Irina Kouznetsova-Morenko

International Policy Fellow 2003, Russia

Open Society Institute International Policy Fellowship Program

Curriculum Vitae

Final Report

Policy Paper

Final Activity Report

Interim Activity Report

Fellowship Research Proposal





Representation of Islam in the Russian and Tatar Mass Media

Discriminatory materials addressing Muslims have become a rather widespread practice for the Russian media.  The negative stereotyping of Muslims associates them with aggression, unpredictability and danger.  The attitude towards followers of Islam makes up a significant share of intolerance in present-day Russia. Media not only foster this negative attitude but also provoke discriminatory practices in their audiences. Besides, their materials infringe on the honor and dignity of Muslims.  At the present time there is no societal mechanism that could ensure a workable interaction of the government, the civil society, and the media to resolve these problems.

This project investigated the legal aspects of media activity in coverage of religion and journalists’ attitudes to Islam.  I chose four cases to study: the hostage crisis in Moscow in October, 2002; the war in Iraq; the struggle of Muslim women for the right to have their ID pictures taken in scarves ("the hijab case"); and celebration of the Muslim feast of Kurban Bairam.  I used the method of content analysis of all-Russian and Tatarstan newspapers and magazines (2002-2004).  I also took in-depth interviews with Muslim clerics and journalists.  The final stage of the project was a round table “Islam and mass media” (June, 2004, Kazan).

My content analysis has revealed that journalists often make unsubstantiated conclusions and judgments based on their rather superficial analysis of the problems concerning Islam and Muslims.  They thirst for sensation and inaccurately apply the Islamic terminology.  Consequently, the image of Islam created by mass-media is typically associated with danger and threat.  Despite a low number of overtly xenophobic materials concerning Muslims, the press broadcasts Islamophobic attitudes through headlines or journalistic comments.  Foreign Muslims are typically presented as radical, stigmatized characters, with virtually no information about their positive activities.  The “image of the enemy” has been constructed — even the image of a Muslim woman, once stereotypically far from fearsome but rather traditionally feminine and humble, has been transformed into a potential hostage-taker.  The exaggerated attention to female kamikazes presented by the Russian mass media during the Dubrovka hostage-crisis in Moscow (2002) was caused partly by lack of information on the true masterminds behind the hostage taking and by self-censorship resulting from a desire to avoid politicizing the subject of the Russian-Chechen opposition. (Kouznetsova-Morenko I. (2006) Muslims in the Russian and Tatarstan Media: Prospects for Media Policy Promoting Tolerance. In Policy Perspectives: Islam and Tolerance in Wider Europe).

A round table discussion my colleagues and I organized at the Kazan House of Journalists uncovered a number of constraints in the media for democratic dialogue and problem resolution with respect to Muslims and Islamic issues.  They include the following: 1) the journalistic community does not follow a common code of ethics; 2) local journalists, who are often poorly educated act as the conduits of political statements and policies rather than defenders of freedom of speech; 3) journalists lack both education and practical experience in understanding and working with Muslims; 4) there are no local institutes which assist in the implementation of media policies and recommendations of the Russian Union of Journalists Grand Jury; and 5) significant prejudice exists in relation to the Muslim clergy. (Kouznetsova-Morenko I., Salakhatdinova, L. (2004) Islam v mediinom prostranstve. (Islam in mass-media space). Kazan: Kazan State University)

On the basis of the research policy options have been elaborated.


The author is grateful to mentors Milica Pecis (Director of Media Diversity Institute, London), Prof. Renat Nabiev (Chair of Religious State Affair) for their valuable advices and mentoring. The author thanks  Dr. Leissan Salakhatdinova (Kazan State Medical University) for her contribution to my research. The author also grateful to IPF program staff, IPF trainers and Center for Policy Studies at CEU. 

Contact Information

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Current projects·     

Comparing societal integration of Turkish and related minorities: institutional strategies in INTAS and NIS countries. (INTAS, leader Prof. N. Genov, Free University of Berlin, 2004-2006)

 Life strategies of graduates of Tatars schools (Russian Foundation for Humanities, 2006-2008, leader Dr. L. Mukharyamova)

Social Policy in a context of transformations of the Russian society: ideology and reality of social reforms (Saratov Centre for  Social Policy and Gender Studies, supported by Macarthur Foundation,  2006-2007)

Right to the living in a society: mechanisms of educational integration of children with disability (with  Saratov Centre for  Social Policy and Gender Studies, Crisis Centre “Fatima”, supported by IREX, 2006-2007)

Completed projects

Social Policy in public health services in Delimitation of Budgetary Powers in the Republics of Mariy El and Tatarstan (2006, Independent Institute of Social Policy,  leader Dr. L. Mukharyamova)

Demography development in multiethnic regions:  the example of Tatarstan Republic (2003-2004, Russian Foundation for Humanities; leader Dr. A. Shikhalev)

Non-Russian language of schooling as a differentiating factor in  access to higher  education (the case of Republic of Tatarstan), (October 2002 – August 2003, Independent Institute of Social Policy, Ford Foundation, leader Dr. L. Mukharyamova)



New identity forming among youth in Tatarstan under influence of process of Islamization (01.01.2001-12.31.2001, Russian Foundation for Humanities)

Islamization process in Tatarstan: the influence on stability in the society and new identity forming among youth (07.01.2000 –12.31.2001, Group Research Support Scheme Grant of Open Society Institute, leader Dr. Mansurova G.).

© Irina Kouznetsova-Morenko. International Policy Fellow 2003-2004