Jan 31, 2012
Last December, when it was announced that Vladimir Putin’s party had won the elections in Russia, thousands took to the streets in protest. The demonstrations, organized via online platforms and social networks such as Facebook, expressed the younger generation’s resentment over election fraud and the repressive political climate in the country. Russian journalist Anna Litvinenko, who holds a doctorate in communication studies, is working on the relationship between the media and politics as an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at Freie Universität.
According to Litvinenko, the fascinating thing about her research subject is the unpredictable nature of the new, network-based actions taking place. “Last December, in Russia, no one knew what would come of this collective movement emerging from the Internet – and no one had any idea what would happen on the streets.”
The World Wide Web is changing political communication, creating new spaces between the public sphere and the private one, and at the same time retroactively affecting older media – and that is true of both Russia and Germany. Where Russia had the Web-driven protests against Putin’s victory at the ballot box, Germany experienced the success of the Pirate Party in the 2011 Berlin state parliamentary elections and the plagiarism scandal surrounding politician Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.
Litvinenko has been working as an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellow at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies at Freie Universität since September 2011. Her project is entitled “Media and Politics in Modern Germany: Media Democracy in the Internet Age.” Litvinenko, now 30, developed an interest in journalism early on, and when she was still in school she spent time observing at her hometown newspaper. Her connection to Germany dates to her time studying journalism in St. Petersburg, when she wanted to learn a second foreign language – and German was the only one available.
Far from being the hardship it might have appeared, the moment marked a crossroads for Litvinenko, who later completed internships at German newspapers and magazines, worked as the editor-in-chief of the St. Petersburgische Zeitung, a German-language newspaper published in St. Petersburg, from 2004 to 2005, and wrote her dissertation on the survival strategies of German newspapers in the 21st century. In 2010, she founded the German-Russian Center for Journalism (Deutsch-Russisches Zentrum für Journalistik) within the Faculty of Journalism at St. Petersburg State University, where she also works as a lecturer.
The German-Russian Center for Journalism is home to cooperation projects with German higher education institutions, such as Freie Universität Berlin, with a focus on international exchange. “There are a huge number of contacts between Russia and Germany,” Litvinenko explains. “Russians and Germans have a lot of affinity for each other; they complement each other, the spontaneous, emotional Russians and the rational Germans. That might sound like a cliché, but it’s often true.” According to Litvinenko, observing the subversive potential of new media in Germany and Russia is one of the most important issues of the present day, and one that is drawing attention from researchers and journalists alike.
Anna Litvinenko, Institute for Media and Communication Studies, Freie Universität, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org