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Disinformation Resilience in Central and Eastern Europe :
Today we can be happy that within 25 years of independence we have made enough progress that information exists and, despite its gaps, is delivered to the public. Nevertheless, there are very specific groups that did fall under Russian influence. This included culture, education, and sports.
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Times have changed and the media is no longer content with merely providing information. First of all, it needs our attention as readers, so, although it is unfortunate, sometimes we are exposed to exceedingly superficial communication — captivating headlines, hot news, emotionally charged issues without solutions, etc.
Properly delivered objective content as the main goal of the media stays far away for now. On the other hand, apparently, many Lithuanians would rather read about crime than look into new viable business opportunities. But this is a different matter. Today we have what we have. Barring a few pleasant exceptions when Lithuanian reporters travelled to dangerous areas and started reporting objective positive as well as negative information directly from refugee camps, we have a lot of noise, shrugging, and scaremongering.
The media has achieved its goal — it presented the facts that are beneficial to it that is, the ones attracting the most attention and made everybody think and ask: What do we hear from them? We have many institutions working with this phenomenon which provide no information or only very limited, sometimes delayed, information. Essentially, there is a problem of improper performance of communication specialists or a lack of such specialists altogether.
An inability to deal with crises. Communication of crises — this is what should be taught in our universities; communication specialists in particular should be in high demand in public sector bodies. On the other hand, one cannot say that there is a lack of such specialists. They exist, but they are successfully operating in the private sector. Those who work in corporate communication are perfectly aware that their job is to always know everything and to be one, or better still, several steps ahead.
The main task of a communication specialist is planning. Predicting communication actions if everything goes according to plan. Is it really so hard to just tell who the refugees are, what they are escaping from, why we have to help them, where we will accommodate them, how they will be integrated, etc.?
These are simple questions that can be answered by any employee of the Refugees Reception Centre. Because for them, working with asylum seekers is a routine job. In addition, there are multiple channels for answering those questions: After all, when a journalist asks a question, we do not talk about what he or she is not asking, and often really important things are not discussed because nowadays journalists have a different goal — sensation.
Sometimes at any cost. The public forms an opinion which it is given, so what people will think wholly depends on responsible authorities. We cannot say that our public authorities are completely silent. They do speak, but so little and so rarely that their messages are simply lost in an endless flow of information.
In addition, they start talking too late, when the issue becomes particularly difficult and when a solution is suddenly needed. Then, when asked, they communicate very grudgingly. In other words, communication is not planed in advance, but carried out here and now, when the situation so requires. On the other hand, this problem exists not only in Lithuania, but also in other states and even in the European Union EU , a huge institution with a generous budget, itself.
Have your ever heard an account of the EU opinion on refugees that would comprehensively explain the situation in Europe? However, there are positive examples in our country and they are easy to find.
One of the best examples is the Lithuanian police. Unsurprisingly, trust in police has been growing for the last several years. Why cannot other public bodies, for instance, the aforementioned Refugees Reception Centre, follow this example? Why, for instance, there is no information group online, where today most of us find all relevant information, that would provide explanations as to how many, where and what refugees will arrive and what stages of integration will be implemented, a group that would tell successful and less successful stories of refugees that are already here, present new arrivals, etc.
For the public to understand that refugees may bring more benefits than problems to our country, all we need is imagination and people who would do this. If we want, we can always find excuses. Unsolved problems as well. Today we can be happy that within 25 years of independence we have made enough progress that information exists and, despite its gaps, is delivered to the public. There are still countries in the world that cannot boast even comparatively free media, where strict censorship is still in effect, and where there is a lot of propaganda, etc.
Very little is required: About the Ailing Media and Trade in Trust When talking about problems in media, it would be logical to start with what is absolutely clear and obvious — media is business. And this is completely natural and perfectly understandable in countries with deep democratic roots, such as Scandinavia, Western European countries and the USA, where the media is understood as one form of business and is treated respectively.
The operating model is very simple here — there is a media tool, which has its reader audience, thus this tool can easily be sold to advertisers, who expect to reach their customers in such a way. In such a way a marketable media tool allows its owners to profit from it.
The main problem aspect comes to light when certain created content contributes to deceiving or misleading customers. We are often faced with a situation when honest operations of media representatives for example, a reader reads an article on results of research conducted by a journalist presenting an objective view of a certain phenomenon, from which one can draw their own conclusions is absolutely distorted.
How wide-spread is this practice in Lithuanian media? I can state that currently, the media of our country is going through a transition period. During the Soviet times we did not have any normal press — people were well aware of the fact that what they read in newspapers or saw on TV did not portray the reality. Once Lithuania regained its independence, the media gained the majority of trust from the readers, because it became free meaning uncontrolled , thus it automatically was perceived as a reliable means of information.
In fact, in the very beginning, this was the case; however, as time went by, the harder it was to maintain such a status. Having chosen the latter way, confidence is sold just like the majority of us sell our knowledge or intellect; I could easily compare such practice with prostitution.
This was the way followed by the majority of the Lithuanian media, which traded the confidence that was granted to it. Meanwhile, the remaining part thereof decided to make a much more complex decision requiring more intelligence and, instead of making use of its readers, it chose to sell the size of its audience rather than trading trust. Due to such situations prevailing in the Lithuanian media, I am very excited to see that public confidence in media has been decreasing in our country each year.
This means that the population is healing and has started to understand the various operating principles of the media. In this way, media consumers show their power, which allows for the pushing of despicably operating media tools aside. Paradoxically enough, given the fact that public institutions purchase articles in our country, the existent practice could even be claimed to have been legitimized.
Even though the law states that no institution or political party can have its media tools, they are allowed to purchase information, which is essentially the same thing. Various institutions purchase articles instead of trying to improve their PR skills and search for other more creative ways.
Their publicized information is of little interest to people and almost nobody reads it. That way, the money of the country is wasted, people are being deceived by not providing them with objective information and finally the ability of these institutions to communicate is totally ruined. After all, why try to connect with journalists if it is much easier to simply buy it all. Thus, we could talk about the distinction of this harmful cooperation only once such institutional activities are restricted.
However, up until now approaching this issue has been a scary thing — supposedly this means going against the ideas of the free word and press. In the presence of the existing situation, social media plays an especially important role. Today, each of us can have our own media tool, as basically this is free of charge now — creating a Facebook profile, blog or enacting another media tool has become as easy as pie, which only proves the fact that nowadays it is much more important to build confidence.
I often ask my students who do they trust more — a blog or Respublika? I personally am much more inclined to trust blogs, because here a very clear criterion prevails — either I have confidence in a person writing it or not. A possibility of choice here is very simple — if he deceives me at least once, I will lose my confidence in him and will no longer read his blogs. Meanwhile, it is very difficult or absolutely impossible to find out what is behind bought articles appearing in various media tools.
Thus it is essentially like a veil of smoke, which makes it difficult to see, which information serves whose interests. Some 10—15 years ago it was hard to even think about any role of social media. Back then, you could easily hit the wall when disseminating certain information — if some media tool was terrorizing or extorting you, you practically had no chance to defend yourself.
It is difficult to describe how disgusting this feeling is, when the public trusts some media tool, but in fact the latter is making dirty money. Today, in the presence of social media, we have a lot more possibilities to tell and show everybody who is who.
Information in social media is much more wide-spread, thus the possibility to be heard is also much more likely. Generally speaking, all this is not needed in those countries where media tools operating in such methods are not that well-established.
Countries with deep democratic roots are well-aware of the fact that following such a short-sighted path, readers will soon lose their confidence, which will sooner or later negatively affect the activities thereof.
We still have to try very hard to take over such an approach. People in Lithuania are quick to notice why some media tools are attacking the European Union, presidency or something else — certain interests manifest in all such cases. However, I am glad to be able to say that slowly but surely we have also been moving in the right direction. The public was able to sort out the right information, search for it in properly operating media tools, and participate in meetings with the candidate for presidents and to perfectly decipher who is who.
I always thought that a separate body, which could properly monitor this process, was needed. However, I am continually becoming more convinced that the consciousness of people is coming naturally. Of course, there will always be people who will blindly trust even that information which was purchased or clearly labelled. Even when viewing clear advertisements, for example, of food supplements, they trust everything that is said, thus it is almost impossible to convince such people that the best food supplement is their way of life.
Let alone hidden advertising… Thus we should not have any illusions that suddenly everyone will start distinguishing purchased information. However, I have faith that deceivers themselves will vanish first of all. Still, I see two sides to this problem — if readers lost confidence in a certain media tool, they would no longer purchase the product provided by it, however, if they buy it, this means that they trust it.
Thus, here a great responsibility also lies on each somewhat more critical reader. Overall then, it is necessary to emphasize that the practice of purchasing hidden advertising so prevalent in our national media is a huge evil, which, besides all other things, is also difficult to grasp.
I am sure that if certain media tools disappeared, our life would become much brighter. But the efforts of each of us, the readers, to show concern and properly decipher are necessary for that. The interview focuses on the role of a PR specialist in an organisation and on honest communication.
Public relations and advertising, marketing and communication. Their limits, fusion or drastic separation are often discussed. Where is the dividing line between them in your view? There is no such question of where public relations end and marketing starts for good public relations specialists. The entire 20th century was based on marketing and advertising. In this view, it was the golden age. Because having had experienced the deficit of goods for years we stepped into an open market and oversupply.
Statistical data show that a typical citizen of the Western world sees around advertisements a day and that a commercial is trusted by 14 per cent of people only. The advertisement as such in the market saturated with goods and services has lost its position. As a means of communication it died and we have to admit the fact. Times change and today the open knowledge society which appreciates communication, discussions, opinions, and substance lives the age which may be called the golden age for public relations.
In principle, this subject has been discussed on a global scale and the limits or dividing lines have been clearly drawn in the bestseller The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. Communication, social networks and mass media are the tools of public relations. What is it like in the 21st century? I liked the idea expressed in the World Public Relations Forum WPRF that a communication specialist is the voice of conscience in an organisation. It is evident that a PR specialist does not determine business-related processes, such as the expansion of a company, the field of commerce or similar fields which are supervised by managers.
Nevertheless, a PR specialist should take part in all these processes, i. When these processes in a represented organisation are right and transparent in terms of morality, the enterprise will have no troubles or obstacles in communicating them. Organisations very often get stuck or see themselves as very important: This is the moment companies are faced with crises.
Our task is to show what people talk, what other organisations do, what the prevailing views in individual communities on one or another issue important to the organisation are. Everything sounds simple but how to explain that to managers? A marketing unit remains to be the division to get the most attention and finances in an enterprise. There is no single piece of advice here. There is only one way which is no news for a public relations specialist: First, a situation will change only when a manager understands what we do.
Managers have to be taught, they have to understand the power public relations have, what communication means and how to implement it. Invite them to different PR initiatives, organise training for managers. We have to admit that so far the marketing specialists have put much more effort. The way of communication will open only when everything is based on trust and when the manager needs no explanation what you do in the company. I take a dim view of the attempt to delineate the efficiency of public relations since very often public relations in an organisation are seen as the tools of marketing: But how should the efficiency of communication and discussions be assessed?
How to remain honest in communication with communities when the interests of several groups interfere? I am aware that you have considerable experience in this field.
This question is fundamental but actually relevant. How to remain a just, honest man when everyone around you is cheating? What should be done in Klaipeda, Kaunas, Vilnius, where the interests of communities and even the arguments of communication are different but the company, nonetheless, has decided to invest there? What should be done in a smaller region where mass media terrorises you and, actually, runs up a protection racket.
What should be done when a fictitious article is brought and you are suggested to pay for it not to be published? On the other hand, if you are able to do that and show disregard for what is happening in the short term, everything will eventually turn out for the best.
Public relations include not only relations with mass media but also communication with the public, with public institutions, communication in social networks, etc. You can look them directly in the eyes and invite them to hold a dialogue — it will make everything much more easier.
A company has to understand that social responsibility does not mean bribing people, e. Communication, explanation of the planned activities, of the effect on the public, the opportunity to observe the process, and education dispel any doubts. People protest against what they do not understand. Such process takes longer. Another simple recipe — to talk in right place at the right time, i.
As he put it himself, he has been working in the public relations sphere since , thus there would be only one line in his CV as he has worked all those years in one place. However, it could take as many as five pages to describe in detail everything he has done in the agency because his work encompasses many different spheres and businesses. What prompted him to choose this field? Andrius admits that as a graduate in economics he was attracted by the idea to have his own company.
No one knows, whether he would have become a PR specialist if somebody had offered him to become a baker. People of various professions can often be faced with a question of whether or not each customer is a good customer. The answer to this question greatly differs depending on the area of operations.
But what is it like working in the PR realm? It seems that a majority of the same tools can be adapted here as well. This aspect is particularly interesting in PR activities, as here one often gets to think if what behaviour would be right in one or another situation. After all, we often find ourselves in much more challenging situations. As an example, we can look to the well-known 1 Baltijskij kanal case, when even the Lithuanian media openly stated that there would probably be not a single PR agency willing to work with this customer.
What would the best behaviour be in this situation? View it simply as a potential customer, who needs help, or to stop here? There are a number of such examples, thus personally I have always been interested in determining where that limit actually is — how to combine customer interests and personal beliefs, and should this be done altogether? First of all I should say that, in my opinion, any customer is not necessarily a good customer.
PR activities are strongly influenced by certain values, thus it is essentially different from other professions, for example, from the previously mentioned work of doctors.
Public relations is communication when it is not possible to simply distance oneself from a thing being publicized. Thus, you have to be sure about the things you communicate or at least to not oppose them. I think that each time there is a customer whose area of interests is in conflict with personal values of a project manager, one has to carefully consider that. It would be honest and fair to refuse to participate in such a project and not to contribute to the publication of such information.
The PR profession must maintain a balance between what you actually support and what you communicate. Also, work principles of a customer himself are very important here.
If he asks to work using shady methods, for example to bribe the media and behave in a way essentially in conflict with PR activity principles, it would be wise to refuse such a job. Thus each public relations agency should talk a lot about what is right and wrong.
After all, it could happen that once an agency wins a tender, a certain project will be delegated to a person who is in principle against that project, for example, smoking.
And in such a case it would be best and most professional for a project manager of such a project to refuse to work with it. An ideal case scenario is that before taking part in a certain tender, each agency would clear up an overall approach of its employees towards that particular project.
After all, should it turn out that they view it as a negative thing, participation in such a tender would be awkward in principle.
Therefore, I have to say that each customer is not necessarily is a good customer. Thus before starting to cooperate on a job, one has to ask him or herself whether an attitude expressed by a customer is in line with his own beliefs, and to consider whether one would like to be identified with that attitude. Use of social media at work — helps or harms? Part 2 Statistics show that about 30 per cent of people in large organizations would like to communicate about their professional activities in various channels.
And this does not necessarily happens in social media, but through direct communication as well. For example, it is easy to notice people who love to talk about their work or, on the contrary, avoid such topics in various parties.
Some of them feel great being able to tell about what they do, thus becoming the centre of attention, while others stay away from that, thinking that this is not the best time for such talks. This is exactly what happens when communicating in social networks where the same statistics applies, thus in such a case employers should try to make the best use of it rather than prohibiting employees from communicating. The existing prohibitions only show gaps in internal communication — after all, employees become a very important voice of an organization, they can participate in various discussions relevant to the organization, etc.
Large organizations are well aware of this fact, as they strive to create their social communication policy and encourage employees to blog, comment on issues related to their professional activities, etc. Of course, those policies clearly list what cannot be done, because various organizations can have confidential information, the disclosure of which is prohibited. However, what have social networks to do with it? If people were to publish secret documents there, their behaviour would be unacceptable.
However, if they use this method for communicating with various experts, peers, expressing their opinions, etc. One of my previously mentioned studies revealed that the use of social networks does not decrease, but is instead increasing the operational productivity. Even though people are said to have spent an hour on Facebook and have done nothing, this does not mean that if we were to take away this time for communication from him that it would actually be used for scrupulous work — he may spend an hour just sitting and staring at a computer screen thinking about some personal business or engage in different activities absolutely unrelated to work.
If a person becomes dependent on various communication forms while at work, for example, such a situation can often be observed in various bureaucratic institutions where employees spend hours and hours with the phone in their hands, then it is worth considering some more serious problems, though even in such a case a thought should be given to why that is happening.
Maybe those hours spent by an employee on the phone show that he does not have enough tasks, or maybe it is difficult for him to adapt in this work altogether, etc. In any case the problem here lies not in the phone or social network, but rather in the absence of tasks, failure to set goals, poor internal communication, etc.
Therefore, I personally strongly disagree with the existing communication ban in the workplace. I am sure that each employee has to feel well in their work, therefore, instead of prohibiting them from something, it is enough to simply explain which behaviour is acceptable at work and which is not.
And then it will be possible to simply enjoy social and well communicating personalities. Part 1 Today, one of the most relevant topics of discussion is the use of social media at work. Not that long ago our Ministry of Foreign Affairs prohibited its employees from using Facebook at work. This prohibition is only one of many, as I believe such measures are undertaken in other institutions as well, only people do not talk about that out loud.
However, each such resonant event quickly sparks debates on whether this is good or bad. Interestingly enough they justify the idea that the use of social media at work is necessary, meanwhile I have not yet come across those studies, which would clearly prove that this should not be done.
All these discussions raise one general question on whether one can engage in outside activities while working, i. In my opinion, first of all the fact is how and why working people are faced with such a need in general.
No one would be surprised by me saying that people are social beings who need to communicate — and here you have the answer. However, here two approaches that can be distinguished — the first case states that people can communicate only after work, as this is when they become social beings.
As the Armenian media and analytical community learned, this is unlikely to be the last such exercise in Russian disinformation targeting Armenia.
After a strong protest was lodged with Twitter, the accounts were re-activated in the early morning hours. Media literacy projects There have been some small and fairly sporadic media literacy projects in the recent past. The most significant effort was undertaken by MIC.
Although this effort has largely failed, it is again seen in the recent debate over the government-backed legislation deepening the criminalisation of domestic abuse. Beyond the limited returns of these efforts to leverage Russian soft power, there has also been a more active economic-centred effort to maximise Russian capital and investment.
This activity is aimed at both strengthening the prime minister personally and bolstering the Russian image politically in Armenia. Yet, this has still been only marginally effective, as real investment has continued to be significantly less than promised or expected, and has been limited in the face of the harsh reality of declining remittances from Russia and the loss of jobs for many Armenian labourers in the Russian construction sector.
Yet most distressing, as a crisis or at a least a problem in Armenian-Russian relations only continues to fester. And in that case, Moscow lacks a dependable and natural partner on the ground. Therefore, the following recommendations are essential: First, a move towards a new and unprecedented parliamentary form of government.
A second measure would be a more comprehensive but legally sound monitoring of Russian media outlets in Armenia. A measure that includes the capacity to impose punitive moves when and if the coverage was found to be an example of disinformation.
Additional measures are also necessary for the Armenian parliament, which highlight the imperativeness of legislative changes to the following areas: Regarding the transition to digital broadcasting: Offering a financial assistance package for needy families to afford the transition to digital TV. A comprehensive information campaign explaining the new standards and parameters for digital broadcasting in Armenia.
Introducing and safeguarding a higher level of independence of members of regulatory bodies. Reduction of licensing procedures to decisions of purely technical or commercial character. Defence of intellectual property copyright: Implementation of corporate mechanisms for action. Even before these mechanisms begin, intensive practical application of updated legislation, including the harmonisation of intellectual property protection principles and the rights of citizens to obtain information.
Improving the protection of civil rights in conjunction with the guarantees of freedom of expression: Promoting methods of solving information disputes through media self-regulation bodies and arbitration in Armenia. General reforms in existing media legislation: The progressive liberalisation of legislation, approximation of the principles governing the media industry to those areas of economic activity that do not require special regulation. Harmonisation of communication and media legislation to make the regulation of traditional and new media more uniform and fair.
Develop media as a business model: The formation of industrial committees, with regular consultations with representatives of the media industry, to discuss the situation on the basis of objective data and research. The creation of funds both by government, donors, and alternative means designated for the ordering through tenders of media production important to the public.
Aimed at creating competition in this field for the Public Broadcaster of Armenia, both to ensure quality consumer demand and to overcome the monopoly of PTRC on government orders.
Increase the depth of media measurement methodology with the prospect of targeting advertisements, while promoting the fragmentation and segmentation of the advertising market, using progressive technologies of measuring the audience of the new media, and the implementation of special trainings for the introduction of modern methods of attractive advertising. This is because the Kremlin tries to monopolise all energy and transit routes to and from Europe, hence making it essential to hold an advantage over Azerbaijan.
Its shared borders with both Iran and Turkey, the large number of the Azerbaijanis living in Iran where they are the second largest ethnic group after the Persians , and historical and linguistic ties with Turkey were all vital for the Soviet decision-makers.
At some stages of history, including modern times, Azerbaijani elements were used against both Iran and Turkey. Russia used a variety of means to maintain its influence. In the s, Russia tried to keep Azerbaijan from joining the Western economic and political projects. At that time, Azerbaijan tried to attract some foreign investments in the region, and to build platforms for cooperation with the EU countries and the United States.
In response, Russia attempted to use the existing media institutions in Azerbaijan and, in some cases, to create new media institutions to increase its impact on society. However, Russia was not successful in this. There was a very negative public perception of Russia and its role in the South Caucasus.
Russian support for Armenia during its war with Azerbaijan, in addition to other factors, created an unfavourable environment for the Russian media influence.
A significant majority of the Azerbaijani public perceives Russia as an aggressor due to its activities in the region in the early s. The public image of Russia deteriorated even further after its invasion of Georgia. Azerbaijan sided with neither the EU nor NATO, but neither was it connected to any Russian-led organisations the Eurasian Economic Union or the CSTO , leaving the country susceptible to Russian political and economic pressure, as it was experts interviewed at the time mentioned.
So far, Azerbaijan has pursued a balanced policy, which has helped to establish friendly and effective relations with regional and international powers. Azerbaijan also plays a significant role in the North—South transit corridor between Russia and Iran, as these three countries recently held a forum. On the other hand, Russia is a vital economic partner for Azerbaijan. The second country, Turkey, imported only million USD worth. Basically, these are the Russian community in Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijanis living and working in Russia.
In addition, Russian is the second most spoken language in Azerbaijan, and although it does not have official status, it remains the lingua franca for several groups in Azerbaijani society, including members of the local political, economic, and cultural elite.
In the early s, the Russian language lost its status as an official language in Azerbaijan. These events drastically diminished the prominent role of the Russian language in Azerbaijan, especially in urban areas.
Due to a national awakening among Azerbaijanis and the mass emigration of ethnic Russians, the popularity of the Russian language deteriorated to a great extent and it lost its status as a language of communication in Baku.
According to data published by the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan, there are 15 Russian language secondary schools and secondary schools that provide education both in Russian and Azerbaijani. Within the Azerbaijan independence period, not a single Russian language school was shut down; however, a decrease in the enrolment was observed. Overall, 82 pupils chose Russian as their language of instruction. Additionally, more than pupils study Russian as a second language.
Due to its public image, Russia was unsuccessful in consolidating its influence among the larger social groups.
Nevertheless, there are very specific groups that did fall under Russian influence. There were 1. Experts interviewed for this research project believe that this group remains very susceptible to Russian propaganda, due to its continued use of the Russian language. The latest official statistical figures put the number of Russians at , while the other major ethnic minorities, Lazgins and Talishes, comprise people.
Among ethnic-Russian Azerbaijanis, Several institutions reinforce the position of the Russian language in Azerbaijan. The Russian Orthodox Church is among those religious institutions which receive sympathy from the local authorities and the community at large. Russian speakers currently enjoy great availability of Russian-language literature and schools. Additionally, most universities in the country offer higher education programmes in Russian alongside Azerbaijani.
There are no special media tools or public influence mechanisms designed for Russian speakers living in Azerbaijan.
Nevertheless, the role of this group in the formation of public opinion in the Azerbaijani and Russian media is obvious. The Azerbaijani government is somewhat concerned about pro-Russian sentiment among the Caucasian ethnic minorities. There are large numbers of Lazgi communities living in the regions straddling northern Azerbaijan and the Russian Caucasus.
Russia was also relatively hospitable towards the nationalist members of the Talish communities. Many such nationalists reside in Moscow and other Russian cities. Today, the Azerbaijani community residing in Russia consists of the ethnic Azerbaijani Russian citizens and the Azerbaijani economic migrants long-term, short-term, and seasonal.
According to the Russian Census, there are Azerbaijanis residing in Russia, making it one of the top ten most numerous ethnic groups in the country. As pointed out by an expert consulted on the topic: The Azerbaijanis in Russia are well integrated in society and moderately active on the political scene; they have strong ties with the political establishment in Russia.
The political discourse between Azerbaijan and Russia directly affected the lives of the Azerbaijanis living in Russia. From time to time, the group faced persecution from the Russian authorities, and there is evidence that the Azerbaijani community in Russia was used as a tool to influence decision-making in Azerbaijan.
The annulment of the registration of the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress by the Russian Supreme Court caused a great concern for the Azerbaijani authorities. The organisation played a major role in strengthening socio-economic ties between the two nations, and its shutdown provoked several negative responses from the Azerbaijani government, which was known for its close association with the Congress. The Azerbaijani community in Russia is heavily influenced by Kremlin-backed propaganda.
As pointed out by an international relations expert: The Azerbaijanis in Russia contribute quite a hefty sum to the economy of Azerbaijan. The ethnic Azerbaijanis in Russia are influential in building economic ties between the two countries. The above-mentioned group established influential business contacts in Azerbaijan. According to the World Bank, remittances to Azerbaijan are largely sent from Russia and total 2.
For the present, Russia hosts the largest workforce of Azerbaijani migrant labourers. Thus, the ethnic Azerbaijanis in Russia form a group which can have a significant impact on the domestic Azerbaijani situation. There has been some increase in cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia in education, characterised by intensive Russian courses financed by the Azerbaijani government and Moscow-funded educational and professional exchange programmes.
The Azerbaijani students in Russia make up one of the largest foreign student groups in the country: In many cases, the Azerbaijanis who got their education in Russia are members of the current cultural, economic and political elite in Azerbaijan.
The Russian language actually became a cementing element for some of them. The new generation representatives who join the Russian-language schools or other educational programmes are mainly influenced to do so by this community. Hence, despite having no ethnic or other ties to Russia, the use of Russian as a language of the Azerbaijani elite makes those who pursue such a path vulnerable to Russian cultural and even political influence, through the media content to which they are exposed.
In the early s, with the increasing popularity of news portals on the Internet, the local government started sponsoring several Russian-language websites. Their main aim was to disseminate pro-Azerbaijani narratives in the post-Soviet countries where the Russian language still held prominence.
Nevertheless, this development led to intensified contacts with Russian media outlets, and allowed Russian disinformation to spread in the Azerbaijani media. After , Russia changed its strategy towards Azerbaijan, supporting several media outlets operating in Azerbaijan. For example, in , the Russian-sponsored media channel Sputnik Azerbaijan started to operate in both Azerbaijani and Russian.
Overall, the main goal of the Russian media outlets in Azerbaijan is to create a positive image of Russia among the public.
Only the following Russian-language news sites are in that listing: