What is Putin thinking?

A quantitative analysis of Putin's public discourse derived from computational linguistic research of his speeches
The Russia Program has initiated a comprehensive, long-term project to develop a linguistic profile of Vladimir Putin. It seeks to visualize the evolution of his language use over time and address the most pressing questions regarding his public rhetoric.
Quantifying Putin's Language
Vladimir Putin's speeches are significant
Putin's speeches reveal his thought patterns and illuminate the Kremlin’s political logic and intentions, which are often misunderstood.
We have amassed a database of more than a thousand speeches made by Vladimir Putin and applied computational linguistics and advanced AI methodologies to process them. Our analytical interface analyzes over a thousand of Putin's statements spanning more than 20 years, collected by RuBase, through computational linguistics and network analysis, enabling an in-depth understanding of the Russian president's thought process that goes beyond conventional wisdom.

Analytical Interface
This interface allows users to examine the evolution of semantic networks and usage frequencies of specific terms across Putin's terms in office. Although it is currently limited, analyzing a selection of terms from 60 concepts frequently used by Putin, the platform's functionality will be progressively expanded with new analytical tools and broader access to the text corpus.
Some takes from the network analysis
  • 1
    'State' is not merely a state; it is 'gosudarstvo.' Putin's speeches vividly represent the drastic differences in Western and Russian conceptualizations of the state, which are so divergent that equating 'gosudarstvo' with 'state' can introduce flaws in the analysis. 'Gosudarstvo' has very little to do with management; it is about determining the paths of people's lives and communicating with other states. Putin delegates the functions of management to 'vlast,' a term that is closer to a more utilitarian understanding of 'state.'
  • 2
    Values have a price. Based on the conventional narrative about 'traditional values,' one would expect Putin to associate family with conservative concepts. However, not during a single term has one of these concepts made its way to the core of his statements about the family. Rather Putin constantly talks about money and material incentives to increase the birth rate. The family for Putin is an economic unit, and values have a tertiary role and do not make up the core of his narratives.
  • 3
    The concept of "future" allows us to illustrate a very technical and significant advantage of the proposed method. While for many other concepts we see clear, stable connections (the same word is repeated many times along with the central one), for "future" we see a very small and weak network throughout the years, even though the concept itself is important for Putin (12th place in mentions). This means that there is no stable and unified vision of the future in the speeches.
Graph Analysis
Some takes from the network diagrams
  • 1
    The United States
    The US is central to Putin's perspective on international relations (grey in the first diagram), and he views nearly all global affairs through the lens of US actions and policies.
  • 2
    Russkii Mir
    While the "Russkii Mir" (“Russian World”) narrative (red in the first diagram) appears peripheral within his broader semantic network, we note the gradual integration of specific red clusters into the main body of terms.
  • 3
    The concept of war is woven into discussions of economics and international relations, predominantly in connection with the US. This is why Putin refers to the conflict in Ukraine as a "special military operation" rather than a war, reserving the term "war" for conflicts involving the West.
  • 4
    The Nazi narrative
    The Nazi narrative (turquoise in the second diagram) is linked to Ukraine but remains isolated from other Ukraine-related themes. Its usage is primarily pejorative, lacking substantive explanatory value.
  • 5
    The Great Patriotic War
    This theme (purple in the second diagram) pertains to domestic affairs and does not contribute to the rhetoric of mobilization against Ukraine. The notion of "Ukrainian Nazism" is disconnected from the Great Patriotic War narrative.
  • 6
    Donbas and Luhansk
    These regions are mentioned mostly within the clusters of "Russian" and "people." Putin's narrative does not associate them with the Ukraine cluster unless discussing the impact on the "Russian people" of these regions.
Related Articles
Academic publications on Putin's thinking are yet to come. However, we published multiple papers using similar methodology.
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