Affiliated PhD students

Affiliated PhD students

Connell Beggs, PhD Russian Studies candidate, The University of Manchester

Project title: Soft Power, Hard Times: Perceived Russian Influence in Post-Soviet Space during Times of Military Conflict

The research project that I am currently undertaking is establishing the extent to which two of the most prominent Russian cultural organisations – the Russian Orthodox Church and Fond ‘Russkii Mir’ – operate as autonomous actors in relation to the Russian government. It examines whether these organisations operate with their own agency in the production and dissemination of ‘soft power’ or, conversely, whether their status, influence and interests in Russia’s so-called ‘near abroad’ are used instrumentally by Russia’s governing political administrations as part of its alleged engagement in ‘hybrid’ and ‘information warfare’ in the region. In order to address this issue, organisational activity (such as notable events, media representations and significant commentaries) is examined surrounding two case studies of military conflict in post-Soviet space – the Russo-Georgian War (2008) and the Ukraine crisis (2013-present). In particular, this research focuses on the way these organisations have positioned themselves by representing the recent military conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine through their own (and mainstream) media outlets. This comparative analysis is designed to measure both short- and long-term patterns, trajectories and shifts in organisational activity and media representation that can suggest or rule out possible networks of influence.


Rui Wang, PhD Russian Studies candidate, The University of Manchester

Project title: “The Reception of Putin’s Speeches on a Chinese Video Website: Subtitler’s Re-narrations and Viewers’ Bullet Comments”

In the era of digital cultural, technology has empowered individuals to articulate and promote their own opinions through media. As a popular video website in China, Bilibili has 100 million registered users, consisting mainly of young people, and is famous for its use of the uniquely Chinese phenomenon known as  ‘bullet comments’ (onscreen comments added cumulatively by viewers in real time, as they view the videos, and preserved for other viewers). This research intends to investigate how Putin’s speeches have been received by  audiences of this website by examining subtitles and bullet comments to a corpus of Putin’s speeches, with a focus on the interplay among Putin’s own narratives, subtitlers’ re-narrations and viewer’s comments. It will therefore also provide one of the first investigations of how successfully images of Putin function as an instrument of Russian soft power in China.


Lucy Birge, PhD Russian Studies candidate, The University of Manchester

Project title: Sputnik and the “Information War”: Projecting Russia onto the New Global Media Ecology”

Founded by the Russian state news agency in 2014, Sputnik is a heterogeneous web-based broadcasting outlet featuring news analysis, opinion pieces and opinion polls, multimedia content, live newswire, a social media presence and a digital radio station. Where RT, Russia’s state-funded international television broadcaster, is more concerned with critiquing Western domestic and foreign policies, Sputnik, principally a radio broadcasting outlet, concentrates on depicting a favourable image of Russia. My research asks: what is the distinctive role of Sputnik in Russia’s efforts to project itself onto the new global media ecology? Analysis of three case studies will show how the outlet deploys three seasoned tropes of Russian identity: the centenary of the 1917 Revolutions (great Russian history and culture); war in Syria (Russia as a great power); and the Salisbury poisonings (Russia and the West).My research contrasts media content from Sputnik International’s UK and US English language radio broadcasts, with its Russian language radio output, targeted at Russians and Russian- speaking communities in the “near abroad”. Similarly, I also compare Sputnik’s broadcasts to the analysis of RT undertaken within the AHRC project Reframing Russia. The axes of comparison will enable us to assess for the very first time Sputnik’s distinctive role in Russia’s larger projection strategy.