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Russian Journalists: Dilemmas in the Unionization. Svetlana Pasti, University of Tampere International Conference Matters of Journalism: Understanding Professional Challenges and Dilemmas, Gdansk 2012, 14-15.09. Unionization: Disconnected Ways.

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Russian journalists dilemmas in the unionization

Russian Journalists:Dilemmas in the Unionization

Svetlana Pasti, University of Tampere

International Conference Matters of Journalism:

Understanding Professional Challenges and Dilemmas,

Gdansk 2012, 14-15.09

Unionization disconnected ways

Unionization: Disconnected Ways

Pre-Soviet period: the 1880s – 1917: Rise of

Independent Unions

Soviet period: 1917-1992: Arm of the State

Post-Soviet period: 1992 –: Mix:


Latent Arm of State or State &Capital

Arm of the State (Media Union)


Pre soviet period independent

Pre-Soviet period: Independent

  • 1880s: Rise of capitalism, the rise of the mass-circulation

    press, its commercialization, movement towards

    independence, the search for professional models

  • First professional associations:

    1838 - Mutual Aid Fund of printers

    1896 - Union of of Mutual Aid for Russian Writers

  • Russian journalists - in the International Congresses of

    Journalists; First professional editions

Pre soviet period independent1

Pre-Soviet period: Independent

  • The Tsar’s manifesto (17 October 1905) permitted freedom of speech and professional unions

  • Several journalistic organisations established:

  • Union of Journalists, Book Publishers and Book Printers

  • Union of Defence of Press Freedom (all dailies and many monthly editions of St. Petersburg)

  • Congresses of writers and journalists (1905, 1910, 1917)

  • Agenda: Questions of professional associations and education

Soviet period arm of state

Soviet period: Arm of State

  • Private practice is abolished, free status of professions is transferred into state service

  • 1918, 13 November –First Congress of Soviet Journalists, Lenin as Honorary Chairman

  • 1918 first local unions of Soviet journalists - to support the young Soviet state

  • Later they transformed into sections of the press workers within the state trade unions

  • Regular Journalists’ Congresses in Moscow with the leaders of the Communist Party

Soviet period arm of state1

Soviet period: Arm of State

  • 1957: Union of Journalists of USSR established with its branches in all republics and regions

  • 1959, 12-14 November: First Congress of the Union of Journalists

  • State finances the Union and provides health resorts members of the Union

  • Paid secretaries lead regional unions

  • Primary organizations of the Union - in every newspaper, radio and television

  • Number of members is 43.000 in 1971

Soviet period arm of state2

Soviet period: Arm of State

  • Union of Journalists of the USSR - a creative organization aimed at the political and professional education of journalists although without real opportunities to protect journalists

  • Demands for membership:

  • High professional skill

  • Experience of staff work in the media no less than three years

  • Recommendations from the senior journalists

  • Membership as recognition of professionalism


Post soviet period from the arm of state to independence

Post-Soviet period: From the Arm of State to Independence

  • 1992 Union of Journalists of USSR collapsed, Russian Union of Journalists established

  • In Moscow it kept the premises, but lost State support

  • Regional unions –Independent from the Central office in Moscow, do not send the member’s fees to it, as before

  • 1994 Congress of the Union accepted Code of Ethics, but it does not work

Dilemmas in the unionization membership decline

Dilemmas in the Unionization: Membership Decline

  • 1992 - 60%, 2008- 42% Among them:

  • 70% of members live in small city

  • 30% of members – in big city or mid-size city


Decline by generation

Decline by Generation





Factors behind decline

Factors behind Decline

  • No primary organization of the Union in the medium

  • Hostile attitude of owners and heads of mediums to independent journalistic organizations and trade unions

  • Gap between the Central Union and regional unions: ‘No professional community of journalists in Russia’

  • No common rules and norms in the unionization

Post soviet types of union

Post-Soviet Types of Union

  • Independent/Self-Asserting

  • Latent Arm of State

  • Latent Arm of State &Capital

  • Arm of the State (Media Union)

Independent union

Independent Union

  • Very few

  • Hard survival in society: Hostile environment from the officials and business affiliated to the government

  • Hard situation within the union: Conflicting values preventing consolidation

  • Code of Ethics: Dilemma of acceptance

  • Indirect intervention of the government into the union; Prosecutions

Latent arm of state and or capital

Latent Arm of State and/or Capital

  • Functionaries of government –in Board of Union

  • Functionaries of government and business in members of the Union

  • Why accepted? “In order not to be eaten up by their own people – journalists” Reply of the head of the union

  • Mechanisms of defense of journalists underdeveloped

  • Most union’s activity: festivals, celebrations of veterans, regular awarding of the important officials and journalists: journalistic awards, medals, orders

Arm of state

Arm of State

  • 2001: Media Soyuz (Media Union) by the Kremlin initiative in Moscow with its branches in the regions

  • First President –Aleksander Lybimov, the famous journalist of the TV program Vzglyad

  • Generous State financing

  • 2007-2008: educational project ‘Mediacracy’ aimed at young journalists with the support of the All Russian political party Edinaya Rossia (United Russia): 1,000 journalists from 81 regions involved

  • Performs as a competitor of the present Union of Journalists of Russia in recruiting of new members

Attitudes to trade union

Attitudes to Trade Union


Attitudes to civic organizations

Attitudes to Civic Organizations


Challenges for future of union

Challenges for Future of Union

  • Post-Soviet types of the Union do not inspire young:

  • Independent unions - difficulty to survive

  • Member corruption (officials and business in the journalistic union) make no sense to join

  • Aging and peripheral: Soviet generation – 76%; Post-2000 - 17%, 70% - small cities and 30% - big cities

  • No traditions of strong independent trade unions

  • Young: individualistic, highly mobile, self-interest in the profession

  • A lack of self-reflecting on the profession

Insights for optimism

Insights for optimism

  • Collaboration of Russian Union of Journalists with the International Federation of Journalists

  • Learning the union’s experience in the European countries: Barents Press Annual Meetings, visits to abroad

  • 57% of journalists wish their trade union

  • New possible initiatives from young, freelancers and new media to establish their independent unions

  • Present Independent Journalistic unions acting together with the human rights NGOs

Russian journalists typical portrait shifted

Russian Journalists: Typical Portrait Shifted

  • 1992 – Male, about 40, married, having children, with journalistic education and professional experience about 16 years, devoted to the profession, member in the Union of Journalists

  • 2008 – Female, under 35, married, having children, living in the large city or mid-sized city, from the middle class family, with high education, having a second job, without membership

Russian journalists dilemmas in the unionization1

Russian Journalists: Dilemmas in the Unionization

Svetlana Pasti

University of Tampere

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