10.4185/RLCS-2017-1205en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS, 72-2017 | |
Social reality in the content of the Russian speaking social network users: Historical Context Representation
Keywords: social networks, modern content, history of Russia, October Revolution 1917.
Traslate by Maria Pilgun (HSE Moscou/Russia)
The year of 2017 in the social context of the Russian society is associated with the anniversary of the October Revolution 1917, which became a breaking point in the history of Russia. Changes took place all areas of the life of society: political, economical, social, cultural and so on. The single point of view has not been formed for that historical event in the society. There is neither uniform interpretation of the events 1917 nor their consequences. The events 1917, split the Russian society a century ago, have been the reason for disputes and conflicts till today, and in certain way may serve as a basis for separating the social medium into “friends” and “foes”. The content, reflecting various aspects of interpretation of the historical content, in particular, the content dedicated to the October Socialistic Revolution 1917, is analyzed in the article for the purpose of assessing this historical event in the consciousness of contemporary young users. This research will allow clarifying the point, how the interpretation of historical events influences the social reality reflected in the virtual communication, as well as the quality of social interaction in the Russian society at the present stage of development.
The interpretation of important historical events is a vital marker of the social reality within the definite period of development. In the Russian practice the assessment of the historical context is directly related to the political situation and peculiarities of the governmental management within the certain period of time.
The assessment of events of the October Socialistic Revolution 1917 by contemporary users is extremely challenging, since it is directly related to the acceptance/rejection of various ideas of development of the Russian society, formation of the new system of ethical coordinates and, in the whole, perspective of the translation motion.
Object of research: Analysis of the content, dedicated to historical events, in particular, the October Revolution 1917, for clarifying how the evaluation of substantial historical events influences the social reality reflected in the virtual communication.
Hypothesis: Dissociation of the Russian society, splitting into hostile clusters characterized by various axiological paradigms eloquently appear when evaluating considerable historical events, including the October Revolution 1917.
The complexity of tasks in the research foredoomed the usage of the interdisciplinary approach.
Mass polling, focus-group interviewing, etc. were utilized in order to get the empirical material. In the course of polling the respondents, without addressing any additional materials and hints, had to give 10 most important events, which to their point of view shook Russia in the 20th century.
For the content-analysis the QDA Miner v.2.0.8 software with the WordStat v.5.1.12 module developed by Provalis Research (Canada) was used. The description of peculiarities of the qualitative and quantitative content-analysis of texts is given rather in detail (White, March 2006; Krippendorf 2012 and al.).
During the research coding was done – the correlation of parts of texts with categories with which the analysis was made. The selection of the “correlating” dictionary was based on the criterion of frequency and order of joint positioning of words in the text. In the list of codes for the qualitative content-analysis the attention was paid not to the frequency of mentioning of certain words, but to the topics in the text. The correlating dictionary allows finding senses expressed explicitly, and the codes of the qualitative content-analysis reflect the implicit information laid down in the text.
The obtained data were processed using the Automap (http://www.casos.cs.cmu.edu/projects/automap/) and Tableau Public (https://public.tableau.com/) software.
To define the leverage index, the following formula was taken: [likes]*0.8 + [reposts]*1.7 + [comments to the post]*1.1.
The research was made in three stages:
2.2. Material for the research
3. Results of the research
In the course of the first stage of the research the task was to define the hierarchy of historical events of the 20th century based on their relevance as presented in the consciousness of the young Russian people. The top-10 most significant events in the history of the 20th century, according to the point of view of the respondents, included the following: Great Patriotic War (9.1% from the total number of events mentioned by the respondents); October Revolution (8.8%); USSR dissolution (8.7%); space flight by Yu. Gagarin (8.1%); World War I (7.0%); World War II (4.1%); Cold War (4.0%); rebuilding period (3.7%); creation of the nuclear weapon (3.2%); explosion at the Chernobyl NPP (3.1%).
It is illustrative that the events of the October Revolution take the second place in this rating. It is natural that the Great Patriotic War was named by the majority of the respondents primarily, since in the ideological and media modern paradigm this event is the key one for building various models of forming the public opinion in the political life of the Russian society. It is considered that the assessment of the events of the Great Patriotic War units all Russian people irrespective of their social or political group. The difference in interpreting the course and results of the Great Patriotic War by Russian and foreign historians and politicians is one of the serious prerequisites for the world view conflict, Russia v/s West opposition.
When analyzing the reasons inducing certain events in the memory of the research respondents, in can be stated that the rather clear consistency can be traced in the specious randomness of the designated events: in the historical memory of the young contemporaries the facts got fixed related either to the substantial number of involved people (Great Patriotic War, October Revolution) or to the scope of consequences for destabilization of the social system. The destabilization means not only destructive processes (though the majority of the marked events are just like that); but also the events stimulating the social development but in the form of dramatic transformational change. Such events are the space flight of Yuriy Gagarin, USSR dissolution, rebuilding period and some other historical facts. Sometimes several factors merge (for details see: Pilgun, Dzyaloshinsky, 2016: 592-615).
In the course of implementation of the second stage of the research the database of messages with the content dedicated to 1917 from Facebook, VKontakte (Fig. 1) social networks was collected and analyzed.
Two opposite concepts about the influence of social networks on the social and political sphere of the life of society are presented in the modern scientific paradigm. According to the first one these are virtual technologies to form peculiarities of social, political and other processes, which define the life of the contemporary society [Stromer–Galley 2000: 113; Foot and Schneider 2006; Vaccari 2008a, 2008b, 2008c; Pepe and di Gennaro 2009; and all].The supporters of the second point of view argue that the usage of social networks produces no effect on the efficiency and quality of social and political communications and, therefore, cannot serve as a marker of the real life of the society (Margolis et al. 2003; Gibson 2004; Chong and Druckman 2007; Kifer, Parkin 2007; Larsson 2011; Gibson et al. 2008; Zittel 2009; Kalnes 2009 and all).
In the framework of the presented research the authors rely on the first concept. Social networks are the new format of communications defining offline interaction of people, especially users of the new generation, forming self-identification of the young people, social reality, changing the communication nature of interaction of people, and allowing to get the manipulative technologies transferred to the new level.
Figure 1. Distribution of the content in social networks
The volume of the presented messages fluctuates from 5 to 32,387 printed characters. The VKontakte has a strong lead in the volume of publications, which is explained by objective reasons: distribution of the number of users (Fig. 2).
Figure 2. Volume of publications
The analysis of systematic filling of messages allowed to detach the following clusters (Fig. 3):
Figure 3. Distribution of the content by clusters
Connotative characteristics of the content reflect the whole range of evaluations of the events 1917 presented in the contemporary society. However, evident domination of negative characteristics, which are expressed in the following categories, should be stated: coup d'etat, falsehood, lies, catastrophe, clan, etc.; and nominative constructions such as: lumpen proletariat dictatorship state, Great Judaic Revolution 1917 in the Russian Empire, Bluebeard under female disguise, monster of the revolution and so forth.
On the other hand, in the analyzed material there is a segment reflecting the idealized and apotheosized image of Lenin (associative link between Lenin and Jesus Christ). I was peering into the death-sealed eyes of the leader which closed forever in somewhat mystical hope, that he in a little while would open them, make a habitual squint and wink at me, as if saying that I ventured all that staff with resurrection in vain. I am not Jesus Christ, but just a mere mortal being, who tried to implement ideas of universal happiness in the present time. What else do you want to find out from me? Walking in crowds like sheep, steering at me like at the 9th wonder of the world, made a mummy from me like for the Pharaoh… (https://www.facebook.com/1599778356908546/posts/1647005692185812).
Besides, it should be stated that the context of revolutionary events of the beginning of the 20th century in Russia for the contemporary youth is still distant and extremely misty. The maximum leverage index (5787.6) and the most of likes (6070) were given to the following material: Mom, did you cry when Lenin died? — Oh, yes, I was sobbing as well when dinosaurs died out... (https://vk.com/wall/-39410028_101139). Further in the rating the following materials are placed under the stated parameters: sexual revolution (leverage index – 5326.5; likes – 4,871), 60 facts about the last Russian Emperor Nikolay Aleksandrovich and his reign (leverage index – 4572.2; likes – 4,232), interesting facts about Stalin (leverage index – 2930.9; likes – 2,497), General Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation studies the issue about legitimacy of recognition of independence by the Baltic States (leverage index – 2078.5; likes – 1,984), dismantling Lenin's monuments (leverage index – 789.4; likes – 838).
Figure 4. Number of likes
The material “Memory about Lenin and Peter I was perpetuated in в Apple Watch» (https://vk.com/wall/-16883015_124053) is rather indicative, eloquently signaling about the confusion of historical layers in the consciousness of young Russian users.
The total number of likes in social networks is distributed as follows: Facebook – 2,796,175, VKontakte – 42,495,371, LiveJournal – 412,715 (Fig. 4).
The number of comments to the posts in social networks demonstrates the interest of users generated by the material, that's why the analysis on such criterion is rather important (Fig. 5). The important characteristics of the communication medium are the fact that the maximum number of comments is given to the aggressive texts. The degree of aggression rises even more in the comments.
Figure 5. Number of comments to the certain posts
The most comments to definite posts, related to 1917, are naturally were found in the Facebook (18,893, "History of USSR" cluster).
Comments to the posts are eloquent testimony of evaluation of the October Revolution events in the linguistic consciousness of young Russian users.
Leader of the rating as per number of comments: Materials about “History of USSR”, “Russia - Russian Federation - Russia” resource (https://www.facebook.com/12795478538/posts/10154613036343539). - 18,893 comments. Materials about “History. USSR”, AdMe.ru resource (https://www.facebook.com/309669250171/po
sts/10153182831485172) – 16,771 comments. Materials about “History. USSR”, National Geographic Russia resource (https://www.facebook.com/116651035075978/posts/902629456478128) - 3,679 comments. Materials about
“Stalin”, Global Jewish Online Center Jewish.Ru resource (https://www.facebook.com/117612978065/posts/10154024557378066) – 2,462 comments. Materials about “History.
USSR”, Global Jewish Online Center Jewish.Ru resource https://www.facebook.com/117612978065/posts/10154022339368066) - 2,342 comments (Pilgun 2016, Pilgun, Dzialoshinskiy 2016).
Another important criterion, presenting the important of the material in the users' consciousness, is the repost. In such way the users express their approval and consent with the material to be copied. The self-reflection with regard to such content rather complex for perception as the content is, dedicated to the events 1917, prevails in Facebook (Fig. 6).
Figure 6. Number of reposts
The approach of free composition for the given topic was used in the course of the third stage of the research. The advantage of the approach, as compared to polling and focus-group discussion, is that the respondent cannot reveal the idea of the research, is free to describe whatever he likes and no influence is produced on him from the part of the group.
The content analysis, made using the AutoMap software, allowed detaching the most frequent concepts found with all recipients (Table 1).
Table 1. Frequency concepts
The overwhelming majority of the students defined the event of October 1917 (hereinafter – the Event) as the “revolution” (“October Revolution”, “Great October Socialistic Revolution”). About in 15% of cases the word “coup d'etat” was used, and sometimes the words “revolution” and “coup d'etat” were used simultaneously (“October coup d'etat”, “revolution coup d'etat”). Among other determinations the following events are given: “armed rebellion”, “plot”, “seizure of power”, “change of the authorities”, “change of the political regime”.
Practically all respondents mentioned that the revolution was one of the greatest events in the 20th century having affected the national and world history, a defining moment and starting point of further historical development.
For formalizing the evaluation of attitude towards this event the scale, which included five variants plus the “difficult to answer” variant, was used (Table 2).
Almost 30% of the respondents found it difficult to evaluate the event somehow, which is rather expectable. They provided the following explanation: difficult to judge about the events in which I neither participated not talked to eyewitnesses; there are many historical sources, many contradictory assessments making it difficult to make own opinion.
Table 2. Attitude towards the event (% from the number of those questioned)
Prevailing judgment: the revolution is a part of history, an entity we live with. When it's gone, it's gone. It is impossible to judge how it would be, if there was no revolution and the country would take another way of development.
Some students (few) are just not interested in that topic, and they don't want to discuss it.
About 12% of the respondents provided a contradictory evaluation of the events. According to their point of view, the revolution had both positive and negative consequences, and it is difficult to define which of them prevail. This group often refers to various assessments, taken from the literature, but cannot define their own point of view.
19% of students give to the revolution the expressly negative evaluation not mentioning about any positive consequences. Another 19.8% treat the event rather negatively, i.e. stating some pluses but there are rather more minuses.
15.5% of the respondents express more positive attitude, and only 3.4% provide expressly positive assessment.
Therefore, having united all answers into three variants (positive, attitude, negative attitude, difficult to answer or ambivalent attitude), it is evident that the negative attitude substantially prevail over the positive one.
The main attention in their essays was given by almost all students to the consideration of historical consequences of the revolution.
Among positive consequences (Table 3) the push to the general development of the country and achievement of the social equality (35.4% of the respondents in each category) were mentioned mostly. The main achievements from the social perspective: equal rights for all, liquidation of social categories, social guarantees (8-hour working day, education, medicine, etc.). 30.8% of the respondents, stated positive consequences of the revolution, named the choice of the new progressive (non-capitalistic) way of development of the country. 23.1% believe that the revolution put an end to the monarchy and feudal anachronisms. Improvement of the literacy of the population and access of people to cultural values turned to be important for 15.4% of the respondents.
It is curious how the students interpreted the influence of the October Revolution on other countries. 9.2% of the respondents believe that the events in Russia gave an impulse to the struggle of other nations for their rights, 6.2% of the respondents believe that the revolution demonstrated the itinerary to be taken, and in that sense it showed a positive example for the whole world.
The establishment of the USSR as strong and powerful state, making a name for itself in the world, is an important positive consequence for about 10% of the respondents. With this regard the following successes of the Soviet Union are mentioned: victory in the Great Patriotic War, space flight, etc.
Table 3. Positive historical consequences of the event
In some essays the authors stated negative consequences of the revolution, where the first place is taken by the Civil War mentioned by about a half of the respondents (Table 4.). Almost the same number of students stated huge human tolls, bloodshed, violence (it goes here not only about the Civil War but also about further victims of the new regime).
Disruption of the nation genetic resources (mentioned by 28.9% of the respondents) became an important and irreparable consequence of the revolution. It goes about mass immigration of the best representatives of science and culture, the officership, extermination of undesired representatives of the intellectuals inside the country.
Alteration of people's consciousness (15.7%) became no less serious problem for many years. All previous values turned upside down in people's consciousness in the result of the revolution and subsequent civil war. Among the consequences of the events 2017 are devaluation of the human life and family feelings (“brother against brother”), cruelty and violence, constant fear.
About 25% of the students, who mentioned negative consequences of the revolution, point at the consciousness in the result of the revolution in the totalitarian rule in the country, cruel pressure against dissent, repressions, stalinism.
Some respondents think that the achievements (both economical and cultural), fully formed traditions and style of life of the Russian Empire had not to be destroyed.
A relatively small part of the students (about 8% of the respondents) stated that the new regime established an inefficient economical system, having abolished the private property and relied on collective labor in favor of the society. Complication of relationships of Russia with the world community, political and economic isolation were mentioned by 6% of the respondents.
Table 4. Negative historical consequences of the event
Having summarized students' comments about the event being studied, several points of view can be singled out:
4. Discussion and conclusiones
In the course of the research it was established that the content, dedicated to the historical content in the Russian speaking social networks, repeats the social tension of century-old events.
The conflict, split the society into hostile intransigent camps, is still separating the people now. The battlefield moved to the virtual space, where the evaluation of historical events becomes yet another method for “friend-foe” marking leading to the conflict communications and escalation of social tension.
The evaluation of crucial historical events, in particular, the Revolution 1917, becomes one of the factors separating the society.
The communication situation of interaction of active authors in social networks can be determined as antidiagnostic, conflict. The analogue situation is observed when analyzing the interaction of politically active authors of the officially governmental, oppositional and nationalistic clusters in the Russian speaking segment of the Facebook social network (Pilgun, Gradoselskaya 2015). Participants of the discussion treat the opponents not like independent personalities with a definite political and axiological paradigm, but like an object of the political antagonism. They deny a possibility of looking for common basic positions and a dialog. In order to justify a refusal from the meaningful line of communication, the image of an enemy is created which is neither possible nor worthy to establish a dialog and to try to find consensus with. Therefore, the social tension is whipped up, the degree of social aggression rises, mutual distrust and hatred turns up.
The ideas of general fairness, defining the socialistic doctrine, are important for a large part of the Russian youth. Utopian nature, impossibility of achieving them in the modern political and economical context give rise to the depressive moods, apathy and escalate antagonism to the surrounding reality.
It should also be mentioned that the content related to the events of the Great October Socialistic Revolution does not take much space in the contemporary communication space.
The media discourse is of vital importance for forming up the system of knowledge and opinions of the contemporary youth. It is evident that bringing of this fact into the number of the major historical events, according to the point of view of the respondents, is explained by the circulation and active promotion of the Great Patriotic War images in the information space. The events 1917 take substantially less room in the communication space holding the second place in the rating of the respondents.
The Great Patriotic War takes the lead in shaping the identity of the contemporary Russian young man in the area of historical events. The events 1917 hold the second place.
The poll results of the Moscow students, conducted in the form of the free composition (essay), demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of students are not indifferent to the problems of the national history, familiar with various interpretations of the events 1917 striving for comprehending them and forming the personal opinion. The dispersion of evaluations is rather big, but almost all comprehend the complexity and inconsistency of historical processes, which include not only “black” and “white” phenomena. The performed research confirms the statement that the year of 1917 in the consciousness of the respondents, took part in it, possesses a two-art symbolism. On the one hand, the events of the year in question serve as a mark of substantial changes in the fate of the Russian state as a geopolitical system. On the other hand, this is a symbol of the dead-end where Russia turned to seduced by a small group of political adventurers. The most interesting fact is that both symbolic senses sometimes get coincided with the same user.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the consequences of the October Revolution are still topical for social discussions and active ideological struggle.
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How to cite this article in bibliographies / References
M Pilgun, I M Dzyaloshinsky (2017): “On-line ?ommunication and Social Reality in the Content of Users of Russian-Speaking Social Networks: Representation of the Historical Context”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 72, pp. 1,010 to 1,026.
Article received on 14 July 2017. Accepted on 17 September.
Published on 20 September 2017.