have fallen significantly. In the Russian Federation as a whole, the figure is 1119 per 1,000 residents, and that for the North Caucasus is now 240.

            But if that ratio has remained almost the same, says the pattern within the North Caucasus has changed radically. In 1990, the difference among its parts was 1.4; now it is seven. Today, Stavropol kray has 770 copies per 1,000, North Osetia-Alania 509, Karchayevo-Cherkessia 251, Kabardino-Balkaria 211, Daghestan 97, Chechnya 67, and Ingushetia 49.

            The situation of non-Russian language papers is even worse.  In Daghestan, there are fewer than 20 issues of papers per 1,000 people or roughly a fifth of the number in Russia.  Such non-Russian papers as do exist there are survivals from Soviet times, have almost no advertising revenue, and depend on government subsidies.

            The situation of non-Russian-language newspapers is somewhat better in Kabardino-Balkaria and Chechnya but not much, says. But even in those republics, it is not good, nor is it good in Tatarstan in the Middle Volga. In that, the largest non-Russian republic, the leading Tatar paper has a tirage relative to population only slightly better than in Daghestan.

            How anyone evaluates this depends on his attitude toward ethnic issues more generally, the site says.  “If he considers a native language the highest value of the people, then these print runs are small. If however, he thinks in utilitarian terms and is more sympathetic to globalization and migration, then” it is less of a problem.

            “At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 19s, during the period of the parade of sovereignties of the republics, there certainly were more ethno-patriots, but today, juding by the behavior of parents concerning instruction in native languages and subscriptions to corresponding newspaper, there are more moderate cosmopolitans.”

            That shift is not the only factor behind what is going on, however.  Now, republics are responsible for deciding whether and how much to subsidize such media outlets. There are growing problems with distribution, low pay for journalists at such papers, and the lack of new specialists in these languages. And ever more people use the Internet instead of the press.

            In addition, there are some pressures from Moscow.  Many in the Russian capital believe that money spent on non-Russian publications not only slows the growth of the supra-ethnic civil nation they want to create but also has the effect of exacerbating ethnic relations between Russians and non-Russians.

            Consequently, the future of non-Russian newspapers in the North Caucasus is not rosy, but in the absence of a unified Moscow strategy, the situation is likely to continue as it is “by inertia,” with some republics seeking to goin one direction and others in very different ones but with all seeing a continuing decline in size of the non-Russian press.

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