Russia Journal: In conversation with Yassen N. Zassoursky

How much of an open society is Russia?

In his lecture today at Moscow State University, Yassen N. Zassoursky, who has been teaching at the university’s journalism school for about 50 years, discussed the “openness” of the former Soviet Union.

“”Opening up of Russian society is our concern,” he says.

Though the country has come a far way and people exercise their power in form of protests and demonstrations on the streets, he says it is not enough.

Though he considers the various forms of protests as a “triumph of democracy for some people,” he said there should be a social harmony. In order to attain this, he thinks Russia should develop democratic institutions and have changes in its law.

The senior professor of media and American literature also noted that there should be an improved communication between various sections of the society and thus media should play an important role in this process.

Though he cites the Internet as an “important tool of democracy,” he does not back out from defining social networks as a “best adopted [tool] to propaganda actions.

He says social networking platforms as Twitter only “gives signal about what is news” and refers to those signals as “beautiful propaganda.”

The 82-year-old professor stresses on the power of print, and how it helps to increase the level of political understanding among people. Though the Internet has that power too, he says, people usually make their choices depending on the signals from social networking sites.

Zassoursky laments on the negligible number of print media in Russia. One of Russia’s most popular daily has a circulation of 90,000, which he says is a bare minimal number for a country of 46 million.

He also says that the country lacks quality journalism, and also journalists.

“There is no analysis of what’s happening in the country [in the areas of] politics, business…,” he says.

“A journalist should be a thinking human being—reading, thinking and discussing problems,” he says.

This however happens to be rare in Russia.

And the problem deepens as most of the media, he says, is controlled by the state or big corporations (advertisers) closer to the state.

He then comes back to his open society model mentioning that the country’s media sphere needs more competition, which means that the society has to be fully open. In its current state, Russia is neither fully open or a closed society.

“An open society would help develop political and cultural life [of a country],” he says.

But in Russia, the ideal situation of an open society is not close, but it is not very far too, Zassoursky says.

A lists the plan of action for Russia, as he sums up: “We need to develop our media, the access of media and develop the ability of people to read and think.”

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