I’m quite surprised that no one else is doing this, and I’ll be grateful to anyone who points me towards someone who does. I was inspired by Sophie Hill’s My Little Crony map of linkages in UK politics and decided to do something similar for Russia. The tools allow me to
- create visual maps of the relationships between the main players
- numerically analyse the relationships in a more rigorous way
The visual representation is here, hosted on the Streamlit site. I hope to get it on to this site at some point, but I don’t yet know how. There are multiple algorithms for laying out the relationships, but all of them will show that the most connected persons in the centre of the network. Here, not surprisingly, the central figure is President Putin and one of the fun things I can do later in the analysis is to remove him and see which secondary figures are central.
Further down that page, it shows the centrality of the person selected in the drop down box, and how that compares to the President and the average. There is also a graph of the centrality scores of all the network members.
What’s important to remember about this sort of analysis is that it’s really just a way to organise and represent data, and doesn’t show any real “truth”. What it shows is things that might not be immediately obvious from the usual textual or numerical analysis, such as the existence of cliques or groups who are not immediately obvious or that certain individuals are important connectors.
One of my pet peeves is that Western journalists automatically assume that any rich businessman in Russia is “close to Putin”. This is because most of the journalists and their readers have only heard of Putin, and want to place the subject of the article close to him. What the network analysis allows you to do is to actually estimate a ranking for who really is close to Putin. I have a number of metrics that I use in my work for clients, but this network analysis gives me another tool. There is no single number that works in all cases, but one thing I think it does is to eliminate those multiple businessmen who are not remotely close to Putin.