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
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


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.


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.
Tolz, Vera, and Yuri Teper. 2018. “Broadcasting Agitainment: A New Media Strategy of Putins Third Presidency.” Post-Soviet Affairs 34 (4): 213–27.