Russian Policy Language and News: March, 2019

A still from a Russia Channel report on Russia's recent efforts to reform its garbage industry. See below for the full report.

This month: President of Kazakhstan resigns; Garbage reform in Russia; “Crimean Spring” Day Celebrated

This resource looks at Russian news broadcasts and presents each with rhetorical and contextual analysis as well as a brief vocabulary list aimed at intermediate-level Russian students. We hope that these will be of interest to anyone hoping to build Russian language skills or to better understand Kremlin policy and how that policy is being presented to Russians via Russia’s major news outlets.

According to a 2016 poll by the independent Levada Center, 80% of Russians view television as their primary source of news. The same Levada poll, however, shows that only 41% trust the news as an objective source of information. The broadcasts sampled here are from Russia’s most-watched channels: First Channel and Russia Channel.

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President of Kazakhstan Resigns

The resignation of long-time President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev has been followed closely in the West by many looking for signs of what to expect after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s current and presumably last term in office.

Russia Channel, Russia’s most conservative and populist news broadcast, called the resignation “a courageous and responsible act in the interests of the people of Kazakhstan” and gave a glowing history of Nazarbaev’s rule in Kazakhstan. The channel reported that to honor the outgoing president, the award of National Hero was given to him and that the capital city would be renamed in his honor.

The report also made clear that Nazarbaev, although no longer president, would continue to hold power: his interim replacement, the former speaker of parliament, is a close and long-term ally; Nazarbaev will continue to head for life Kazakhstan’s National Security Council; and Nazarbaev’s daughter, Dariga Nazarbaeva, will now fill the role of speaker of parliament. While very little can be directly gleaned from the report as to what Russians might expect in 2024, the report certainly sees very little to complain about in Kazakhstan’s situation. That report is below.

Russia’s other major channel, First Channel, gave this more serious and dramatic, but still largely positive analysis that focuses on the currently smooth transfer of power.

Phrases to watch for:

объявить об отставке: To announce a resignation
мужественный и ответственный поступок: a brave and responsible act
в интересах народа Казахстана: in the interests of the people of Kazakhstan
награда была вручена Назарбаеву: the award was presented to Nazarbaev
столица будет переименована в его честь:  the capital will be renamed in his honor
пожизненно возглавлять: to head (an organization) for life


Garbage Reform in Russia

Considerable coverage was given by Western media and thinktanks to the widespread protests that erupted concerning the condition of many of Russia’s landfills. Russia’s federal government has responded to these public concerns by nationalizing the garbage industry. Only a few of the current garbage companies will be allowed to continue operations and they will do so as contractors for a new, central, federally-held company.

Russia Channel and Russia 24, Russia’s 24-hour news service, offered the report below. It discusses the state’s ambitious plans to build new infrastructure to handle Russia’s growing garbage problem – including sorting plants, recycling plants, and incineration facilities. Thirty landfills are to be reclaimed – with the garbage dug back up, sorted, and processed. The report also argues that the new legislative reforms will make the industry more transparent and leave less room for, in the station’s words, “the criminals” who have run often run Russia’s garbage services in the past. Interestingly, although globally modern waste disposal is a low-margin business, the report states that in Russia it will be profitable and that contractors are lined up waiting to participate.

The report also emphasizes that it will require a “cultural solution” to end Russia’s garbage problems. People will need to sort and care for their trash. The channel shows “man on the street” Russians commenting on the necessity, ease, and logic of doing so.

Phrases to watch for:

мусорная реформа: garbage reform
свести к минимуму: minimize
захоранивать необработанные отходы: bury unprocessed waste
рекультивирован: reclaimed
сделать отрасль прозрачной: make the industry transparent
перерабатывается в электроэнергию: recycled into electricity
коммунальные отходы: “communal waste” (The channel states that this is a new term being used. The term seeks to make Russians think of waste as a communal problem that they have a stake in).


The “Crimean Spring” Holiday Celebrated

Putin’s falling approval numbers have been reported on broadly as an end to the “Crimean Consensus” – the boost to his numbers given by the Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Inside Russia, however, most view the annexation as either a positive or neutral event and federal and local governments continue to celebrate its anniversary as a holiday.

Multiple reports on this year’s anniversary and celebrations were broadcast across multiple channels in Russia. The one below, from First Channel, focuses on infrastructure built since Russia’s annexation. Thus, the anniversary is being used to dovetail with the Russian government’s current major public project: infrastructure building.

In the report, a visibly ecstatic presenter rides in a convertible across the new Crimean Bridge, which connects the peninsula to Russia by spanning the Kerch Strait. A massive new road building program has been launched. New power generation and grid infrastructure, water supply, and gas distribution infrastructure have been completed. Schools, apartments, medical facilities, and airports have been built, the report continues. The report heavily focuses on contrasting the situation to what existed before annexation. Overall, the report works to hold on to the “Crimean Consensus” while also asserting that Russia can build major infrastructure projects quickly – something that is planned for other parts of the country over the next six years.

Other reports focused on economic development, naval power, various anniversary celebrations held across Russia, and many, many, many other similar reports.

Phrases to watch for:

принять историческое решение: make a historic decision
полуостров: peninsula
воссоединиться: reunite
обеспечить полуостров: to supply the peninsula. (обеспечить is a rich Russian word often used in politics that also implies caring for and supplying security to. Another common formation is обеспечить детей: to raise / care for children)
возвращение в родную гавань: Return to home port (a naval term used by President Putin recently to refer to the annexation of Crimea).
надежды на будущее: hope for the future

About the Author

Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson is the Assistant Director for The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) and Communications Director for Alinga Consulting Group. In those capacities, he has been managing publications and informative websites covering geopolitics, history, business, economy, and politics in Eurasia since 2003. He is based in Moscow, Russia. For SRAS, he also assists in program development and leads the Home and Abroad and Challenge Grant scholarship writing programs.

Program attended: All Programs

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Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov has reported on political and social issues for the Russian press as well as American outlets such as Russian Life,, and Triangle Free Press. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the "real Russia" which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and went on to study TESOL and teach Russian at West Virginia University. He is currently working on an MA from St. Petersburg State in International Relations. Andrei contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS site, and is an overall linguistics and research resource. He additionally helps coordinate activities for our students in Moscow.

View all posts by: Andrei Nesterov