Content analysis on Russian media and conflict in Ukraine: from Putin’s third term to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

review of literature
content analysis
data sources
A review of the scholarly literature

Giorgio Comai


November 24, 2022


This page is still a work-in-progress. It is shared in the spirit of keeping the research process as open as possible, but it still a draft document, possibly an early draft: incomplete, unedited, and possibily inaccurate. Datasets included may likewise not be fully verified.




Even in some of the most insightful academic articles on the evolving role of media in contemporary Russia, methods of analysis are not fully formalised. Tolz and Teper (2018), for example, do not offer any details about the method they used to analyse the change of formats and contents in Russian TV broadcasting after Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012 from entertainment to agitainment.

Between 2012 and 2016, they identified four coordinated media campaigns.1 Anyone following with any regularity Russian media will easily recognise these media campaigns, and will have noticed the increasingly ubiquitous presence on mainstream TV channels of the kind of “soft news programmes” such as political talk shows that can easily fall under the catchy label of agitainment. Yet, a more systematic or structured analysis may have showed additional or different dynamics at play.

There may be a complementarity at play: methodologically less stringent analyses likely facilitate the development of theories and hypotheses, which can be then tested and refined through more methodologically formalised analyses.

Tabular summary of key relevant studies

study media analysed source method dataset
Cottiero et al. (2015) NA NA NA NA
Østbø (2017) “newspapers published in Moscow in the period 1992–2016” Integrum Articles with explicit mention of “spiritual-moral values” Not available
Lankina and Watanabe (2017) Russian main newspapers; TV transcripts; Russian news websites;Ukraininan Zerkalo Nedeli Integrum Latent semantic scaling; Word frequency Not available
Tolz and Teper (2018) Pervyi Kanal and Rossiya-1 “systematic following of the output of these two channels” / web – archives Not formally described Not available
Lankina, Watanabe, and Netesova (2020) “six leading state-controlled television channels and newspapers spanning the years 2011–2013”: “Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Izvestiya, and Komsomolskaya Pravda”; “Russia 1, Channel 1, and NTV.”; “We also harvested stories from sources that fall outside of state control.”: “Rosbalt, Interfax, Novaya Gazeta, and” Integrum; web scraping Latent semantic scaling Not available
Ptaszek, Yuskiv, and Khomych (2023) news published on Telegram channels by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti (RIAN) and the Ukrainian news agency (UNIAN) during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 Telegram “computerized text mining”; computer-assisted or computational approach to verbal framing analysis;‘reflexive thematic analysis’:(1) word frequency, (2) keyness analysis, and (3) word association Not available
Boussalis, Coan, and Poberezhskaya (2016) 65 newspapers included in Eastview database Eastview Russian Central Newspapers database (UDBCOM), full list in Appendix A latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) model originally proposed in Blei et al. (2003) Not available
Wilson Rowe (2009) Rossiiskaya Gazeta manual retrieval from web qualitative analysis of framings Not available
Yagodin (2021) Rossiiskaia Gazeta (Integrum); Krasnii Sever (Integrum); VGTRK (;; Integrum; manual retrieval from web qualitative analysis of framings Not available
Riabova and Riabov (2019) “Rossiiskaia Gazeta,”“Komsomolskaia Pravda,”“Moskovskii Komsomolets,”“Zavtra”, “Svobodnaia Pressa” and others, as well as popular Internet news portals “,”“Vzgliad,”“Newsland,”“,”“Odnako”. Besides, we examine TV programs, popular blogs, and Internet forums where the Western and Russian articles and TV broadcasts of the Cologne events have been discussed manual retrieval from web Not formally described Not available
Malinova (2022) Presidential Addresses to the Federal Assembly between 2000 and 2020 NA computer-assisted qualitative content analysis; MAXQDA2018; manual coding Not available

Sources that have been checked systematically

The above table is based on targeted but unsystematic searchers on Google Scholar, as well as manual parsing of titles and abstract of the following area studies journals:


As observed by La Lova (2022) in her analysis of scholarly publications on Russia, the opportunity to use digital datasets such as news archives “remain relatively untapped in scholarship” in this field. As she observes, in an increasingly authoritarian context where self-reported and survey data have additional reliability issues, and it is more difficult to conduct interviews and fieldwork, it may well be the time for scholars to explore more extensively contents published online and the digital footprints of Russian users, organisations, and institutions as potential sources of data and information.


Boussalis, Constantine, Travis G. Coan, and Marianna Poberezhskaya. 2016. “Measuring and Modeling Russian Newspaper Coverage of Climate Change.” Global Environmental Change 41 (November): 99–110.
Cottiero, Christina, Katherine Kucharski, Evgenia Olimpieva, and Robert W. Orttung. 2015. “War of Words: The Impact of Russian State Television on the Russian Internet.” Nationalities Papers 43 (4): 533–55.
La Lova, Lanabi. 2022. “Methods in Russian Studies: Overview of Top Political Science, Economics, and Area Studies Journals.” Post-Soviet Affairs, December, 1–11.
Lankina, Tomila, and Kohei Watanabe. 2017. Russian Spring or Spring Betrayal? The Media as a Mirror of Putins Evolving Strategy in Ukraine.” Europe-Asia Studies 69 (10): 1526–56.
Lankina, Tomila, Kohei Watanabe, and Yulia Netesova. 2020. “How Russian Media Control, Manipulate, and Leverage Public Discontent: Framing Protest in Autocracies.” In, edited by Karrie Koesel, Valerie Bunce, and Jessica Weiss, 0. Oxford University Press.
Malinova, Olga. 2022. “Legitimizing Putins Regime: The Transformations of the Narrative of Russias Post-Soviet Transition.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 55 (1): 52–75.
Østbø, Jardar. 2017. “Securitizing Spiritual-Moral Values in Russia.” Post-Soviet Affairs 33 (3): 200–216.
Ptaszek, Grzegorz, Bohdan Yuskiv, and Sergii Khomych. 2023. “War on Frames: Text Mining of Conflict in Russian and Ukrainian News Agency Coverage on Telegram During the Russian Invasion of Ukraine in 2022.” Media, War & Conflict, April, 17506352231166327.
Riabova, Tatiana, and Oleg Riabov. 2019. “The Rape of Europe: 2016 New Year’s Eve Sexual Assaults in Cologne in Hegemonic Discourse of Russian Media.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 52 (2): 145–54.
Tolz, Vera, and Yuri Teper. 2018. “Broadcasting Agitainment: A New Media Strategy of Putins Third Presidency.” Post-Soviet Affairs 34 (4): 213–27.
Wilson Rowe, Elana. 2009. “Who Is to Blame? Agency, Causality, Responsibility and the Role of Experts in Russian Framings of Global Climate Change.” Europe-Asia Studies 61 (4): 593–619.
Yagodin, Dmitry. 2021. “Policy Implications of Climate Change Denial: Content Analysis of Russian National and Regional News Media.” International Political Science Review 42 (1): 64–77.


  1. “The first focused on the Pussy Riot affair and it ran from March to September 2012. This was followed by a year – long anti migration campaign that began in the fall of 2012. The annexation of Crimea and the so-called Ukraine crisis were the subject of the third intensive campaign from February to May 2014, and continued to dominate the media agenda until at least the end of the year. The fourth campaign covered Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War, from September 2015 to May 2016.” (Tolz and Teper 2018, 217)↩︎