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Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 17:15 UK

The press in Russia

Russian press graphic

Russia's newspaper readers enjoy a wide range of options, with more than 400 daily titles catering for every taste and persuasion.

Consumption of serious newspapers is, however, showing signs of decline.

They remain relatively expensive for those living outside the big cities, and while all the major national titles are based in Moscow, 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.

Internet penetration is lower in Russia than in western Europe, for example, but among some urban demographics the web is now starting to rival the press as a source of news.

For much of the 1990s, newspaper ownership was dominated by the so-called oligarchs, who acquired controlling interests in many of the leading titles.

In recent years, however, several of the most influential papers have been bought by companies with close links to the Kremlin, state-owned energy giant Gazprom foremost among them.

Nevertheless, the Russian newspaper market offers its consumers a more diverse range of views than those same consumers can sample on the country's leading television channels.

Based in Moscow, the National Circulation Service (NCS) is responsible for monitoring and auditing press circulation in Russia. However, only around half of the country's leading papers have signed up to the service. This means that for some papers reliable figures can be difficult to obtain. The media and advertising research firm TNS Gallup Media collates figures on average issue readership (AIR), the average number of readers per issue rather than the average number of copies sold.

Main papers

Argumenty i Fakty

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1978
Circulation: 2,750,000 (NCS, February 2008)
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, patriotic sentiment, high-profile interviews, regional supplements and consumer advice has ensured its prominence on Russia's news stands. One of Russia's largest banks, Promsvyazbank, has a controlling interest in the paper, which describes its readers as "working people, businessmen, intellectuals, politicians and managers".


Izvestia

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1917
AIR: 371,000 (TNS Gallup Media, 2007)
Owner: SOGAZ

The Izvestia daily at one time enjoyed a reputation as Russia's paper of record. Popular during the Soviet era, it continued to enjoy wide readership in the 1990s, while remaining a particular favourite among intellectuals and academics. In June 2005, the media arm of state-controlled energy giant Gazprom bought a majority stake, and although some observers saw the paper adopting a clear pro-Kremlin line, its new owners said the changes were driven by commercial considerations. In May 2008, Gazprom sold its majority stake on to the SOGAZ insurance company. SOGAZ is part of a group controlled by the St Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya, whose co-owner, Yuriy Kovalchuk, is widely reported to be a close associate of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.


Kommersant

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1989
Circulation: 87,000 (NCS, January 2008)
Owner: Alisher Usmanov

The liberal Kommersant newspaper is one of Russia's leading business broadsheets and the flagship of the Kommersant publishing house. Originally a weekly publication, the paper expanded in 1992, styling itself as Russia's first business daily. The paper now describes itself as "one of the most authoritative and influential publications for Russia's decision-makers" and reports that more than half of its readers are managers or "specialists". Once owned by the exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, the paper was bought in August 2006 by Alisher Usmanov, a steel tycoon who also runs a subsidiary of Gazprom and whose other interests include a major stake in the English football club Arsenal.


Komsomolskaya Pravda

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1925
Circulation: 660,000 (NCS, March 2008)
Owner: YeSN

The Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid is Russia's best-selling daily newspaper. 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, firm backing for Kremlin policy and a keen interest in celebrity news and scandal from home and abroad. Russian energy group YeSN emerged as the newspaper's largest shareholder in 2007, buying up stock from the Prof-Media holding company and the Norwegian media group A-Pressen.


Moskovsky Komsomolets

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1919
AIR: 1,215,000 (TNS Gallup Media, 2007)
Owner: Pavel Gusev

The popular Moscow daily Moskovsky Komsomolets combines mass-market content with broadsheet format. Much of the paper's reporting focuses on issues of interest to people living in the capital, who form its core readership. It also publishes a series of regional editions as well as supplements catering for audiences in the former Soviet republics. It is 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, has been in the job since 1983, an unusually long stint in Russia's volatile media market. He is believed to own much of the newspaper's stock.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1990
AIR (Moscow only): 70,000 (TNS Gallup Media, 2007)
Owner: Konstantin Remchukov

Nezavisimaya Gazeta occupies a prominent position among the upmarket 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. Once owned by the exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, the paper was bought in August 2005 by Konstantin Remchukov, at the time a Russian government adviser. He appointed himself editor-in-chief in February 2007.


Novaya Gazeta

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1993
Circulation: 171,000 (NCS, October 2007)
Owner: Staff (majority shareholder)

Novaya Gazeta, which publishes 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 Russian policy in Chechnya and the wider North Caucasus. It also specialises in uncovering corruption and abuses of power in Russia's armed forces and is one of the few newspapers to report in detail on the liberal opposition. The paper was owned entirely by its staff until June 2006, when former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and wealthy businessman Alexander Lebedev purchased a 49% stake. In October 2006, the paper's most high-profile reporter, Anna Politkovskaya, was shot dead outside her Moscow home.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1990
AIR: 638,000 (TNS Gallup Media, 2007)
Owner: Russian government

Rossiyskaya Gazeta is Russia's main government-owned newspaper. It was set up by the Russian government in 1990, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and remains fully government-owned. The paper is authorised to publish all new laws in full, at which point the legislation enters into force. Despite its affiliation, it has been known to voice criticism of ministerial policy. The paper's managing director has in the past dismissed the widely-held view that it is the official government organ, instead describing it as an "independent media outlet". According to surveys quoted on the paper's internet site, its readers are "well-balanced adults, inclined to adopt conservative views".


Trud

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1921
AIR: 375,000 (TNS Gallup Media, 2007)
Owner: Promsvyazbank

Once the official paper of the Soviet trade union movement, Trud has traditionally devoted much of its coverage to social affairs, and in particular the hardships faced by some of Russia's outlying regions. The paper was at one time financed mainly by Gazprom, but in August 2003 Russian bank Promsvyazbank acquired a controlling stake. At the time Trud said it would remain "a healthy, conservative, socially-oriented and non-partisan national newspaper that protects traditional spiritual values". Despite this, the latest editor-in-chief, appointed in September 2007, has made major changes. In February 2008, the paper underwent an extensive makeover, changing its format and placing more emphasis on stories from the world of entertainment.


Vedomosti

Based: Moscow
Founded: 1999
AIR: 239,000 (TNS Gallup Media, 2007)
Owner: Independent Media

Vedomosti is one of Russia's leading business broadsheets. Published in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, it intersperses articles by Russian journalists with translated material from both publications. Like the Financial Times, the paper uses pink newsprint, and in May 2008 started printing in colour. Vedomosti is owned by the Independent Media Sanoma Magazines publishing house, which belongs to Finland's Sanoma media group. The paper's stated mission is to "provide the business community with the prompt, good-quality and useful information needed to take decisions".


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.




SEE ALSO
Country profile: Russia
16 Mar 04 |  Country profiles

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