Russian regions in foreign media in 2013

14 March 2014

Russian regions in foreign media in 2013

Smyslographia Analytical Agency and Dow Jones conducted a new research studying the perception of Russian regions by the leading English language media. Smyslographia experts developed a methodology that includes qualitative and quantitative processing of the Russian subjects mentioning by Top-100 English language media, analyzed by media analysis service. Total score given to each territory, includes assessment of the region both in terms of amount of its media hits, and in terms of its share of favorable publications. Moscow was excluded from general ranking, as long as its comparison to other federation subjects was defined methodologically incorrect due to its federal and international agenda.

TOP-10 regions, 2013

Current ranking in 2013 Region Total score Ranking change compared to 2012
1 Sakhalin region 144 0
2 Tomsk region 134 +3
3 Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District — Yugra 131 +34
4-5 Kaliningrad region 129 +3
4-5 Krasnodar region 129 +7
6 Perm region 126 -3
7-8 Nizhny Novgorod region 123 -3
7-8 Republic of Tatarstan 123 +5
9 Samara region 122 -7
10 The Primorye Territory 121 - 4

Just like in 2012, two contexts of Russian regions mentioning by the foreign media come forward – materials covering oil and gas industry and activity of the biggest Russian market players of this sector at the regional level, and publications covering various sports events, first of all victories and defeats of Russian football clubs – members of the premier league. That said, in 2013, top-level official visits to the regions – the factor that once was an important factor of Russian subjects’ mentioning by foreign media – didn’t play significant role.

For the second consecutive year, Sakhalin region has become a ranking leader, combining high indexes both in terms of number of hits in English language media, and in terms of favorability of a regional coverage. In the majority of materials Sakhalin region is mentioned in the context of Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 project implementation. Tomsk region also shows continuity of annual ranking indexes, staying among the Top-5 leaders for the third consecutive year. In 2013, operations of the Tomsk Distribution Company, managed by the French ERDF Vostok, as well as sport results of Tom FC turned to be the driving force of the foreign media attention to the region. Yugra is mentioned by the foreign media as biggest Russian oil producing region. The Biathlon World Cup series, conducted in Khanty-Mansiysk in March 2013 also positively influenced ranking positions of the region. The Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District ranking has grown significantly in comparison with the previous year thanks to the general increase in the number of articles: among the Top-10 of the ranking, the region showed the biggest growth in the number of foreign media hits (52%) with almost complete absence of negative materials.

Majority of the regions made it into the Top-10 list thanks to the media interest to the results of football clubs – members of the Russian premiere league. So, Krasnodar region was covered in the context of games played by FC Kuban, Perm region – in the context of FC Amkar results, Nizhny Novgorod region was mention in connection with FC Volga, and Republic of Tatarstan in connection with FC Rubin. Ranking growth of the Republic of Tatarstan to a great extent is a result of conducting another international sport event – World Summer Universiade in Kazan. In addition to this, a number of Russian regions, including Kaliningrad region, was mentioned by English language media in connection with the Olympic Torch Relay.

In this context one should pay attention to the Krasnodar region positioning in foreign media, according to Vladislav Shulayev, Territorial Promotion Director of the AGT Communications Agency. Throughout three years of monitoring, English language media hasn’t linked the region to the forthcoming Olympics, and only the city of Sochi was mentioned in numerous materials about the Olympics. “In 2014, Kuban will have to overcome this trend and try to add up a geographic link to the Krasnodar region, at least in the context of Formula-1, which is to be held in Sochi in October 2014, as well as future Sochi World Cups series to be held in the region starting from winter of 2014/15. Otherwise, Sochi and huge federal investments of the seven-year Olympic run won’t play for the resort cities of Krasnodar region, international awareness of which doesn’t match their potential capabilities and ambitions”, said V.Shulayev.

Lowering ranking positions of the regions was linked to natural disasters, and first of all to the most devastating flood that affected a series of territories in the Far East, including Amur and Khabarovsk regions. Foreign media was actively covering Boeing 737 crash in Kazan on November 17, 2013, though it didn’t affect the ranking of Tatarstan: negative effect of these publications was mitigated by the large number of positive and neutral materials. Another disaster – a series of terrorist attacks in Volgograd, including a bus bombing – significantly decreased ranking of Volgograd region.

Some regions lost their positions due to a high level of interest of the English language media to the members of Pussy Riot punk group Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. First of all it has negatively affected the ranking of Republic of Mordovia, since N.Tolokonnikova in her open letter accused the heads of Mordovia correctional facility, where she was serving her sentence, of serious violations of the inmates’ rights. Transfer of N.Tolokonnikova to the correctional institution of Krasnoyarsk region in November 2013, negatively influenced media image of this region. The guilty verdict of Murmansk region court to Greenpeace activists, who participated in the action against oil extraction in the Arctic near the Gazprom oil platform in September 2013, turned to be another important public event.

“As ranking results show, the leading regions are quite stable. From territorial point of view, Western media cover both border territories (Primorye, Sakhalin, Kaliningrad regions), and mainland subjects with their own identity – Perm region, Tatarstan”, said Grigory Kislin, Analytical Department Director of Smyslographia Agency. According to him, Udmurtia has been showing an unusual dynamics, gaining several dozens of scores for the second year in a row. “It is partially linked to the last year’s death of Mikhail Kalashnikov – world famous weapons creator. It is interesting whether Udmurtia will be able to keep its positions in 2014? If it stays at least among the second ten leaders of the ranking this can be considered a large-scale breakthrough”, says G. Kislin.

The full version of the study is available at the web page of Smyslographia Analytical Agency in the «Studies» section.