The present topic pictures the assessment of the visibility of Arab world personalities and businesses as seen in the Russian news between January 2004 and April 2013.
New tools for new issues
Our objective was to put together a variety of expertise and work as a single team on a particularly complex issue in order to experiment several innovative information techniques.
Both Russia and the Arab world are often scrutinized through a European or American prism, yet both areas are seldom observed from the viewpoint of their relations, whose historical and geographical relevance is paramount. These ties, however important, are not our only motive of study. The current turmoil affecting many Arab countries and the essential diplomatic part Russia is playing should not be neglected – in this, the Syrian crisis is certainly the most blatant example. Therefore, access to the Russian-speaking media is probably the shortest way to get a genuine and thorough assessment of the Russian perception and priorities.
We initially selected a sample of seven major Arab countries – namely Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
We subsequently used the Russian database INTEGRUM provided by RUSSOSCOPIE as a trial in order to extract a list of personalities, mostly politicians and diplomats, associated with each country. Once extracted, the comprehensive database only provided, however, raw information that required processing and qualification: hence, the list of hundreds of names had to be analysed and revised to come up with precise and accurate intelligence. In our case, this resulted in 280 different personalities reflecting Russian priorities in the news (concerning for instance Syria and Egypt). For each name, all the related articles are indexed in the database.
Aside from the press, the database also provided us with information regarding companies and businesses registered and/or present in Russia. We took either one of the selected countries or one single name in particular to find these companies. Dozens of Arab firms of different sizes and fields were subsequently singled out and categorized.
Such data have both geopolitical and microeconomic dimensions. On the one hand, they can be employed to outline the interactions between geopolitical areas of interest. On the other, they match the purpose of business prospection and competitive intelligence.
To come up with the results, a major asset was the onomastics software, provided by NAMSOR, applied to various alphabets including Russian Cyrillic, Latin and Arabic. Its ability to recognize similarity in names helped us find several other Arab personalities in the INTEGRUM database amongst the tens of thousands of names featured by the Russian media since 2004.
In the end, the INTEGRUM database and the name recognition software combined with the analytical skills at AESMA brought interesting statistical results: the evolution and comparison of the exposure of Arab personalities in Russia since 2004.
At first glance, the Russian interest for the Arab world seems obvious, as shown by the hundreds of different Arab personalities mentioned in the Russian media. Comparisons within the Arab world but also between the Arab world and Europe lead to at least three conclusions: (1) even though it is not a clear priority (compared with Europe for instance) the importance of the Arab world is increasing; (2) media coverage is more reactive to events rather than to traditional alliances; (3) due to current developments, 2013 will be a milestone year in the relationship between Russia and Arab countries.
About the author
Adlene Mohammedi is a PhD candidate specialised in geopolitics and one of the authors of ARAPRISM. http://araprism.com/
About the contributors
The consulting firm AESMA™ is the editor of Eurasia Focus, a newsletter focused on business intelligence in Russia and the CIS. http://www.aesma-group.com/en/
RUSSOSCOPIE™ is the distributor of INTEGRUM, a leading professional database covering Russian media, companies, and decision makers. http://russoscopie.com/
NAMSOR™ is a provider of applied onomastics, sociolinguistics and name recognition software. http://namesorts.com/
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