Thursday, May 2, 2019

Moscow Media Focus on Foreign Problems Not Domestic Ones Means Russians Give More to the Former and Less to the Latter

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 1 – Many people have pointed to and complained about the Russian media’s obsessive focus on the problems in other countries and its sparse coverage of problems at home, a pattern the Kremlin has promoted to distract attention from the domestic situation.  But it is having another consequence as well.

            Because some disasters abroad such as the fire at Notre Dame in Paris receive so much coverage, Russians are quite prepared to send what they can to rebuild it; but because disasters inside Russia like the horrific fires in the Transbaikal get only sporadic notice, Russians don’t try to help the Russian victims of that disaster. 

            This problem has been thrown into high relief by music producer Maksim Fadeyev who wrote on Instagram that “Russians are insufficiently attentive to their fellow citizens. People are trying to help restore Notre Dame de Paris but are ignoring the tragedy of Transbaikal kray which suffered from fires at the very same time” (

            The URA news agency spoke with various people about this pattern. The reactions of three are especially noteworthy (

            Iosif Prigozhin, another produce, said that he feels guilty that he didn’t know about the tragedy in the Transbaikal.  One couldn’t watch television or read the news without knowing about the fire at Notre Dame, but there was very little reporting about the fires in Russia’s far east.  As a result, he and other Russians responded based on what the media reported.

            He suggested that this pattern was more than just the result of state policy: “Excessive attention to the problems of others and ignoring one’s own is a characteristic of Russians which probably is fixed in their mentality.”

            Anton Bakov, a politician and entrepreneur, noted that “the majority of Russians never were in the Transbaikal and know nothing about it. About ten percent have been to Notre Dame, and half have read about it or seen it in films.” It is thus closer to them than the Transbaikal even though it isn’t within the borders of their country.

            And psychologist Svetlana Filatova says that there is something even deeper at work: Russians tend to ignore human tragedies as a psychological defense mechanism. It is easier for them to react on an emotional level to the Paris fire than to the sufferings of their fellow citizens.” Reacting otherwise will produce feelings of guilt out of a sense of responsibility.

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