Words that count

A selection of words or expressions that have acquired a special significance in late Putin’s Russia


Giorgio Comai


February 7, 2023


March 14, 2023


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.


A number of expressions have gathered particular prominence or significance in Russia’s public discourse in relation to Russia’s increasingly tense relations with the West, as well as - more directly - in relation to Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, the war in the Donbas, and the invasion started in 2022. Some of these expressions, including cultural and geographic signifiers, have received scholarly attention in recent years (e.g Novorossiya and Russky mir), others of more recent vintage in the Russian context (e.g. denazifikatsiya) certainly will.

In this document, I keep track of some of these expressions, including reference to scholarly literature related to them, and links to analyses based on datasets generated in the course of this project.

Geographic and cultural signifiers

  • Novorossiya - see O’Loughlin, Toal, and Kolosov (2016), Laruelle (2016), Suslov (2017)

  • Russian world / “russky mir” - see O’Loughlin, Toal, and Kolosov (2017), Starodubtseva (2022), Kosienkowski (2021)

Politically loaded expressions

  • collective West - see Chimiris (2022). See also the detailed post dedicated to the concept of “collective West” published on this website.

  • de-nazification

Terms that entered media discourse

  • Wagner / ЧПК Вагнер - in this January 2023 BBC podcast BBC News - Russian service (2023), for example, Liza Fokht highlights how reference to the military organisation Wagner was scarcely to be found, in particular in official sources, until well after the beginning of the invasion in February 2022
  • “fake” / “фейк” - possibly inspired by Donald Trump’s obsession with “fake news” which soon spread through media elsewhere, the term has come into use maintaining its English-language form also in Russian-language media


BBC News - Russian service. 2023. “Kak v Rossii "legalizovali" CH.V.K. Vagner,” January. https://www.bbc.com/russian/podcasts/p076qqzl/p0dzx33d.
Chimiris, Ekaterina. 2022. “The Collective West Concept and Selected Western Actors (Germany, Norway, Estonia, NATO) in the Russian Media: Post-Crimea Dynamics.” Global Journal of Human-Social Science 22 (F1): 1–12. https://doi.org/10.34257/GJHSSFVOL22IS1PG1.
Kosienkowski, Marcin. 2021. “The Russian World as a Legitimation Strategy Outside Russia: The Case of Gagauzia.” Eurasian Geography and Economics 62 (3): 319–46. https://doi.org/10.1080/15387216.2020.1793682.
Laruelle, Marlene. 2016. “The Three Colors of Novorossiya, or the Russian Nationalist Mythmaking of the Ukrainian Crisis.” Post-Soviet Affairs 32 (1): 55–74. https://doi.org/10.1080/1060586X.2015.1023004.
O’Loughlin, John, Gerard Toal, and Vladimir Kolosov. 2016. “The Rise and Fall of Novorossiya: Examining Support for a Separatist Geopolitical Imaginary in Southeast Ukraine.” Post-Soviet Affairs 33 (2): 122–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/1060586X.2016.1146452.
———. 2017. “Who Identifies with the Russian World? Geopolitical Attitudes in Southeastern Ukraine, Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria.” Eurasian Geography and Economics 57 (6): 745–78. https://doi.org/10.1080/15387216.2017.1295275.
Starodubtseva, Anastassiya. 2022. “Negative Connotations of the Russian World Concept Against the Backdrop of the Russian-Ukrainian War 2022.” Respectus Philologicus, no. 42(47) (October): 141–53. https://doi.org/10.15388/RESPECTUS.2022.42.47.114.
Suslov, Mikhail. 2017. “The Production of Novorossiya: A Territorial Brand in Public Debates.” Europe-Asia Studies 69 (2): 202–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/09668136.2017.1285009.