Short Project Report

Corporate Communication in Russia: A Discourse Analysis

(Joint Project I-771-G20)

Key Data

Austrian team: o.Univ.Prof. Dr Renate Rathmayr (project head), Dr. Therese Garstenauer, Dr. Edgar Hoffmann, Ekaterina Ivanova MSc., Dr. Katharina Klingseis, Dionisi Nikolov M.A., all: Institute of Slavic Languages, Department of Foreign Language Business Communication, Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU)

Russian team: o.Univ.Prof. Dr.Tatiana Milekhina, Saratov State University, o.Univ.Prof. Dr. Svetlana Risinzon, Saratov Technical State University

External authors: Aneliya Adzhemova (WU), Vera Kuhnert (WU), Colin Heller (University of Klagenfurt), Olena Skrypnyk (WU), Anna V. Degal‘ceva (Saratov State University), Alla N. Baykulova (Saratov State University), Elena M. Kirsanova (Moscow Linguistic State University)

Duration: October 2011 – March 2015

Sponsors: FWF Austrian Science Fund and RFBR (Russian Fund of Basic Research)


o.Univ.Prof. Dr. Renate Rathmayr (

Dr. Katharina Klingseis (

Project Goals

The overall goal of the project was to investigate linguistic developments in corporate communication embedded in and connected with the political, social, economic and cultural framework of such developments. To this end, specialists from linguistics, cultural studies, sociology, organization studies and economics were collaborating. The central focus was on an exploration of spoken (and to some extent written) language in corporate communication in the Russian Federation.

As turned out in the course of first meetings of the Austrian and Russian teams, authors of the joint monograph the project was to result in had different perspectives on discourse analysis and were ready to adopt the according methodology to varying degrees. On the whole, we can claim that, due to intensive collaboration, especially in the last one and a half years of the project, the final result is a consistent piece of scholarship. This becomes apparent when reading the monograph manuscript with its many cross-references between chapters. Jointly, the goal to analyse linguistic phenomena against the background of their political, social, economic and cultural conditions has been achieved.

Based on Empirical Data

A substantial amount of linguistic data was collected (audio recordings) for the purpose of this joint research that resulted in a substantial corpus. Given the large number of prescriptive literature on corporate communication in Russia (how one should communicate) and the virtual lack of authentic data material (how one communicates in reality), this endeavour alone is filling a lacuna in linguistic as well as management studies.

Multidisciplinary and International Collaboration

On the whole, the multidisciplinary structure of the project allowed for nuanced insights into processes within companies as well as developments on a larger scale.

According to our experience, international collaboration renders invaluable advantages in cases when research is done across national borders. For one thing, national teams are forced to reflect their interpretations of situations through the lens of the respective other, and each team can take advantage from this situation. For another, discussions on differing methodological approaches initiated fundamental theoretical reflection, e.g. on the commonalities and differences of discourse analysis and the kartina mira approach popular in the Russian scientific community. And last but not least, the Russian research team opened doors to data material that would otherwise have been inaccessible to our research. Trustful relations are an indispensable prerequisite for getting access to commercial companies everywhere, but especially in Russia.

Regular Exchange

The whole project team revealed great interest that there was regular exchange on individual research progress in order to develop a consistent common idea, despite the various thematic and disciplinary orientations. Project management was conducted mainly on the part of the Austrian team, which was due to personnel funding on the Austrian part. The first project meeting was organized and held in Vienna in November 2011. Two project meetings took place in Saratov (July 2012 and 2013). In the last project year, personal meetings between Russian and Austrian team members took place at various conferences (e.g. Nizhnii Novgorod, Pushkin). For discussions of topics related to the final monograph, several videoconferences (using Adobe Connect Software) were organized by the Austrian team in the year 2014.

Main Results

Summarising project results in such brevity can, of course, not do justice to the work done by the individual authors. Still, a few findings of the forthcoming book shall be mentioned here. On the level of the social context of Russian corporate communication, we had proceeded from assumptions about corruption and bureaucratic arbitrariness as major challenges to business in Russia. In fact, Russian corporations do undertake measures to come to terms with problems concerning relations between organizations, society and the state. Thus, in the course of the past ten years, corporate codes of ethics became a common feature of big Russian corporations. True, their implementation in the business process still leaves a lot to be desired. The initiative of open-minded business owners and foreign investors will be necessary to bring about real change. As to the relations between business organisations and the state, it can be said that while in the 1990’s associations had formed spontaneously around charismatic founders, in the Putin era, the state took over control, which resulted in the foundation of separate associations for small, medium and big business, respectively, which are subject to substantial interference by the state.

With respect to language management in business organisations in Russia one can state that to date this is a rather neglected aspect of management. Western expats often have only basic knowledge of Russian, even more so as their Russian colleagues and staff  tend to have a good command of English. Still, Russian to the present day plays a considerable role as a lingua franca in multinational organisations, as contracts, documentation and correspondence with authorities must be accomplished in Russian. At the same time, attitudes of linguists as well as representatives of business organisations are critical towards the abundance of anglicisms in Russian business discourse, which in turn is a result of Russia’s integration into global economy.

Especially in the service sector industries (banking, insurance companies etc.), awareness of the necessity of standardised forms of interaction and behaviour has increased noticeably. Russian staff is even trying Western smiles in situations, in which for Russians smiles traditionally are unusual.

As to communication within business organisations, we proceeded from the assumption that it is to varying degrees assimilating international practices and standards, depending on geographical (capital or region), historical (grown structures, importance of hierarchies, usage passed down from Soviet period such as informality of practices) and industrial (sectorial specificity, size, foreign relations) factors. One great merit of the present research lies in the scrupulous linguistic analysis of communication genres and practices that often enough are hybrids of various origins emerging from the circumstance that post-soviet capitalist Russian business has been taking shape for a quarter of a century, compared to a history of more than one and a half centuries of western capitalism.


Project results will be published in a monograph at “Iazyki slavianskoi kul’tury” publishing house in Moscow in Russian language in the course of 2015. A total of 15 researchers have contributed to this oeuvre (cf. Authors).