Emma Rönngren1; 1 IRES, Uppsala University, Sweden
This conference paper will present findings of a PhD project studying the reception of Russia's strategic narratives among Russophone youth in Latvia. Latvian Russian speakers make up 34% of the population and many of them often rely on Russian media channels for news. They are considered a target group of pro-Russian messages and a tool for influencing public opinion in Latvia. Both Western observers and policymakers seem to assume that Russian media campaigns have a significant impact, but whether and to what extent this is actually the case remains underexplored – especially among a younger audience who grew up in independent Latvia and mainly consumes news online and through social media. This conference paper asks how the strategic narratives Russia wants to project are interpreted, understood and perceived by a target audience and is based on focus group interviews conducted with young Russian speakers living in Latvia where three articles from Sputnik Latvia were used as discussion material. Using a qualitative research approach this conference paper seeks to further our knowledge of the sensemaking process of how we perceive strategic narratives as well as further our understanding of what makes strategic narratives resonate (or not) with a foreign audience. As such it challenges the focus on output, indicating a direct effect and indirect a passive audience, in favour of outcomes and the impact of such communication efforts.