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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
The press in Russia
Russian press graphic

Russia's newspaper readers enjoy considerably more choice now than they did during the Soviet era, with more than 400 daily titles catering for every taste and persuasion.

All of the major nationals are based in Moscow, but many Russians living in the regions prefer to take local papers instead.

As a news medium, the press has been comfortably overtaken by television, which is more popular, has far wider reach and attracts heavier investment.

But newspaper circulation has enjoyed a slight recovery since the sharp decline of the early 1990s. Latest figures show that just over 100 papers are sold in Russia for every 1,000 inhabitants. This is still lower than in most of Europe, and one-third of the figure for the United Kingdom.

Circulation falls, accompanied by the disappearance of state subsidies since 1991, mean that many papers have folded in the intervening years. But several of the leading titles from the communist period have survived, and they now compete with dailies launched during Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika and the early 1990s.

Some newspapers state that they are published either by their editorial staff, or by publishing houses of the same name, but this does not necessarily mean that they actually own the paper.

For several years, it was widely acknowledged that newspaper ownership was dominated by the so-called oligarchs, who acquired controlling interests in a number of titles. Some observers say their influence is now on the wane, adding that this has allowed the state to exert greater control over the press.

In the battle for market share, many national titles now publish regular supplements and most maintain their own web sites. Investment in better technology has also contributed to a marked improvement in presentation and layout.

Main papers

Argumenty i Fakty

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1978
Circulation: 2.9m
Owner: Promsvyazbank

The popular Argumenty i Fakty weekly has the highest circulation of any Russian newspaper. Founded in 1978, it quickly gathered a strong following, with a reported circulation of more than 33 million in 1990. Although its readership is now considerably smaller, its mix of political analysis and speculation, high-profile interviews, regional supplements and consumer advice has ensured its prominence on Russia's newsstands. The Russian bank Promsvyazbank has a controlling interest in the paper, which describes its readers as "working people, businessmen, intellectuals, politicians and managers".


Based: Moscow
Founded: 1917
Circulation: 218,000
Owner: Prof-Media

The centrist Izvestia daily is viewed by many observers as Russia's paper of record. Popular during the Soviet era, it continues to attract a wide readership, although it has long been regarded as a particular favourite among intellectuals and academics. The paper is controlled by businessman Vladimir Potanin through the Prof-Media publishing house, and tends to steer clear of overt criticism of the Kremlin and President Putin.


Based: Moscow
Founded: 1989
Circulation: 117,000
Owner: Kommersant publishing house

The centre-right Kommersant is one of Russia's leading business broadsheets. As the flagship daily of the Kommersant publishing house, the paper is controlled by Boris Berezovsky, the business tycoon who recently gained asylum in Britain and changed his name to Platon Elenin. The paper's own web site says that more than half of its readers are "managers and specialists", and it describes itself as "one of the most authoritative and influential publications for Russia's decision-makers".

Komsomolskaya Pravda

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1925
Circulation: 674,000
Owner: Prof-Media

The left-leaning Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid is one of Russia's most widely-read dailies. Formerly a leading Soviet youth paper, it reached the height of its popularity in 1990, when its peak daily circulation of almost 22 million secured an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Since then, it has built its reputation on a gentle nostalgia for the Soviet period, complemented by a keen interest in celebrity news and scandal from both home and abroad. It belongs to the same Prof-Media publishing stable as the leading daily Izvestia, although the paper's web site says that the Norwegian media group AEE also owns a 25%.

Moskovsky Komsomolets

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1919
Circulation: 800,000
Owner: Pavel Gusev

The Moscow daily Moskovsky Komsomolets combines tabloid content with broadsheet format. While it publishes a series of regional editions, much of its reporting focuses on issues of interest to people living in the capital. It is also well known for its high-profile exposes of corruption among senior officials, and expresses broad support for the policies of Moscow's long-serving mayor, Yuri Luzhkov. Its editor-in-chief, Pavel Gusev, is believed to own much of the newspaper's stock, and recently marked his 20th anniversary in the job, an unusually long stint in Russia's volatile media market.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1990
Circulation: 46,000
Owner: Nezavisimaya Gazeta editorial staff

The centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta occupies a prominent place at the upmarket end of the Russian press, targeting educated and politically active Russians. Although it has a small circulation, it is regarded as a prestigious platform for politicians, businessmen and academics. It also publishes a number of supplements each week on topics such as science, regional news, the economy and diplomacy. Media analysts believe the paper is controlled by businessman Boris Berezovsky. It can be critical of the Kremlin, and has been known to argue in favour of Russia adopting a more aggressive foreign policy.

Novaya Gazeta

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1993
Circulation: 128,000
Owner: Unclear

The independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which is published twice a week, is best known for its investigative journalism. Often critical of the government, it has been a long-standing and vigorous opponent of the war in Chechnya. It also specialises in uncovering corruption and abuses of power in Russia's armed forces. Its owner's identity is unclear, although the paper's web site says that its founder and publisher is the Novaya Gazeta publishing house.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1990
Circulation: 483,000
Owner: Russian Government

Rossiyskaya Gazeta is the official newspaper of the Russian authorities. Entirely owned by the government, it is authorised to be the first paper to publish new laws in full, at which point the legislation enters into force. Despite its government affiliation, it has been known to voice criticism of ministerial policy. According to surveys quoted on the paper's Internet site, its readers are "well-balanced adults, inclined to adopt conservative views".


Based: Moscow
Founded: 1921
Circulation: 610,000
Owner: Promsvyazbank

Once the official paper of the Soviet trade union movement, the left-leaning Trud devotes much of its coverage to social affairs, and in particular the hardships faced by some of Russia's outlying regions. At one time, the paper was believed to be funded mainly by the gas giant Gazprom, but in August 2003 a large stake was acquired by the Russian bank Promsvyazbank. Editor-in-chief Alexander Potapov said this would not affect editorial policy, adding that Trud would remain "a healthy, conservative, socially-oriented and non-partisan national newspaper that protects traditional spiritual values".


Based: Moscow
Founded: 1999
Circulation: 42,000
Owner: Wall Street Journal, Financial Times & Independent Media

The business daily Vedomosti is the product of a joint initiative involving the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Dutch-owned Independent Media group. It intersperses articles by Russian journalists with translated material from its US and British founders, and takes a clear pro-Western line. At the same time, it is considered to be loyal to the Kremlin.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Country profile: Russia
16 Mar 04  |  Country profiles


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