Conceptualizing the comparative model for post-soviet media systems: case of Armenia, Belarus and Russia


When doing research on the post-communist countries, there is a tendency, especially among the Western researchers, to define modern states by their common communist past. We believe that overestimating this variable might be fatal for understanding the current state of affairs in the former Soviet republics.

A significant amount of literature covers Russian media system, its evolution after the collapse of the USSR with cobwebs of media ownership and state censorship well described and analysed. However, only little research has been done on other post-Soviet republics. Usually the situation there is generalized and regarded through the Russian prism. In reality, the post-Soviet space is heterogeneous, with each country having cultural, economic and political differences. Thus, the attempts to generalise the developments and specifics of Russian media system to other former Soviet countries might be misleading. The unified post-Soviet media model is increasingly seen as a normativistic ideal vision rather than the real universal conceptual framework. The comparative dimension in the existing body of literature is rather limited. In the current paper we propose the analytical tool to compare media systems on post-soviet space and test it on the example of Belarus and Armenia which then will be compared with probably the most well described — the Russian case.

To achieve this goal, we will use the well-known framework for media systematic analysis developed by Hallin and Mancini (2004), which will be revised and adopted for the analysis of post-Soviet space. This concept has been often criticized for only being operational for Western democracies, as it proved to be less or not at all effective for describing media systems beyond the Western world (Albuquerque, 2013; Dobek-Ostrowska, 2012; Peruško, Vozab & Čuvalo; 2013; Jakubowicz & Sükösdl, 2008). But the revised version of their framework (Hallin and Mancini, 2012) was also not efficient in showing how exactly the proposed variables fail to work when analyzing non-Western societies. In particular it failed to help classify post-communist media systems. We will try to demonstrate why some of the parameters proposed by Hallin and Manchini are not applicable for studying post-Soviet media systems for a number of reasons. One of the most indicative examples of such a criteria would be political parallelism, as many previously socialist states still struggle with developing a system of political parties, which would be a functioning mechanism for political representation and not a pillar of 'facade democracies' (Ágh, 2017). What is more, Hallin and Mancini (2004, 2012) devote only little attention to the role and the attitude of the audience, which we believe to be a very important variable for understanding how media works.

Consequently, we will propose a new framework for comparative analysis of post-communist media systems, which will take into account the peculiarities of their development and current operation in the non-free political environment. This set of criteria could be further implemented for researching other post-Soviet countries.