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FROMAFGHANISTAN

TO CHECHNYA:
NEWSCOVERAGE
BY IZVESTIA AND THE
NEWYORKTIMES
By Olga V . Malinkina and Douglas M . McLeod
This study analyzed newspaper coverage of conflicts in Afghanistan and
Chechnyaby the New York Times and the Russian newspaper Izvestia
to examine the impact of political change on news coverage. The Soviet
Unions dissolution included dramatic changes to the Russian media
system. In addition, the dissipation of the Cold War changed the foreign
policy of the United States. A content analysis revealed that the changes
to the media system in Russia had a profound impact on Izvestias
coverage, but political changes had little impact on the New York
Times coverage.
For forty years the Soviet Union and the United States looked at each
other through the prism of Cold War ideology. The world was divided into
the Eastern and Western spheres of influence. The advent of Michail
Gorbachev to power in 1985 brought radical changes to Soviet political,
economic, and ideological systems that affected all aspects of the relations
between the two superpowers. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991,
the direction of foreign policy between the United States and Russia shifted
dramatically from a policy of alienation, propaganda, and animosity into one
of political, economic, and cultural cooperation and exchange.
During the four decades of confrontation between the United States
and the Soviet Union, the Cold War paradigm predominated. On one side,
U.S. officials condemned the Soviet Union for neglecting basic human
freedoms of expression, association,and religion. The Soviets were blamed
for intensifying the arms race and sponsoring emerging revolutionary governments around the world. On the other side, Soviet officials viewed the
United States as a place ruled by money, where common workers were
exploited by their employers, and where inequality pervaded opportunities
in education, employment, and housing. The United States was accused of
sponsoring resistance to the revolutions that took place in South East Asia,
Africa, Latin America, and Central America.
Official policy of the US. and Soviet governments helped establish
Cold War-inspired prisms for viewing international events. Media scholars
observe that journalists take cues from the official policy of their home
government when reporting on internationalevents? During the Cold War,
US. and Soviet media tended to adhere fairly strictly to the foreign policy
interests of their respective nations when covering conflicts involving either
n a t i ~ n However,
.~
the systemic changes that took place in the Soviet Union
Olga V. Malinkina received her M.A. from the University of Delaware. Her research
interests include news coverage of social protest and international communication.
Douglas M . McLeod is an associate professor of journalism and mass communication at
the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include news coverage of
social protest, public opinion and the media, and advertising and society.
FROM AFGHANISTAN
m CHECHNSA:
NEWSCOVERAGE
BY hmm AND THE Nay YORKTIMES
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p~c~uarterry
Vol.77,No. 1
s~*gzwo

g&mwc
37

facilitated two major outcomes that have potential implications for news
coverage of international conflicts: a weakening of internal controls over
Russian media and the easing of Cold War hostilities that altered the foreign
policy interests of Russia and the United States.
The purpose of this study is to compare the coverage of two international conflicts (one from the Cold War era and one from its aftermath) by
media organizations from the United States and Russia. A case study of the
Afghanistan and Chechnya conflicts as reported by the New York Times and
the Russian newspaper lzvestiu was conducted in order to examine changes
in news coverage.

Factors
Shaping
News
Content

38

According to Shoemaker and Reese, media coverage in any system is


shaped by the unique combination of features operating at a variety of
level^.^ These features include: (a) individual influences on media content
such as the education, ethnicity,personal values and beliefs, and the political
orientation of individual media workers; (b) media routines that constrain
individual media workers and affect what gets defined as news and
portrayed as social reality; (c) organizational influences, which include
differences in the organizations internal structure, policies, goals, projected
markets, and policies set by the individuals that control the media organizations; (d) extra-media forces such as sources of information and revenue,
government, various powerful social institutions, the utilization of technology, and the economic environment; and (e) ideology, which is defined as a
symbolic mechanism that serves as a cohesive and integrating force in a
society.
Herman and Chomsky propose that in the United States, five filters
narrow the range of news to make it responsive to the needs of the government and major power groups. These filtersare: the concentratedownership
of the media, advertising as a major source of revenue, reliance on the official
sources of information, flak from government and business officials, and
anticommunistideology? As a result of these factors, Herman and Chomskys
Propaganda Model states that the media coverage that is produced supports the foreign policy interests of the US. government. In countries such
as the former Soviet Union, the process by which the media are controlled is
more direct through government ownership and financing, distribution
control, and overt censorship.
Two factors shaping news coverage are of particular concern to this
study. First, the disintegration of the Soviet Union involved a shift from
state-controlled media to some degree of media privatization. Freed from
the direct controls that state ownership entails (e.g., censorship), Russian
media were given greater autonomy and latitude to criticize the
government. This study examines how changes in the ownership control
structures were reflected in news coverage of conflictsinvolvingthe Russian
government.
Second, U.S. and Russian coverage of the Russian intervention in
Chechnya as compared to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan provides a
testing ground to examine the impact of global political changes. In
particular, we analyzehow the resultant changein the foreign policy interests
of the United States and Russia was related to the way their respective
newspapers covered these conflicts. The Cold War between the United States
and the SovietUnion created one of the most powerful ideologicalstructures
of the twentieth century. The easing of tensions between the United States
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and the Soviet Union has led to the collapse of Cold War ideology. It is
important to assess the consequences of this economic, political, and ideological reconfiguration of the world system for media coverage of conflicts
involving Russia.
News coverage of international conflicts differs immensely from any
other type of foreign reporting. Media often depend on the military for the
means of transportation, communication, and access to the information
about the conflict? Political, economic, and ideological interests also affect
news coverage of international conflicts. Several researchers have observed
that media coverage tends to support the foreignpolicy interests of the media
organizations home government7 For example, Herman and Chomsky
emphasized a double standard in the news coverage practiced by the US.
media in their condemnation of the Sovietinvasion in Afghanistan, interventions in Czechoslovakiaand Hungary, and use of humanitarian reasons to
justify the U.S. intervention in Vietnam and Grenada.*
Zarembasexamination of press coverage of the 1973Arab-IsraeliWar
by the Daily Graphic of Ghana, the Times of London of Great Britain, the Asuhi
Evening News of Japan, the Straits Times of Singapore,the Moscow News of the
Soviet Union, and the New York Times of the United States revealed considerable differences in perceptions and interpretations of the conflict based on
the political and ideological alliances of the newspapers home country.
Paletz and Vinson analyzed international news coverage of the KAL
Flight 007 incident by the Daily Times (Lagos, Nigeria), the Times ofIndia, the
Durham Morning Herald (North Carolina), Dawn (Pakistan), Nuevo Diurio
(Nicaragua),and Pravda (the Soviet Union).loThe researchers found that by
carefulselectionand interpretation of facts, and the strategicuse of headlines,
newspapers frame their content to suit their own objectivesaccordingto their
political, economic, and ideological affiliations.
Downing (1988)analyzed the Soviet media coverage of the conflict in
Afghanistan using transcripts of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service
(FBIS)Daily Reports on the Soviet Union and the BBC World ServiceEnglish
translationsof the Soviet media. According to the Sovietcoverage, the Soviet
Union became involved in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan
government that seemed threatened by the countrys external enemies.
Soviet media claimed overwhelming popular support for the new Afghan
leader Babrak Karma1 and his Soviet-backed regime. Criticism of Soviet
military tactics was absent in the Soviet coverage, while the United States
was depicted as orchestrating a subversion using Pakistan and China as its
agents.
Downing compared the Soviet coverage of the intervention in Afghanistan with the US. coverage of conflict in El Salvador in 1980.11 In
both cases, the survival of the revolutionary regime was contingent upon the
support of the superpower patron, the Soviet Union for Afghanistan and the
United States for El Salvador. The findings revealed that neither the United
States nor the Soviet media offered an adequate account of the conflicts in
which the superpowers were deeply embroiled. Soviet media avoided
mentioning the destruction and casualties of the armed forces, and
downplayed the involvement of the Soviet military in terror-bombing of
rebel-held areas and indiscriminate firing in villages.12 The United States
failed to give sufficient attention to the displacement of civilian population
and deaths from aerialbombing in El Salvador. The Soviet and the U.S. media
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TO CHECHNYA:
NEWSCOVERAGE
BY kmsm AND THE NEW
YORKT m
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News
Coverage

f temationaz
colzflicts

39

coverage were ideologically biased and tended to present the events in a


light favorable to their countries.

The
Conflicts
in
Afghanistan
and
Chechnya

Theoretical
Rationale

40

At first glance,the Chechen conflict(1994-1996),as an apparent domestic issue for the new Russian Federation, appears to be different from the

Afghanistan conflict (1979-1989). However, the Chechens had declared


themselves to be an independent country from Russia. From their perspective, Russia was an aggressiveexternal force interfering in the internal affairs
of Chechnya. In the broad sense, both conflictsinvolved a large military force
that was mobilized against a smaller opposition contingent.
The invasion of Afghanistan occurred in 1979 when several members
of the Afghan government were allegedlydissatisfiedwith the policies of the
country's leader Amin, and requested Soviet inter~enti0n.l~
The disagreement among politicians in Afghanistan was treated by most Western countries as a purely internal affair of Afghanistan, whereas the Soviet Union
attempted to justify its military intervention by presenting various reasons
ranging from a threat to its national boundaries to the U.S. conspiracy to
assert its military presence in Afghani~tan.'~
The Soviet presence in
Afghanistan escalated into a large scale military operation, which fueled
the emergence of previously dormant opposition from Islamic parties.
What Soviet leaders thought would be a brief action to install a compliant
government became a prolonged engagement as the rebels received financial and military assistance from abroad.I5 The decade-long conflict led to
thousands of deaths on both sides before Soviet troops were finally withdrawn.
Chechnya is part of the Caucasus region on the Russian side of the
border with Georgia. It is one of the most varied areas of the world in terms
of its ethnic and linguistic composition; in total, about seventy aboriginal
ethnic groups populate the Caucasus.16 The tensions between the Chechens
and the Russians have surfaced periodically since the Russian expansion in
1785.17 Joseph Stalin ordered the deportation of 400,000 Chechens to
Kazakhstan in 1944, where they endured thirteen years of starvation and
disease before returning to Chechnya.lB In 1991, Chechnya declared its
independence from Russia. However, Russia officially consideredChechnya
an integral part of the Russian Federation. The government of Chechnyawas
determined to pursue a policy of complete political and economic independence from Russia, in spite of overt indications of discontent displayed by
Russian 0fficia1s.l~ Russia intended to maintain control of the area for
strategic and economicreasons, as well as to prevent a domino effect in other
areas of the Russian Federation. Recently, the conflict in Chechnya has
reignited. To date there has been no research on the nature of news coverage
of the conflict in Chechnya.
The comparison of coverage of the conflicts in Afghanistan and
Chechnya by the New York Times and Izvestia offers interesting insights into
how changes in the Russian media system and the world political arena
affected news coverage. Both of these factors substantiate the hypotheses
tested in this study.
By the time of the Chechen conflict in 1994, the relationship between
the government and press had radically changed. The breakup of the Soviet
Union resulted in change in media control mechanisms providing more
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latitude for criticismof official policy.2oThe media in the former SovietUnion


were completely government owned, and thus financed, supplied, and
distributed by the Communist party.21Each news story had to be approved
by Communist Party officials before it reached newspapers and television
screens.22Currently, the news media are controlled by several large banks
and corporations, though they still receive substantial funding from the
Russian
The policy ofglasnost,which includes the expressionof ones opinions,
diversity of political movements on the Russian political stage, the democratization of Russian society, and dramatic changes in the political and economic mechanisms of control over media, produced fundamental changesin
news media coverage of both domestic and international events. Instead of
one official version of the events dictated by Communist party officials, news
stories offer more controversial content often challenging the official policy
line?4 Under glasnost, news stories became more dynamic, graphic, and
entertaining due to the emergence of new newspapers, magazines, TV
channels, and TV programs competing for audiences. The media began to
attract advertisers in order to obtain revenues necessary to survive in the new
economic en~ironment.2~
These changesto the Russian media system should
permit greater news coverage variance from official Russian government
policy.
The foreign policy interests of the United States and Russia have
been transformed since the end of the Cold War.26 Instead of an enemy,
Russia has become a partner in many political, economic, and cultural
projects ranging from the exchange of scholars and students, to space
exploration and high-tech research. In recent years, the United States has
invested heavily in many Russian industries, and assisted Russia in obtaining
financial aid from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and
other international organizations. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union,
the resultant decay of Cold War ideology and the radical change in international relations, one would expect that the nature of news coverageof events
involving Russia would change immensely. Coupled with the transformation of the Russian media system, change in Izvestias coverage should be
substantial.
Change in the US. media system was largely political in terms of
foreign policy interests.27 With the warming of the political climate
between the two countries, and the shift in US. foreign policy toward
Russia, the ideologicalblinders of the Cold War were lifted, giving the media
more latitude to stray from foreign policy interests?8 The old criteria for
covering foreign affairs based on the East-West confrontation model and
many of the old standards of newsworthiness no longer apply in the postCold War
To understand the actual changes in the news coverage by both
American and Russiannews media, this study examinesRussian and American newspaper coverage of the Soviet involvement in the conflicts in Afghanistan in 1979 and in Chechnya in 1994. The important questions of this
study are whether the news coverage of the two conflicts by the Russian
newspaper Izvestia changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the
dismissalof Communistideology,and the weakening of government control
over the news media; and whether news coverage by the U.S. press, as
represented by the New York Times, changed due to the demise of the Soviet
Union, the alleviation of the Cold War ideology, and the shift in U.S. foreign
policy.
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NEWSCOVERACE
Br IzvEsTlAAND m NEWYom TIMES
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41

Hypotheses
and
Research
Questions

Based on the above discussion, this study proposes the following


hypotheses:
H1: Articles published in Izvestia will be less supportive of
the Russian intervention in Chechnya than of the Soviet intervention in Chechnya.
H2: Compared to its coverage of the major parties in the
Afghanistan conflict, Izvestius Chechen conflict coverage will be:
(a) less positive toward the role of the Russian government.
(b) less positive toward the role of the Russian military.
(c) more positive toward the role of Chechen rebels.
H3: Articles published in the New York Times will be more
supportive of the Russian intervention in Chechnya than of the
Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.
H4: Compared to its coverage of the major parties in the
Afghanistan conflict, the New York Times Chechen conflict coverage will be:
(a) more positive toward the role of the Russian govemment
(b) more positive toward the role of the Russian military
(c) less positive toward the role of Chechen rebels

Method

Sample. The newspaper articles analyzed in this study were drawn


from the Russian newspaper Izvestiu and the New York Times. These
newspapers were chosen because they are arguably the most influential
newspapers in their respective countries. They both circulate nationa1ly3O
and were both in operation throughout the periods of coverage under

Izvestiu was founded in 1917 as a newspaper of the Petrograd Council


of Workers, Soldiers, and Peasants. Under the direction of Alexei Adjubei,
Nikita Khruschevs son-in-law, Izvestiu became one of the most powerful
newspapers in the Soviet Union. Relative to Pruvdu, Izvestiu has had greater
content diversity in terms of subject matter. Today, lzvestia has secured its
independence as a joint-stock company.32
The New York Times is an important medium for coveringinternational
news. Its content influences other newspapers, wire services, news magazines, and television and radio news. In international affairs, the New York
Times is a premier member of the elite press and plays an influential role in
informing American leaders and interested members of the citizenry on
international affairs.33
The articlesfor the analysis were selected from December of 1979 until
April of 1985 (Gorbachevs appointment to the Secretary General of the
Communist Party) for the Afghan conflict, and from November of 1994 until
August of 1996 (the officialsigning of the peace agreement) for the Chechen
conflict. Izvestius articles in Russian for the Chechen and Afghan conflicts
were individually located from microfichecopies of the newspaper. The New
York Times articles pertaining to the Afghan conflict were selected from the
New York Times index, whereas articles for the Chechen conflict were ob-

42

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tained through the New York Times database on CD-ROM. There were 485
articles published in Izvestia regarding the Afghan conflict and 589 articles
pertaining to the Chechen conflict. The New York Times published 712 articles
about the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and 681 articles regarding
Chechen conflict. Sixty articles for each of the four samples were randomly
selected for analysis.
Coders and Training. In total, five coders (three Russians and two
Americans) performed the content analysis. Coders trained for one week,
coding articles that were not included in the sample. As part of this training,
the coders discussed the content indicators of each variable and identified
numerous examples. Each of the coders analyzed articlesfrom both conflicts
for the final sample.
The Coding Instrument. The unit of analysis for this study was the
newspaper article. As a part of a larger project, the coding procedure
identified and recorded the placement of the article, story type, size of the
articles in number of paragraphs, source of the articles and photographs,
topics of the articles (eg. military operations), support for intervention as a
general slant of the articles, roles of major parties in the conflict, and sources
used in the article.
To measure the articles support for the intervention, coders underlined phrases in the article that either supported, criticized, or were neutral
toward the intervention. Using these statements as a basis for judgment, as
well as an assessment of the overall tone of the article, coders assigned the
article to one of three categories (positive, neutral, or negative toward the
intervention).M
A similar procedure was used to assess the roles of the major participants in the conflict (the Soviet/Russian government, the Soviet/Russian
military, and the Afghan/Chechen rebels). Phrases were isolated that
commented on the role of these participants. Coders then made a judgment
as to whether the articlewas positive, neutral, or negative toward the Soviet/
Russiangovernment,the Soviet/Russian military, and the Afghan/Chechen
rebels. If an article did not mention a given role, the article was treated as
missing data in the analysis for that variable.
To assess the reliability of the coding, one-third of the articles in each
sample was coded by two coders. The Krippendorffs Alpha intercoder
agreement coefficients exceeded the conventional standard of .75 for all
variables used in this analysis. Support for the intervention had an alpha of
.97 (percent agreement was 98.5%). The other three Krippendorffs alphas
were .99 for the role of the Soviet/Russian government (99% agreement), .98
for the role of the Soviet/Russian military (99n agreement), and .96 for the
role of the Afghan/Chechen rebels (98% agreement).35
Statistical Analysis. Hypotheses were tested using T-tests for independent samples. A Bonferroni-type correction was applied to the .05
significance level to yield a significance level of .006, which corrects for
inflated Type I error.
H1, which proposed that articles published in Izvestia will be more
supportive of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan than of the Russian
intervention in Chechnya was strongly supported (Table 1). The t-value of
4.54 (df = 118) was significant at the .006 level. The mean for Afghanistanwas
2.25 and for Chechnya was 1.70.
m a , which stipulated that Izvestias coveragewould be more positive
towards the role of the Soviet government in Afghanistan than towards the
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Results

43

TABLE 1
T-test for Differences between the Afghan and Chechen Coverage
by Izvestia
Scale

Mean

S.D.

df

t-value

Support for intervention


Afghanistan (n = 60)
Chechnya (n = 60)

1=negative
2=neutral
3=positive

2.25

.68
.65

118

4.545,

.OW

Role of Soviet/Russian Govt.


Afghanistan (n = 16)
Chechnya (n = 57)

l=negative
2=neutral
3=positive

3.00

.OO
.61

71

8.900*

,000

1.61

Role of Soviet/Russian Military


Afghanistan (n = 1)
Chechnya (n = 44)

1=negative
2=neutral
3=positive

3.00
1.63

43

2.348,

.001

.57

Role of Afghan/Chechen rebels


Afghanistan (n = 34)
Chechnya (n = 39)

l=negative
2=neutral
3=positive

1.00

.oo

71

11.525'

.OOO

2.13

.57

Variable

1.70

* p < ,006
role of the Russian government in Chechnya, was also strongly supported.
The t-value of 8.90 (df = 71) was significant at the .006 level. Meanvalues were
3.00 for Afghanistan and 1.61 for Chechnya. H2b predicted that Izvestia's
coverage would be more positive towards the role of the Soviet military in
Afghanistan than towards the role of Russian military in Chechnya. This
hypothesis received strong support (t = 2.35, df = 43, p < .006). Mean values
were 3.00 for Afghanistan and 1.63for Chechnya. HZc, which stipulated that
Izvestiu's coverage would be less positive towards the role of Afghan rebels
than of Chechen rebels, was strongly supported (t = - 11.525, df = 71, p < ,006).
Mean values were 1.00 for Afghanistan and 2.13 for Chechnya.
H3, which proposed that articles published in the New York Times
would be more critical toward the conflict in Afghanistan than toward the
conflict in Chechnya, was not supported (t = -.985, n.s.). Mean values for
Afghanistan were 1.65and 1.55 for Chechnya (Table 2).
H4a-H4c were not supported. There were no significant differences
found in the New York Times' treatment of the role of the Soviet government
in Afghanistan and the Russian government in Chechnya (t = - 1.320, n.s.).
The mean value for Afghanistan was 1.44 and for Chechnya was 1.59. The
coverageof the role of Sovietmilitary in Afghanistanand Russian military in
Chechnya was not significantly different as well (t = 1.091, n.s.). The mean
values were 1.51 for Afghanistan and 1.38 for Chechnya. H4c predicting
more positive the New York Times coverage towards the role of Afghan rebels
than towards the role of Chechen rebels was not supported (t = 1.410, n.s.).
The mean values were 1.88 for Afghanistan and 1.67for Chechnya.

Discussion

44

The world political system changed radicallyduring the period of time


between the Afghanistan and Chechen conflicts. The demise of the Soviet
Union and the change in relations with the United States that marked the end
of the Cold War caused a major transformation in the socio-politicalenvironIOURh'nUSM &MASS COMMUh'ImON Q W R L Y
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TABLE 2
T-test for Differences between the Afghan and Chechen Coverage by the New York Times
Scale

Mean

S.D.

df

t-value

Support for intervention


Afghanistan (n = 60)
Chechnya (n = 60)

l=negative
2=neutral
3=positive

1.65
1.55

.58

118

,985

,163

Role of Soviet/Russian Govt.


Afghanistan (n = 43)
Chechnya (n = 54)

l=negative
2=neutral
3=positive

1.44

.55
.57

95

-1.320

,095

1.59

Role of Soviet/Russian Military


Afghanistan (n = 39)
Chechnya (n = 54)

l=negative
2=neutral
3=positive

1.51
1.38

.55
.52

91

1.091

.140

Role of Afghan/Chechen rebels


Afghanistan (n = 34)
Chechnya (n = 43)

l=negative
2=neutral
3=positive

1.88

.64
.64

75

1.410

.081

1.67

Variable

.53

ment in which Izvestia operates. In addition to the end of the Cold War,
control structures within Russia were altered as well. These changes corresponded to a dramatic change in the nature of Izvestias news coverage.
The significant differencesbetween Izvestias treatment of the conflicts
in Afghanistan and Chechnya are consistent with expectations yielded by
theory and research on factors shaping the content of international news
coverage.%The results reflect the nature of changesin the political, economic,
and ideologicalcontrolstructures that constrain the operation of this Russian
newspaper. Izvestias coverage was much more supportive of the Soviet
intervention in Afghanistan than of the Russian invasion of Chechnya. For
the Afghanistan conflict, Izvestius coveragepresented a fervid justification of
the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan and condemnation of the United
States, Pakistan, China and other countries for financial, military, and political support of Afghan guerrillas. By contrast,many articlesharshly criticized
and even condemned the outbreak of the war in Chechnya. Izvestius
coverage of the Chechen conflict was full of graphically dramatic descriptions of devastation and combat, as well as tragic accounts of the fate of
hundreds of Chechen civilians.
Izvestias coverage of the Afghan conflict portrayed the Soviet government and Soviet military in a strictly positive light. The Soviet media
presented a single, Communist-party-approved version of the events in
Afghanistan. The role of the Soviet government was that of a big brother
assisting its neighbor in need. There was no questioning of the Soviet
intervention in the internal affairs of a foreign country. The rebuttal to the
Western accusations of the invasion of Afghanistan ranged from assistance
to the new revolutionary regime in Afghanistan to the resistance to insurgents backed by the United States and other countries.
Izvestias interpretation of the role of the Soviet military in the Afghan
conflict was to share its knowledge and experience with the Afghan army,
and to temporarily assist in the resistance to the anti-revolutionary forces.
Izvestia accentuatedthe temporary engagement of the limited Sovietmilitary
contingent in Afghanistan, and emphasized that the Soviet troops were not
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45

in Afghanistan for combat purposes, but rather to provide security for the
new Afghan leader and his regime.
Post-Cold War change in political, economic, and ideological conditions in Russia was reflected in Izvestius news coverage of Chechnya.
Izvestius treatment of the role of the Russian government and Russian
military in the Chechen conflict mirrored widespread public objection towards the Russian military involvement in Chechnya. There was evident
divergence of opinionseven among members of the Russian governmentand
the Russian parliament (Duma) on the issue of military intervention in
Chechnya. The Russian government was depicted in Izvestius coverage as
lacking communication, access to information, and coordination of the
actions of various government and military branches. Yeltsin was harshly
criticized for negligent actions and accused of political gambling. The
Russian military was described by Izvestiu as poorly trained and equipped,
lackingnot only discipline and morale, but also knowledgeof their objectives
in Chechnya. Izvestiu emphasized the role of the Russian military in the
Chechen conflict as that of a victim of the political interests of the Kremlin.
The coverage was full of heart-rending accounts of the plight of young
wounded soldiers left behind in Chechnya, and overt expressions of unwillingness to fight by both officers and soldiers. This kind of coverage was
unheard of during the Soviet era.
Izvestius treatment of the role of the rebels was different in the two
conflictsas well. In Afghanistan, the rebels resisted the installation of the proSoviet government; therefore, the rebels were sternly criticized for their
mistreatment of the civilians,brutality, and inappropriate fighting methods
such as attacks on children and teachers,and the burning of mosques to name
a few. Afghan rebels were trained, equipped, and financially supported by
the United States, China, and many Western European countries. Izvestiu
accentuated the role of Pakistan in providing housing and training for the
Afghan guerrillas.
The Chechen rebels were criticized in the majority of Izvestias articles
for horrifying instances of hostage-taking situations; nevertheless, the news
coveragepainted the role of the Chechenrebelsas audacious fighters for their
land, traditions, and family. They were depicted as being forced to take arms
by the Russian intervention.
Given the dramatic change in Izvestius coverage, it is surprising that
there were no significant differences in the New York Times coverage of the
Afghan and Chechen conflicts. The New York Times opposed the Soviet
intervention in Afghanistan and the Russian intervention in Chechnya. In
Afghanistan, the Soviet government was installing a pro-Soviet regime by
the use of force, which the United States opposed, while in Chechnya, Russia
was fighting with a republic that wanted to have its independence. The
Soviet interventionin Afghanistan was considered interferencein the politics
of the foreign country,while interventionin Chechnyawas an internalmatter
for Russia.
The harsh criticism of both conflicts and the lack of significant differences in the New York Times is somewhat surprising given the change in U.S.
foreign policy interests. The lack of change in the coverage by the New York
Times may be the result of several factors. First, it may indicate that foreign
policy interests are not as powerful in shaping news coverageas Herman and
Chomskys Propaganda Model purports them to be. Alternatively, it may
also be indicativeof the fact that there is some ideologicalresidue of the Cold
War that continues to influence events involving Russia. Pulitzer Prize-

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6 Mnss COMMUNIWONQUARTERLY

winning journalist Harrison Salisbury has argued that, The traditional Cold
War mode of thought is still there in the press.37Third is the fact that both
events involved a violent intervention by a large nation against a smaller
group of people; the similaritybetween the two situations may have led to a
similar pattern of coverage by the New York Times.
In summary, this study found significantdifferencesbetween Izvestias
coverage of the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and the 1994 intervention in
Chechnya.38 Differences in the news coverage are consistent with the
sweeping systemic changes that characterizedRussian society in the interim.
These changes made it permissiblefor Izvestia to criticize and even challenge
the actions of the Russian government. On the other hand, the New York Times
coverage of the two conflicts did not change significantly. This is in part
reflective of the fact that there was relatively less structural change in the
factors that shape its news production than there was in Russia. Change in
U.S. foreign policy interests as brought about by the demise of the Cold War
did not seem to have a large impact of the coverage of the New York Times.
NOTES
1. David R. Jones, Domestic and Economic Aspects of Gorbachevs
Foreign Policy, in Soviet Foreign Policy, ed. Carl G. Jacobsen (New York St.
Martins Press, 1989), 32-53; David Lane, Soviet Society Under Perestroika
(London: Routledge, 1992).
2. Elena Androunas, Soviet Media in Transition: Structural and Economic
Alternatives (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993); Edward S. Herman and Noam
Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
(New York: Pantheon, 1988); Jon Vanden Heuvel, For the Media, a Brave
(and Scary) New World, Media Studies Journal 7 (fall 1993):11-20; James F.
Hoge Jr., The End of Predictability, Media Studies Journal 7 (fall 1993): 1-9;
Alexander Shalnev, On to Vegas - Glasnost for the Russian Press, Media
Studies Journal 7 (fall 1993):81-86; Pamela J. Shoemaker and Stephen Reese,
Mediating the Message: Theories of Influences on Mass Media Content (White
Plains, NY: Longman, 1996).
3. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent.
4. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message.
5. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent.
6. Miles Hudson and John Stanier, War and the Media: A Random Searchlight (Sutton Publishing, 1998); Peter Young and Peter Jesser, The Media and
the Military: From the Crimea to Desert Strike (NewYork St. Martins Press).
7. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent; Hudson and Stanier,
War and theMedia: A Random Searchlight;Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the
Message; Young and Jesser, The Media and the Military: From the Crimea to
Desert Strike;Alan JayZaremba,MassCommunication and International Politics:
A Case Study ofpress Reactions to the 2973 Arab-Israeli War (Salem, WI: Sheffield
Publishing Company, 1988).
8. Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent.
9. Zaremba, Mass Communication and International Politics.
10. David L. Paletz and C. Danielle Vinson, Constructing Content and
Delimiting Choice: International Coverage of KAL Flight 007, Argumentation 8 (November 1994): 357-66.
11.John D. H. Downing, Troublein the Backyard: Soviet Media Reporting on the Afghanistan Conflict,Journal of Communication 38 (spring 1988):
FROM AFGWISTAN
ILJ CHECHNYA:
NEWS
COVERAGE
BY kmsn~
AND THE NEW
YORKTmm
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47

5-32.
12. Downing, Trouble in the Backyard, 25.
13. M. Hasan Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan
Response, 2979-2982 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995).
14. Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion.
15. Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion.
16. Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal, Chechnya: A Small Victorious War
(London: Pan Books, 1997);Moshe Gammer, Unity, Diversity and Conflict
in the Northern Caucusus, inMoslim Eurasia: Conflicting Legacies, ed. Yaacov
RoI (London:Frank Cass, 1995), 163-86.
17. Gall and de Waal, Chechnya;Gammer,Unity,Diversityand Conflict;
Anatol Lieven, Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1998); Bulent Gokay, The Long Standing Russian and
Soviet Debate Over Sheikh Shamil: Anti-Imperialist hero or Counter-Revolutionary Cleric? in Russia and Chechnia: The Permanent Crisis, ed. Ben
Fowkes (New York: St. Martins Press, 1998),25-64.
18. Lieven, Chechnya; William Flemming, The Deportation of Chechen
and Ingush Peoples: A Critical Examination, in Russia and Chechnia: The
Permanent Crisis, ed. Ben Fowkes (New York: St. Martins Press, 1998),65-86.
19. Gall and de Waal, Chechnya.
20. Androunas, Soviet Media in Transition; Linda Jensen, The Press and
Power in the Russian Federation, Journal of International Affairs 47 (summer
1993): 97-122; Shalnev, Onto Vegas.
21. Androunas, Soviet Media in Transition; Alexei Izyumov, After Communism, the Shock of Independence, Media Studies Journal 7 (fall 1993):8793.
22. Androunas, Soviet Media in Transition.
23. Androunas, Soviet Media in Transition; Izyumov, After Communism.
24. Androunas, Soviet Media in Transition;Jensen,ThePress and Power;
Shalnev, Onto Vegas.
25. Androunas, Soviet Media in Transition.
26. Jerry F. Hough, The Domestic Politics of Foreign Policy, in Soviet
Foreign Policy, ed. Carl G. Jacobsen (New York: St. Martins Press, 1989),3-18;
Jones, Domesticand Economic Aspects;Paul Marantz, GorbachevsNew
Thinking About East-West Relations: Causes and Consequences, in Soviet
Foreign Policy, ed. Carl G. Jacobsen(New York St. Martins Press), 1989,1832.
27. Vanden Heuvel, For the Media;Hoge, The End of Predictability.
28. Vanden Heuvel, For the Media; Jack Matlock, The Diplomats
View of the Press and Foreign Policy, Media Studies Journal 7(fall1993):4957.
29. Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, The Media and Foreign Policy in
the Post-Cold War World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 31.
30. Ellen Mickiewicz, Transition and Democratization: The Role of
Journalists in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, in The Politics of
News, ed. Doris Graber, Denis McQuail, and Pippa Norris (Washington,DC:
CQ Press, 1998), 33-56.
31. The other influential Soviet newspaper, Pravda, was abolished by
Russian President Yeltsin in 1991,and though it has sinceresumed operation,
its influence is negligible. Moreover, Pravda practically did not write about
the war [inChechnya] at all, according to Statys Knezys and Romanas
Sedlickas,The War in Chechnya (CollegeStation, TX: Texas A&M University

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Press, 1999), 189.


32. George Vachnadze, Secrets of Journalism in Russia (Commack, N Y :
Nova Science Publishers, 1992).
33. Abbas Malek, N m s Media and Foreign Relations (Nonvood, NJ: Ablex
Publishing, 1997), 228.
34. Marius Aleksas Lukosiunas, "Enemy, Friend or Competitor? A
Content Analysis of the Christian Science Monitor and Zzvestia," in Beyond the
Cold War: Soviet and American Media Images, ed. Everett E. Dennis, George
Gerbner, and Yassen N. Zassoursky (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1991).
35. Klaus Krippendorff, Content Analysis: A n Introduction to its Methodology (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1980).
36. Herman and Chomsky,Manufacturing Consent;Shoemaker and Reese,
Mediating the Message.
37. Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, The Media and Foreign Policy,
24.
38. As this paper was being prepared for publication,the fightingbetween
the Russian military and the Chechen rebels has erupted once again. The
situation has continued to escalate, and the outcome remains uncertain.

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