Современный дискурс-анализ



New russian identity in president’s new year’s address to the nation

A case study of the new Russian national identity representation and construction in New Year’s addresses to the nation by presidents Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.

For the last hundred years Russian national identity has been subjected to radical transformations twice: firstly – after the Socialist Revolution in 1917, and secondly – after the coup in August, 1991. There are reasons to believe that today Russians are engaged in the third attempt to construct the new national identity. Both Russian history and present provide rich data for the study of transformations of national identities. In the article we would like to give an example of analysis of discourse of national identity (hereinafter DNI) on the basis of multifold cross-disciplinary theoretical approach. The analysis is based on three New Year’s addresses to the nation by presidents Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in the years of 2007, 2008 and 2009 (Putin, 2007; Putin, 2008; Medvedev, 2009).

Traditionally the New Year’s speech has been an integral part of the system of rituals of state and nationhood firstly in the USSR and later in Russia. The researcher of Presidents addresses to nation N. Kondratenko stated that institutionally this genre belongs to political discourse, its rituality based on principles of textual, temporal and event localization (Kondratenko).

The approach aims for the analysis of DNI on the basis of the multifold model of institutional discourse. It was elaborated on the basis of modern discourse theories and mainly the Critical Discourse Analysis (see Teun Van Dijk 1998; Fairclough, 1995, Wodak and Meyer et al, 2001; and others). National identity is seen as a unity that is constructed, supported and changed discursively. The discourse of national identity is described as a complex sense-making and sense-reproducing activity expressed in the unity of coherent thematically focused speech acts and cognitive forms (texts), based on unification of historical, cultural, political, ideological discourses and perpetuation of the relations of power in society, and aimed to construction, change and maintenance of personal and collective distinctiveness of belonging to a nation.

In the present paper we regard nation identity as the phenomenon of governmental and state constructed reality and, thus, discourse of nation identity is related to political (power) area. Moreover, discourse of nation identity is a product of political relations. So we state that discourse of nation identity can be described as a type of political discourse along with such types as electoral discourse, governmental discourse, political debate discourse and others. The fundamental structures of culture necessarily become the material of political discourse, and therefore of national identity discursive construction.

I. Political and socio-cultural frameworks

The ten-year period from 1999 till 2009 has been marked with radical political and social changes in Russia. The acute financial crisis and ahead-of-schedule resign of President Boris Yeltsin reflected the disappointing results of the first decade of the new Russia. The growth of oligarchy in all sectors of the national economics was followed by the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The disappointment of Russian intellectuals with the new governmental policies led to the vast immigration; the gruesome results of the first Chechen war and the war in former Yugoslavia reflected deeply on the national identity of the citizens of the newly-born Russia. (Le, 2002: 389-390) In the complicated home and international situation the first president of Russia Boris Yeltsin managed to transfer his power to the former KGB colonel Vladimir Putin. In the following years the Government under President Putin managed to take control in most important spheres – economics, natural resources, military, mass media etc. Later, much was done to rebuild the ideological apparatus for the construction of the new Russian national identity based on the principles of the unity of the nation, the history of Russian Empire and the power of the former Soviet Union. The New Year’s addresses of the Presidents to nation during these years may be described as summary of the ideological work done for the consequent period of time.

II. Discursive approach to national identities

The discussions on discursive perspective of study of national identities have obtained solid positions in modern cross-disciplinary research (see De Cillia, Reisigl, Wodak 1999; Ricento, 2003, Le, 2002 and others). It is nowadays a recognized fact, that national identities are constructed discursively and that their construction, perpetuation and change are done by means of discourse and power.

Similarly the recent works in the field show that “discourse is not just an utterance of self-identity, but … a way of forging, maintaining and transforming both Self and Other, both identity and relationship”. (Shi-xu, 2005: 31)

In the article “The discursive construction of national identities” the group of scientists from University of Vienna laid the foundations of the present discursive approach to the phenomenon of national identity. (Wodak et al, 1999: 149-173) This was based on several assumptions: (a) nations are to be understood as mental constructs; (b) national identities are produced, reproduced, transformed and destructed discursively – by means of language and other semiotic systems; (c) national identity can be regarded as a sort of habitus; (d) discursive construction of national identities is closely connected with the construction of difference\distinctiveness and uniqueness; (e) national identities are dynamic unities that may change depending on a context, situation and other factors (Wodak et al, 1999: 153-154). The respective model of analysis of national identity according to the discursive-historical approach contains the study of:

(1) contents/topics

(2) strategies

(3) linguistic means and forms of realization (Wodak et al, 1999: 157).

This profound research has contributed to the study of the complex problem of national identity on the basis of the critical discourse theory. It explicitly showed the process of construction of national identity by means of language (lexical units, argumentation and syntactic means); strategies (constructive, perpetuation and justification, transformation, dismantling or destructive strategies); contents/topics (ideas, narratives, discursive constructions, headings). The research has also laid the ground for the solution of the problem of transformation from discourse as a text to discourse as a social reality (see about this van Dijk, 2007: 5). However, the research led to the rise of new important questions concerning the study of discourse of national identity. It also did not aim at contribution to cross-disciplinary unification of segmented discourse-based approaches, as it focused mainly on the semiotic construction of discourse of national identity. The question of the nature of discourses constituting the national identity as a single unity has also been untouched. Can these discourses be described as similar in terms of their nature and structure? If not, then what would be the terms and the theoretical angle that would allow us to get the most accurate picture of national identity as a discourse? By the notion of “picture of identity” we tend to understand not only the static ontological objects of its structure, but also the complicated interplay between the discourses of national identity and other discourses, constituting the social field. As we believe, the picture of national identity should be a dynamic one. The notion of habitus with regard to national identity does also look rather arguable. First, according to our understanding of Pierre Bourdieu, habitus is a system of solid acquired dispositions, structured structures aimed to act as structuring structures as principles that create and organize practices and notions. Thus “habitus may serve as an applied tool for getting specific results, but it neither implies any sort of deliberate concentration on these results, nor does it imply any special skills for getting those results” (cited according to Gromov et al, 2003: 531). In some way it is possible to describe habitus as “text minus implicit relations of power in society”. Second, though habitus itself does not content elements of relations of power, it may become an effective instrument of dominance. The manipulation of habitus is a typical ideological instrument of totalitarian countries and regimes (e.g. similar clothes of Chinese during the Cultural Revolution or annual participation of all Russians including musicians, actors, sportsmen and people of other “non-agricultural” professions in obligatory agricultural works in the countryside). Thus we would still tend to argue that our understanding of the notion of habitus does not permit us to regard national identity as habitus, and that we would prefer to describe identity as a type of discourse which unlike habitus necessarily implies the relations of power and dominance.

Another arguable point is the role of culture in official discourse. The researchers from University of Vienna point out that: “Both state and culture almost always play a role in construction of national identity, though in official discourse, culture is of slight importance…” (Wodak et al, 1999: 169) Concerning this, we still tend to say that implicit cultural discourses play profound role in construction, perpetuation and change of political discourse (see about this Pereverzev, 2008).

As we regard the DNI as a type of political discourse, we therefore may suppose that the fundamental structures of culture necessarily become the material of construction of discourse of national identity.

Now we would like to come back to the question of possibility of construction of cross-disciplinary model for analysis of discourse of national identity as a multifold heterogeneous unity. The answer to this question should help to reveal the complex nature of national identity both in terms of its elements, their cultural nature, and in terms of the complex processes that participate in construction, perpetuation and change of the national identity.

In this regard we would like to present the multifold cross-disciplinary model of discourse based on cultural approach and developed by the research group from Belgorod University (Russia).

The approach has been recently developed for the multifold analysis of institutional discourses (see Kozhemyakin, 2008; Kozhemyakin, Pereverzev, 2007: 59-65). It is based on the notion of discourse as a complex unity constituted by the number of parameters, each of them determined by its place, role and external discursive and non-discursive factors. Therefore, each of the parameters may change its meaning, causing the dynamic changes of the whole discourse. From such point of view, the discourse of national identity may be described as a complex sense-making and sense-reproducing activity expressed in the unity of coherent thematically focused speech acts and cognitive forms (texts), based on unification of historical, cultural, political, ideological discourses and perpetuation of the relations of power in society, and aimed to construction, change and maintenance of personal and collective distinctiveness of belonging to a nation. The given definition is mainly based on critical position which aims at the uncovering of the open and hidden relations of power in the attempts of elites to interiorize national identity.

Under the notion of DNI we also tend to understand exclusively the identity that is born on the basis of the relations of power and dominance in society and is perpetuated by the elites via political institutions, Constitution, laws, federal education system. This type of identity should be distinguished from the discourse of ethnical identity. The interplay between DNI and discourses of ethnical identities may be seen as a process, the discussion of which goes beyond the frameworks of this article. Focusing on the role of discourse of national identity in the relations of power in society, we recognize that discourse of national identity acts in society as an instrument of dominance. The agents of national identities are not passive; they actively participate in creation, perpetuation and alteration of DNI. However, our approach focuses mainly on the discoursive methods of construction of national identity as well as on revealing the nature of dominant and power implementations in the discourse. We are thus less interested in the search of social hegemons, focusing mainly on how people interiorize the discursively constructed relations of power and thus how discourse constructs the social reality.

If we describe DNI as a system of dynamic open parameters, the general model will be as follows:

1. Ontological parameter (objects which are constituted in the discourse).

2. Teleological parameter (goals of the discourse)

3. Ideological parameter (ideological propositions that form the discourse, their construction and perpetuation)

4. Linguistic parameter (speech acts, linguistic and stylistic means of the discourse)

5. Textual parameter (specificity and types of texts which constitute the discourse)

6. Contextual parameter (the contextual determination and the specifics of contexts of the discourse)

7. Cognitive parameter (cognitive processes and models that form and perpetuate the discourse)

8. Communicational parameter (nature and specifics of the communicative processes, forming the discourse)

In the following parts we shall make an attempt to evaluate the given model on the basis of the discourse of new national identity in present-day Russia. We take the example of New Year address to the nation, which is traditionally released on Russian TV five minutes before the midnight New Year clock strike.

Ontological parameter of DNI

The specifics of objects of discourse of DNI comprise social (e.g. “government”, “social relations”, “society”, “citizens”, “law”, etc.), virtual (“nation”, “historical memory”, etc.) and psychic (“belief”, “reliance”, “responsibility”, etc.) objects. Such a peculiarity proves the idea of the direct link between the discourse of national identity and the discourses participating in the production of power in society – political and religious ones. As a Russian researcher of political discourse E. Sheigal points out in her work «Semiotics of political discourse», «politics has a discursive nature; it is constructed in course of political practice and elaborated by its participants» (Sheigal, 2004: 18). As we draw the lines of similarity between the objects of DNI and political discourse, it is worthwhile to emphasize that one of the most important features of the objective typology of DNI is the phenomenon of “power in body” firstly described by M. Foucault. According to Foucault, power is mainly a psychic object, which is ideologically objectivated in minds of subjects of politics (see Foucault, 1996, 2004). Thus, power may only exist as a psychic result of subordination. It disappears when subjects deny its existence (as a good example to this we may draw the Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of non-violent non-confirmation in the late-colonial India). Thus it becomes vital for the engineers of DNI to make its objects look like non-discursive ones, while as a matter of facts the objects of DNI are as much discursive as those of political discourse. These objects may be put into several categories:

1. Objects of power (strength (mental, economic, military etc) and unity of a nation.

E.g. “strong state”, “Russia has been gaining in strength and becoming stronger”, “territorial integrity of Russia”, “again we are able to feel we are a united people”.

2. Objects of time and history (age, “great names” and “great deeds of great ancestors” immortalized in discourse, its semiotics, texts, contexts and ideologies).

E.g. “our great history”

3. Objects of nationhood (Constitution, borders, capital, division of people into citizens and non-citizens, “of age” and “under age”), objects of status (presidents, prime-ministers, ministers, members of parliament, nobility, leaders, directors, party-members etc)

E.g. “our great nation”, “our country”, “our great country, Russia”, “thanks to you – its citizens”

4. Symbolic objects (flags, national emblems, anthems, children’s textbooks and political myths), material objects which exist mostly as embodiment of DNI – president’s palaces, halls, squares, buildings of parliaments, etc.

In our case, the New Year’s address starts from showing the main symbols of Russian statehood – towers of Kremlin, the clock on the Spasskaya tower, Red Square, the national flag or Russia and even the fur-trees of Kremlin (the audience “knows” that these are special sacred trees, the unofficial symbol of nationhood). These objects are shown on the background of the speaking president during the whole speech; they contribute to the whole “picture” of the event. The viewers are supposed to recognize the basic collectively shared meanings of the represented symbols, and these meanings correspond to the meanings of the President’s words. Actually, both recognized meanings of symbols and meanings of verbal elements reinforce each other; the process of “reading” the New Year address includes decoding of the all-known symbols which enhances and facilitates the decoding of President’s speech. Thus, represented symbols limit the possible range of interpretations of what the President is saying. Moreover, recognizing national symbols as “ours”, “close”, “known from the childhood” makes it possible for viewers to believe that what is presently told is also a part of the “close objects”. In other words, the usage of national symbols along the speech “says” that those would share the meanings of the speech who “knows” and “understands” the symbols. They “intimatize” the President’s speech and represented power in the national scale.

5. Objects of culture (traditions, public festivals, holidays and other cultural objects).

The tradition of the New Year’s address to the nation has been lasting for decades since the times of the Soviet Union. Traditionally families and friends, celebrating the New Year’s Eve together draw round the festival table about ten or twenty minutes before midnight. Celebration starts with ritual of “saying farewell” to the last year. The TV sets are switched on and the addressed is broadcasted through all the TV channels. It starts exactly five minutes before midnight – with the solemn music and showing of main symbols of statehood on the background of the speaking president. A lot of people are staying while listening to the President – the moment of symbolic unity between three elements of the state – the family, the President and the nation. Still as a cultural object, the New Year address is surrounded by the number of small rituals, such as “seeing off the last year”, opening the bottle of champagne (for long decades the label of this champagne was the same on each and every table – it was “Sovetskoye” – “The Soviet” champagne, recently the new label “Rossiyskoye” – “The Russian champagne” was produced) right when the bell is ringing twelve times, kissing, wishing and so on.

Thus, we may see the ontology of DNI reproduces that of political discourse: objects of power and its agents. The objects of national identity are organized to perpetuate the power relations in society. This leads us to the problematic field of teleology of the DNI.

Teleological parameter of DNI

The teleology of DNI is formed by the system of goals based on the central problem of the discourse. As we state, the peculiarity of institutional discourse that helps to distinguish it from both other institutional discourses and non-institutional discourses lies in the character of the central problem, embedded in its basement as well as in the hierarchy of the parameters peculiar for each type of discourse (Kozhemyakin, 2008: 306). The central problem of DNI may be observed as solving questions of bringing out the relations of power. The central aim of DNI is thus to give DNI the status of objective (or almost physical) reality. It can be said that the discourse of national identity will always aim at the status of objective reality where the social and cognitive status of its objects (such as state, history, nationhood, government, president, etc.) would be the same as the status of mountains, seas and rivers – that is to say the reality of DNI will cover the physical reality. When such goal is achieved, the relations of power in society become more stable, no matter what their true basements are.

The problematic field of DNI is revealed in several categories of its goals:

1. Unification (“we”, “we worked together to preserve our country”, “once again we are able to feel we are a united people” etc)

2. Perpetuation (“all these years”, “our great history”, etc)

3. Action (“I would like to do everything possible – and we shall do everything possible”)

While political discourse covers the wide variety of semiotic manipulations with the power and its concept, DNI releases one of the key goals of it – perpetuation of power relations and embedding of power into the collective consciousness through formulating and integrating the idea of “national entity”.

This is done by means of construction of social and cognitive status of DNI that is similar to the status of physical objects. Thus, like political discourse DNI is more oriented at perpetuation than at reflection of its objects.

Ideological parameter of DNI

Ideology may be described as the main social discursive element, used by the elites to construct, support and change DNI Ideology is described as the “imaginary attitude of subject towards the real conditions of his existence” (Althusser, 1996: 34). It is fair to underline that ideology has a more or less determined sense in terms of the specific political field; thus, if we change the political view or reject it, ideology becomes meaningless in its semantic and practical aspect.

According to Althusser, ideology affects subject in the process of interpellation (subject is being interpellated by ideology which appeals to both social (discourses) and cognitive structures (scenarios (or scripts), frames and concepts). The imaginary relations of ideologically interpellated subject and social power result in real social consequences: individual is being turned into subject. Here is the example of the discursive “call” of interpellation reproduced in the New Year’s president’s address: “Dear citizens of Russia”, “We are united by a feeling of belonging to one big family – the name of which is Russia”etc.

The proposition of self-sustainability (e.g. “colossal resources”, “Intellectual potential” etc) is used to promote the idea of new basements of large-scale participating in the global economic and cultural processes. It is understood that Russia, like the USSR will not bear any humiliation on the international political stage (see V. Putin, 2005).

The ideological proposition of endurance, (“steadfast support”, “your trust”, “confidence and dignity”, “common effort of the Russian nation” etc) was created and objectivated during the period of the Second World War and is still used to maintain the social stability especially among the lower deprived social groups. Among the newly adopted ideological propositions we can name the proposition of richness of natural resources (“colossal resources”).

The positioning of Russia in mass media as a rich state (e.g. “Russia has paid its debts to the Paris club”, “Russia has one of the biggest monetary reserves in the world”, etc.) comes along with “muting” the facts of enormously unequal distribution of wealth among Russians. That is how media transform the objective situation of inequality into the sphere of personal responsibility – (e.g. it is the personal fault not to be rich in such a wealthy country). The proposition of Russian international influence aims at filling the gap in national identity that occurred after the fall of the Soviet Union. The USSR, positioned as a second world’s superpower created of the strong ideological atmosphere of national pride for its citizens. This commonly shared discourse disappeared together with the country in 1991, leaving Russians face to face with the disappointing reality. Consequently, the citizens of the USSR were positioned by (mostly by the foreign media) as the side that lost the Cold War. It may be said that the domestic economic situation, social chaos and political disintegration were very much similar to those of a nation that had really participated in the war and lost it. Later, it was the Russian media which contributed to this discourse during the media coverage of the wars in Yugoslavia and in Chechnya (Le, 2002: 389-391). In this regard the discourse of the influence of new Russia onto the world economics, politics and warfare is made to fill the gap between the “Soviet identity” and the new Russian identity that has been discursively constructed during the last 20 years.

The new discourse of Russian identity has borrowed much of its ideological material from the DNI of the Soviet Union (e.g. “Russia has been gaining in strength and becoming stronger”, “our economy has been growing”, “how new opportunities have been opening up for the people”, “great history”, “colossal resources”, “courage, industriousness and intellectual potential of our great nation”, “our children will be happy” and so on).

Superpower VS “colossal resources”. One of basic discursive links in the Russian DNI is the established relation “superpower – colossal resources”. It shows that new Russian ideology is not constructed on such mental facts as idealizations, abstractions and future representations. It is not based on “high ideas” of re-construction of the whole society. On the contrary, it has a rather pragmatic nature, meaning that the country does have the power but while it possesses resources and while they are of high demand. Unlike the Soviet ideology which was based on the communist beliefs and explanations, future projections and socialist norms of reality construction, new Russian ideology is not idealistic. It does explain the present and nearest future, it motivates and encourages, but it is based on the pragmatic (not idealistic) issues.

Semiotic parameter of DNI

The numerous detailed studies of the language of politics show that both vocabulary and grammar of political discourse are aimed at two major goals. The first one is redistribution and legitimization of power (e.g. “all that we have managed to achieve”, “everything that we have done together”, “we are united people”, “we worked together to preserve our country” and so on). The second is exercise of the abovementioned “ontological shift” when semantic vagueness and esotericism make it possible to manipulate with the meaning of texts and to objectivate subjective and connotative meanings. The same aim is perused by the application of emotionally high tone of the address (“Be happy, dear friends!”, “we can triumph”, “with confidence and dignity” and so on).

DNI is characterized by its pseudo-dialogical structure. Though such structure may obtain the qualities of a dialogue, it is actually a form of monologue, as it excludes critics and discussion which are integral elements of a real dialogue. This may be seen when such elements as appeals to the audience (“Today I would like to say something special to you”), exclamations (“Be happy, dear friends!”) and other devices are introduce into the discourse of address.

DNI appeals to the emotions of the audience and, thus, contains the variety of expressive language tools. Among such tools there are:

1. lexical (evaluative nominatives, attributives, positive and negative expressives – e.g. “In a few moments the dates on the calendars will change, but our essential values remain unchanging”);

2. rhetoric (epithets, metaphors, metonymies etc – e.g. “To whom we give the warmth of our hearts”),

2.1. methods of rhetoric convergence (antithesis, gradations, repetitions ect – e.g. “This is a holiday filled with love for our dear ones, with the warmth of our homes. A holiday of hope and belief that everything will turn out the way we want it to turn out”). (Khachetsukova, 2007).

The expressivization of the language of DNI makes it easy to interiorize political values and objects; the address to emotions assumes of the subject would appropriate the referent of statement, he would personally “feel” the referent, and thus the identity is being more accurately formed .

The same goal is pursued by the usage of “soft” speech acts, which though do not directly persuade subjects to act in a special way, provide the context in which individuals behave as if their actions are based on their own will. Thus instead of frequently used declaratives and comissives, the representatives and expressives are introduced in the speech of the President. e.g. “To be sure, we have not managed to do everything”, “I am certain that we will be able to deal with whatever difficulties we may meet in the future”, “So may your most cherished dreams come true!”.

Such “manipulative” speech acts aim at perpetuation of communicative roles (and thus political positions) of communicants.

The famous and well-studied manipulative character of discourse is predetermined by the teleology of each of its components and is realized mainly through the language means of discourse. Jean Baudrillard discussing the language and speech tactics of political discourse noted that they are both built not so much on principles of coercion and motivation as on the principles of temptation. According to Louis Althusser, the power in society operates in such a manner that individuals do not feel the direct subjection to the agents of power, rather they are engaged into the relations of power by special language mediated process.

The extensive application of “soft” language and speech technologies in DNI proves that it is highly adoptive to both social and individual ratio and the unconscious.

Textual parameter of DNI

The discursive nature of national identity is largely formed on the basis of heterogeneous texts that play important role in its construction, perpetuation and change. The present-day social situation in Russia may be characterized in terms of expansion of DNI onto the vast number of types and categories of texts, genres and styles. This situation has direct relation to the social power and domination. For instance, it may be typical for the text of the president’s New Year’s address to contain elements of DNI (e.g. “territorial integrity”, “preserve our country”, “we are a united people” etc). However, when DNI is explicitly found in the texts of entertaining TV programs, humorous Shows or in the texts of scientific or medical sphere, we may say that we deal with the ideological project sponsored by the state apparatus. We draw an example from the recent news about the progress in the sphere of nanotechnologies. The analysis shows that the scientific progress is shown in terms of its impact on the national development and future of the country (e.g. “without semi-conductor electronic components Russia can not be a great power”) (Alferov, 2009). Though the text by the Nobel Prize laureate J. Alferov is positioned as scientific, such references as the one give above show that its teleology is formed by the system of goals concerning the construction of DNI.

Contextual parameter of DNI

As T.A. Van Dijk states in his article “the critical aims of CDA can only be realized if discourses are related to structures of local and global contexts.” (Dijk et al 2001: 108-110). Thus the theory of contexts may open new perspectives for the study of social phenomena. Following the Dijk’s position, we would like to distinguish between local and global contexts of DNI in the president’s New Year’s address (op.cit).

The global context of the phenomenon is formed by the number of historical, social, political and cultural objects. Historically the main public holiday of Russia was Christmas; however it was changed by the New Year after the Socialist Revolution in 1917. The present generation of Russians preserves this tradition and regards the New Year’s Eve as a very special holiday. From the social point of view, the celebration of the New Year is preceded by the numerous social events that “prepare” people to the big celebration. Thus the audience of the president’s address is fully aware of the content and meaning of the message, which produces the special effect of sacred event. The political element of the context is formed by the highly institutionalized tradition of the New Year’s address. The address may be given solely by the president, the content of the address is highly institutionalized, its structure and its meaning must correspond to the previous addresses. (see Kondratenko, 2007). Culturally the context of the New Year’s address corresponds to the contemporary traditions of Russian New Year celebration; as such it is integrated into the system of customs and beliefs practiced by Russians during the last days of December and first days of January each year. What seems rather important is existential context of the address, which is rendered in individuals’ hopes and wishes for the next year and “justifying” their efforts and tries in the passing year. The speech of presidents is to shape, in a sense, these existential cares of individuals, due to verbal inclusion of viewers into one cooperate audience, united in “conversion” of individual hopes to “national” ones. As Putin announced in the New Year night 2007, “A holiday of hope and belief that everything will turn out the way we want it to turn out. That our life will become better. That our children will be happy. That our elderly people will be healthy and safe. That our country will become stronger and blossom”.

The local contexts of the address are constructed on one side by the solemn atmosphere of highly institutionalized political event (silhouette of Kremlin and national flag on the background, solemn music and the figure of president as a symbol). On the other side the audience expects that the address will create the atmosphere of the unity of both government and people and of the whole nation, that is united via the sacral symbol of presidency surrounded by the symbols of nationhood. As president Putin said in his New Year’s address on December, 31, 2007, “today I would like to say something special to you” (Putin, 2007). And it is something special that is supposedly expected by every Russian standing with the glass of champagne in front of the TV. There must be effect of the President speaking to the whole nation, on behalf of the nation, personally and to every person. This is achieved via several methods. First – the audience watches the President alone, for the last three years the addresses were given at a night time, thus the effect of the unique character of the event is created. Second, the President holds a glass of champagne in his hands and that is aimed at constructing the atmosphere of celebration (this corresponds to the Russian tradition of saying speeches with the glass of alcoholic beverage at the festival table). Third, such elements as solemn music, silhouette of Kremlin, the national flag on the background of the speaker and the symbolic figure of the President himself are aimed at creating the solemn atmosphere of symbolic, sacred national-scale event.

Cognitive parameter of DNI

The cognitive parameter of DNI contains forms and methods of realization of cognitive goals - description and explanation of facts, construction and validation of assumptions and logic instruments of discourse.

It is often the point of critics of CDA, that the audience of discourse is portrayed as a passive mass that is the subject of manipulation of the social groups that have access to the various resources such as wealth, information, force (see on this works by M. Billig, P. Bourdieu and others). However the social situation is not solely reflected in various discourses. It is thus possible to describe the situation in terms of partial manipulation as it is critically evaluated by the actors. On the other hand, the distinctive feature of DNI is that once constructed, it spreads throughout the social and cultural field and may be shared by the vast majority of actors including those who were engaged into the construction of it. Unlike the political discourse, DNI may be the subject to change only in case of the radical transformation of the state or as a result of antagonism between DNI and discourses of other identities (such as ethnic or religious ones). Another peculiar cognitive characteristic DNI concerns its position in society. Unlike other discourses scattered in daily routine, DNI may be actualized as a special political tool in particular situations (the New Year’s address is typically such a situation that may be characterized in terms of the processes of ideological interpellation of the whole nation).

As a solution of the problem of relations between subject and DNI Van Dijk introduces the cognitive level of discourse. That is the social discourses must have the corresponding cognitive structures which make them recognizable by subjects and locate discourses into the cognitive sphere of personal experience of the actors. (Dijk et al 2001: 108-112).

The distinctive cognitive feature of DNI is that it fixates the distribution of statuses of truth on the basis of the evaluation of the source of statement and the relations of a statement with the “general political line”. In this regard the DNI produced during the New Year’s address claims the status of ultimate truth. This tendency is reflected in all the basic cognitive processes of DNI: representation, categorization, interpretation and convention.

Political representation as a means of cognition mainly includes perception and representation of political objects. To represent in the sphere of politics means to predetermine the content of political objects in the minds of the audience. This is achieved by purposeful usage of special signs in discourse as in the following personal addresses, representing individuals as parts of the nation: “And this year our nation has been sorely tested, and has come through with confidence and dignity, thanks to you – its citizens” (Medvedev, 2008).

The main goal of categorization as a cognitive operation of distribution of discourse to different classes, genres, types, sorts of objects is segmentation of semantic space – distribution of political identities, creation of hierarchies of values and meanings. According to T.A. van Dijk the political categorization is built on the basis of peculiar ideological mental schemata that include such categories as group identity, goals, values and norms, relations of status, resources and others. Concerning categorizations R.Barthes mentioned, that “any classification is a means of repression”. In the following passages Putin and Medvedev categorize Russian “resources of national success”: “We have everything to achieve our goal – our great history, colossal resources, courage, industriousness and intellectual potential of our great nation” (Putin, 2007); “In a few moments the dates on the calendars will change, but our essential values remain unchanging, these values – devotion to our loved ones, friendship, loyalty, sympathy and charity - remain as an anchor for us at all times” (Medvedev, 2008).

The operation of interpretation aims at transformation of formal symbols and notions into the language of comprehensive knowledge. The interpretations in political discourse are oriented at construction and reconstruction of reality. More importantly, the facts of particular political discourse may only be valid if they correspond to particular ideological world view. The sense-making in the sphere of politics according to Max Weber is based on legitimizing of peculiar evaluations and view-points. As Putin said in 2007, “to be sure, we have not managed to do everything. But I am quite certain that the road the people have chosen for Russia is the right road and that it will lead us to success”, and in 2006, “we are already looking into the future with greater confidence. We are substantially expanding the horizons of our plans. And this has become possible thanks to our common efforts in renewing and strengthening the country in recent years”. In these quotations we see how individual plans are interpreted in the nation-scale expand and legitimized to be due to the government efforts.

Convention as a cognitive operation is linked with the aspect of setting of norms of political institution. As any other social institute politics is based on the complex of artificial norms and conventions. In presidents’ speeches, due to their political pragmatics, there is no such format to establish norms and conventions, but they do actualize and reproduce stable values and norms: “Showing respect for people of the older generation is a sure sign of maturity of any society and its stability. The State must and will support and help people of the older generation” (Putin, 2006); “our essential values remain unchanging, these values – devotion to our loved ones, friendship, loyalty, sympathy and charity - remain as an anchor for us at all times” (Medvedev, 2008).

Communicative parameter of DNI

The communicative parameter of DNI consists of types of communication, methods of communication, specificity of audience of DNI and the specificity of communication systems used for construction, perpetuation and change of the discourse.

The process of ideological construction of DNI in post-Soviet Russia was shaped in late 90s, when the new Russian Government under president Putin took control over the country’s major communication and media channels. The power change was simultaneous with the radical change in the nature of the information transferred via mass media. Consequently, the present-day new Russian Identity is being formed mainly by means of television, other channels such as newspapers, radio and the Internet play secondary role. Thus, address of presidents to the audience is released by means of mainly TV (particularly federal TV channels), and not newspapers.

Communicatively, the addresses tend to use more informal than formal communicative elements (such as talk on families and relatives or use of routine “warm” lexical items – “dear”, “near”, “beloved”, etc.). The President with a glass of champaign in his hand looks more as a close communicator, than as “a remote hegemonic governor”; he releases the illusion of his presence at the festive table. The communicative distance is tending to be minimized, so that individuals would recognize themselves in the President as a supreme identifying subject.


In the present article we have discussed theoretical and practical approaches to the problem of national identity, based on the notion of its discoursive nature and keeping in mind the complicated social and political situation in the present-day Russia.

We observed current scientific (mostly critical) approaches towards the methodological grounds of the research of DNI. The situation here may be characterized in terms of escalating of the studies of identities in various scientific fields together with the segmentation of the research of the national identity per se. In the second part we proposed the multifold cross-disciplinary model that may, in our opinion, serve as a way to unification of the disintegrated field of research of DNI. The model enables to combine different approaches and theories and create more effective research instruments. We have also made an attempt to show the link between parameters of DNI and the strategies aimed at construction of certain discourse of national identity in modern Russia. We have shown that DNI may not be described apart from the unity of social and cultural discourses which influence and determine it in different ways. Finally we may see that the unification of new approaches in cross-disciplinary sphere into the methodology of CDA provides new perspectives for understanding of the phenomenon of DNI and its connection with the social processes of dominance, hegemony and power in society. Finally, the article contributed to the solving of the problem of prevailing of “western outlooks, concepts, procedures, issues and date that dominate the field of language, communication and discourse…” (Shi-xu, 2005: 4). Thus we believe that the questions of cultural determination of political discourse and discourse of national identity have to become the point of major discussion in the relevant fields of contemporary discourse analysis.


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Об авторах

Евгений Александрович Кожемякин, доктор философских наук, зав.кафедрой коммуникативистики, рекламы и связей с общественностью НИУ «БелГУ»


Переверзев Егор Викторович, кандидат философских наук.