“Imagined Geopolitics” in the Russian Media Discourse on Coronavirus

“Imagined Geopolitics” in the Russian Media Discourse on Coronavirus

Radina N.K.,

National Research University Higher School of Economics, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, nradina@hse.ru

elibrary_id: 417954 | ORCID: 0000-0001-8336-1044 | RESEARCHER_ID: L-6641-2015

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2021.01.08
Rubric: Russia Today

For citation:

Radina N.K. “Imagined Geopolitics” in the Russian Media Discourse on Coronavirus. – Polis. Political Studies. 2021. No. 1. P. 110-124. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.17976/jpps/2021.01.08

The author thanks computer linguists A.V. Kozlova, V.S. Bazhenova, D.B. Lipskaya, and M.A. Mokrova, graduates of the educational program “Fundamental and Applied Linguistics” of the Higher School of Economics in Nizhny Novgorod, for their help in working with empirical data.


This article analyzes, through seeing how Russian media reported about the COVID-19 pandemic, the images thus created of different countries. It approaches this issue in the context of popular critical geopolitics. 465 texts from Russian media (in the period 01.01.2019–03.20.2020) were identified based on the keyword “coronavirus” and processed using computer linguistics. For eastern countries (China, Iran, South Korea and Japan) and western ones (USA, Italy, Spain, France), as well as for “Russia”, semantic fields were reconstructed. Based on the analysis of semantic fields, the images the media created of countries facing the pandemic were interpreted. It turned out that the east was written about in the context of a border beyond which there is a danger of infection. The image of eastern countries in the news about the coronavirus is consistent with the prevailing media images of the east as a distant and little-known geopolitical space. The media discourse on the pandemic in China contains people and viruses as storytelling actors, which, according to the author of the article, may indicate that the outdated strategy of the “demonization” of China (as a habitat for the infection) remains strong. Western countries in the media discourse on coronavirus are lined up in a hierarchy. The United States and France are personified directly based on their political leaders. Ordinary people suffering from coronavirus disappear in the media discourse on the pandemic in the US; all media attention is focused on President Trump. The image of the United States is one of a hegemonic country. The image of France is semantically one of the most complex and ambivalent. The image of Spain is being reconstructed through the suffering of people in a pandemic, as well as through the participation of the state in protecting citizens from the infection. The image of Italy is one of a close, sympathetic, and vulnerable country. Russia, in the discourse of Russian media at the initial stage of the pandemic, is constructed as not infected, instead resisting the pandemic. It turns out that the geopolitical media discourse in a pandemic preserves the most typical intentions. 

popular critical geopolitics, geopolitical image, media, pandemic, coronavirus, COVID-19.


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Content No. 1, 2021

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