Barents Profile - Elena Larinova

The Murmansk based journalist Elena Larionova is playing a crucial role in cross border contacts between journalists in the Barents Region. She has been the Barents Press International. Project Coordinator in Murmansk since 1996. In 2008, Elena Larionova was acknowledged for her work winning the press price from the Freedom of Expression Foundation in Oslo and the ZEIT-Stiftung i Hamburg. She was acknowledged for her engagement for freedom of the press and independent and helpful exchange in the Barents Region.

Elena Larionova works as the “hub” for Troms and Finnmark NRK (Norwegian National Broadcasting) in Murmansk. She is originally from Leningrad Region but moved to Murmansk as a girl with her family when her father was stationed there. After graduating from the Department of Journalism at St Petersburg University, Elena returned to Murmansk making radio programs for children and youth.

Soon after perestroika, Murmansk Radio and the FM radio station running in Svanvik, Norway, at the time started to exchange news. The need for Norwegian speaking journalists grew fast and Elena Larionova did not hesitate to take on this challenge. Her hard work payed off as she is already for many years fluent in Norwegian.

The cooperation between Murmansk and Svanvik Radio and other journalistic projects gave birth to the Barents Press International. Together with Norwegian and Finnish colleagues, Elena Larionova started the network with the aim of establishing contacts and cooperation between journalists in North West Russia and the Nordic countries. Just as the people-to-people contacts across the Norwegian-Russian border had been more or less non-existent for decades, there were no contacts between journalists. The Barents Press therefore offered something completely new. Later the network was also joined by Swedish journalists and today involves members from all five Russian regions participating in the Barents Cooperation.

- I am proud of Barents Press, Elena Larionova says. It has important tasks in providing professional contacts. An example is the reporting on the tragedy of the submarine Kursk in 2000 where the Barents Press network played an important role serving as a point of contact between journalists.

As a part of creating professional relationships, Barents Press organizes courses and seminars on many different topics raising the mutual knowledge on journalism across borders in the Barents Region. Some earlier themes were interview techniques and gender issues. More recent topics are the fishing industry, multimedia journalism and coverage of the oil industry in the North. The network has just recently finished a study of how Norwegian and Danish newspapers use social media.

One of the aspects of the network activities is of course the different political environment for journalists in Russia compared to the Nordic countries. Elena Larionova compares the conditions for media in the Soviet time and Russian press today and explains that the authorities very much influence current reporting.

- As much as 90 percent of local newspapers in Russia are controlled by the authorities. In privately owned media on the other hand you can be critical of everything with the exception for the owner. Rich companies are getting more and more involved in the media sphere wanting to have media channels of their own, Larionova says.

It is an honor to feature Elena Larionova. BarentSaga wishes her the best of luck in her continued work and hopes that she will continue to inspire others for many years to come!

More information about:
Barents Press
Barents Mediasphere project

Photo by Ola Flyum

Said about Elena:

“In early nineties the Journalist Association of Northern Finland sent me to a meeting where the ideas of journalist contacts in the Barents Region were discussed for the first time. There was this blond lady from Murmansk. It quickly turned out that if we are ever going to achieve anything she will be the key person. She was intelligent, warm, enthusiastic and with incredible understanding of what we were talking about. There was nobody else who could understand how the Nordic media saw Murmansk and what they needed. She also knew the needs of Russian media struggling in a changing country.

That was then and she still goes on. For me personally it is a great honor to be a friend with Elena Larionova. Yes, she has deserved all the prizes she has got but there is more than that. It is true that for 20 years she has contributed to media contacts and press freedom in the Barents region more than anybody else. But what really makes the difference, is her courage and belief in what she is doing. Those are things that can change world.”

Markku Heikkilä, Head of Science Communications Unit at the Arctic Centre. Before Markku worked as journalist in Kaleva newspaper in Oulu more than 20 years and acted actively in Barents Press.