Hounding the Bear: Hybrid Methodology of Containing Russia

Bear-hounding is a hunting technique, in which a pack of dogs pursues a bear until exhaustion—at that point the hunter can make his kill. And that is to what Karen Shakhnazarov, a well-known Russian filmmaker of Armenian origin, compared Russia’s predicament in the current geopolitical situation.

russian bear cartoon

As the Tariff-War Must End, Udo Keppler, Puck, U.S., 1901. Source: LOC.

The bear analogy in Russia’s case is a contrived and, often, derogatory image describing the barbaric Other outside the West. It has deep historic roots, as literary and artistic examples indicate. But it is also one that works metaphorically. As a large continental power spanning Eurasia including some of the coldest places on earth—one with nuclear capabilities—Russia is not unlike the bear. In fact, many Russians themselves have reappropriated this comparison.
Even President Vladimir Putin has used it on a number of occasions.

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State Propaganda? Realities of the Russian Media Landscape

The trope of ‘Russian state propaganda’ in mainstream Western media is a persistent one, especially as of late. This continued focus expresses one’s own loss of control as older cable-news models are in decline, the media landscape becomes more diverse, and various web platforms allow younger savvy users to locate alternative information sources. This kind of repetitive finger-pointing is also simultaneously meant to delegitimize Russia’s foreign-language broadcasting and to explain the support for Putin domestically.

The notion in question relies on a number of related assumptions:

  • that Western countries do not have state media;
  • that corporate media is impartial;
  • that state media cannot feature opposing points of view and is thus inferior to its corporate counterpart;
  • that media consumers, the general and even the educated public, are incapable of critically analyzing the information they receive.

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