The possibility that the Kremlin interfered in the US election, fear among the Baltic states of a military invasion and Putin keeping the dictator Assad in power: Western media often present the Russian regime in a negative light. This sometimes makes Aleksei feel uncomfortable as a Russian student in Wageningen. What is more, he is amazed by the huge contrast between Russian and Western media when reporting on the same topics.
‘There is indeed regularly news about Russia, and unfortunately it is rarely positive. Even so, the accusations such as those made against Russian hackers don’t always point directly to the Russian government. And you can’t really hold ordinary Russian citizens responsible for all the furore in global politics. That’s why I don’t experience the allegations as a burden. Here in Wageningen, I feel free to think and say what I want. Of course students often make jokes about Russia and they aren’t always of the highest quality. I am prepared to discuss questions such as the situation in Ukraine but it’s socially awkward when the topic is only raised in the form of a silly joke.
I’m often amazed by the differences in what is reported. In the Dutch media, for example, the Crimea is described as an annexed part of Ukraine, whereas in the Russian media it is presented as a reunified part of Russia. A more recent example is the demonstrations in Iran. The Russian media often emphasize that the people are protesting against interference by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, I see the Western media describing it as people rising up against the dictatorship. Russian and Western media give opposed views of the events based on the interests of their countries. If any of my fellow students want to talk to me about this or discuss the news, I would invite them in particular to ask how a certain situation has been reported in the Russian media.’