Russia and the olympic movement : a study of Russian national identity as described in the newspaper Sovetskij Sport during the winter olympic games of 1988, 1992, 1994, and in the future winter olympic games of 2014
The topic of the thesis deals with Russia and the Olympic Movement, studying Russian national identity as it is described in the newspaper Sovetskij Sport during three past Winter Olympic Games (1988, 1992, 1994) and the upcoming Winter Olympic Games that take place in Sochi 2014 in the framework of international politics. The research task is to analyze, what kinds of discourses do the writings of Russian Olympic Committee’s leading sports journal Sovetskij Sport use in times of the above mentioned Olympic Games in relation to the “West”. It is studied, in which way can these discourses be understood as representations of national identity in the framework of political upheavals. Politics and sport are intertwined. Sport is a traditional arena for states to compete for symbolic, and material benefits. The symbolic development of sport is most satisfactorily comprehended when culture, sport, media, economics and ideology are all maintained as strong terms in the debate. Media is an important channel in influencing the masses with descriptions of reality. This thesis is grounded in the framework of International Relations theory’s approach of interpretive, constructivist thinking, drawing from sociology and symbolic interactionism. The post-positivistic approach introduced instability and change into the study of international affairs. The expressions the Winter Olympic Games produce in a widely published newspaper correspond with the political reality as it is conceived at given times. Years 1988, 1992, 1994 were the times of Olympic Games when national identity had to be represented through the differing political regimes of Soviet Union, the CIS and Russia. The end of the Soviet Union was followed by the rise of ‘Westernization’ and the subsequent nationalistic tendencies, with attempts to define Russia’s place in the international community. Olympic sports mirrored the challenges to the Great Power status and definitions that came with the lack of resources, dispersion of national identity and pride once defined by the powerful, party –led communist regime. The Winter Games in Sochi 2014, Russia represent an opportunity to establish a once again powerful might that is at the same time a recognized partner to the Western community. Discourse analysis is the research method used in this study. The prevailing discourse categories found in the materials represent nationality, the political system, the ways other countries perceive Soviet-Russia during the Games, the dominant system of sport, and commercialisation. The results show that the eras corresponding with the years of study reflect the state of international politics, and interaction between the different political systems of the ’West’ and the Soviet Union/ Russia, drawing insights from the differing cultural aspects and the effects of economic systems. According to the results, national identity is clearly represented in the newspaper discourses, during Soviet Union through the communist propaganda of superiority, in the time of the CIS through the insecurities corresponding to the political system, and for Russia, reflecting challenges faced in disappointments with dealings with the ‘West’ – but at the same time with emotional notions of a homeland, blessed with the continuity of cultural uniqueness.
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