Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Ukraine

Publishing organisation: TEXTY.org.ua

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-12-01

Language: English, Ukrainian

Authors: Oleksii Nabozhniak, Anatoliy Bondarenko, Yevheniia Drozdova, Nadia Kelm and others from TEXTY team.


Oleksii Nabozhniak: editor in Texty.org.ua, Ukraine. Communications expert, media trainer, thought leadership consultant, senior lecturer at Mohyla School of Journalism, associated trainer at StopFake.org.
Anatoliy Bondarenko: co-founder and head of data journalism at Texty.org.ua. Author of the course about data visualization for Prometheus and visiting lecturer on data journalism in UCU, Lviv
Yevheniia Drozdova: data journalist at Texty.org.ua. Works with R, Python, JavaScript, specializes in interactive graphs and maps.
Nadja Kelm: designer at Texty.org.ua. Author of the course about design in data visualization, School of Infographic, winner of the national competition The best book design 2019 (the Arsenal Book Festival).

Project description:

The existence of a worldwide network of Russian and pro-Russian organizations as well as numerous supporters of political and cultural projections of the so-called “Russian world” is hardly a secret. TEXTY used open sources to collect information about the potential agents of Russia at various levels, from first-tier politicians to local promoters of the Russian World, and visualized the findings. The project covers more than 1,300 individuals and 900 organizations in 19 countries of which 17 are EU members. We used graphs to show the extent of the influence by countries and by spheres: politics, church, media, education etc.

Impact reached:

For many years politicians, cultural figures, entrepreneurs, non-government organizations, and educational institutions connected with Russia promoted the ideas of “Russian world” (‘russkiy mir’ concept).

Political parties, which usually belong to the far-right or the far-left part of the political spectrum, are one of the mainstays of Russian political interests in Europe. While others may condemn the war, they still promote the idea of easing the sanctions or maintaining economic ties with Russia despite its aggression against Ukraine. Our protodatabase consists of a number of politicians due to their public or indirect support of Putin’s actions.

As we were finalizing this project, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. A number of EP deputies voted against this decision. We were pleased to note that more than 80% of those who supported Russia in this vote were already in our database for their previous “merits”.
The project is expected to contain further updates and will expand the search scope for Russian business lobbyists in Europe.

The data collected as part of this project offers only limited insight into Russia’s influence on the political and social processes in Europe. Ukraine has learned from its own experience that Russian tanks are the natural extension of the Russian World doctrine. **This visualization was intended to demonstrate the scale of the potential threat and help motivate officials, journalists and public activists to carry out a more comprehensive risk assessment in each country**.

The project aroused big interest among the public, especcially in Twitter. About 2300 retweets of original posts, including accounts of well-known experts, influencers and institutions from Ukraine, Poland, Germany, US, EU headquaters. Project was demonstrated on Polish TV. **We received many requests to extension of the project to other countries in Europe, South America and US**.

Techniques/technologies used:

The data was collected from open sources – the media, reports of state authorities, public data, research by scientists, and from registers of partnerships published by the representatives of the Russian government themselves.

All the subjects of our project were screened manually by our investigators using open sources. The first tier of our “screening” resulted in a substantial number (over 200 according to our estimates) of studies and investigations which were then analyzed for surnames and organization names which, in turn, were sorted by country.

To provide some insight into the subject, each card contains a link to his or her biography (most often from Wikipedia in the subject’s native language). If none is available, we provide references to other biographical sources.

For layout of circles with “Russian germs” we used d3.grid layout script written by Jeremy Stucki. If you are familiar with d3 circle pack layout, you probably know that it is hard to control the position of parent circles. We prepare a how-to sample, which shows approach to set the desireble position of parent circles and custom circles pack algorithm then. https://observablehq.com/d/1d81b62396cbbf42

Context about the project:

On February 24, 2022, Russia’s unprovoked full-scale invasion of the territory of Ukraine began. For many years politicians, cultural figures, entrepreneurs, non-government organizations, and educational institutions connected with Russia promoted the ideas of “Russian world” (‘russkiy mir’ concept), the greatness of Russian culture, and the unity of the peoples of Ukraine and Russia. As a result, claims to the cultural heritage of Ukraine became one of the key stated reasons for the unprovoked invasion.

In a similar way, such organizations and personalities promote the humanitarian, economic and political interests of Russia abroad, especially in Europe. Often this happens at the expense of the state budget of Russia through the structures of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Agency for Cooperation with Compatriots (Rossotrudnichestvo), the Russian World (Russkiy Mir) Foundation, etc.
The task of our project was to gather information about these people and organizations in one place and indicate possible connections with Russia they have.

The scope of such actors appeared to be even wider than we anticipated. Accordingly, for the first stage, we have had to focus only on Europe countries and now working on the next part.

We are open to provide the complete dataset for the project to everyone who are researching this topic and are interested in using the data for their projects.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

The task of our project was to gather information about number of people and organizations in one place and indicate possible connections with Russia they have. We hope this will allow citizens of the European Union, national and local authorities, media, NGOs, and entrepreneurs to choose their partners more carefully or possibly refrain from such cooperation.

During the first few days after the material’s publication, we received both positive and critical responses. Among other comments, we also receive signs about the erroneous inclusion of specific persons/organizations in our list. We are incredibly grateful to our readers for their active participation and help in working on this project. We shared a feedback form to gather comments and suggestions. The changes will be reflected in the database.

Project links: