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How Russia’s Parliament speaks German data analysts team up with Russian journalists to graph every talking point discussed in the State Duma over the past 27 years

Source: Meduza
The Russian State Duma

On September 17, voting began across Russia in parliamentary elections that will span three days. These contests are taking place against the backdrop of an unprecedented crackdown on opposition politicians, independent media outlets, and generally anyone who’s managed to rub the state authorities the wrong way. In this campaign of repression, various laws adopted by the State Duma (the very institution now up for grabs at the polls) have provided the key legal grounds for Russia’s expanded policing. For a better grasp of what Russia’s parliamentarians have actually been doing all these years, the German project dekoder and journalists at Novaya Gazeta analyzed everything said at State Duma sessions between 1994 and 2021. One finding in this study: unlike Russia’s president, the country’s federal lawmakers are not shy about speaking Alexey Navalny’s name.

The graph embedded below displays results in Russian, but you can view a translated interactive copy at dekoder’s own website here.

How does this work?

Enter a particular word or phrase, or select one of the suggestions, and the graph will display how often it was said per every 100,000 words spoken in a particular year. Drag your cursor over any given year and the graph will indicate how many times deputies in particular political parties uttered those words or phrases. Any words or phrases that don’t appear in the graph were spoken less than 15 times across the State Duma’s 27-year history.

Where’d they find these data?

The project draws from some 385,000 archived speeches delivered by deputies that are published on the State Duma’s website. 

What are some noteworthy takeaways?

The term “foreign agent” didn’t become popular in the State Duma until 2012, when lawmakers adopted Russia’s first legislation on “foreign agents.”

Alexey Navalny’s name, which Vladimir Putin has refused to utter in public, first echoed in the State Duma more than a decade ago. In recent years, lawmakers have mentioned Navalny more and more. This year, deputies became particularly obsessed with the imprisoned opposition leader: they’ve mentioned his name 11 times more often in 2021 than 2020. In total, Russia’s parliamentarians have mentioned Navalny’s name roughly 200 times in speeches on the State Duma’s floor.

The graph also makes it possible to track lawmakers’ shifting priorities in domestic and foreign policy. For example, deputies mentioned Crimea more than a thousand times in 2014. This year, the contested peninsula has come up just 33 times.

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