“Is ‘E’ for ‘EMPIRE’?: re-imagining new Russian identity through symbolic politics of ‘Sochi-2014’”
This article couples framing analyses with social identity issues to provide a critical discourse analysis of the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony, along with the various media depictions surrounding it. Moreover, it explores the idea of 'derzhava' as a rediscovered political narrative/frame in Russian symbolic politics. We argue that images and symbols alluding to different events in the past and present play significant roles in the social construction of people’s identities. Our lives are largely dependent upon what we tend to forget, and what we still remember. As the first impressions of the Sochi Olympics Games pass away, we are finally able to see what stayed hidden, and what was deliberately left in light. Relying upon the research on the connection between collective memory and social identity, we examine several Sochi Olympics events, seeking to identify what the organizers of the Games wanted us to remember, and what was meant to be forgotten. What symbols and signs were deliberately and repeatedly manifested to evoke Russian national pride? What was left behind the scenes in order not to revive traumatic collective memory of the past? An analysis of two frames – “the frame of commemoration” and “the frame of obliteration” - helps to shed light on the veiled elements of new Russian social identity construction today. In addition, our analysis helps to explain how the Sochi Olympics became a springboard for launching a more forceful symbolic politics commensurate with new Russian power ambitions.