This study is about Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea as covered by the Russian First channel (Pervyi kanal), the country’s leading television channel. It is found that developments in Ukraine between 22 February and 21 March 2014 were presented in such a way as to lead viewers to one conclusion only: namely, that the fall of the then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich had brought Ukraine to the brink of political unrest and the population of Crimea could only be saved by incorporation of the peninsula into Russia. While this allowed Russian president Vladimir Putin to be portrayed as saviour and unifier, the strong dichotomy of the terms “us” and “them” and “right” and “wrong” in the news coverage may later make it more difficult for him to compromise on the conflict in Ukraine.
2014 has been a chaotic year for Ukraine. What began with hope and excitement when popular protests forced President Yanukovych from power soon turned into despair and suffering as separatists on Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine joined with Russia in attempts to derail the pro-democratic and pro-European course of the new leadership in Kiev. This article analyzes these tumultuous events while giving particular attention to the role played by Russia. While the Kremlin has been fanning the flames of separatism, it has also been deliberately building up, bolstering and legitimizing the secessionist groups that have crippled Ukraine’s further development. Although Russia is currently keeping its neighbor on a tight rein, its punitive actions may backfire in the long run. A sense of urgency is developing among the Ukrainian electorate, which may prove to be exactly what is needed to accelerate European integration and facilitate the implementation of democratic and economic reforms.
Nation-branding is a dynamic and rapidly developing practice promoting or readjusting images of a nation-state for tourists or investors. New, postcolonial nation-states seem to have a particular need to build new images of themselves in the eyes of the wider world. However, since they have a short history of sovereignty, these states simultaneously need to build social solidarity and community at home if they are to form the basis needed for building a nation. This article takes its departure in this tension and addresses three themes that need further theorizing due to the fact that the practice has still to find its form: agency, audience and identity. These themes are discussed in relation to the branding efforts of Ukraine over the past decade. It is concluded that, today, nation-branding campaigns are orchestrated by domestic PR agencies (as opposed to the previous dominance of British agencies); that the domestic audience is taken into consideration in ways different from earlier branding campaigns; and that the question of identity construction is more complex than previously thought. The Ukrainian case also highlights how vulnerable nation-branding efforts are to domestic political changes.