Kriminologiska institutionens avhandlingsserie nr. 20, 2007.

Abstract: In Western Europe and the United States drugs have, since the 1960s, been one of the most discussed social problems. However, in the Soviet Union it was not until perestroika in the mid-1980s that a public debate on this issue began. Since then the drug problem has gone from being regarded as a non-existent phenomenon to being seen as one of the country’s most serious problems and an issue of top-priority for the Russian government.

The aim of this thesis is to analyse discourses on drugs among the press, NGOs and the government in contemporary Russia. The analysis is based on a social constructionist and a discourse analytical perspective. The empirical part of the thesis consists of an investigation of three different versions or constructions of the problem. These different versions are analysed by way of three different case studies which constitute the empirical part of the thesis. The first study examines representations of drugs in the Russian national press based on an analysis of newspaper articles. The aim of the second study is to analyse how representatives of thirteen non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Moscow and St Petersburg construct the drug problem. The material for this study consists of semi-structured interviews with these representatives. The focus in the third study is on an analysis of how the Russian government and its representatives construct the drug issue. The materials used in this study are government publications, interviews with and speeches by representatives of the government.

The findings from these case studies reveal that the Russian press and government construct the drug issue in a similar way with drugs viewed as a foreign problem being the main focus for the debate. By contrast, the NGO representatives have a rather different view of the drug problem. For them a harm reduction discourse is one of the most central discourses. The evidence also shows that among these actors the drug problem is constructed in a variety of different discourses which, considered together, create a complex picture of the problem.