Ivan Beliaev’s hometown of Vologda is just one of many mid-size Russian cities below the radar of national media, which he says neglects news outside of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a handful of other metropolises.
As a Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow working with RFE/RL’s Russian Service, Radio Svoboda, Beliaev decided to fill this gap with a weekly program called “Russia in Motion,” a 30 minute radio broadcast dedicated to regional civil and political movements in Russia.
“I try to pay attention to grassroots movements in small towns across the country,” Beliaev said. “Every issue of the program is about one single area of civil activity.”
Airing every Saturday at 12 p.m., the program has already dealt with topics such as the Afghanistan and Chechnya veterans’ movement and its various organizations across Russia, communities of soccer fans, independent labor unions, prisoners’ rights, and internet usage in provincial Russia.
Beliaev explains that in order to create local programming that resonates with a national audience, focusing on the way issues common to the whole country play out in a single community is key.
“Merely writing about regional news wouldn’t work. People from one part of the country don’t want to know what happens in the other,” he said. “We have to find points where the interests of their daily lives interconnect.”
Reporting on grassroots movements in small communities for a national audience is important to Beliaev because he sees it as a means to develop civil society in Russia.
Beliaev hopes to produce 20 installments of “Russia in Motion” during his fellowship, and greatly values the opportunity afforded by the program to work outside his comfort zone.
“When you have an opportunity to spend a few months in a prominent media organization and discuss your problems with skillful journalists; when you can step away from the daily routine of your previous job, and when you begin to cover problems not only in your own town, but across the whole country, you view things more wisely,” he said.