This collection of articles deals with the history and the current state of Russia’s media elite. It defines three groups of media elites; owners of media outlets, media managers and prominent journalists. All those groups are under pressure of being agreeable to the Kremlin and pleasing their audiences with their products and output. The Kremlin’s tightened control over the media forced some media professionals out, losing their jobs or emigrating. The majority, however, have kept their positions. They are reasonably well networked and integrated into the political system and successfully employ strategies partly inherited from Soviet times. The collection of articles provides insights into the inner working of Russian media, delivering a nuanced understanding of media control, censorship and self-censorship.
Media managers are key in the relations between, on the one side the authorities, to whom they enjoy privileged access, and, on the other side the newsroom, the functioning of which they define. Contrary to the popular view, held both in Russia and abroad, that the Kremlin controls the majority of the country’s media, we argue that media managers have a fair bit of agency and are players in their own rights, able to shape their audiences’ attitudes and modify individual as well as collective behavior. To be able to exert this power they must, however, tread a very fine line: they have to demonstrate adekvatnost’ (literally adequacy, but better translated as appropriateness, or ‘the right feel for the game’) and demand adekvatnost’ from their journalists and editors. Focusing on two dimensions – elite theory and the concept of adekvatnost’ – this article analyses the data gleaned from interviews with a range of media managers.
Smashing initial hopes for more radical and speedier changes in Russia, elements of the Soviet system of managerial and ideological control proved to be obstinately persistent. Certain practices reminiscent of the informal functioning of the Soviet nomenklatura continue unabated primarily in politics, but also in Russian media. This article argues that nomenklatura practices are still a fixed part in organization management in Russian media today, securing the loyalty of journalists and controlling the output of the news media. The analysis of 30 semi-structured interviews and three case studies, scrutinizing media managers’ professional biographies, directs to a non-intuitive development; namely, that it is not necessarily those who have experienced the Soviet nomenklatura closely and in person who were most active in applying and perpetuating nomenklatura practices, but also those who were either remote from these power structures or too young.