Gulnara Mamedzade: "Boundaries of Eurasian integration rapidly expanding"
The special projects director of the Caspian Expert Club, Gulnara Mamedzade, who arrived in Moscow to present the report 'New tools of expert-informational work in the Greater Eurasia', prepared by the Caspian Expert Club jointly with the Information Analysis Center for the study of the post-Soviet space and the Center for International Public Policy Studies 'Caspian-Eurasia' (Astrakhan), visited the studio of Vestnik Kavkaza yesterday.
- Gulnara khanum, first of all, what do you mean by 'Greater Eurasia', how can we outline its boundaries?
- It is very difficult to outline boundaries within a transboundary world. As for Greater Eurasia, this expression was used by the Russian president, and was picked up by the expert community, especially since it really fits into modern geopolitical realities. Initially, we mainly talked about the format of the Eurasian Economic Union, but after 2014 the global situation has seriously changed, and now we can say that the boundaries of interests of the main participants of the Eurasian process in the region are expanding, I mean such geopolitical projects as the SCO and BRICS, which involve Russia and Kazakhstan. It seems that the concept of the EEU somewhat narrows the integration possibilities, when, in fact, they are expanding in the framework of new logistic large transnational projects, which knit the entire large region together. The projection of the region is expanding, and therefore we are starting to think in different terms, including accumulating expert potential not only in the format of post-Soviet countries, which make up the Eurasian Union, but also within a broader framework of interaction. Now we may talk about cooperation with such countries as China, Turkey and India, which have their own interest in the Greater Eurasia region. As you can see, the boundaries are really expanding, while opportunities and interests are developing in accordance with new geopolitical trends.
- What new trends are most visible in the mass media and among experts?
- First of all, it is important to emphasize that new technologies open a lot of new directions in the media and expert space. In our report, we note some trends, including those related to the fact that government structures are losing their dominant position in the wide media space, as space of great opportunities, because it has so many players, for which information technologies create unprecedented opportunities to realize interests and positioning. I mean the blogosphere and other areas of this very complex mechanism, where tracking trends is becoming increasingly difficult. All this together allows us to classify the present period as a post-truth civilization.
- Do you have any tools to monitor it?
- We tried to think over such tools, a lot of expert platforms work in the Eurasian area, a huge amount of media resources monitors it. Now, of course, much attention is paid to the blogosphere, in particular, to influencers - public opinion leaders, but we are trying to shift this research from the commercial use of technology into the political arena, since it is important to use all existing areas with the maximum efficiency. It is very important to work with the audience, keep a dialogue open and manage information. If we talk about the geopolitical dimension, then we have worked out several new formats which entail creating new dialogue opportunities and expert corridors, in particular, in Eurasia. These are Eurasia + 3, Eurasia + 5 in the SCO format, in the format of the North-South project with the participation of Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan, each of these sites accumulates both expert and public opinions. It is very important to give as much reliable information as possible in multidirectional flows of information, especially since sources of reliable information are being lost. If today we say that state structures and certain political elites have a certain monopoly on targeted information, then it is very important to provide communication channels between those who have information sources and an expert and intellectual community, which formulates certain meanings and translates them to a wider audience. We are currently working on a definite set of these new mechanisms, and I think that in the near future it will be applied more specifically.
- Another problem is protecting the media space in conditions of constant pressure from the West. What should be used in this case?
- Indeed, the competition in the media space is very high, and we cannot deny that Western media resources and information structures are increasingly penetrating our media space, many editorial offices work remotely. There are many sites with their own semantic brand like the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus or Eurasia, but, in fact, created and controlled from the outside. This is an attempt to formulate alternative opinions in the media space. The same applies to the Eurasian Economic Union - this geopolitical project, initiated by Russia and Kazakhstan, supported by other participants, in fact, was at the epicenter of information attacks. It was subjected to certain informational and expert blows aimed at devaluing the significance of the Eurasian Economic Union in the perception of a wide audience. By the way, it happened not just from the outside: there had been criticism even at the level of the post-Soviet countries involved in the integration process.
Fortunately, there are other opinions. The expert community works very effectively in the Russia-Kazakhstan direction, a huge number of expert platforms and media resources, providing information in support of the Eurasian project and values that it is ready to offer its participants, have been created. Our report "New tools of expert-informational work in the Greater Eurasia" was prepared by an integrated working group, and this format of work is very important. If earlier we only had intentions to create such formats, today these formats are already operating: we prepare expert reports, accumulating joint potential, bringing there the practice implemented in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia, as well as a generalized material that allows us to get a more objective understanding of these processes.
- Are there any regional features of the media space within the Greater Eurasia?
- It is very important to differentiate the range of media space problems. There are problems that are specific to each country, but there are also problems that unite us as post-Soviet countries. There are certain trends that can be traced in each of our countries, but there are also regional peculiarities, whether it's the South Caucasus or Central Asia. It is very important to consider interests of major players, which also affect the socio-political situation in individual countries and in the region. Through the influence of external players, attempts are being made to fragment the informational and socio-political field. We live in a time of increased geopolitical and economic competition for dominance in the markets of the future and in information management. Now we talk about the digitalization of certain processes, the use of digital methods in managing political and information systems, even about artificial intelligence abilities, which creates new forms of competition.
I would like to emphasize that Azerbaijan has made serious progress in drawing increased attention to the Eurasian processes. Azerbaijan is already close to the status of observer to the SCO and exploring other opportunities related to participation in Eurasian projects. If we follow the dynamics of Azerbaijan’s interest in this direction, then it has shifted to a positive direction. The Russia-Azerbaijan information background is more than favorable at this stage, there is a trend towards a qualitative improvement in bilateral information realities since 2013. This year the Azerbaijani President visited Russia and the Russian President visited Azerbaijan, the publicity was positive on the threshold of these events, most of the content of Azerbaijani news outlets was devoted to this topic, and almost all news were presented in a positive manner. And we see that the emphasis on these events in Russia has also been mostly positive.
- If we talk about the Russia-Azerbaijan and Russia-Kazakhstan cooperation in the media space, which areas should be mentioned?
- The expert community is very active within the framework of the Russian-Kazakhstan cooperation, a whole range of joint media resources have been created with the participation of experts, in particular, the IQ-Club. Given the lack of high-quality content and reliable information, such resources provide very balanced expert assessments; no bias is felt, which is very important.
As for the Russian-Azerbaijani direction, we have Russian resources that work in Azerbaijan, in particular, Sputnik. Previously, there was the News-Azerbaijan agency, which worked in the associated partnership with RIA Novosti. We also have not even offices, but representative offices of other Russian resources, for example, Interfax-Azerbaijan, as well as various international organizations in which Russia and Azerbaijan participate together. It is very important to emphasize that there is a very significant Russian-speaking segment of Azerbaijan's media space, and in this sense, the situation of parity between the Russian-speaking segment and national resources in Azerbaijan is really favorable in comparison with other post-Soviet countries. The national segment has been increasing in recent years, which is quite natural, but, nevertheless, the Russian-language media outlets keep the interest of their audience.