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Working paper

Rally-Around-The-Flag and the Media: Case of Economic Sanctions in Russia

This article analyzes a paradoxical situation: against the background of a large-scale economic and political crisis in Russia, Vladimir Putin's support is increasing. In explanation, we propose the rally-around-the-flag effect. This effect reflects how and why a national leader’s approval rating substantially increases during tragedies and international conflicts. However, the circumstances in Russia differ significantly from those described in the literature. For example, the rally effect in Russia is substantially more stable than in other countries. Because the rally-around-the-flag effect is closely linked with debates that are presented in the media, we search for explanations in this area. We assume that the use of deproblematization strategies in the media discussion on economic sanctions proves to people that the effects of the sanctions are not severe and generates images of Russia’s external enemies and Vladimir Putin as a strong leader who resists these enemies. Such strategies and practices can contribute to the rally effect. The article analyzes the key strategies used to deproblematize the economic sanctions (and the Russian food embargo) that were used in four Russian newspapers from March 2014 to December 2014.