Running Around the Vicious Circle: Cold War Images in the Contemporary Russian and American Print Media

Elena Plakhina, Irina Belyakova


The article presents a comparative stylistic analysis of the political narrative of Russia and the United States during two historical periods: the Cold War (1950–1980) and the year 2015. The authors choose the cognitive theory of narrative analysis as their research methodology. Political narrative is understood as a single story uniting multiple journalistic materials over a certain historical period of up to several decades, reflecting the state ideologywith an arbitrary name, permanent positive or negative characters, and verbally presented via recurrent lexical units, stylistic and manipulation techniques. It is established that the Soviet narrative of the Cold War period had clearly defined villains – capitalists, while the role of victims belonged to ordinary citizens of the capitalist countries, and Communists were their saviors. The following specific features characterized the narrative: the formation of a clear opposition “us – them”; selective coverage of events occurring in the “hostile” countries, a tendency to the exclusion of anything positive; a one-sided, strongly biased view of the political, economic and cultural events (promoting the positive sides in this country and greatly exaggerating the negative ones in Western countries); an emotionally loaded image of “them” created by employing appropriate linguistic and non-linguistic means; the formation of a persistent negative image of “them” by the use of initially false causality (innuendo, false presuppositions, provocation); reframing cognitive representations of world events, when the same event is interpreted differently in different countries by the virtue of the existing ideology; declaration of one’s own values as moral, and “their” values as immoral. The Russian political narrative of last year supports a script called “We don’t care – we are not afraid of ‘the sanction masters’”, that is, the US President and leaders of European countries – “puppets, powerless heads of their states”. The scenario of the narrative, which is now being created in the English-language media concerning relations with Russia, is that Putin/ Russia is aggressive, hostile to the United States; it is a source of military conflicts, uncompromising and unpredictable. The US defends democratic values, seeks de-escalation of the existing armed confrontations, and fears the wild unpredictability of Putin/Russia. The Russian narrative is dominated by the methods of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, and direct use of obscene language against its opponents; in the English narrative intimidation dominates, when the notion of “them” is referred to as an aggressor and unpredictable barbarian.


political narrative; cognitive scenario; Cold War; Russia; USA; Putin; Obama


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