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At 7:20 pm on October 3, 1993, a nervous and shaky anchor broke into coverage of a soccer match to tell Russian viewers that their state television was shutting down. In the opening salvos of the parliamentary revolt against Boris Yeltsin's government, a mob had besieged the station's headquarters. A man had just been killed in front of the news director. Moments later, screens all across Russia went blank, leaving audiences in the dark. But in less than an hour, Russia's second state channel went on the air. Millions watched as Sergei Torchinsky anchored thirteen straight hours of coverage, often with the sound of shooting clearly audible in the background. Streams of politicians, trade union leaders, writers, television personalities, and other well-known figures braved gunfire to reach Channel Two's makeshift studios and speak directly to the nation. In one stunning moment, a famous actress extemporaneously pleaded with viewers not to return to the horrors of Stalinism. Boris Yeltsin, who had been glued to his television set like everyone else, later recalled, "For the rest of my life I will remember the anxious but resolute and courageous expression of Liya Akhedzhakova...her hoarse, cracking voice remains in my memory." In that time of crisis, television bound the nation together, a continuing emblem of legitimate authority which lent an image of stability and credibility to Yeltsin's besieged government. "Television saved Russia, " the Russian president said. Changing Channels vividly recreates this exciting time, as television both helped and hindered the Russian nation's struggle to create a new democracy. From the moribund, state-controlled television broadcasts at the end ofthe Soviet Union, through Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost, up to Yeltsin's victory in the most recent Russian presidential elections of 1996, Mickiewicz charts the omnipresent role of television, drawing on interviews, public opinion surveys, research, and the television programming i
Ellen Mickiewicz is the James R. Shepley Professor of Public Policy Studies and Director of the De Witt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism at Duke University. Her many books include the award-winning Split Signals: Television and Politics in the Soviet Union (1988) and Media and the Russian Republic (1981). She was the first American to be honored by the Journalists Union of Russia for her contribution to democratic media in the region.