From Russophone to Russophobe: Eurovision 2017 and Russian-speaking social media audiences in the age of ‘information war’

Professor Stephen Hutchings and Vitaly Kazakov, The University of Manchester, forthcoming in Freedom of Speech and Critical Journalism in the Russian Media Sphere edited by Katja Lehtisaari and Mariëlle Wijermars.

Despite Russia’s boycott of the Eurovision 2017 Final in Kiev following a scandal revolving around a ban on Russia’s entrant by the Ukrainian hosts, the contest was closely covered by the Russian news media, including RT. This paper examines the modes of engagement by Russian-speaking social media users in relation to RT Russian’s news coverage of the contest’s final on Twitter. We attempt to gauge the relative traction of the narratives promoted by RT in the wake of the competition and, consequently, the success or otherwise of Russian state broadcasting in instilling its positions among Russian-speaking social media commentators in the transformed media and geopolitical environment of Russia’s ‘near abroad’.