Saint Petersburg 300
Television and the Invention of a Russian (Media) Tradition

Stephen C. Hutchings
University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Focusing on the televising of Saint Petersburg’s 300th anniversary, this article elucidates,
and ultimately complicates, the notion of Russian media complicity in a state-led national
identity mission in which the city’s mythology is used to (re)integrate prerevolutionary
imperial tradition with Soviet ritual and Western ideology. It draws on Dayan and Katz’s
notion of media event and on Bakhtin’s concepts of chronotope and carnival that facilitate
this particular media event’s cultural contextualization. The analysis reveals how television
articulates a distinctive Saint Petersburg space-time accommodating an ideologically
sanitized national carnival of popular participation, but also a local identity project that,
precisely by offsetting the latter, authenticates it. It further identifies the rudiments of a
generic model for televising national celebrations. Through the metatextuality character-
izing that model, the medium inscribes itself into the participatory process it describes,
confirming that, far from suppressing democratic rhetoric, Russian television internalizes
it, recasting it for nation-building purposes. (download)